Hardwood lumber boards bleached to lighten their color

Mixed Mediums: Wood x Bleach

With interior design trends like Scandinavian design and its overwhelming presence of “blond” wood, people are looking for ways to revamp and restyle their furniture. That is where wood bleaching comes into play; while stains add color to wood, whether it be more color or a different shade completely, bleach can strip the wood of its natural color.

Wood bleaching has its advantages for both new projects and refinishing furniture, making it a great way to save old pieces that are no longer in style from ending up in the landfill. Not only can it transform woods overall color, but it can counteract darkening effects of age and weather and remove previous wood stains and finishes completely. Another great advantage of wood bleaching is that when working with multiple wood types, bleaching the wood will allow for a more cohesive final appearance.


There are 3 main types of wood bleaching, each with a specific application: 

Chlorine/Common Laundry Bleach

Chlorine has the ability to remove stain or dye color, but is unlikely to alter your woods natural color. 

A/B Peroxide-based Bleach

These “two part” bleaches are comprised of sodium hydroxide (lye) and hydrogen peroxide. This strong solution can easily alter woods natural color, be used for whitewashing and fading wood. 

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic Acid is effective at removing and lightening water, rust and teak stains. While it can be used to lighten the graying of weather exposed wood, it does not alter the color as effectively as A/B peroxide based bleach. 

While wood bleaching can be a great new technique to introduce to your woodshop, there are some considerations that must be accounted for. Bleach must be used with caution and care-it is a toxic substance that can do more damage than just stripping color from your favorite workshop denim! When using bleach on wood, be sure to wear a face mask with proper filters in a ventilated area so you are not inhaling the fumes. Fumes can be emitted from each bleach type, but the inhalation of chlorine and oxalic acid should be avoided at all costs. Gloves and eye goggles should be worn for further protection and long sleeves and full-length pants can help to minimize skin exposure. After the bleach has been applied, be sure to rinse the wood. Following A/B peroxide-based bleach, wood should be rinsed with vinegar to neutralize it. 

What are your thoughts on wood bleaching? Will you be incorporating this technique in your woodwork shop?

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