How to lighten dark walnut dining table

How to lighten dark walnut dining table

Which Method is Best?

So which method is best for your project? The answer to this question depends on the type of wood you are bleaching. First, determine what kind of wood you’re working with. If your piece of wood is covered in varnish, stain, or paint, you will need to remove those layers prior to bleaching the wood. There is no harm in starting with household bleach. Oxalic acid simply “cleaned” a few stains from my furniture projects but it didn’t actually lighten the wood. I wish I would have used the two-part a/b solution on ALL of my previous projects where I wanted to lighten the natural wood. It works really well and I cannot wait to try it on new projects!

Best Types of Wood to Bleach

Learning the type of wood you will be bleaching will save a lot of time and frustration in the end. I like to know what is underneath the stain and varnish before I set any expectations for the end results. Different types of wood will bleach differently and knowing the wood type will help to determine which method you should use. There are several types of wood used for making furniture, like softwood, hardwood, and engineered wood. The most common varieties of wood furniture include Oak, Walnut, Maple, Pine, Beach, Mahogany, Ash, Birch, Cherry, Cedar, Rosewood, Gum and Pine.

When to Use Household Bleach: Woods that are lighter in appearance with cooler undertones. The best woods to use for household bleach include white oak, birch, beach, gum, pine, and ash. When to Use Two-Part Bleach: Woods that are dark or have red undertones. The best woods to use for two-part bleach include cherry, cedar, rosewood, red oak, and mahogany.


How to keep Walnut Furniture from Fading

Unfortunately, according to my years of experience with woodworking, there is no direct single shot solution for the color changing of walnut over years. But there are different steps you can take to reduce the color change significantly by minimizing the exposure to direct sunlight. Most of them are affordable and easy to do. Things like,

  • Avoid placing walnut furniture surfaces to direct sunlight
  • Avoid placing furniture in humid places
  • Prevent the furniture from continuous water or heat touching.
  • Keep the walnut woodworks away from wet fungus areas which can also cause discoloration.

To follow the above precautions, you can take actions like the given below.

1. Apply finishes that have UV inhibitors

Lacquer and Linseed oil are the best finishers you can use for walnut furniture. You just have to apply those finishers on top of the wooden surface. They already have anti UV agents to prevent UV rays from touching the wooden surface.

By stopping the UV rays from getting to the wooden surface, the walnut furniture can protect from fading and can keep its rich dark brown tone over a long time.

My first attempt at some simple box making. Not perfect, but learned a lot. It’s oak with walnut stain and lacquer finish. #woodworking

— Chris Sanders 🍯 (@chrissanders88) June 5, 2018

Lacquer is fast and easy when compared to linseed oil. It dries extremely fast, and two coats will do the job perfectly. If you wish to gain deep protection you can go up to four coats, but two coats are also well enough for any walnut furniture.

When you put boiled linseed oil on walnut magic happens.

— David Picciuto (@drunkenwood) February 16, 2016

Linseed oil will penetrate to the pores and small holes inside the walnut and not only it stops the walnut from facing the UV radiation, but also it gives some sort of waterproofing and air proofing as well. The only downside is it will take much longer to finish the drying process.

2. Move Furniture and Rugs Time to Time

Rearrange your walnut furniture from time to time. Then the amount of sunlight hitting a specific location of the wooden surface will change occasionally. This will equalize the UV radiation exposure and reduce the lighten of walnut and also spread out the fading color by giving a consistent color all over the woodwork.

Honestly, this will help to stop the furniture looking weird with dark and pale patches where places hit more sunlight and for places hit with no sunlight at all.

3. Apply Window films

If you have a room or kitchen with most of the wooden furniture are made out of walnut, I highly recommend you apply thin multi-layer films to the windows. These thin layers help to cut down UV rays from entering the inside and it will protect your walnut furniture from hitting UV and help to prevent the lighten of walnut over years.

While most of us are trying to figure out Does walnut wood lighten over time, There are special conditions that we tend to think can we lighten walnut wood manually?

Here are Some Important Tips for DIY Enthusiasts

Now that you’ve known how to stain wood a lighter color, here are few tips to keep in mind.

# 1: Start by buying your standard stain and checking if it is oil-based or water-based. Then, proceed to look for a natural stain with the same base before buying.

# 2: Use mineral spirits to dilute oil-based stains if you cannot find the natural wood stain.

# 3: Use water to dilute water-based stains if you cannot find a natural wood stain. 

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What to Do Next?

Even if you took precautions like using gloves, you might still find that some stains got on you while you are lightening your wood. So, check out our guide on How To Get Wood Stain Off Skin

How to Lighten Stained Wood Without Sanding

First, let’s talk about the options for how to lighten wood without sanding. Most people want to avoid this step because sanding is extremely tedious, messy and physically taxing if you’re working on a large piece.

Additionally, you may have just applied a wood stain that turned out darker than you’d hoped and you want to lighten it. There are a couple of options for how to lighten stained wood without sanding.

The first step is to thoroughly clean your piece with mild soap and water if it is older. Let it dry fully before continuing.

TIP: Make sure to let your piece fully dry between each step. Only then will you be able to see the full impact of your actions.Sarah Symonds- the one who did not do this and regretted it fully

Use Steel Wool to Lighten Stained Wood

Steel wool is a viable option to lighten wood without sanding. Start by dampening your 0000 steel wool in warm water. Run the steel wool along the grain of your wood to avoid scratching it.

This will require some elbow grease. Make several passes, applying light pressure, and see if the wood begins to lighten. If it does, then keep going! My friend Tiffany at My DIY Happy Home has had great success with this method.

If it doesn’t, the next step is to add mineral spirits or turpentine. Repeat this process with steel wool or a clean cloth until you’ve reached the desired lightness in your wood.

If you’re looking for an affordable option for lint free tack cloths, I like to repurpose my husband’s worn out white t-shirts he uses as undershirts for his dress clothes. They are lint free, easy to cut to size, and a great option for repurposing instead of throwing them out!

Use Paint and Varnish Stripper to Remove Stain

If the above option doesn’t work, and you don’t want to sand, then your next step is to remove the stain as much as possible.

Using a paint and varnish stripper is another option to lighten stained wood by removing it to start fresh. Make sure to check out my YouTube video for the VITAL error I made during this stage of the process.

Testing One Door
Testing One Door
Stripping Entire Cabinet
Stripping Entire Cabinet
Drying after Stripping
Drying after Stripping

I’ve always used CitriStrip because it is low-odor and gentler than harsh strippers. Another positive is that it can sit on the piece for up to 24 hours so you are less tied to the project, if you can’t apply and remove the stripper in one afternoon.

If you’ve never used furniture stripper before, follow my simple tutorial here, where I show you how I stripped and refinished my dining table top.

How to Care for Walnut Furniture

The care of your furniture depends largely upon what type of wood finish is used to seal the wood. While all pieces benefit from regular dusting, it’s generally best to avoid commercial cleaners as they can sometimes leave residue on pieces with a lacquer finish or damage wax and oil finishes. Pieces with an oil finish generally do best if a natural Danish linseed oil is applied at least once per year, though those in warmer climates may need to do this more often.

Learn more about the different wood finishes we offer and how to care for each one.

Did I Cover all you wanted to know about Does walnut wood lighten over time?

In this article, we took a look at why walnut behave weirdly when compared to other wood types under color changing, why does walnut wood lighten over time, how to prevent or slow down the lightening process, and also how can we manually lighten the walnut surface as well.

My advice as years of working with different types of woods is, whatever the wood you use for your furniture, woodworking projects, or crafts always make sure to do a proper finishing. Because finisher is an important factor deciding whether your woodwork last just year two or last throughout your lifetime.

Walnut is one of the most beautiful and strong wood you can use for any indoor or outdoor application, but you always have to keep in mind that maintains the item properly especially when they’re facing direct sunlight. Hope this article will help you to protect those valuable walnut creations from fading.

Quick Tips for Bleaching Wood

Now that you’ve determined what type of bleach to use for your project, you will need to follow a few quick tips for the bleaching process. Here are a few of my favorite tricks:

  • Follow all safety precautions when using all of these methods. When working with chemicals, you should always follow the product instructions.
  • Use sunlight to help speed up the process. I only have experience to quote here, but I’ve found that bleaching a piece of furniture and leaving it in the sun for several hours helps the final outcome. If anything, it will help it dry quickly.
  • Neutralize and clean the piece after bleaching. It helps when sealing or staining the final piece. You do not want it to continue oxidizing and you’ll want to make sure the final products can be applied effectively and safely. I’ve found a mixture of 50:50 vinegar to water does the job. When neutralizing oxalic acid, you can use household baking soda mixed with water.
  • Lightly sand after bleaching and neutralizing the wood. The chemicals might cause slight damage or rough spots in some places that might not be visible but will show up when stained or sealed.

In conclusion, there are several methods for bleaching wood and it’s important to determine your end goal when selecting a method. Are you looking to clean and remove stains or are you looking to completely lighten the piece? All of these questions will help determine the best method for you!

More Furniture Tips

Photography Credits: Caitlyn Motycka Photography

Things You’ll Need

Bleaching the Wood

  • Finish stripper
  • Paintbrush
  • Safety glasses
  • Gloves
  • Plastic scraper
  • Oxalic acid or 2-part wood bleach
  • Sponge
  • White vinegar
  • Cleaning cloth
  • 180-grit sandpaper
  • Polyurethane finish

Diluting Stain before Application

  • Natural wood stain
  • Wood stain
  • Measuring cups
  • Paint can
  • Stir stick
  • Paintbrush
  • Scrap wood


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