How To Lighten Stained Wood

| Last modified on January 5th, 2022

Stained wood has a lovely appearance as well as is quite durable, but sometimes over time, the stain can darken, and the natural beauty of the wood can be lost. This is often caused by exposure to mold, dirt, smoke, or spills. If you’re seeking to restore your wood’s original color or if you’re looking for that varnished finish look, then some easy steps will help you lighten your stained wood surface.

How To Lighten Stained Wood Guide

Why Should You Lighten Stained Wood?

There are many reasons why you may want to lighten your stained wood. Still, for most homeowners, it will be so that the surface can be painted again or so that you can apply a different type of stain over it in the future without having an even rougher time trying to remove it.

Why Should You Lighten Stained Wood?

Stained wood darkened through aging, dirt, or smoke can simply make the item look old and worn out. If you have an old table, for example, with a beautiful grain pattern or a cabinet with a lovely veneer pattern that is covered up by a darkening stain, this can be solved using the tips in this article. Removing the stains will make your wood items look new again, and you’ll be able to enjoy their natural beauty.

6 Steps To Lighten Stained Wood With No Fuss

The steps to lighten stained wood are simple. You need to sand the stained boards, apply a stripping gel or liquid, and then use an acid solution to neutralize any remaining stain. Follow the steps below to make the wood lighter.

Sand Wood Surface

Sanding is the first step in removing old stains on the surface of your wood pieces. You need to sand the surface lightly with fine sanding paper until it’s smooth. When you’re done, wipe it with a damp cloth to remove any dust from the surface of the wood.

Sand Wood Surface

Apply Finish Stripper

Next, use a finish stripper (you can find this in a home improvement store) to remove old stains on the wood surface. This will make the wood look bright and shiny again! Follow the instructions on your chosen product and apply it carefully with a sponge or brush over your entire piece of wooden furniture, pressing down gently but firmly as you go. During the process, you may use a duster to wipe off the excess finish stripper and clean your piece of furniture from dust.

Prepare And Apply Wood Bleach Solution

To remove the stain on your wood, you need to use a bleach solution, which will convert any old stain into an inert salt that cannot cause discoloration of your wood anymore. To do this, follow the instructions on a product that contains bleach in it – but only after applying the stain stripper to all surfaces of your wood. Then apply this solution with a sponge or cloth and wait at least 15 minutes before wiping it off with a cloth or compressed air (you can buy some in hardware stores).

Prepare And Apply Wood Bleach Solution

Use Vinegar To Neutralize The Breach

After you’ve wiped off the solution, you can use another acid to neutralize any remaining stain. You will find this in a kitchen and easily buy it in most supermarkets. Use vinegar as this is harmless to your wood!

Use Vinegar To Neutralize The Breach

Apply Another Coating If Necessary

During the process, you may find that some stains remain behind. If this is the case, apply another coating of stain stripper and do not wipe it off yet. Once you’ve done so, you can use a neutralizing solution to remove these stains.

Clean The Wooden Surface

Finally, use a dry cloth to clean off any residue, and you should find that your wood has been successfully lightened! You can then apply a fresh coat of wood protection to protect the wood and make it last longer.

Clean The Wooden Surface

Lighten Stained Wood With Thinner

Some people choose to use a chemical cleaner to lighten the appearance of stained wood. While these cleaners work well, they can be harsh and sometimes remove the finish. They also do not address the underlying cause, often associated with mold, stains, or water damages. If you’re going to use a chemical thinner, make sure to test it on a small wood area first and keep it away from your other items.

The Bottom Line

Lightening stained wood is a great way to revive old furniture and home décor items that have been neglected over time. With some patience and proper care, your item will be just like new once again!


Can You Lighten Already Stained Wood?

Creating a lighter look for stained wood can be done in various ways, depending on the type of finish that you have applied to your wood. If you have applied a penetrating stain or sealer to your wood, all you will need is either mineral spirits (paint thinner) or vinegar and water solution. If the stain is not as deeply rooted in the wood as it would be with some other types of finishes, then this should work. 

What Can I Use To Lighten Wood Stain?

There are many ways to lighten stained wood, but it can’t be done overnight. First, you must work the wood with a mixture of water, vinegar, oxygen bleach, and dish soap to remove any organic or melanoidin stain.

How Can I Lighten Wood Stain Without Sanding?

Many people have asked for help with this common problem. You may have tried to lighten your stain with a dye, but that might not work as well as you’d like. Here are two tried-and-true ways to get rid of the dark and dingy look. Just use liquid bleach or apply vinegar or lemon juice.

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