How to Bleach a Wooden Washstand
Did you know you can bleach wooden furniture to strip it of unsightly undertones? Let me tell you how I was able to bleach a wooden washstand. Which brought all of its beautiful carvings to life in a raw wood finish.
Furniture Pieces Used as Permanent Fixtures in a Home Require Special Consideration
I just put all this hard work into stripping this beautiful Eastlake antique washstand and discovered it is rosewood. The beautiful wood has a very prominent red tone. And this does not work in the space this piece of furniture is going to live.
Let me just preface this by saying, if this were a piece I was keeping I would have kept it original. But we are fixing up our home to sell it in hopes of purchasing a home on land. Therefore specific projects like this require a different mindset.
Since this will become our guest bathroom vanity, it needed a bit of a facelift. The colors in the bathroom are mostly blues and whites. So, the best option was to bleach a wooden washstand to tame the red and bring out lighter shades.
In these side-by-side comparison photos, you can see the reddish tone very clearly in the before photo. And it was definitely neutralized in the after photo.
When you’re dealing with a natural wood tone, the raw wood is a tame version. Once you apply a top coat, however, it will emphasize the natural tone. And in this case, it would have been much brighter red.
A Few Other Options to Cover Up Red Wood Tones
- White Stain
- White Wax
- White Wash
In all of these options, however, I worried the red would mix with the white. Leaving me with a pink-hued washstand. I also didn’t want to put myself backward by then having to try to strip it again.
Watch this on Youtube:
The Wood Bleach Options for Lighter Woods vs Dark Woods
If this antique wash stand were made of a light wood like solid oak like this Antique Washstand Turned Bedside Table I could have successfully used other methods.
But this sweet little washstand is actually made of rosewood and requires the use of a specific wood bleach.
It is worth noting in order to successfully bleach a wooden washstand it does need to be raw and unvarnished.
Which Types of Wood Take Bleach Well?
Oak, Walnut, Maple, Pine, Beech, Ash, Birch, Gum, and Pine are all considered to have cool undertones. These types of woods work really well with several different types of bleaching processes.
Best Options for Bleaching Light Woods:
- Household Bleach Mix 50/50 with water and apply using a spray bottle.
- Oxalic Acid is great for removing stains and restoring an original finish, but not for removing undertones.
- Using Sunlight strip it to raw wood using the oven cleaner method and let it sit in the sun. Check out my post How to Strip a Washstand with Oven Cleaner.
Which Types of Wood Are Harder to Bleach?
Cherry, Cedar, Rosewood, Red Oak, Teak, and Mahogany are a few types of wood that aren’t easy to bleach. But a hydrogen peroxide and lye solution will strip the color.
Best Options for Bleaching Red Woods:
- Two-Part A/B Bleach Zinsser Wood Bleach
- Homemade Wood Bleach with Lye & Hydrogen Peroxide
Tools & Supplies to Bleach a Wooden Washstand
Zinsser Wood Bleach is hard to find in my experience. I found one box at Menards, so I have that linked for you below. I would check your local Home Depot or hardware stores as well.
However, if you cannot find it you can make your own wood bleach as an option.
- Wood Bleach Solution I used the Zinsser Two-Part Wood Bleach
- Eye Protection
- Chemical Safe Gloves
- 2 Sponges or 2″ Angled Brush
- Orbital Sander
- 120 Grit Sandpaper Sponge or 120 Grit Disc
- Large Bowl – Plastic or Glass
- Dry Rag
- White Vinegar
A Few Top Tips for Safety Before You Start:
- Do not use metal vessels to pour either solution into as the chemicals could react with the metal. Use only glass or plastic. I used an old Tupperware bowl.
- I would also recommend using a sponge as the directions say. I used a brush and I had to be careful not to flick the chemicals on myself.
- Wear junk clothing. Or an apron.
Step One – Proper Preparation Steps
The first step to any old furniture project is proper preparation. These steps will definitely impact the final product.
- Remove all the hardware prior to any other step. It took less than 5 minutes to remove all my drawer pulls and set them aside in a Ziploc bag. I do this with a lot of my projects whenever I have small pieces I don’t want to get lost.
- Give the entire piece a good thorough cleaning. Especially focusing on any residual dirt on your work area.
- Strip the solid wood from any old finishes and stains. There are different options for this. I chose to use the Oven Cleaner Method to strip my antique wash stand to raw wood.
- Create a small space outside where the piece can sit when finished to get full sun.
- Remove the drawers and cabinet doors (if this applies) and set them aside to do separately. This is not the easy way, but it is the best way to do this for the best results.
- If you’re worried about the chemicals staining the work surfaces, use a tarp.
Step Two – Applying the “Solution A”
For this step, you’ll need your A solution bottle, a Glass or Plastic container, a Sponge or Brush, Eye Protection, & Chemical-Resistant Gloves.
Even though this will become a bathroom vanity I plan on using the existing top. So, that was the first surface I worked on. Because of the raw wood, the top washstand area was sucking up the product faster than I could get it on.
This presents a problem simply because you want to apply the B solution when this is still wet. So, work fast if you’re dealing with the same issue.
Steps to Apply “Solution A”:
- Put on your safety gear (eye protection and chemical-resistant gloves).
- Fill your plastic or glass container with A Solution.
- Use your sponge or brush to quickly apply the solution. Apply to the entire piece working from the top to the bottom parts.
- For softer woods let it sit for 5 minutes. For harder woods let it sit for 10 minutes.
Step Three – Applying the “Solution B”
For this step, you’ll need your B Solution Bottle, a new or cleaned Glass or Plastic Container, A new Sponge or Brush, Eye Protection, & Chemical-Resistant Gloves.
You do not want to ever mix solution A with solution B. This is why they recommend multiple containers and application tools.
I didn’t opt for new containers and a separate brush (or a couple different brushes). I simply cleaned them well with my hose between each solution. This worked out fine.
Steps to Apply “Solution B”:
- Fill your plastic or glass container with the B Solution.
- Quickly apply Solution B over the entire piece.
- Let it sit for 24 hours in full sun for best results.
Step Four – 24-Hour Sun Bleaching
This step is crucial to avoid any water damage to your piece. You’ll want to do this process on a really good, hot, sunny day so it dries quickly.
You’ll also want to make sure there isn’t any rain in the forecast for the next 24 hours (obviously).
When I set out to bleach a wooden washstand I made sure to do it in the early afternoon when the sun was the hottest and highest.
The bleaching process itself took less than 15 minutes total. The rest of the process is done by the sun, so you can just sit back and relax!
Step Five – Neutralize Your Wood Bleach
For this step, you’ll need Vinegar, Water, and a Sponge.
Whenever you bleach a wooden washstand and using a bleaching product on the wood you will want to neutralize it. The type of solution you use to neutralize it will depend on the bleaching process you use.
Because I used the Two-Part A/B Solution the proper nuetralizing would have been mixing 50/50 white distilled vinegar with water and applying it to the entire surface.
I accidentally skipped this part in my haste and I’m crossing my fingers it doesn’t have any long-term consequences!
Step Six – The Last Finishing Touches
For this step, you’ll need an Orbital Sander and 120 Grit Sandpaper disc.
When you bleach a wooden washstand the process will leave a haze all over the piece. Also, you will find the liquid has raised the grain on the entire actual bleached wood surface. To get it back to a smooth beautiful surface you will want to give the entire piece a light sanding.
I typically use a 120 Grit Sandpaper and my orbital sander to do all my finishing sanding. Although some detail work will require a bit of hand sanding as well.
Thank you so much for stopping by! I hope I have given you inspiration, resources, and the information you need to get started on a wood bleaching project!
Meet the Author
Hi, I’m Julie! Mother to five beautiful kids, Homeschool Educator, Writer, Handicraft & DIY Enthusiast, Photographer, Thrifter, and Furniture Restorer. Follow along for fun DIY projects creating a handmade home on a budget! Read more about me here→
Thank you so much for this information! I think I might do this on my daughter’s antique dresser.
Oh, I hope you do! I’d love to hear how it goes if you do.
Really great instructions. I love the practical tips you throw in from your experiences.
Thank you! I really appreciate that!
You always amaze me with your instructions, so very thorough. I live how the dresser came out! Great job as always!
Thank you! I hope the instructions make it easy to follow!
This is a great tutorial! I’ve been wanting to bleach an end table that we thrifted, and I’ve been too nervous to do it. This was very helpful and informative, thank you!
Great timing! I hope I’ve helped make the process less intimidating. It is so easy, I’m sure you will love it.
What a great job you did! It turned out so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this easy tutorial!
Thank you, I really appreciate that! I think it is beautiful as well.
What a unique result! Love it!
This post is so informative, thank you. I have an oak table that I have stripped and sanded and I may bleach it, too. I love the look of unfinished wood, how the mellow color changes the feeling in a room. Great post!
It definitely does! I’m always so torn because I love the deep rich tones also. But these muted tones really speak the soul! They’re very calming.