Just about every piece of wood will suffer water spots, stains, and other types of discoloration over the course of its lifetime. Heavy use invites such defects, which impact the look of a piece of wood furniture that would otherwise be considered quite beautiful. Fortunately, owners of such furniture have several options to make their furniture look like new again. They can bleach, stain, or otherwise address coloring issues through a wide variety of techniques. Here are a few tips when it comes to bleaching wood.

Use the Right Wood

First, it should be noted that not every kind of wood will respond well to the various bleaches that are available on the market today. Cedar and cherry, for example, cannot usually be bleached effectively, and a bleach may not work well on other woods if their furniture wood stain is not amenable to bleaching. On the other hand, oak, beech, ash, and gum woods can generally be bleached to great effect. Discussions with woodworking professionals can be the best way to find out if you should go about bleaching your wood furniture. 

Use the Right Wood Bleach

Second, choosing the right wood bleach is essential even if you have wood that is known for responding well to this lightening technique. There are many different bleaches on the market today, so there are almost an endless variety of chemicals that can be chosen for bleaching wood. Most experts agree that normal laundry bleach is the best choice to begin with. It works on nearly any furniture wood stain, and it is not likely to make the wood lighter than you want. Two-part wood bleaches or oxalic acid may be required if the normal laundry bleach is ineffective. These other options may also require the bleaching of the entire piece of furniture. Normal laundry bleach, however, usually works well in localized applications.

Bleach in a Well-Ventilated Area

Third, you likely stained your furniture in a well-ventilated area, and the chemical fumes that are associated with wood bleaching also means that you will want to have plenty of air circulation. The fumes of wood bleaches are toxic, so you also need goggles and a facemask.

Test the Furniture

Fourth, you will want to apply the bleach in a small, unseen portion of the wood furniture before you apply it over a larger area. This will give you an idea as to how the bleach will affect the stain of the entire piece. If it is too much, only a portion of the furniture will be marred, and no one but you will be the wiser. Putting wood bleaches on larger, visible areas before understanding the full effects of the chemical, however, will ruin the piece forever if you do not like the results. At the very least, you would have to re-stain the wood furniture.

Prepare and Follow-Up

Fifth, pay attention to preparation and follow-up on the bleaching process. You will want to clean the piece of furniture first with a damp cloth. After applying the bleach with a brush, wipe the furniture with a borax solution if you are using laundry bleach or a wood bleach and with a ammonia solution if oxalic acid is your bleaching agent. This will prevent further lightening. Follow up everything with sanding and re-varnishing, if needed.

Bleach Carefully

Finally, try not to bleach more than you need too. If you have spots of two different colors because of the furniture wood stain, then you will only want to bleach the lighter portion. The same applies if there is a dark stain on the piece of furniture. Bleaching only the dark portion will save you effort, and it will help keep you from ruining the whole piece by bleaching it unnecessarily.


Follow these steps for bleaching wood and you should have no trouble improving the look of your furniture. Use the chemicals carefully, and enjoy the end results of your handiwork.