Although it has a unique beauty, pine is soft and easily damaged.
Natural color variations and day-to-day elements like ink, water, or grease stains can make the dark knotty pine wood finish unattractive.
Even your lighter-colored pine wood furniture pieces can become dingy and dark over time.
If you’re considering updating the look of your furniture and improving its appearance by evening out the color or removing a stain, using bleach is the best solution.
But the question that comes to most minds will be whether it is safe to bleach pine wood and how to bleach pine wood correctly without damaging its natural beauty.
How to Bleach Pine?
Bleaching can be a great option if you are planning to clean or lighten the dark wood in your kitchen or living room before painting.
Not only can bleaching be used to brighten furniture, but it can also be used evening out the color if the piece is made with two different types of wood.
The bleach will do an excellent job of lightening the darker wood that matches perfectly with, the lighter one.
Step 1 – Be Safe When Bleaching
Please remember that wood bleaches are corrosive and should be handled with great care.
Read the instructions and package warnings on the wood-bleaching product of your choice before beginning work.
Working in an area with good ventilation, keeping windows open and fans running if possible, is ideal.
Protect yourself by wearing gloves, long pants, sleeves, and goggles. A dust mask should also be worn when using oxalic acid.
Also, apply the bleach carefully to prevent it from splashing onto your skin or other surfaces you want to protect.
Furthermore, note that the bleach could ruin any surface it comes into contact with, so think about where you do this carefully.
To avoid damage to containers, use glass or ceramic containers instead of metal ones.
Step 2 – Choose the Bleach for Wood
It’s important to note that there are different types of bleach products and wood treatments available, so it’s best to do some research beforehand to figure out which will work best for your needs.
Opt for a two-part bleach consisting of sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide to remove or lighten the natural colors from pine quickly and efficiently.
You can apply this method more than once, progressively making the wood lighter.
If your primary concern is removing dyes from juice spills or ink marks, chlorine bleach will do the job! It’s much like an ordinary laundry bleach and will help remove the dye stains from wood without affecting its natural color.
Use this product sparingly and cautiously, as the chlorine bleach can destroy lignin (a component of wood that hardens and strengthens its cell walls) and can lose the wood structure’s integrity leaving it damaged soon.
Oxalic acid bleach
Oxalic acid crystals in hot water can bleach out dark stains on your wood furniture or floors formed due to moisture penetration.
Oxalic acid will also help restore the natural color of weather-aged wood that has turned gray from exposure to sunlight.
Step 3 – Prepare the Pine Wood
Once you’ve decided on a product, you’ll need to remove any existing finish before applying the treatment (if the wood is already finished).
Take apart as much of the woodwork as possible to simplify the job.
This means when bleaching pine cabinets, remove the doors and all hardware. And if stripping walls, remember to take down all the trim first.
Also, rinse well after you have stripped the paint and let the wood dry before sanding.
When sanding knots out of pine paneling, it’s best to use a rotary tool with a detailing brush and sandpaper.
Since you can only bleach unfinished wood, you’ll probably have to strip and sand them extensively.
Step 4 – Remove Stains from the Wood
Wood stain removal with laundry bleach or chlorine bleach is easy…
- Fill a glass jar with regular laundry bleach.
- Apply the bleaching solution to the pine surface in small areas with a paintbrush.
- Reapply every few minutes or as necessary to keep the wood moistened. This will prevent premature absorption and ensure even lightening.
- After 20-30 minutes have passed, rinse off the area neutralizing the bleaching effect by mixing equal parts vinegar and hot water.
- Repeat this process once the wood is completely dry if further cleaning is desired.
Step 5 – Lighten the Dark Pine Wood
Two-part wood bleaches can easily be used to lighten the natural color of your wood. They have a part A, sodium hydroxide, and Part B, hydrogen peroxide.
Depending on the product you get, you might be able to mix the parts before using the bleach, so make sure to read the label.
If the product you’re using doesn’t recommend mixing, use a sponge to apply part A followed by part B immediately.
If you wait before applying part B, the sodium hydroxide may darken some parts of the wood.
If the bleaching product needs mixing beforehand, only mix it when ready to use it on the wood. Use the product immediately after mixing.
In most cases, one bleach treatment will be sufficient though you can always do a second coat if you want a lighter color finish.
Finishing and Sealing Bleached Pine
Finishing the bleached pine is optional, but I recommend it to protect the furniture and give it a nice sheen.
You can finish it with a water-based polyurethane or a very thin coat of shellac.
Alternatively, you can apply a wood wax for the soft matte sheen on your pine furniture.
Since the water used during the bleaching process raises the woodgrains, start by sanding the wood using fine-grit sandpaper to remove furry woodgrain.
This will create a smooth surface for getting the finish right.
The bottom line
Woodworkers frequently use bleach to remove stains and revive the appearance of their wood furniture.
There are different types of bleach, namely chlorine, two-part wood bleach, oxalic acid, and peroxide.
While two-part bleach changes the coloration of the wood itself, the latter works to eliminate existing stains.
No matter which wood bleaching product you choose, always follow the safety precautions on the label.
This will ensure you use it correctly and safely on your knotty pine furniture, cabinets, panels, or other pieces.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for more than a decade to serve the customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques that are being implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.
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