Steps to Bleach Wooden Furniture

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Home Improvement

Bleaching is usually done as a first-aid measure rather than a part of routine refinishing. If the furniture is marked with stains, water spots, or black rings, has uneven color, or old stain or filler left after removing the finish, it needs to be bleached. Bleaching can also be used to even the color of furniture made with different woods. However, before bleaching, it is important to ensure that the wood is suitable for bleaching. Some woods, such as cherry and satinwood, should never be bleached, while others like pine and poplar look lifeless after bleaching. Common woods that can be bleached include ash, beech, gum, and oak.

Choosing the Right Bleach

The type of bleach chosen depends on the problem to be corrected. Laundry bleach is a mild option that can solve most refinishing color problems, while oxalic acid is used for removing black water marks and restoring chemically darkened wood. Two-part commercial wood bleaches can be used to lighten or remove the natural color of wood. It is essential to wear rubber gloves and safety goggles while using this type of bleach. Once the type of bleach is decided, follow the effective techniques to bleach the wooden furniture.

Bleaching Methods for Wooden Furniture


©2006 Publications International To even out blotchy areas and slightly lighten the overall wood, apply laundry bleach full-strength along the grain of the wood over the entire surface.

The bleaching method you choose depends on the product you have selected for your furniture restoration project.

Bleaching Methods

Remember that whatever bleach you use, the results are permanent – while you may be able to re-stain if the wood becomes too light, correcting uneven bleaching is very challenging. Ensure that the wood is completely clean and touch it as little as possible. The bleach must penetrate the wood evenly.

Before applying the bleach, test it on a scrap piece of the same wood or on a hidden part of the furniture. Be sure that you know exactly what the bleach will do and how quickly it will work. In general, bleaches act quickly on soft woods and slowly on hard woods.

Bleaching is not difficult, but it does require some precautions – bleaches are fairly strong chemicals. The stronger ones can harm skin, eyes, and lungs. When working with bleach, wear rubber gloves and safety goggles, and ensure that your work area is well-ventilated. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the bleach exactly. If you get bleach on your skin, wash it off immediately.

Bleaching also requires careful application and removal. With any bleach, use a synthetic-bristle brush – natural bristles will be damaged by the chemicals. Apply the bleach along the grain of the wood, wetting the surface evenly and thoroughly; there should be no dry spots and no puddles. Let the bleach work as specified below.

After bleaching, wipe the wood clean with a damp cloth. To remove any residue, neutralize the wood thoroughly; use an ammonia solution for oxalic acid, a borax solution for laundry bleach or two-part bleaches. Wash the bleached wood thoroughly with the appropriate neutralizer; be careful not to overwet it. Then, working quickly to prevent water damage, rinse the wood with clean water and dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth. Allow the furniture piece to dry for at least two days before continuing with any additional work.

Laundry Bleach

Brush laundry bleach full-strength evenly over the entire surface. If you are removing spots or lightening discolored areas, apply bleach full-strength to those areas. Laundry bleach works quickly. After a minute or two, you should see the stain fading. If you are bleaching out an old stain, wipe the bleach off with a damp cloth once the stain has lightened.

If you are spot-bleaching to remove spots or blend color areas, wait until the bleached spots are approximately the same color as the rest of the wood; then apply bleach again over the entire surface. Remove the bleach with a damp cloth when the color is even. Finally, neutralize the treated wood with a solution of one cup of borax dissolved in one quart of hot water. Neutralize, rinse with clean water, and dry it thoroughly.

Oxalic Acid

Oxalic acid is not caustic, but it is poisonous. Wear rubber gloves and safety goggles, and ensure that ventilation is adequate. To prepare the acid, mix a saturated solution with warm water: one ounce of powder or crystals per one cup of warm water. Make sure you prepare enough bleach to treat the entire surface or piece of furniture.

To bleach wood, apply acid solution evenly along the grain to cover the entire surface. The bleaching process takes longer on hard woods and may take up to an hour. Wipe the wood clean with a damp cloth after 20 minutes and reapply the acid if necessary. Neutralize the wood with a solution of household ammonia and water, rinse with clean water, and dry thoroughly. Two-part bleach works quickly and is applied to the wood in two separate solutions. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and neutralize the wood with borax solution. After bleaching, let the wood dry for at least two days and sand the grain down lightly to prevent raised grain from affecting the finish. Wear a breathing mask and remove sanding dust with a vacuum. If the wood has a whitish or grayish color after bleaching, rub it firmly along the grain with No. 000 steel wool and apply finish. Bleaching is a cosmetic touch that can provide surprisingly good results.

FAQ

1. What is bleaching of wooden furniture?

Bleaching is a process that lightens the color of wood by removing its natural pigmentation. It is often used to remove stains, watermarks, and other blemishes from wooden furniture.

2. What are the benefits of bleaching wooden furniture?

Bleaching can help restore the natural beauty of wooden furniture that has been damaged by stains or discoloration. It can also help create a consistent color tone across a piece of furniture, making it look more cohesive and polished.

3. What types of wood are suitable for bleaching?

Most types of wood can be bleached, but it is best to avoid bleaching very dark or oily woods, such as mahogany or teak, as they may not take the bleach evenly.

4. What materials and tools do I need to bleach wooden furniture?

You will need bleach, water, a sponge or brush, and a plastic or metal scraper. You may also want to wear protective gloves, goggles, and a mask to avoid inhaling bleach fumes.

5. How do I prepare the wooden furniture for bleaching?

Clean the furniture thoroughly and remove any hardware or accessories. Sand the surface lightly to remove any rough spots or debris and wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any dust or debris.

6. How do I apply the bleach to the wooden furniture?

Mix equal parts of bleach and water in a plastic or metal container. Apply the solution to the furniture with a sponge or brush, making sure to cover the entire surface evenly. Let the bleach sit on the surface for about 15-20 minutes.

7. How do I remove the bleach from the wooden furniture?

After the bleach has sat for the desired amount of time, use a plastic or metal scraper to remove the excess bleach solution. Rinse the surface with water and wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove any remaining bleach residue.

8. How do I neutralize the bleach on the wooden furniture?

Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water in a plastic or metal container. Apply the solution to the furniture with a sponge or brush, making sure to cover the entire surface evenly. Let the solution sit for 5-10 minutes, then rinse the surface with water and wipe it down with a damp cloth.

9. How do I dry the wooden furniture after bleaching?

Allow the furniture to dry completely before sanding or applying any finishes or stains. You can speed up the drying process by placing the furniture in a well-ventilated area or using a fan or hair dryer on a low setting.

10. Can I bleach painted or varnished wooden furniture?

No, you should not bleach painted or varnished wooden furniture. Bleach can damage the paint or varnish and lead to uneven discoloration.

11. How often should I bleach wooden furniture?

You should only bleach wooden furniture when necessary to remove stains or discoloration. Over-bleaching can damage the wood and lead to uneven coloring or weakening of the structure.

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