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Furniture Makeovers

How to Bleach Wood Furniture

I’m not sure when I first discovered the idea of bleaching wood but I immediately thought about this chest of drawers that we had floating around our house. It was a secondhand find that we slapped some chalk paint on and re-stained the top. It was really lovely the way it was but didn’t really fit with the coastal casual vibe that our house now has. I determined it would be a great candidate for bleach and I’m so pleased with how it turned out. It was used as a bedside table/additional dresser in our bedroom since we moved. Before that, it was an additional dresser in the girls’ room. It has floated all over the house(s) over the years but now that it’s been lightened up a bit, I’m glad it has a prominent spot in our entryway. I love it so much now that I couldn’t take it back upstairs because I wanted it to be seen. In this tutorial I’m sharing how to bleach wood furniture – I bet it’s easier than you imagined!

Here are some supplies you’ll need for this project:
Paint Stripper
Putty Knife (multiple sizes)
Orbital Sander
Sand Paper
Household Bleach
Lint-Free Cloth (I like these)
Stain (Varathane Weathered Oak)

How to Bleach Wood Furniture

Step one to refinishing any piece of furniture is to strip it of any finish it may already have whether that’s paint or simply stain and poly. If it’s just stain, you can probably get away with just sanding it off. If there’s paint or several layers of paint, then you’ll likely want to use a paint stripper.

To strip the paint from the piece of furniture, you glop on some of the paint stripper gel, wait about one hour, and then using a putty knife scrape off the layers of paint. It’s ideal to have several sizes of putty knives so that you can work faster on the larger surface areas and use the smaller knife to get in the corners and crevices.

After you’ve stripped the piece, you’ll want to sand down the entire thing until it’s smooth and the wood looks even. Since we had painted our dresser white previously, there were little knots of wood with white paint that had to be sanded out because they didn’t come up with the paint stripper. That’s perfectly normal.

Once the piece is all sanded down, take a lint-free cloth and wipe it clean, removing any excess dust or particles. Now it’s time for bleach. This is my favorite part. I was actually really impressed with the dresser before the bleach but it did look a bit unfinished so I was really excited to see what the bleach would do to it.

Listen, I think bleaching a dresser sounds a lot more complicated than it really is. We simply poured some regular ol’ household bleach into a bowl and used a lint-free cloth to wipe on the bleach. That’s it!

You can see the difference between before and after bleaching here. The bottom portion has been bleached.

After the piece was completely bleached, I loved how light it was but it still looked a bit uneven so we decided to add some stain. If you prefer – you can stop at this step, add some polyurethane and call it a day. We opted to add a layer of weathered oak stain.

How to Bleach Wood Furniture - This dresser was lightened by using the bleach method. A complete tutorial

After adding the stain, the color was absolutely perfect. It ended up being much lighter which is exactly what I hoped. Not only that, it now fits so much better with my coastal style. If you learn nothing else from this simple tutorial, you should take away that you can absolutely change anything that isn’t serving you in the way you’d like! Since we bleached this little dresser, it now sits in our entryway and greets every visitor we have. I love that it has a prominent spot in our home.

Make sure you pin this tutorial for how to bleach wood furniture to save for your next home project!

How to bleach wood furniture - vintage dresser has been lightened by using bleach.
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