How to Stain Dark Wood Lighter – 4 Effective Ways

Dark wood is definitely a gorgeous-looking element and has a great demand for its rich grains as well. It always gives an aristocratic look to the pieces of furniture. But sometimes, the dark wooden grains become boring for your eyes and you might need a change. Some people want dark wood to be a little lighter to catch up with the interior decoration.

Staining dark wood to make it lighter is one of the finest options that many DIYers have found. But how to stain dark wood lighter is a very common question that general people ask in order to get done with their job.

How to Stain Dark Wood Lighter

To lighten dark wood, you certainly need to follow some specific ways. Otherwise, the rich grains of wood will lose their enhancement and it’ll not go with the home decoration as well.

Lightening the dark wood also will help to rejuvenate the wood grain anew. Therefore, you should take your chances to lighten dark wood and get fresh and enchanted wood grains by following our precious segments of this article.

4 Ways to Make Dark Stained Wood Lighter:

There can be several reasons that a piece of your wooden furniture got a dark stain or it has a dark gorgeous color from the beginning. But if you want to change the color of your wooden pieces, it’s not impossible to do at all. Rather you’ll get the lighter shade you want if you adopt some ways.

There are actually many ways by which you can get your desired shade of lighter wood color. By doing this you can have a fresh wooden piece that is going to vibe with your home décor. These ways of making dark stained wood lighter might not seem similar but they are worth a try. Let’s check out the ways.

1) Removing Dark Stain Using Bleach:

Removing Dark Stain Using Bleach

The first way that we came across is removing the dark stain. This idea should be applied if your wood piece has got accidental stains and it becomes dark in color. Bleaching the accidental areas will help a lot to heal the dark color of the wood as it is one of the most convenient solutions for cases where you face trouble because of abrupt stains.

However, using wood bleach on wood might seem a little risky. It’s because it has got a very harsh chemical formula and therefore, there is a risk that your wood grain will lose its richness if you use too much of it. You need to be gentle and careful while using bleach. Also, make sure you do the bleach thing only on the particular spot abiding by all the necessary steps.

2) Adopt a White Color Tint:

Sometimes bleaching causes the wood grain to look less aristocratic. Also, it sometimes does not lighten the dark stain from wood as your expectation level. In this case, you can adopt the idea of applying a white color tint. The specialty of using this white color tint is that you can apply it after bleaching the wood to remove the dark stain as well.

Besides, you can lighten the wood color as per your desire using this element firmly. If you want to lighten the wood pieces extremely, you can do that using the white color tint a little bit more. Or you can simply apply the product patiently till it gradually reaches the goal of your expected color. Another best thing about the product is it will make the wood pieces smooth and even.

3) Use Steel Wool:

Steel Wool use for lightening the wood

Steel wool is another convenient material that can lighten dark stained wood with an effective result. This abrasive material goes along with wood so finely that you will be satisfied with its performance for sure. Its use for lightening the wood is one of the most fruitful ideas so far. But you must learn some techniques to use this steel wool.

The first and foremost rule of using this steel wool is you need to rub it in the direction of wood grain after you soak it with warm water. If you rub it against the fine grains of wood then it will leave terrible marks on the wood which you definitely do not want. Also, be picky while choosing the steel wool. Extra Fine (000) steel wool is pretty cool for the job. However, super fine steel wool (0000) will also do.

4) Applying Natural Wood Stain:

The last option that we provide for lightening the dark-stained wood is to apply natural wood stain. Natural wood stain is reliable in the case of lightning wood. You just need to choose a similar base that your wood possesses. Otherwise, the stain will not get along with it. It works mostly like a medium. If you mix it with quality stain, it will provide a better and thinner texture to lighten your dark wood.

Besides, you can dilute the natural wood stain with water. But before that, you need to observe your wood if it has a water-based or oil-based stain on it already. Choose one that you are required. However, the idea of applying natural wood stain is pretty sustainable. Also, the process of applying the idea is also not hard.

How to Stain Dark Wood Lighter – 5 Easy Steps:

Not all types of woods come with dark and deep grains. Some wood including walnut and Mahogany comes in a dark color. On the other hand, cedar and maple wood do not carry grains as dark as the other two kinds of wood that we’ve mentioned before.

However, if you have a wooden piece with a dark stain on it, it’s not impossible to remove the topcoat and stain the wooden piece to lighten the dark color. For a full and detailed process, follow our steps thoroughly and allow your fine wooden furniture to have your desired light color.

Step 1: Get the Essentials:

First thing first, get the essentials that are required for the job. To stain dark wood lighter, you’ll not have to search for rare things. You can get your job done with the common and basic essentials that you can find in the nearest hardware store to your house. Let’s look at the list of the essentials first.

  1.  “Natural” wood stain or oil/water-based stain
  2. Original standard and quality stain
  3. An empty paint container
  4. Paint brush
  5. Paint stirrer
  6. Some small wood pieces
  7. A clean rag

Step 2: Make Your Own Stain:

Home made Stain for wood

Now that you have collected all the necessary essentials for this job, you have to make your own stain afterward. In this process, you need to keep in your mind the fact that you are supposed to stain your dark wood lighter. Therefore, in this step, you have to do some mixture work with stains. For this episode, first, you have to check if your original stain is water-based or oil-based.

It is necessary because you need to use the same type of stain on your wooden pieces to get a perfect result. That’s why pick the natural wood stain considering the type of original wood stain. As natural wood stain comes with a great characteristic, you can use it as per your wish as a fine medium.

Step 3: Dilute the Stains Together:

You have to be extra careful in this third step because if you are careless, you might not get a satisfying light color and result out of the job. So, be extra attentive and learn what you are doing. As you are supposed to dilute the natural wood stain and the original wood stain together, make sure how much content you are pouring into the container.

However, to start the job, take an empty container or paint can. Collect it from the same hardware shop. Then open the container and take the other two stain cans as well. Open up the cans up next. After that, pour equal amounts of the natural wood stain and the original stain into that empty container. Mix them up properly with the help of a paint stirrer. Stir the mixture together till it turns into a fine texture. The combination must be seamless otherwise you’ll face spotty marks afterward.

Note: Here if you fail to have a natural wood stain for this job, you can use other materials as alternatives as well. For example, if the original stain is water-based, then dilute the stain with water to make it thinner and lighter. And if the original stain is oil-based in nature, then dilute it with mineral spirit to get a lighter effect.

Step 4: Test It First:

Test the wood Stain First

Before applying the mixture of the stains on the main wooden furniture, test it on some random small wood pieces first. The intention of doing this at first is to see if the stain has got the desired light color or not. So, take a wood piece and dip a paintbrush into the mixture. Pull the brush out of the mixture and let the extra paint drop down with the help of the container’s rim.

After that, give a stroke on the small wood piece that you have collected before and rub it with a rag. Now see if you get the right texture and lightness of the color than before or not. As the color will look a little different after it gets dry, therefore, you need to wait till the piece is dry and comes out with the exact color of the mixture.

To compare between the original and lighter colors, take another small wood piece and paint it with the original color. Let it dry as well and then compare it to the lighter-colored small wood piece that you have painted a while ago.

Step 5: Add More Natural Wood Stain:

To get a lighter effect apply natural wood stain

If you see that the color is not satisfying and light enough, then you can proceed with our next step. After comparing the two small wood pieces you should gain an idea of how much lighter you want your dark wood to be. To get a lighter effect, apply a more natural wood stain into the container and stir it up properly.

Make sure you take notes of how much of the natural wood stain you are using to create the mixture. After that, test the color in the same way that we’ve described before. If you don’t find the desired lighter effect even after the second mixture, then keep mixing the natural wood stain till you find your desired effect. After that, you are allowed to apply the mixture to the main wooden furniture. Read Also: How to Darken Flagstone & Change Color of Natural Stone


Question: How to lighten wood stain after applying?

Answer: If you are unable to lighten your stain before applying it to the furniture, then you’ll not get the desired color. To minimize the effect of darkness, you need to take some initiative. For this, you’ll need to have mineral spirits.

Turpentine will also do in this case. Soak a clean rag on the product and rub the furniture with it. As mineral spirits and turpentine are used for diluting, they can lighten the dark color after the application. But don’t expect them to remove the stain from the wooden furniture.

Question: How to lighten dark walnut stains?

Answer: As we’ve said before, the walnut stain comes with grains that look naturally dark and gorgeous. But if you want a lighter effect of the walnut wood then you have to adopt the idea of bleaching. Wood bleach comes with the characteristic to lighten the color of the grains.

Normal household bleach is not the product we are talking about here. You cannot apply them on wood. AB bleach is the one that you should use to lighten the dark walnut stain.

Question: What can I add to the wood stain to make it lighter?

Answer: Before adding any product to your wood stain, make sure the type of the wood stain. You cannot apply a water-based product if the wood stain is oil-based or vice-versa. Therefore, learn that first. You can use mineral spirits, water, natural wood stain, and lacquer thinner in wood stain.
Use mineral spirit if it is an oil-based wood stain. Then again, use water or lacquer thinner if it is a water-based wood stain.

How do you lighten dark stained wood cabinets?

To effectively lighten dark-stained wood cabinets, consider these methods:

Sanding: Gradually remove the top stain layer with sandpaper for a lighter look.

Bleaching: Use wood bleach to tackle stubborn stains, following instructions carefully.

Vinegar and Water: Mix equal parts white vinegar and water, apply, and rinse.

Citrus-Based Strippers: Use these to strip old stain layers before refinishing.

Painting: For a complete transformation, paint cabinets with a lighter color after proper prep.

Maximize Natural Light: Ensure windows aren’t obstructed and consider adding under-cabinet lighting.

Prioritize safety, test methods in inconspicuous areas, and enjoy the refreshed look of your space.

Will vinegar remove wood stain?

Vinegar can help remove some wood stains, particularly water-based or lighter stains. Its acidic properties can break down the stain and make it easier to lift. To use vinegar for stain removal, mix equal parts of white vinegar and water and gently rub the solution onto the stained area. Allow it to sit for a few minutes before blotting it with a clean cloth or paper towel.

However, for stubborn or older stains, vinegar may not be as effective, and more potent wood stain removers or sanding may be necessary to fully eliminate the discoloration. Always test a small, inconspicuous area before attempting stain removal on the visible surface to ensure it doesn’t damage or bleach the wood.

Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Rogers Weber

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