How To Lighten Oak Cabinets?

How To Lighten Oak Cabinets?
  • Author: Amanda Arnold
  • Posted On: October 29, 2021
  • Updated On: August 21, 2023

When restoring or creating a home, natural wood is an excellent choice. Many prefer it as a décor option because of its versatility and durability. One of the best things about wood items is that you can replace them with a stain or bleach the wood to erase the color if you don’t like it.

Under a sealed coating of lacquer, the stain penetrates the wood pores. The wood can be effectively lightened by removing the lacquer, sanding off the dark stain, and replacing it with a lighter stain. You acquire lighter cabinets by sanding them; the surface is smooth and ready to lacquer.

Bleaching Is The Only Option To Lighten The Oak

Taking off all of the cabinet doors and drawers was the first step. This was the ideal time to eliminate unnecessary clutter, such as old makeup, lotions, and hair products.

Homeowners can lighten their dark wood kitchen cabinets by bleaching or staining them. The hue of the cabinets can be lightened with Bleach or a wood stain while maintaining their natural appearance.

bleaching wooden cabinets

To achieve the desired results, apply the correct Bleach or wood stain. Now is the time to talk about brightening dark wood kitchen cabinets. We’ll start with the bleaching procedure.

A Few Considerations Before Bleaching Oak Cabinets

Choose A Bleach According To Cabinet’s Wood

There are different degrees of Bleach’s impact on wood furniture that you can buy at your local grocery shop. Wood can be efficiently stained or dyed, but the natural color of the wood won’t be altered by chlorine or regular laundry bleach.

The ideal bowls to use to contain Bleach as you scrub wood are made of glass or ceramic since Bleach can damage the metal.

Clean The Cabinets Properly Before Bleaching

After cleaning it with water or mineral spirits on a soft cloth, dry-clean every surface. Before bleaching, let it dry properly for a day or two. Oak and gum are the greatest types of wood for bleaching.

 Clean The Cabinets Properly Before Bleaching

Poplar and pine varieties, for example, are already so light that eliminating more natural wood colors could make them lifeless and boring.

Open Kitchen Windows While Bleaching For Ventilation

Because bleaching compounds are corrosive, you must take reasonable precautions to protect yourself. The area should have a concrete work surface and be adequately ventilated with open windows and running fans. When bleaching wood, always wear rubber gloves, safety goggles, and a dust mask if you use oxalic acid.

 Open Kitchen Windows

Long sleeves and long pants will also assist you in covering as little skin as possible.

Neutralize And Sand Bleached Oak Cabinets BY Sanding

The wood’s grain will have changed to coarseness after being bleached, neutralized, and dried. It needs to be smoothed out with 180-grit paper after fine-grit sanding.

Steps To Bleach Oak Cabinets

Gather Your Tools

You’ll need first to get the Bleach ready; this is where you’ll have to make a big decision. Various types of Bleach can be employed to modify the appearance of the wood. Wood in two parts Bleach is abrasive and can alter the appearance of the cloth. Only use this if you don’t mind modifying the wood’s natural appearance.

Bleach containing oxalic acid is effective at removing water stains from wooden surfaces. The acid will aid in the removal of the stains. Finally, you can use regular Bleach. Household bleach can remove colors that have been put on the hardwood surface, but it won’t help with stains.

Remove Cabinets, Drawers, And Doors

You may take the cabinets and drawers down to the garage and coat them in the citrus strip. Make sure to apply a thick layer and wrap it in plastic before letting it sit overnight. Only one or two treatments are typically required to acquire the evident seal and layers of stain to scrape off easily.

It’s crucial to scrape the gel from the wood before it dries. Scrape the goo into a disposable container and keep scraping until the real wood is free. If some of the original clear finish is left, either reapply the citrus strip or wipe it clean with a moist towel.

Apply The Layer Of Household Bleach

Soak the cleaning rag in either regular Bleach or bleach-containing oxalic acid. Don’t use too much Bleach at first; you may always add more afterward. Wipe down the cabinets with the bleach-soaked towel now.

Apply The Layer Of Household Bleach

To avoid streaks, make sure the application is evenly distributed. Apply as much Bleach as you need to obtain the desired effect, but let each coat dry before applying the next.

Apply Wood Bleach

The application of 2-part wood bleach differs from other bleach types. To correctly apply the 2-part wood bleach, follow the manufacturer’s directions. Don’t apply it if you don’t know how to use it, and fix it later in the cabinets. Apply as many applications as needed to create the desired effect, allowing the wood to dry in between.

After wiping off the surface with water and sanding it smooth, apply the final layer. To have a long-lasting finish, seal the wood once it is scorched.

Sand Or Stain The Cabinets

To conclude, wipe down the kitchen cabinet with water to clean it. After that, you should sand it down to make it look smoother. You can also use a sealant to protect the appearance of your kitchen cabinets.

Sand Or Stain The Cabinets

Now is the time to dip your brush into the wood stain. Begin at the cabinet’s top edge and work your way down. Keep the brush moving to avoid a build-up of wood stains in one area. Coat the wooden surface until you achieve the desired finish. Then it’s only a matter of waiting for the wood stain to dry before reinstalling the kitchen cabinets.

Use A Thinner To Light The Color of the Bleached Area

There’s a potential that if you don’t test the wood stain first, the result will be different from what you expected. The good news is that you still have time to take action. To dilute the finish, take a cleaning rag and dip it in either solvent or thinner.

Use A Thinner To Light The Color of the Bleached Area

Before the stain dries entirely, you should be able to use the solvent or thinner. The discoloration will be easier to remove if you work rapidly.

Additionally, avoid applying too much solvent or thinner. Excessive use of those materials can harm the wood, so use them with caution.

You can paint your kitchen cabinets to lighten them up, but doing so frequently means compromising their natural appeal. Many homeowners like to keep the wood’s original beauty, so they avoid painting it as much as possible.

Ways To Maintain The Look Of Bleached Oak Cabinets

Re-Stain The Cabinets

Sanding and repainting your oak cabinets is a simple way to improve their appearance. Choose a contemporary dark stain like coffee or espresso to go darker. You must first deal with the warm undertones and neutralize the wood if you wish to go light.

Paint The Cabinets

 Paint The Cabinets

Painting might sound more tempting if you determine that staining is too much of a chore. Painting, however, can be difficult if you work with cabinets with a natural grain texture. The cabinets should be well sanded before being painted using a sprayer.

This will guarantee that your cabinets have a consistent texture and finish. Even while buying one of those kits from Home Depot is alluring, spraying would be preferable if your oak cabinets are grainy.


Hopefully, the discussed steps will help to lighten the oak cabinets efficiently and effortlessly. Now, you don’t need to hire professionals to get your hand on some cool cabinets in your kitchen and bathroom! You can also lighten the cabinets if you want to save their natural appearance for a long time.

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Author: Amanda Arnold

Amanda has been working with ConstructionHow since 2021. Her experience spans over 5 years in the creative niche such as home decor and trends, landscaping, renovations, and custom architectural values. As a home designer expert, she has a keen eye for the latest home improvement trends with accurate facts that readers find impossible to ignore. Being invested in home-building trends is how she has gained her lucrative expertise exploring more to bring a positive ambiance for all homeowners (and even tenants!). Currently, she lives in a beautiful beach home, a source of fascination for her.