How to lighten dark wood paneling

Written by valery elias | 13/05/2017

Dark wood panelling can make a room feel old, dated and downright dingy. You can lighten up the space with a variety of techniques such as painting, stripping and re-staining, or applying a lighter stain over the old stain without the stripping step. For the best look, strip off the old stain, and apply a lighter stain to revitalise your panelling. Most of the supplies for this project can be purchased at your local home improvement store.

Pour the paste stripper into a bucket. Put on your goggles and gloves, and apply the paste to the panelling using a sponge, roller or a paintbrush. Make sure to cover completely in all of the crevices. Allow the stripper to sit for at least 15 minutes.

Scrape away at a small section of the panelling to see if the stripper is working. If not, allow to sit for another five minutes and check again.

Remove the stripper with a sponge (or follow the directions on the package) once you have determined that the stripper is working. Rinse out the sponge from time to time to keep it free of too much stripping product.

Scrub the stain off further with scrub pads, steel wool or scrub brushes. Make sure to remove all of the stain.

Sand the surface completely with fine-grade sandpaper. Remove dust and debris with a clean cloth.

Wash the panelling down with plain water and allow to completely dry. If desired, clean the panelling further by applying equal part vinegar and water. Allow to dry.

Stain the panelling the colour of your choice using a roller or paintbrush. Let dry, sand and clean in between coats. Apply two to three coats of varnish or sealer to finish and seal the wood, again drying, sanding and cleaning between coats.


Work in a well ventilated area. Make sure to wear goggles and gloves.

Tips and warnings

  • Work in a well ventilated area. Make sure to wear goggles and gloves.

Things you need

  • Thin paste formula stripper
  • Bucket
  • Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Sponges, paintbrushes or rollers
  • Clean cloths, abrasive scrubbers and steel wool
  • Water
  • Vinegar (optional)
  • Fine-grade sandpaper
  • Stain
  • Paintbrushes or rollers
  • Varnish or sealer

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