We Value Your Privacy

We and our partners use technology such as cookies on our site to personalise content and ads, provide social media features, and analyse our traffic. Click below to consent to the use of this technology across the web. You can change your mind and change your consent choices at anytime by returning to this site.

Update Consent
Loading ...

How to refinish a dark wood stain to a lighter wood stain colour

Updated February 21, 2017

Adding stain to furniture or other wood items can aid in making the wood more attractive and stylish. Wood stains come in a wide range of colours, including light to dark. Whether you have a wooden item or piece of furniture you received from family, purchased in a garage sale or you have decided to redo to suit the overall decor of a room, changing a dark stain to a lighter one will enhance the grain of the wood. Removing the old, dark stain and applying a lighter coloured stain is a time-consuming process, and not suitable for anyone in need of a quick fix.

Loading ...
  1. Cover the floor where you wish to work on the wooden item with dust sheets. Place the dust sheets over counters, tables, furniture or anything else close by that you cannot move away from the area with dust sheets. Secure the dust sheets in place to prevent them from sliding around with painter's tape.

  2. Wear gloves and a face mask. Open all doors and windows within a close proximity to ventilate the work area and prevent nausea and dizziness from the paint stripper fumes.

  3. Remove any doors or hardware secured to the wooden item with a screwdriver. Set the hardware aside for reinstallation, and lay the doors on a flat surface, covered with dust sheets.

  4. Apply a thick layer of paint stripper onto the surface of the stained wood -- including any doors if needed -- with a paintbrush. Leave the paint stripper on the surface of the stained wood for up to 30 minutes, or for the time stated on the paint stripper directions.

  5. Remove the softened wood varnish with a paint scraper. Pull the varnish from the wood, working with the wood grain. Move the paint scraper toward you when removing the softened varnish until all of the remaining paint stripper and varnish are gone.

  6. Moisten a clean cloth with white spirit, and use the cloth the wipe over the entire wood piece and/or doors. The white spirit will remove any leftover paint stripper residue still clinging to the wood surface. Allow the wood to dry for two days.

  7. Brush an even, thick coat of part A wood bleach onto the wood surface and/or doors with a paintbrush. Allow the coat of part A to sit on the wood for up to 10 minutes, or as directed in the instructions.

  8. Apply an even, thick coat of part B wood bleach onto the wood surface and/or doors with a paintbrush. Leave the wood to sit undisturbed for up to four hours, or as directed on the A/B wood bleach instructions.

  9. Mix equal parts white vinegar and water into a large bowl. Dampen a clean sponge with the diluted vinegar solution and wash the entire surface of the wood item and/or doors to neutralise the bleaching chemicals. Allow the wood to dry overnight.

  10. Sand the wood surface with 120-grit sandpaper until the wood is smooth. Finish the sanding process by using a piece of 220-grit sandpaper over the entire wooden surface.

  11. Dampen a clean cloth with water and remove all the sanding dust from the wooden item. Allow the wood to dry for at least two hours.

  12. Brush on the new stain colour over all wooden surfaces with a paintbrush. Wipe away the excess wood stain with a clean cloth. Continue to brush the new stain on and wipe the excess off, until you have covered all wooden surfaces. Refer to the instructions given with the wood stain for complete application information. Allow the stain to dry as stated on the package.

  13. Spread an even layer of polyurethane over the wooden surfaces with a paintbrush. Allow the polyurethane finish to dry for at least four hours between coats or overnight, according to directions.

  14. Re-install the hardware with the screwdriver if needed.

  15. Tip

    You may skip the bleaching step and apply a clear coat of finish if the colour of the natural wood is to your liking. Repeat the bleaching step if you wish to obtain an even lighter colour on the wooden surface. Use 220-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the wood before each additional coat of polyurethane.


    Always wear respirator, gloves and protective clothing when using bleach. Never mix bleach with any other liquid.

Loading ...

Things You'll Need

  • Dust sheets
  • Painter's tape
  • Gloves
  • Face mask
  • Screwdriver
  • Paint stripper
  • 4 paintbrushes
  • Paint scraper
  • 3 clean cloths
  • White spirit
  • A/B wood bleach
  • White vinegar
  • Large bowl
  • Clean sponge
  • 120- and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Polyurethane

About the Author

Rachel Turner

Rachel Turner has been writing professionally since 2000, focusing on gardening and home improvement topics. Her articles have appeared online at SlowTravel and in publications such as the "Arkansas Gardeners," "One Step Ahead" and "Writers Now." Turner holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Arkansas State University.

Loading ...
Loading ...