First, it should be noted that not every kind of wood will respond well to the various bleaches that are available on the market today. Cedar and cherry, for example, cannot usually be bleached effectively, and a bleach may not work well on other woods if their furniture wood stain is not amenable to bleaching. On the other hand, oak, beech, ash, and gum woods can generally be bleached to great effect. Discussions with woodworking professionals can be the best way to find out if you should go about bleaching your wood furniture.
In most cases, bleaching is essentially a first-aid measure not a routine part of refinishing. A piece of furniture should be bleached if the surface is marked by stains, black rings, or water spots; if the wood is discolored or blotchy; if the color is uneven; or if an old stain or filler is left after the finish is removed. Old filler is often a problem with oak, walnut, and mahogany. Bleaching can also be used to even the color of a piece of furniture made with two or more woods. It can lighten the darker wood to match the lighter one. In this article, we'll review how to bleach wooden furniture as part of a furniture restoration project.
A table with water rings, a wood chair that sat in a shaft of sun for a season, a salvaged chest or cabinet that needs a new board -- there are a number of reasons to bleach wood furniture, and there are several ways to do it. Bleach for furniture comes in three main types: two-part peroxide bleach removes the natural color from wood; chlorine bleach removes or fades dye stains; and oxalic acid removes water or rust stains and lightens the gray weathering from outdoor and sun exposure. The process for using all three is similar.
Sand your bleached wood furniture lightly with fine-grain sandpaper to knock down the grain raised by the bleaching process. Continue with the rest of your project -- staining, whitewashing, lacquering or waxing the wood -- before removing any protective tape and plastic and reassembling the piece.