How to Bleach Walnut Wood Lighter with Lye and Peroxide in AB Bleach
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Q: I was in a furniture store recently and saw a bedroom set that was made from walnut but had a very light color. I tried to duplicate that color by applying household bleach to a couple of pieces of scrap walnut. Everything I try seems to leave the walnut the normal dark color. Can you suggest anything that would lighten the color of walnut?

Bleached Walnut wood Walnut wood can be lightened with bleach, but not with standard household bleach, you need to use AB bleach.

A: You were on the right track, but used the wrong bleach. Laundry bleach will remove dye stains, but it will not remove the natural color from wood. For that you need so-called AB bleach, a wood bleach sold as a two-bottle kit.

The bottles contain strong solutions of lye and peroxide, and when the two come in contact with the wood and each other simultaneously, they will bleach wood white. Because both bottles contain strong caustic solutions, they are dangerous to handle. Read the safety warnings carefully and wear appropriate safety gear, including gloves, goggles and protective clothing. Do not let it get onto your skin or in your eyes.

By the way, are you sure the wood was walnut? It might be butternut, which looks almost exactly like walnut except that it is a light beige color. Other light colored woods can also share walnut’s grain patterns, and there are some fruit woods that often pose as walnut in furniture.

posted on August 1, 2010 by Michael Dresdner
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2 thoughts on “How to Bleach Walnut Wood Lighter with Lye and Peroxide in AB Bleach”

  • Arlie

    a friend made a guitar in high school and made a mistake on the body so she used walnut on maple to finish the project.. Now she would like it to match. I thought of routing it out and replacing it with maple, but then I thought it would be easier to bleach it. Maybe I will have to remove it and put a piece back anyway. Thanks for the info..

  • Christine

    Although it bleaches the wood white, is the grain still visible when sealed?

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