How to Strip and Bleach Mahogany Furniture

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Here is the best way to strip and bleach mahogany furniture and bring new and lighter life to your dark wood furniture. Do you have a dark mahogany wood dresser that you love but would prefer a color change? Did you know you can bleach mahogany with outstanding results? Let me walk you through my mahogany stripping and bleaching process so you can start to restore and refinish furniture instead of replacing it.

Several years ago I bought a lovely vintage bedroom set from Craigslist before FB Marketplace became the place to buy and sell. It was a dark, red, mahogany set and although the quality was outstanding, it was just red and dark and I wanted to change it up.

We sold the bed and nightstand right before we moved as we didn’t need them anymore, but I kept the dresser. Good, quality dressers are hard to find and this one was sturdy, great quality and all wood. Even if I painted it it was worth keeping.

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Bleached Wood dresser with mirror and vase of greenery

Mahogany Wood Dresser Before

I debated about refinishing this piece as it’s such a quality, nicely stained and finished piece, but it was so red and dark and just not working for me. I finally followed my instinct and stripped and bleached it even though my mom said I might not get the desired outcome. She was afraid the mahogany wood, even after stripped, would be too pink as this type of wood has reddish undertones. She is right, but there is a right and a wrong way to bleach mahogany furniture and achieve great results. See the before and after.

Mahogany dresser with mirror and lamp in hallway
bleached mahogany dresser in entryway

What is Mahogany Wood?

Mahogany is a straight-grained, reddish-brown wood that darkens over times. It has a straight, fine and even grain and is very durable. Mahogany is among the more valuable wood species in the world and is known for its unique pink coloring.

Much of the first-quality furniture that was made in America from the mid-18th century was made of mahogany when the wood first became available to American craftsmen.

dresser in foyer with mirror and lamp wit vase

Can You Strip and Bleach Mahogany?

Mahogany can be stripped and bleached but you need to use the right bleaching process for mahogany wood. Mahogany is a reddish brown wood naturally making it dark and when applying a dark stain the furniture can become even darker.

Once the stain or paint is stripped from mahogany you will still be left with a reddish, pinky tone wood due to Mahogany’s nature. In order to achieve a lighter look to the wood you will need to use the right type of bleach as house-hold bleach won’t do the job.

dresser in foyer with lamp and vase of greenery

Bleached Mahogany Dresser Inspiration

Before venturing down the bleaching route I did want to see if it was possible. I figured if mahogany had been stripped and bleached I could find a picture of it. After some searching I found some gorgeous bleached mahogany dressers on high-end antique stores such as 1st Dibs and Charish. These pieces had been refinished and were outstandingly beautiful. I decided to go for it!

These were some of the inspiration pieces I found and there links are here if you care to purchase any one of these. None of these are in my budget so it would be a DIY project for sure to achieve the look I was going for.

bleached mahogany dresser

Bleached Mahogany Dresser

How to Bleach Mahogany Furniture?

Let’s get to is shall we?

There are several ways to bleach furniture such as just regular, common laundry bleach, oxalic acid and a two part A/B peroxide-based bleach.

For sake of bleaching mahogany wood we are going to discuss how to bleach this type of a red wood with the Two-Part A/B Peroxide bleach. For lighter woods such as oak or pine wood you could use regular house-hold bleach; however, for any type of wood that has a reddish, brown tone to it naturally, you are going to need to use the Two-part bleach system. House hold bleach just won’t give you the desired outcome as it will effectively remove stain or dye color from wood, but will not affect the wood’s natural color. You will be left with the stain color lightened but not the wood.

For bleaching mahogany wood furniture you best option is to use the two-part A/B peroxide bleach method.

bleached dresser

1. Strip the Furniture with Citristrip

Before you can bleach mahogany or bleach wood furniture, you must remove any pre-existing stain or paint in order to get to the actual wood. If you are working with unfinished mahogany you can skip the stripping step as it is not necessary. Stripping furniture is simply put, it’s removing the finish from wood furniture and there are different methods one can use.

I used Citristrip to strip my mahogany dresser and it worked well. Citristrip is a great product because it’s less harmful and toxic than other stripping methods.

Citristrip is easy to apply, simply brush a layer on and let it sit for 15-30 minutes. I recommend covering it with plastic wrap to let it work without drying out because Citristrip does dry out pretty quickly and I want it to stay on the furniture longer to ensure it’s working.

Using a cheap chip brush, brush on a thick layer of the stripper onto your furniture and then wrap with plastic wrap. Using a plastic scrapping tool, scrape the finish or paint off of the piece. Repeat as necessary, I had to use three coats. Do not use a metal scraper as it will gouge and damage your wood. Only use the plastic ones.

dresser wrapped in plastic wrap for stripping
stripping dresser

Here you can see the sides and top of the dresser have been somewhat stripped while the drawers still have the original stain. Can you tell the difference?

Mahogany dresser with mirror and lamp

2. Wash the Furniture with Afterwash

This step was not one I intended on when I sent out on this project but it was SOOO necessary. Don’t skip this step especially when you have a heavy stain and have to use a few coats of the Citristrip. Afterwash removes all the leftover stripper and stain and gives you a clean piece of furniture to work with. I highly recommend using this product after stripping and would not advise to skip it. It was a huge help in the refinishing process.

3. Sand the Furniture

Give the furniture a good sanding once it has been stripped and washed with Afterwash using a 180 or 220 grit sandpaper. I don’t like to use anything too strong here but you want to sand off the wood and any remaining stripper to get a nice clean and smooth finish to work with for bleaching.

You can sand your piece by hand but if you plan to refinish furniture or have any building projects in mind for the future; I recommend a nice orbital sander. I invested in one a couple years ago and could never go back.

lady sanding dresser
dresser in hallway after being stripped

This is the dresser stripped and sanded before it was bleached. You can see how pink this type of wood is and this is where the bleach comes in and does the job!

4. Bleach the Furniture

Once the wood has been stripped, washed and sanded it’s now time to bleach. For me, this is where the fun part came in because I began to see my mahogany dresser change from dark reddish pink to a warmer, lighter wood tone and I was getting excited.

For bleaching mahogany I used the A/B Two Parts Bleach method. This comes in a kit of…you guessed it, an “A” application and a “B” application.

Follow the directions on the box and it’s pretty straight forward. Apply the “A” bottle first by pouring it in a plastic container and brushing it on with a cheap chip brush. I only had a little product at a time so not to waste what I might not use. After 15minutes apply the “B” bottle. This is where you see the two chemical interacting and working to bleach the wood.

I did two applications of the bleach process and my results were exactly what I was looking for. After one application take inventory and see if you need to bleach again or if you like the outcome after one application.

dresser applying wood bleach

5. Neutralize the Furniture

This step is important because if you do not neutralize the furniture after the final application of wood bleach the lingering bleach could chemically react with whatever finishing stain or varnish you apply next. Wipe the furniture down with a rag soaked in a 50-50 water and white vinegar solution and then wipe it dry with a clean rag, and finally wipe it down again with clean water, drying well with a clean, dry, soft cloth. Let dry completely for two days before applying a stain or other treatment. 

Once you’ve bleached, neutralized, and dried the wood, you’ll find the grain has become coarse. Sand it with a 120-grit sandpaper then finish it with a 180- or 220-grit paper for a smooth finish.

I recommend neutralizing the furniture after bleaching weather you apply a new stain or sealer or not. You want to stop the bleaching process and clean the wood.

cleaning dresser
dresser drawers after stripping

Final Thoughts on Bleaching Wood

This is a somewhat tedious project but the outcome is rewarding. If you can get through the stripping process you are well on your way to achieving a lovely refinished piece of furniture. It is a lot of work but get some music playing or listen to a good audio book like I do and the time goes by quickly.

There are other methods of stripping and bleaching wood furniture, but for mahogany this is the best method to achieve that bleached wood look. Would I do it again…yes!

mahogany dresser in foyer
dresser with white lamp

How to Strip and Bleach Mahogany Furniture

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  1. Amazing! Never dreamed you could accomplish taking a mahogany stain and bring it back to its natural wood, maybe even better! A big thumbs up!

  2. I recently purchased a 1930 Mahogany Vanity. I plan on painting it a lighter color however I really wanted the top to be light stain to showcase the wood grain. I nlook forward to trying this bleaching technique! Thank you for all the awesome tips to achieve this. Wish me luck!

  3. This is so lovely! Did you do anything after the neutralizing? Like clear coat? Thank you so much

  4. Your results are beautiful! After you bleached neutralized and sanded did you do anything to seal the piece. I love the natural matte look but I’m thinking that gorgeous finish needs protection.

  5. Would you recommend someone in the DC/VA area to do this? I have a bedroom set and I am dying to reuse the furniture and have in this light look. Looking for a referral!

  6. Hey Amy! If the mahogany is oily does the bleach take out the oils? Or are you kind of out of luck if oils are popping through after sanding? Thanks in advance!

  7. If your mahogany piece is oily after stripping does the bleach help stop the oils from pulling through? Thank you! Love the bleaching method!

  8. Hello Julie! I am not sure of anyone in the DC/VA area who could do this for you. I just moved from that area to East TN or I would offer my services. If you work on it little bit at a time you could possibly do it yourself, but I understand if you don’t have the time. It’s tedious for sure.

  9. Lauren, I didn’t experience any oily residue after stripping except maybe the goop leftover from the stripper, but I cleaned the piece with afterwash to remove any left over residue. I did not have any oils pulling through from the wood itself at all. hope that helps.

  10. Lauren, I didn’t experience any oily residue after stripping except maybe the goop leftover from the stripper, but I cleaned the piece with afterwash to remove any left over residue. I did not have any oils pulling through from the wood itself at all. hope that helps.

  11. Hi, This looks amazing. We are currently in the process of trying to bleach a mahogany dining table. I was wondering how you stripped and sanded in the grooves on your dresser as we have some groove detailing on the table and not sure how to get in there effectively!

    Thanks so much in advance,

  12. I have an unfinished mahogany front door and I would LOVE to keep it this color! But I think a front door needs some kind of finish/sealant? Any ideas?

  13. This is amazing! I have 2 mahogany nightstands I would love to do this to, but this finished color won’t match my decor either. Is it possible to stain it after it’s bleached to a different tone? Thank you for the very detailed tutorial!

  14. Hello! Glad this has been helpful. You can stain your piece after you have bleached it as long as you use vinegar to neutralize it first and then wipe it down with water, let it dry and then you should be able to stain it. Best to you…let me know how it turns out!

  15. I would look at Rubio Monocoat for sealers. I have been researching their product and planning to use their stain on our new kitchen island. They also have great sealers for wood too if you don’t want to use a stain/color. You could also chat with them on their website and see what they recommend. The other option is to use Minwax Urethane, but I’d check with Rubio first. Better product.

  16. Hello! Great question. There are sanding blocks such as these that help with getting the grooves if working by hand. You could also get a Dremel and use sanding attachments for it. or you can get certain attachments for a hand sander. This works well in the grooves if using a Dremel, but always be mindful of the grit of the sandpaper. 60 or 80 grit is strong, where 120/220 are smooth/finishers. Work slowly with the Dremel so not to gouge the wood. Hope that helps.

  17. Hi, after bleaching should you seal the wood, is so what would you use and would it darken it? Thankyou

  18. Hi! What are your suggestions for tools to remove original stain from the grooves on the legs? My vintage chest has grooved legs on both sides. Thank you!

  19. I have a 110+ year old home. It has massive amounts of detailed mahogany woodwork. Unfortunately all of is stained a dark red mahogany. I’ve been stripping with citristrip. I’ve been unable to find the A/B bleach mixture at any of my local hardware stores. I did find a small 8oz version but I’m going to need a lot more than 8oz. Is it possible to make your own? I have plenty of hydrogen perxoide but can I buy sodium hydroxid alone and apply them separately? I know mixing it myself can be dangerous. If so where would I find sodium hydroxid? Are there any online retailers where I can buy in larger quantities?

  20. Yes…that is always tricky. Honestly, I just use sheet of sandpaper at that point and rather round it out to get it into the grooves. It is tedious and time consuming for sure.

  21. Sealing is recommended and I like to use General Finish Flat Out Flat as it usually doesn’t darken your finish, but I would always test a patch first. Sealer as you understand does have a tendency to darken a finish. General Finish is pretty good about keeping it the same. I did not seal this piece because it sits in our foyer and does not receive any wear and tear or use.

  22. Wow Darren…I would love to see your house. Gorgeous just but the sounds of it.
    I can’t find the A/B bleach in any of my local stores either and I ordered mine from Amazon. You are right…it doesn’t come in a large quantities and I had to order two for just my dresser so I can understand how much you will need.
    Not sure I”m the one to give advice on making your own but you possibly could with some research. Not sure where to find the other ingredients, but I would be careful for sure.
    I did find this in gallon size

  23. Please tell me where you got those drawer pulls! I’ve searched everywhere. Gorgeous makeover!

  24. Thank you for sharing this process. I’m excited to give it a try. Please do share where you found those beautiful pulls.

  25. Hi Amy, don’t know if you’re still replying to this, but I loved your post and the explanation as well as your pictures. I was wondering if the bleaching was necessary, personally I quite like the darker more pink tint. Can I use a slight stain then seal with a wood finisher so if there is drink spillage it doesn’t matter.

  26. Hello! The bleaching is not necessary; just a personal preference here. If you like the darker, pinker tone than you can leave as is and skip a step. Go for it.

  27. Yes, it should. Just gague the bleach and how much stripping and bleached look you are going for. But process would be the same.

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