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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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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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How to Strip and Bleach Mahogany Furniture
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