How to Lighten Stain on Wood Floors With Various Methods That Work

Lightening up stained wood is possible! There are a few ways to do it, like using wood bleach, sanding the surface, steel wool, or a mix of natural and colored wood stains.

If you’re looking to lighten dark wood furniture, an easy option is to use turpentine or mineral spirits.

Just keep in mind that you need to remove any polyurethane finish first. If you want to lighten stain on wood floors without adding color, wood bleach is the way to go, as it will keep your wood’s natural shade.

Revive your stained wood with ease and show off its natural beauty! Ditch the worry and discover the most effective methods to lighten the wood stain. Here are the top methods to lighten wood stains.


To lighten stained wood, sanding is a useful method. Sanding involves removing the top layer of the wood with sandpaper. It’s important to be patient and skilled to avoid making deep cuts.

Beginners can practice on a spare wood piece before starting their main project.

Start with 60-grit sandpaper and use gentle pressure to avoid damaging the wood. Sanding will remove the top layer, including any varnish applied, and reveal the desired color.

Bleach and vinegar solution

Were you looking for an easier way to lighten stained wood? Bleach and a mop got you covered! If unsatisfied with the sanding results, you can always use bleach on sanded wood.

Or, if you don’t want to sand at all, apply the bleach directly to the wood with a brush to ensure it reaches the surface evenly.

How light do you want your wood to be? You can use bleach once or multiple times to get the desired color. Once you’ve reached your lightening goal, neutralize the bleach with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and water.

Spray the solution on the bleached surface, and let it dry. Voila! Your floor or furniture is ready for use without any worries.

Use dedicated wood bleach

Ready to invest in the perfect lightening solution? Dedicated wood bleach is your answer! While regular bleach is found in most households, not everyone has the special wood bleach. And, yes, it’ll cost you a bit more, but it’s worth it for the tailored results.

You can keep layering the wood bleach until you reach your desired color, but be careful not to overdo it.

Too much bleach can make the color look washed out, and that’s not the look you want. Start with a small amount and work your way up for the best results.

Add a layer of colored wash

If all else fails, the last resort is to add a colored wash for the desired hue. If you want a lighter look, go for a whitewash. Opt for a light brown wash if you prefer a lighter standard shade.

But before making your final choice, make sure you know what color wash you’re using and what results in it’ll bring. To be safe, test the wash on a spare piece of wood first to see what you get.

How To Lighten Dark-Stained Wood Floors

So, you’ve got dark stained wood floors that just ain’t cuttin’ it for you? Don’t worry; I’ve got you covered! Whether you’re looking to hire someone to sand it back or do it yourself, I’ve got all the info you need to lighten up dark floors.

First, it’s probably best to call in a pro if you’re dealing with a large floor. A floor sander and edge sander will do the trick in no time. But a belt sander will do the job if you want to tackle a smaller area.

1. Remove the Topcoat

Sand the floor with a belt sander or a floor sander and edge sander, starting with 80-grit sandpaper and working your way up to 120-grit. Clean and vacuum the floor before applying a new stain.

2. Choose the Right Method

If you want to use bleach, be aware that it can weaken the wood fibers and make your floor more susceptible to damage. You can also use varnish stripper, lacquer thinner, or denatured alcohol to remove the topcoat.

3. Soften the Finish

When using thinner or denatured alcohol, cover the floor with rags or newspapers that have been soaked in the liquid. Use a scraper to remove the finish once it’s soft. Then, sand the floor with 120-grit sandpaper to eliminate any remaining stain.

4. Apply the Bleach

Give the floor a final vacuum and wash to remove residue, then apply the bleach solution and neutralize the floor before allowing it to dry. Apply your chosen stain or surface finish.

5. Consider the Type of Stain

If you want to stain dark wood lighter, be mindful that dye stains are transparent and won’t lighten the wood, while pigmented stains can block the darker colors to some extent. Test a small area to see the effect.

6. Apply the Pigmented Stain

If you like the effect of a light-pigmented stain, clean and dry the wood and apply the stain to the manufacturer’s directions. Use as many coats as necessary to achieve the desired lightening effect.

7. Follow DIY Staining Tips

Ensure the wood is completely dry before staining, stir the stain thoroughly, avoid overlap, use oil-based stains for exteriors and deep timber absorption, and wait at least an hour between coats and 48 to 72 hours before top coating. And, if you want to lighten the color, thin the stain with your preferred liquid.

Cost to lighten stain on hardwood floors

The cost of lightening hardwood floors can vary widely depending on several factors such as the size of the flooring area, the type of wood, and labor costs.

On average, flooring professionals charge between $3 to $8 per square foot for the service, meaning that lightening a single bedroom could cost anywhere from $300 to $800.

For a whole home, the cost could range from $2,400 to $6,000. It’s important to keep in mind that up to 80% of the project’s final cost could go towards labor, and any additional treatments or topcoats will add to the total cost.

Steps by step to use bleach to lighten stain on wood floors

Lightening wood stains with bleach is easy, but you must prepare yourself and your workspace first.

Gather all the necessary tools, including gloves, goggles, a tarp, chemical wood stripper, wood bleach, paint scraper, fine-grit sandpaper, hot and cold water, and a paintbrush. Don’t forget to protect your belongings from the bleach by laying down a tarp.

First, you have to remove the surface coating of your workpiece, which is likely to be a protective layer of polyurethane or varnish.

Apply wood stripper evenly on the surface, let it sit for 20 minutes, then scrape off the residue with a plastic wood scraper at a 45-degree angle. Get rid of all the darker spots to make the surface uniform in color.

Next, prepare your wood bleach.

Put on your goggles and gloves, and open all the windows, as wood bleach produces strong fumes. Dilute the bleach according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then apply it to the surface with a paintbrush or a mop.

To prevent the wood from lightening too much, mix in some oxalic acid into the bleach solution. Allow the mixture to sit for 30 to 45 minutes before wiping it off. And that’s all there is to it!

Lightening stain on wood with white vinegar

Lightening stain on wood is a simple process that requires a few household items and a little bit of elbow grease. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Wait 30 minutes.
  • Mix equal parts water and white vinegar in a bowl or bucket.
  • Dip a cloth in the mixture and apply it to the surface of the workpiece.
  • Let it sit for a few minutes.
  • Wipe away the mixture from the surface of the wood using a damp cloth.

And there you have it! Your wood should now be lighter in color. But wait, there’s more! You want to ensure your workpiece lasts, so it’s a good idea to replace the protective coating that was removed during the bleaching process.

So, after the mixture is removed, sand the surface with fine-grit sandpaper and clean it with a fresh cloth. Then, reapply the protective coating.

Bam! Your workpiece is ready to go and will look great for years to come.

Using Steel Wool to lighten the stain on wood

Steel wool might be the easiest solution to lighten up your stained wood! It’s not just for cleaning pots and pans, it works great on wooden surfaces too.

Before you start, ensure your work area is well-ventilated and you have ready steel wool (the fine kind), mineral spirits, warm water, gloves, goggles, and a clean cloth.

To get started, saturate the steel wool in warm water, then squeeze out the excess water. Time to get scrubbing! Scrub the surface of the wood with the steel wool, making sure to apply pressure evenly.

The goal is to lighten the stain, not remove it completely, so be careful not to apply too much pressure or you might have to start over with a new stain.

Mineral Spirits to lightening up your stained wood

Grab some mineral spirits and a clean cloth if you’re tired of looking at dark and dingy wood. Apply the spirits to the wood surface or cloth and rub evenly, keeping an eye on how the wood changes color. Repeat the process until you reach your desired shade.

Just be mindful of fatigue, take breaks and don’t let the monotony ruin your hard work. And don’t forget to let the wood breathe before moving on to the next step. Wipe the surface with a clean cloth when you’re done, and enjoy your new, lighter finish.

Pro tip: this method works best with oil-based stains but may not have the same effect on water-based stains. And, if you want to be extra careful, you can always re-seal your wood after scratching off layers of stain.

What are the disadvantages of Using bleach to lighten stain Your Wood?

Lightening up wood stain can be a great way to give your workpiece a fresh new look, but be careful! Treatments like wood bleach and chlorine can actually harm your wood board if not used properly.

Chlorine bleach can break down the natural fibers that hold your board together, making it deteriorate over time. If you use too much, it can also cause blotchy discoloration and even force you to resurface the entire board.

There are other ways to lighten up your stained wood, but they can be risky for the workpiece and your health.

So, stick with wood treatment products made specifically for lightening the stain. Trust us, and it’s worth it in the long run!

How to lighten stain on wood without sanding?

Don’t you hate when your wood stain turns out too dark and unappealing? But don’t worry; you can lighten it up without sanding it! Here’s a simple 7-step guide to get you the color you want:

Mineral spirits – Dab the stain with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits, then wipe it off immediately. Repeat until you achieve the desired color.

Bleach to the rescue – Grab a bottle of household bleach, like Clorox, and apply it directly to the stain. Let it sit for 30 minutes, and watch it lighten up.

TSP cleaner – Mix TSP cleaner with water and slather it on the stain. Wait an hour, then rinse with clean water.

White vinegar to the rescue – Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves and avoid inhaling the fumes. Apply the solution to the stain and wait a day before wiping it off.

Lighten rust stains – Use a wire brush to get rid of as much as possible, then wipe it down with alcohol and stain it with a regular color.

Gently sand it – Use fine sandpaper starting with 220 grit and move up to 320 or 360 if needed. You can also use steel wool for small imperfections.

Reapply stain – After lightening, and it’s time to stain again with your favorite color. Apply light coats and let each one dry thoroughly before applying the next.

Three types of bleach to lighten wood stain

If you’re looking to brighten up that dark stain on your wood, don’t sweat it! There’s no need for sanding; you can do it with bleach. Yes, you heard that right! Three types of bleach can give you the color you want.

First up, we have sodium hypochlorite solution, also known as household bleach. All you have to do is dilute it to between 3% and 8% and voila! This one is perfect for dye-based stains, but not so much for pigment-based stains.

Next, we have the heavy-hitter, calcium hypochlorite solution known as pool chlorine. This one packs a punch and will lighten up stains better than sodium hypochlorite. Just keep in mind, it’s not a fan of pigment-based stains. It comes in granular form, so you’ll need to mix it with water.

Last but not least, we have oxalic acid. This one is different from the other two, as it’s an organic acid used for cleaning and bleaching. You’ll find it in crystal form and dissolve it in warm water until it’s saturated.

So there, you have three bleach options to lighten up your wood stain. Give them a shot and watch the magic unfold!


If you don’t want to lighten wood stains through sanding, you can opt for a home or dedicated wood bleach. Both options will reduce the darker tone of the wood. You can also lighten the stain after it has been applied.

Household bleach can be used, but dedicated wood bleach might work better. These are the ways to lighten stained wood, so choose the method that you think will work best for you. Keep the important factors in mind, and you’ll be good to go.