DIY · Home & Garden

How to Bleach Wood Decor with Clorox

Learning how to bleach wood decor with Clorox is easier than you think. See how I transform a cheap second-hand platter to make a neutral piece that looks perfect in any space. This tutorial will walk you through the entire process.

A wooden bowl has candles and napkins lying in it after a woman learns how to bleach wood decor with Clorox.

You’ve found the perfect piece of wood decor. Or maybe you’ve been slowly collecting different secondhand pieces over time. They’re rustic, one-of-a-kind, and seem to fit the style you have going on in your home.

There’s only one problem.

The stain is orangey, old, and, well, dated. 

An old wooden platter is laying on a table.

However, there is one way to remedy this issue. Today I’m going to show you how to bleach wood–specifically pieces of wood decor. The result will be a modern, blonde wood style that everyone is after these days. 

I personally love the Scandinavian-inspired raw wood look on furniture and wood decor. It lightens up spaces and the neutral accents pair well with just about anything. There is something so sophisticated about the simplicity of bare wood in its natural state. 

Getting this look is a whole lot easier than expected, too. You won’t have to go out and buy brand new decor. Instead, you can make an easy change to existing wood decor for a completely new style in your home. 

A wooden bowl has been bleached with Clorox for a raw wood look.

Learning how to bleach wood is not terribly complicated either. (Albeit a bit different than other refinishing projects.) There are some important factors to keep in mind, though. But it is doable and the results are stunning. 

Now, with your new wood decor, you’ll be elegantly styling all your rooms into something more sophisticated and put together for a more collected look. All perfectly curated to fit your personal home style. Using just some cheap household bleach you have laying around the house. 

Almost sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? 

It is definitely real, though. 

Let’s get into some new techniques as we learn how to bleach wood decor with Clorox today…

How to Bleach Wood Decor

Do I have to use a certain type of wood?

Here’s the thing. When bleaching wood with Clorox, we’re essentially removing any stain, paint, or other dyes on a wood. However, bleaching wood with a household bleach will not change the innate color of the wood itself. If the piece of decor or furniture you’re bleaching is made from black walnut, it is not going to lighten to a pine wood color. 

I recommend using wood decor made from oak, beach, ash, and gum for your bleaching projects. They naturally have lighter tones and will be easier to work with.

For more on how to bleach wood with something stronger, for naturally darker wood, read this post HERE by The Coastal Oak. She talks about using a stronger product and method to bleach the actual wood using an A/B wood bleach.


Paint brush with synthetic bristles


Clorox bleach (or other household bleach)

Steel wool

Tack cloth



220-grit sandpaper

Eye goggles

Wood wax sealer

Glass or ceramic bowl, optional

Mineral spirits, optional

A variety of supplies are gathered into a box as a woman learns how to bleach wood decor with Clorox.

Pieces of old stained wood decor:

Wooden bowls or platters

Lazy susans


Candle holders


Other wooden knick knacks 

**(oak, beach, ash, and gum wood pieces work best)

Steps | how to bleach wood with Clorox


Wipe the decor down using an old rag. As for a cleaning agent, use water or mineral spirits to effectively remove dirt. Be certain it is free from dust and dirt before you begin working. Let it dry before beginning sanding in the next step.

A woman wipes down an old, orange wooden platter using a towel.

Sand away

You may be surprised at this step. Isn’t the bleach supposed to be strong enough to penetrate the top coat? Sanding helps expose the wood fibers for better penetration. It also helps the bleach work more efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, it helps remove any extra gunk that wiping it down with a rag didn’t get. 

Use a 220-grit sandpaper to rough up the top coat just enough (while also maintaining a smooth surface). Use steel wool to roughen up hard to reach spaces.  Afterward, use a tack cloth to wipe any dust off. You want the piece free of debris.

Some recommend waiting a day or so after cleaning it before adding bleach, for best results. However, after cleaning, drying, and sanding, my wooden platter bleached fairly easily.

A woman begins sanding a wooden platter using 220-grit sandpaper.

Apply bleach

One important thing to remember when learning how to bleach wood is that it will bleach anything it comes into contact with, too. Be sure to lay down cardboard outdoors to prevent bleach from getting all over everything. Always have proper ventilation.

If you’re using a spray bottle, you can use an old cardboard box to prevent it from escaping on the sides, too. Always wear protective gear like gloves and a respirator when working with bleach and other chemicals. 

Add the bleach by spraying, rubbing it on with a rag, or painting it on with a paintbrush. If you’re using a spray, use a brush to evenly spread it to coat it evenly immediately afterward. Apply enough to cover the entirety of the wood decor. Allow to sit for an hour or so, or until it is dry to the touch.

A platter is being sprayed with bleach.
A brush is used to spread bleach around in a thin layer on a wooden platter.


You will more than likely need to apply a second and maybe third layer to your decor. Repeat the previous step until you get the desired effect. Let dry for at least an hour, or until it is dry to the touch.

For really stubborn spots, lightly sand them again and reapply bleach.

Once it completely dries, after multiple applications, the wood should be looking lighter and more natural. This is exactly what we are going for.

A woman adds a second coat of bleach after it dries.


Now, after drying, rinse the bleach with water. You can use a hose outside or run it under water in the sink. This helps get any remaining bleach off of the wood. Let this dry completely before sealing it.

Seal it for protection

Last, using a wood wax finisher, apply the sealant to keep moisture out and protect the raw wood. Rub it lightly in, using long strokes or in a circular motion, to fully coat with a thin layer of finish. Let this completely absorb before handling. 

A wooden platter has been bleached using Clorox for a raw wood look.

Tips for bleaching wood with Clorox

You can sit your wood decor out in the sun after applying bleach to it. This can really help bleach it slightly more. The sunshine naturally bleaches by itself, and with bleach in the mix it helps speed up this process.

If you prefer to use a paint brush to apply the bleach, you’ll need to first pour the bleach into a container. Be sure it is a glass or ceramic container, as bleach can damage metal.

Cedar, cherry, redwood, and rosewood don’t get along with bleach. They can be difficult to bleach and if they do bleach they may be left with a less-than-distinctive look to them, leaving them bland and boring. Due to this, always test a small spot first. That way, if it ends up being a wood that doesn’t bleach well, you can try something else.

Although wood can be bleached, keep in mind it may not always produce the exact results you are hoping for. Especially when you are using these techniques–learning how to bleach wood with Clorox (and other household bleach) specifically. It may take some time and effort. And you may need to switch to another method if this doesn’t work. Just be aware of this from the beginning. My wooden platter didn’t quite lighten as much as I wanted, but it still looks MUCH better than it did with its previous orange hue.

A woman has just learned how to bleach wood decor with Clorox bleach and has arranged in on a countertop with linen napkins and candlesticks on top.

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