Bleaching Furniture

I love the look of bleached furniture.  I'm a bit of coastal soul, living in a midwest world. This entertainment piece is my third attempt at bleaching and I'm thrilled with how it turned out. Here's how I did it.


I started with our 20 year old sideboard. I knew the dark wood and leather had to go, as I mentioned I'm currently obsessed with light furniture and cane webbing. I measured the leather space I needed to re-cover and ordered my webbing from Etsy Even in a pandemic, it arrived quickly. No matter what, I'd order and get my hands on the caning first.

My next step involved collecting the refinishing tools and chemicals needed.

What I Used To Strip The Original Finish:

  • Rags or paper towels (you will need several rags, I used an entire roll of paper towels).
  • Cheap or old paintbrush (don't use foam brushes, they fall apart in the chemical process).
  • Appropriate protective gear (I used rubber gloves and protective eyewear).
  • Citristrip.
  • Plastic Wrap (I used Saran wrap).
  • Plastic scraper or plastic putty knife.
  • Plastic bucket, warm water & brush.
  • Garbage can for stripping waste.
  • Klean-Strip After Wash (Make sure it's "After Wash").
  • Zinsser Wood Bleach.
  • Vinegar.

    Here's How:

    • First: I removed the doors and removed the leather.
    • Second: Using that old paintbrush and applied a thick layer of Citristrip.  I worked in sections and covered with plastic wrap.  Instructions say twenty minutes. My furniture took an hour or two. I tested the finish with my plastic scraper, if it removes easily, its ready. If not and it looks dry, apply more Citiristrip and let it sit longer. 
    • Third: Gently, use the scraper to remove the first layer. I used warm water, rags and a brush to remove the goo between steps.
    • Fourth: Repeat the second and third steps as often as necessary (It took me two rounds in some areas and three in others).
    • Fifth: Apply Kleanstrip Afterwash to remove all remaining finish and Citristrip (this stuff is a little toxic, wear gloves).
    • Sixth: Apply wood bleach with a rag and follow instructions. Repeat a few times if needed to get the color you like and then wipe clean with vinegar.
    What I Used To Apply The Cane Webbing:
    • Cane – see above.
    • Staple gun.
    • Staples.
    • Hammer.

    Here's How:

    • First: Measure the spaces where you will apply cane.
    • Second: Cut pieces of cane for your spaces; measure twice, cut once.
    • Third: Lay the cane flat and staple the cane as close to the edge as possible. I put one staple every few inches around the edge and tried to staple exactly on the cane, to hide the staples. I had a frame to cover my edges, which helped. I also applied staples to the center because my cane dimpled. TIP: Next time I will soak my cane webbing in a tub of warm water for at least 30 minutes until it's supple. This should help to avoiding the dimpling.
    • Fourth: If your staples are not flush, hammer them flat.
    If you love the look of your wood and cane, you're done here.  I was impatient, couldn't get all of the dark stain off, I had really light ends on my top and cane webbing that needed a finish. So, I chose to white wash my entire piece.
    What I Used To White Wash:
    • White paint.
    • Plastic cups.
    • Water.
    • Paintbrushes (I used a standard brush to paint the wood and cane; a tiny detailing brush for the staples).
    • Rags.

    Here's How:

    • First: Fill one cup a third full with water. Fill the other half full with paint. Test out your water to paint ratio.  The best ratio for me was 1/3 paint to 2/3 water.
    • Second: Paint your pieces in small sections. Use a rag to wipe off the excess paint.
    • Third: Paint the cane and staples.
    1. You can omit this step if you want differentiation.
    2. If you have board backing, like I did, I recommend white washing the board backing PRIOR to applying the cane...big oops on my part.
    3. I used full strength paint on the cane webbing for better coverage and a detail brush for the staples.

    That's how I turned a 20 year old cabinet into an on trend piece of furniture!