I found this armoire at a local estate sale. I love these old cabinets and I thought it would be fun to try to lighten it up! I went back-and-forth in between trying to decide whether I wanted to paint it, or bleach it. I mostly thought I wanted to paint it because that was the easier route. As you can see in the “before“ photo, it was already pretty the way it was. I just love the bleached/raw wood look!
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I actually started off by trying to use spray oven cleaner to strip off some of the stain. It worked a little bit, but there was not much of a difference. it was just too big of a piece to keep spraying it with more oven cleaner. If you haven’t tried that before, oven cleaner can strip things but make sure to wear a mask and other safety gear when using it! I would probably try it again on something really small. I spray it on, leave it for an hour, and then wipe off with a damp paper towel when I use it. Even the fume free one gives off a lot of fumes though.
I decided to sand it. The reason why I didn’t want to sand it initially is because it is too heavy to take outside. Where there is a will there is away, I brought my hand sander inside and got the job done! I had to be careful on the sides because they were covered with wood veneer and if you sand too deep into wood veneer, it can leave a big mark that is not easy to fix and sometimes not fixable at all. I sanded it with 100 grit sandpaper with my hand sander.
I then used my Dremel on the decorative parts. That was the first time that I had used this dremel and I loved it! It worked so good! I took the photo below after the piece was finished, for reference.
After I was done sanding it, I bleached it. I used my paintbrush to wipe undiluted outdoor Clorox bleach onto the wood. I wiped one coat on, let it dry, applied another coat, let it dry, and applied the last coat. How many coats that are applied is really preference of how the piece is lightning up, more or less coats could be applied. When I finish bleaching furniture, I wipe it down with water. I have seen some others use a vinegar/water mixture after bleaching to neutralize the bleach. I have never tried that so I can’t testify to how it works and it always works just fine for me to wipe it down with water after bleaching.
I’m so happy that I didn’t paint it! I figured I would like it better bleached than painted. I’m glad that I took the time to sand it and bleach it! Sometimes bleaching with this outdoor Clorox bleach does not work on certain kinds of furniture. I’ve noticed that it works better on pieces that are a little darker in color. I’ve used it on some pieces that are already lighter in color after I sanded them down, and I couldn’t tell much of a difference. The last two pieces that I’ve done, this one, and the hutch that I refinished, the bleach worked great! Also, to note, the furniture piece needs to be stripped down, or sanded so that the sealer is removed. This photo below is taken with indoor daylight lighting, with no lights turned on, for reference. I can never get my hands on any of the Zinsser wood bleach, but that works great too!
I opened the front door in the photos below, to give reference of what it looks like with brighter daylight lighting.
When I shared the process on Instagram in stories, a lot of you were saying to keep some of the dark parts inside the carved area. Great idea! It looks so good and makes the carved design pop even more!
The inside of the cabinet process took almost as long as the outside! Someone had stapled fabric on all of the shelves. The fabric was cute but it was stinky! I knew I needed to remove it, so I just removed the staples and exposed the plywood shelves. I thought they would look so much better painted, than just plywood. I love them so much now that they’re painted! I used the color “Writer’s Parchment” Behr paint.
Chester is glad that I’m done too, so that he can get treats for modeling.
I think the inside is just as gorgeous as the outside! I love all of the exposed wood on the sides!
I left the hardware, as is and I love the old tarnished look of it! There is not a skeleton key that came with it, but it still opens ok without it.
I think this will be a great cabinet to use for linens! I am hoping to use it in our bedroom when we build our house.
The carved detailing is just amazing! I love the character it gives! I’m so pleased with how this turned out! Just make sure to safety up when bleaching, I use mask, gloves, and safety goggles.