When it comes to bleaching and all of the possibilities, you could say that I’ve been around the block a time or two, or ten thousand. I’m no expert by any means, but I’ve learned a thing or 20 in my times around the block. This isn’t a great “before” pic of the dresser but it gives an idea of how it started. It actually started dark stained wood, which I painted with milk paint, and now decided to strip. I like the chippy look too, I was just ready for something new and different.
I started off by sanding the whole dresser, to remove the paint, with 60 grit sandpaper. Once I had all of the paint removed, I finished it off with 150 grit to smooth it out and get it ready for bleaching. I realize that using a stripping agent decreases the risk of scratching the piece with the sandpaper, but I really despise using furniture strip and sanding works too. I tried my best to be careful with my hand sander and only sand in the direction of the wood grain.
I had recently purchased this Zinsser bleach kit and thought I would give it a try. I applied one coat and could already see the difference. I was so excited to continue and see how this would all work out!
I finished one drawer completely, below. I wanted to see how light the dresser would become. I loved it! Unfortunately, I had only bought one of the Zinsser bleaching kits and it is now out of stock everywhere! I knew one kit wasn’t going to be enough for my entire dresser, but I thought I would continue with what I had and figure the rest out later. Anyone else work like that?
Below is what the top of the dresser looked like after I had all of the paint removed. I was a little nervous at this point, because the fronts of the dresser are wood veneer and the top and some of the side parts were real wood. I figured that this would be an issue with the bleaching process and getting it to look uniform in color.
The photo below is what the dresser looked like when I ran out of bleach. I knew I could try household bleach, as I had done in the past, it just doesn’t get the color out of the wood as well. Household bleach definitely lightens the color of furniture, but it doesn’t go deep to get out the color of the wood, like I needed it to.
I had tried this Savogran wood bleach before and was not impressed. My household bleach did a better job that this product, in my opinion. I was silly enough to try it again since I was desperate and I couldn’t find anymore of the Zinsser wood bleach anywhere! The left side of the middle and the top and bottom of this side is where I wiped on the Savogran bleach…it did nothing! I threw that out and moved onto household bleach.
You can see in the photo below, the household bleach did a better job than the Savogran wood bleach. I wiped undiluted household bleach on the top and the side of the side of the dresser below, with a lint free cloth, and you can see how much it lightened it up. It was still not light enough to match the drawers that I had lightened with the Zinsser wood bleach.
If you follow along on IG, I showed the process in my stories and a lot of you suggested making my own wood bleach. I used this article and the ingredients that he recommended. It worked even better than the Zinsser wood bleach, in my opinion. This photo below is before I used the homemade wood bleach…
I began brushing the two parts of the homemade bleach solution onto the dresser and with every coat, it would get lighter and lighter. The drawers below show the difference in one more coat of bleach. The top drawer has one more coat than the one on the bottom.
After I had finished with 2 coats of the wood bleach on the entire dresser, I washed it off with my hose and let it sit in the sun to dry out.
I thought I was finished and I love it! I loved the wood tone left in the dresser and the way that all of the drawers meshed well with the color. One problem though, see all the drawers missing there? Those three had red streaks that were not wanting to come off. I decided to leave it overnight and come back to it in the morning. I’m guessing that the red and yellow that were coming out in some places was the coloring in the wood that I was bleaching out.
Below is what the drawer in the middle was looking like. The other two drawers would’ve been fine, they just had a small piece of red in a couple places, but I decided to just bleach them all one more time. After I had bleached those three drawers one more time, they were lighter than the rest of the dresser. Ahhhhhh!
So, I was basically back to starting to bleach the entire dresser again. I thought bleaching it one more time would do it, but I took it outside and put the bleaching solution on and it started pulling more red and yellow from other places. It took about three more coats for me to get the red and yellow out of the dresser. Like I said, I believe it was pulling color from the wood and I just had to keep bleaching it to get it out all the way.
It finally worked! You can see it’s not perfect, there are still discolorations and such as well as chip and cracks here and there. But, it looks good and I’m bleached out for now.
It’s not exactly how I had planned for it to come out, but it’s really cute. I thought thought that I would be keeping a little more of the wood color in the piece rather than bleaching it to almost white in color, but the stubborn drawer brought me to this point and I don’t mind it.
All that to say, this homemade bleach is the bomb! Just make sure to work outside in a well ventilated area, and wear all of the protective equipment such as goggles, thick long gloves, full face mask, etc, because it’s super toxic, as is any bleaching solution. Trust me, I got a bit on one of my fingers and it burns and sizzles your skin to white. You DO NOT want this touching any part of your skin or lungs! It doesn’t smell strong like household bleach does so you may even be tempted to not use your protective equipment. Don’t do it! Make sure to robe up and keep your protective equipment on the whole time, please!
I would love to hear I’m the comments below what you think of this chippy dresser gone strip! Chester approves. ♥️
60 grit sandpaper – I use these large sheets and cut them into 4s for my handsander
Zinsser Bleach Kit- now out of stock
Homemade Bleach-The two products I used were Baquacil Oxidizer (from my local pool store) and Insta-Flo Odorless Drain Cleaner (that I found at ACE)
*Affiliate links are used in this post
Sherri McCarthy says
Curious now how to protect it when you use it? Wax? Poly?
Same curiosity as Sherri. Did you rinse with water at the end, let dry and then what??
I love it! Please start doing workshops—you have great techniques.
Hosing it down with water was concerning to me. Wouldn’t that warp the wood?? Also did you seal the wood after bleaching??
Amy Havice says
I love your projects!! I really want to do this with my grandma’s dining room set but I think it has laminate. Have you done anything with laminate before?
I wanted to try this on my mantel. I can’t remove it from wall, do you think I could bleach, even if it’s inside?
Also, I love the look! I did do this to a floor and it came out beautiful!
Kris @ Junk Chic Cottage says
Wowsie that came out beautiful. Looks great.
MaryEllen Ford says
So with the home made bleach did you mix those two products or use them separately?
I think you are crazy to be doing anything in this crazy heat!!! You are making me look bad for being a bump on the log. AND I am far north of you where it has been only 100 degrees!!!
I like the way it came out….a new and different look. You may start something!!!
How does bleaching work on newer wood pieces? I have a china cabinet that is about 30 yrs old – would it take to bleaching? I guess if that fails I can paint – which has been my first option! Love your pieces
My Vintage Porch says
Thank you so much Betty! Sorry I missed this earlier! You were stripped down to bare wood and then bleach it, and it should work as long as it’s solid wood.
Love love love it!!!!
Cheryl Atkinson says
paint cation!, that is alot of work girlfriend but it came out really nice. Doesnt it dry out the wood really bad though? I work for a chemical distribution company so I can get all the chemicals I need. Hmm I dont think I could do this though. You made me tired. Lol great job.
Yes that sure was alot if work. Looks lovely. You surely are a dedicated person in finding out how to do different techniques. You go girl!!! The only question I have is..does this process weaken the wood ?
Jina Sheppard says
Absolutely love the finished dresser! The process to get there is complicated and not for everyone, but so worth the result!
It looks beautiful Natalie! You are a master at bleaching and distressing and making wood get back to its original place!
Yvette Schroeder says
Trying to find when you washed your rugs?