I found this cabinet on our local Facebook marketplace. I loved it the way that it was but I wanted to try to take some of the “orangey“ look out of it.
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I started off by using a small scrub brush and a tad bit of Dawn dishwashing soap and water. I couldn’t even believe my eyes! The right side in the photo below was just from scrubbing with soap and water! I’m learning that these old antique pieces sometimes don’t have much sealant on them, or the sealant is worn off a lot. When there is no, or not much, sealant, it allows for easier removal.
When I started scrubbing the bottom part of the the cabinet, it wasn’t coming off as easy as it did on the top surface. As seen in photo below, on the left-hand side of the cabinet door, it was coming off better than the right side. I knew that I needed to figure something else out if I wanted to continue to lighten it up. I thought about using a light grit sandpaper, just to take the sealant off so that I could continue to scrub, but then one of you messaged me through DM on Instagram and shared with me that your mom used something called “denatured alcohol” for jobs like this and it would take to finish off. I remembered somebody else sharing this one time with me, so I thought I would give it a shot!
The photo below is before any scrubbing on the side. You can see how the top was already a lot lighter just from the scrubbing it with soap and water. Unfortunately, the soap and water was not doing the trick on the side as good. I scrubbed down the rest of the piece with the soap and water, waited for it to dry after I wiped it with a dry paper towel, and then started using the denatured alcohol.
I used a piece of steel wool, grade 0000. I poured a little of the denatured alcohol onto the steel wool and started scrubbing. It worked so well! It was taking off the top layer of finish!
I took an awful lot of scrubbing! I was literally scrubbing for hours on the entire piece. Look at how well it took it off, below! I was so happy with it!
After I washed the whole piece down again with some soapy water, I decided to go one step further and added some bleach, because the top part of the hutch was a little different in color/darker than the rest. I didn’t even know if the bleach would work, but wanted to give it a try. I just used regular Clorox outdoor bleach. I wiped it on with a paintbrush and it worked like a dream! it was just what I needed to take the tinge of orange that was left out of the cabinet! Sometimes the outdoor bleach works on wood, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think since this was an older piece and it was a little darker in color naturally, it worked great!
You can see below that the right sided door is bleached and the left is not. I used two coats of bleach, letting it dry in between each coat. I’ve then wiped the whole piece down with water after I was done bleaching.
This whole process was a lot of work, but the difference is absolutely amazing! The old character is still there with some of the old coloring, but it’s so much lighter…just like I had desired! I’m glad I didn’t sand this with my hand sander, as it would have taken off a lot of the old wood coloring.
I want to try this on other things now too! Again, the denatured alcohol works best when there is not any or very little sealant on the piece. It worked so well on this old antique hutch! This is one of my favorite pieces now! I chose not to add any sealer so that it wouldn’t change the coloring. It’s also not going to be a high traffic piece, so I think it will work out great without sealer. I rarely seal anything anymore, unless it’s a kitchen table that we will be sitting things on.
I didn’t strip the insides of the doors, because they will never be seen, unless they are open.
Initially, and the listing from the seller, I didn’t know if I liked the hardware. When I saw it in person, it’s amazing! It’s really thick old hardware! I love it!
I got rid of my other cabinet that I had designated for my candles…this cabinet is the perfect replacement!
I know that a hot topic question will be, “what did you pay for it?” I paid $100, and it’s worth every penny, in my opinion! I love these old cabinets so much!
It even has a cute skeleton key, that was the original key for opening the door.
Chester approved! What would a project be without it being Chester approved?!
I would love to hear in the comments below what you think about this technique. Do you think it is something that you would try? I love how it helps to maintain the original beauty, while lightening up the piece!