How to Lighten Exterior Wood Stain

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Drop cloth
Protective glasses
Vinyl gloves
Protective mask
280-grit sandpaper
Tack cloth
Bleaching agents
Container for mixing
Neutralizing agents
Hydrogen peroxide
Rinse water

Applying exterior wood stain is not difficult; however, you do not always know the final result until it is too late to do anything about it. When you first apply an exterior wood stain, it will look much lighter than it will be after it dries, and in our haste to finish a project, we might rush to put on a second or third coat to darken the stain. Then, when the exterior wood stain is finally dry, it is suddenly darker than you originally wanted. There is a way out your predicament, however, and this article will show you how to fix a dark stain by lightening it. This process does assume you have already removed the topcoat of varnish or polyethylene.

Prepare the Object

Regardless of what you are lightening, you want to make sure you prepare properly. If you are working on a door then you want to remove it from its hinges. Lay down a drop cloth and place the item on top of it. You must also prepare yourself before starting, so put on a pair of protective glasses, vinyl gloves, and a mask to protect your eyes, skin, and lungs from debris, chemicals, and harmful fumes.

Sand the surface of the item down in the direction of the wood grain to remove debris and oil from the object. Brush away the dust afterward with a clean paintbrush, paying special attention to grooves and ornate areas. Follow up by rubbing the entire object with a tack cloth.

Mix the Bleaching Solution and Apply

When you use bleaching agents it is always best to follow the instructions on the containers. Some products want you to mix the two bottles together in unequal or equal amounts while others want you to apply each agent to the object separately. After you've consulted your product's directions, use a sponge to apply it to surfaces of the item that are flat. For the areas that ornate or grooved, use a paintbrush.


Bleach can continue to work for hours or days after you have applied it, so it needs to be neutralized when you're finished. As with the bleach, you will want to follow the instructions on the neutralizing agent containers. The application is done the same way as the bleach but with new, clean applicators. Be thorough, as it is important to get all of the bleach off of the item. You can also use hydrogen peroxide and vinegar solution to further neutralize the bleach. Apply this with a sponge.

Finish Up

You do not want the neutralizer to sit on the wood for too long so use a sponge dipped in rinse water to wipe the solution off. Try not to saturate the wood too much with water. Then, allow the object to air dry for at least 24 hours. When it is dry, sand the surface down, and use the brush to remove the dust. Finish with another wipe from a tack cloth and you're finished.