Touch wood: 6 tips to use lye to refinish your old wood furniture

What do you do when your wood furniture starts showing signs of age? Aged wood has a lot of marks, stains and blotches on its surface. It is often ugly to look at and may not sync in with new wood if you want to make some new piece of furniture with old wood. This is when you may have to refinish your wood. Refinishing is not circumscribed only to old wood, it can be applied to new wood to make it get the appearance and color of old wood. Bleaching wood is a common practice used in wood refinishing process. This article will detail on how one can use lye to refinish wood furniture to get your wood back in form.
Lye for bleaching wood: When you bleach your wood, you get your wood’s true colors, devoid of stains, blotches or black marks or any other surface damages. It can also be used to even the colors of two types of wood. Bleaching is often a first-aid measure to prevent wood furniture from damage by weather or stains. A piece of wood should be bleached if it is marked by stains, black rings, blotches, water marks, or if it is discolored or if the filler is not removed properly. Lye is used in bleaching wood effectively. It can be used as a mild, stain-removing laundry bleach or an aggressive two-parts bleach.

The problem is, not all wood furniture take up to bleaching in the same way. Furniture made of woods like cedar, bass, chestnut, elm, redwood, rosewood etc are not suitable for bleaching. Some woods like cherry and satinwood do not accept bleach well and should never be bleached with lye. Some woods are so light that bleaching with lye would make them more lifeless. Bleaching may destroy the color of maple and birch, while rare woods like mahogany and teak seldom benefit from bleaching. However, common woods like ash, beech, gum and oak are easy to bleach with lye.

Below are a list of tips that would help you with bleaching:

1. Choose your bleaching method: There are several methods like laundry bleach, oxalic acid bleach and two-parts bleach. The last one is the best on wood that require stronger treatment and has suffered more damage. Laundry bleach is for mild stains, blotchy areas and for slight overall lightening.

2. Precautions are a must: Bleaching involves use of strong chemicals. So, take all necessary precautions like wearing rubber gloves, goggles, mask or respirator to protect yourself. Keep your surface prepared for bleaching (use paper towels, or other protective covering over surfaces to prevent them from getting bleached).

3. Bleaching equipment: You should get your bleaching equipment ready before you start off. To do a two-part bleaching, you would need lye, vinegar, hydrogen peroxide and gallons of water. The equipments include wooden containers, synthetic bristle-brushes, scrubbers, paper towels, solid cloth etc.

Bleaching process:

4. Start with lye: Mix an ounce of lye with one quart of water and stir it well. The solution can emit fumes and can get very hot. To avoid trouble, allow the lye crystals to dissolve and then, start using the solution. Before giving a coat of lye, clean the wood and remove all possible external stains and marks. Use lye only if you need to remove some strong mark or to even the wood color or as a wood treatment measure.

5. Apply Hydrogen Peroxide:
After letting the lye sit down for 15 minutes, apply Hydrogen Peroxide and let it sit for two to 5 minutes. Wipe off everything with paper towels and repeat the lye, hydrogen peroxide application for about 5 times or so.

6. Neutralize lye residue with vinegar:
Cleaning or coating with lye can leave a lot of chemical residue on the wood. To remove that, wipe off the wood with vinegar and repeat it two or three times. If you leave lye on your wood, it will destroy the finish. To avoid this, do vinegar brushing off. When you apply vinegar, you will not see the change in the wood. Only when you wipe it off in tap water, you can sense the color and texture difference. Wash several times in tap water to get rid of vinegar smell and dry with paper towels.

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This entry was posted on Monday, August 4th, 2014 at 12:01 pm and is filed under Cleaning, Uses of Lye. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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