DIY Bathroom Cabinets: How to Lighten Wood Cabinets

The ORC has long been over but I am still making progress on my bathroom update. In my One Room Challenge inspiration board I chose a photo of a natural wood vanity. I love the contrast of light wood with black and white accents. My cabinets are a dark brown and although it would have been so much easier to paint them I thought why not try to lighten them. I knew if it turned out terrible I could always paint them.

My bathroom inspiration board…

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

The current state of my bathroom…

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

The first step was removing all of the cabinet doors and drawers. This was the perfect opportunity to clear out all of the unnecessary odds and ends like old makeup, lotions and hair products.

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

Materials Needed…

Citrus Strip

Paint brush

Plastic Wrap

Paint Scraper

Disposable container

Sander

60 grit Sandpaper

Mask

Protective eyewear

Rubber Kitchen Gloves

Bleach

Towel

Varathane Crystal Clear No Odor Interior Polyurethane

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

I took the cabinets and drawers down to the garage where I put a coat of citrus strip on them. I prefer to put a thick layer on and cover it with plastic wrap to sit overnight. This usually only requires one or two applications to get the clear seal and layers of stain to scrape off easily.

It is important to scrape the wood before the gel dries. Scrape the goo into a disposable container and continue scraping until you get all of it off the piece of wood. Then either reapply the citrus strip if there is still more of the original clear finish remaining or wipe it clean with a wet towel.

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

Once the gel is removed and the wood has dried it is time for sanding. Sanding is the step that makes the biggest difference in the color of the wood. I used a 60 grit sandpaper so I could get as much of the dark stain off of the wood cabinet as possible. I used one piece of sandpaper per two cabinets.

The cabinet doors and drawers sanded differently. The drawers ended up much lighter and closer the the color I was hoping to achieve while the cabinets were darker and still orange toned.

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

Next, I cleaned them off with a wet towel and allowed them to dry. In order to achieve the lightest natural wood color possible I used regular household bleach. Wearing rubber kitchen gloves to protect my hands I poured bleach onto a towel and wiped it all over the cabinets and drawers. I let the wood absorb the bleach completely before applying another coat. I repeated this about 5 times until I was happy with the color. What I love about the bleach is it tones down the orange-i-ness of the wood tone.

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach woodDIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

The vanity went through the same process. First the citrus strip, then the sanding and finally the bleach. The results are totally worth the time and labor of this project.

Finally, once all of the wood was matching it was time to seal. I always use this clear seal because it never turns yellow and it dries super fast.

I suggest a minimum of three coats but 5 or more will really get that smooth wipeable feel. The last thing to do is attach the cabinets and stand back to enjoy.

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

After

DIY bathroom makeover bathroom cabinets how to lighten cabinets how to strip wood how to bleach wood

Before

Now time to seal with those floors!

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