Can you lighten the stain on kitchen cabinets?

Answered by Brendan ~ November 8, 2010 ~ Comments

My kitchen cabinets are stained a darker walnut and I would like to lighten the color. This isn't new stain they have been finished 20 years ago. I would prefer not to paint the cabinets.

Stacey F. ~ Kingston, Oklahoma

Brendan Fowler

Lightening stain color on old cabinets has no simple solution. The only sure way to get a guaranteed, consistent, lighter color, is to strip and sand the cabinets back down to raw wood and start the staining process from scratch. I have spoken with painters that have had luck with the use of chlorine bleach, acetone, lacquer thinner and mineral sprits but never with consistent or reliable results. Generally, once a stain has penetrated the wood, you will need to remove the thin surface of wood containing the stain to change the color. The use of heavy-duty chemicals will likely leave a splotchy finish and just smudge the stain leaving your cabinets looking worse than before. I know you don't want to paint the cabinets, but that would be the simplest way to lighten them short of stripping and sanding them down to raw wood. Good Luck!

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