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How to Stain Dark or Yellow Kitchen Cabinets Lighter

If you have solid wood kitchen cabinets and don't want to rip these out but want to make them a lighter colour or remove a yellow tinge, here's how.

10/06/2022

 

 

 

 

When you have invested a lot of money in a solid wood kitchen, the last thing you want to do is to rip it out and replace it with synthetic materials. But if the kitchen has been stained dark or is a dark wood, or you have pine kitchen cabinets that have taken on a yellow tinge with age, what can you do to lighten and brighten the wood.

 

 

 

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Wood kitchens are timeless and never go out of fashion, but they do have their downsides. Dark wood cabinets can be oppressive in a small kitchen and overwhelm the space which is why wood kitchens are now going lighter. Dark wood stain is being replaced with lighter stains, lime wash or whitewash finish. New kitchens are crafted in lighter woods that go a long way towards making even a small kitchen feel more spacious.

 

 

 

 

If you have dark kitchen cupboards and cabinets and looking for a way to do away with the 'dark ages', use one of the following methods to lighten up and transform your wood kitchen and bring it into the 21st century.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighten dark wood or dark stained cupboards

There are a few techniques that can be used to lighten dark wood, whether natural or stained, and these methods vary. Some can be time consuming while others are easier, but at the end of the day, whichever method you prefer will leave you with lighter kitchen cupboards and cabinets.

 

• Preparation

Whichever method you decide to tackle, there is going to be preparation work involved to have the cabinets and cupboards at a stage where they can be worked on.

 

 

The kitchen units will undoubtedly have some kind of finish on them, it could be sealer or varnish (tinted or clear), perhaps an oil or wax has been applied, or they will be covered with layers of polish. Whatever protective coating is on the units, this must be removed before you can proceed any further.

 

Sealer and varnish can be removed by using a paint stripper to remove the majority of surface and then finished off with sanding. An oil or wax finish can be removed with lacquer thinners and perhaps also a heat gun if there are many layers of wax applied over the years. No matter the protective finish, you need to remove all of this and get down to the raw wood.

 

 

Whitewash is a technique involving watered down white paint applied and rubbed off dark wood for a lighter finish.

 

 

 

• Whitewash Kitchen Cupboards and Cabinets

The easiest and least labour intensive method for lightening kitchen cupboards and cabinets is to apply a whitewash. This is a watered down paint mixture that is brushed over the surface of the wood and then wiped away while still wet until you are satisfied with the level of whiteness. It can be a subtle, almost invisible wash if the wood is not too dark or you want to remove a yellow tinge, or you can reduce the amount of water in the mix for a more prominent white colour. What's nice about applying a whitewash to kitchen units is that you get to decide how much to apply.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using a whitewash on kitchen cupboards allows you to vary the intensity of the wash to your satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

After application, a topcoat is necessary to protect the finished surface, and this can be done with a clear gloss, satin, or matt sealer - one that is non-yellowing and fully washable. A polyurethane finish is the best option for kitchen units that require regular cleaning.

 

 

 

 

• Limewash Kitchen Cupboards and Cabinets

Limewash is a traditional technique that dates back hundreds of years and is a method that uses lime (crushed limestone) crushed into a paste and mixed with water. When applied to wood it allows the structure to breathe and flex naturally. The components for limewash (lime) are not as readily available as paint but offer the same lightening effect.

 

 

 

 

• Cerusing Kitchen Cupboards and Cabinets

Using a method known as cerusing, a wire brush is used to lift the grain on the wood and this highlights and makes the grain visibly stand out. After the cerusing method, you can then apply stain, sealer, varnish, or oil to protect the finish. Find out more about this method.

 

 

 

 

• Lighten Dark Stain on Kitchen Cupboards

A more traditional route on lightening cabinets where a dark stain has been applied requires sanding back the absorbed stain until unstained wood is reached and then applying a lighter stain. This process is extremely time consuming and might not be worth all the hard work at the end of the day, as it is something that can easily be achieved with a whitewash or limewash technique.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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