Introduction: Make Your Own 2-Part Wood Bleach...CHEAP!
There are so many different wood finishing techniques out there, but bleaching wood is one of my favorites. As you can see, the 2-part wood bleach formula can have dramatic results on just about any wood you can imagine.
Most people, I’m sure, don’t realize that the same chemicals local DIY stores sell in a package can easily and safely replicated at home at a greater savings.
Not only does it have the recipe, it has a cost analysis sheet as well.
- 1 Quart Jar
- 3 Chemical Spray Bottles
- 1 Funnel
- 1 oz measuring cup
- Rubber Gloves
- Long Sleeves & Pants
- Rubber Apron
- Safety Glasses/Face Shield
- 100% Sodium Hydroxide (Lye)
- 27-30% Hydrogen Peroxide
- Distilled Water
- White Distilled Vinegar (5%)
Step 1: Making Part 1
Because 2-part bleach uses a chemical reaction to change the color of the wood, we'll need to...get this...have two separate chemical liquids on hand to do that. The first part, and the part you'll apply first to your wood, is a mixture of 4 ounces of Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) to a little less than 4 cups of distilled water. It's also important that all mixing is done outside and with the correct gear on. Do not put your face over the jar of liquid as it does create fumes (don't ask me how I know).
Now, before you go jumping up and down, excited to do a chemistry project, there's something you need to know: pouring water ON TO sodium hydroxide is dangerous. The correct way to mix the sodium hydroxide is to first fill the quart jar right below the glass neck, which is about a 1/2" from the very top of the jar, with close to 4 cups distilled water.
Then, because a thermal reaction will occur (heat), you don't want to mix the ENTIRE 4 ounces of sodium hydroxide all at one time to the water. Instead, you'll take 20 to 30 minutes to mix the solution, about 1oz at a time, stirring rapidly (do not use metal!) to ensure that it mixes well, every 5-10 minutes. When I made my batch, taking about 20 minutes to add the final ounce, the water temperature was 123˚ Fahrenheit. No, not boiling, but you don't want to spill that on yourself!
Step 2: Pouring Part 1
That's right, you'll need to wait until the temperature in the jar is close to room temperature. It might take a few hours, but this is important. No, don't put ice in to cool it down, don't put it in your freezer...allow it to cool naturally and away from curious eyes. When the temperature is at a place where you can safely touch the jar, now it's time to use our funnel and pour the mixture into our first chemical spray bottle. We'll label the side of the bottle, "Part 1".
Step 3: Pouring Part 2
Now that you've completed both the first and second step, you are practically home free. In this step, we'll need to use the funnel again (cleaned from the last step) to pour our 27-30% hydrogen peroxide into the second chemical spray bottle. I will warn you now: If you don't use the high grade stuff found at pool and health food stores, and instead rely on the 5% junk found in most pharmacies, you're going to get terrible results. It really must be the concentrated amount (27-30%). We'll label the side of the bottle, "Part 2".
Step 4: Pouring...Part 3?
That's right, Part 3. Yes, I know how to count. Yes it is called 2-Part. Yes, yes, yes. Once the desired shade has been found, you'll want a neutralizer. Think of it as a bar of Lava soap to your dirty, mechanic hands. This is important as any stains or dyes we use later will be affected by both the hydrogen peroxide and the sodium hydroxide that's on the wood.
This is a simple step. We'll now mix 2 parts distilled water with 1 part 5% distilled vinegar (clear, no, not the apple cider stuff). In lamen's terms, 2 Cups of distilled water with 1 Cup of distilled vinegar.
Another tip I'll share with you is that, while both the previous chemicals are caustic, if you happen to get some of those chemicals on your skin, this concoction does a nice job of neutralizing the chemicals.
Step 5: Using 2-part Bleach
Using 2-Part bleach takes a little practice to get the desired results. Well, a very little practice, this really is simple. You'll take your Part 1 and liberally spray the wood you intend to bleach. You'll need to give the wood time to soak up the water and the sodium crystal solution...10 to 20 minutes is good. I like to make sure the surface is damn. If there's a big puddle of liquid on the surface, a reaction will take place, but not inside the wood.
Now we'll spray the Part 2. I like to give it a full 24 hours to dry as wet wood will generally look dark. I guess, in a pinch, you could use a heat gun to dry the wood, but don't go quoting me because I've never tried it. When the wood is dry, decide if it's what you were hoping for. Is it light enough? If you want it to be lighter, you'll go back to the Part 2 bottle and spray it again. Believe me, there are enough crystals from part 1 to cause a few reactions.
Do you like what you see? If you like what you've achieved, now is the time to spray part 3, further allowing it to dry.
Step 6: Okay, But Why?
I know there are purists out there that live and die by naturally colored wood, sometimes afraid to apply any finish. Hey, sometimes I'm like that too. But if you want to get a better dye or stain in your wood, starting with a white surface does that for you. I have made a video (above) that shows how I made a checkerboard using the 2-part solution.
You'll notice that the grain is detectable through the surface. It has that look of wood grain, but the colors needed to play a board game.
Step 7: Storage
Because both Hydrogen Peroxide and Sodium Chloride are caustic, you'll want to make sure you keep them away from things that are concrete and metal. I store my Hydrogen Peroxide in a refrigerator that I don't store food in, as darkness and cool temperatures will help stop the breakdown that occurs as Hydrogen Peroxide ages.