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Old 04-12-2019, 07:41 AM   #1
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Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


I'm considering bleaching my red oak hardwood floors.

The apartment doesn't get a ton of light and the dark floors make the space darker. I know there are lighter stains I can use, but I don't like the reddish orange color of unstained, poly'd red oak.

I've read a couple articles on bleaching the red oak. Anyone have any insight on the process?

The space will be empty for the project.

Thanks
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Old 04-12-2019, 09:05 AM   #2
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


I think with that big a space it might actually be ... better to buy new floor >.<

In any event, you have to use a two part wood bleach of sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide to get the wood color out. It's a kind of caustic process so gloves and ventilation is a must. You have a limited time to apply the mix so you gotta work in small enough sections that everything stays wet until after the final rinse. Apply very evenly with a sponge to avoid streaks then rinse with water, a second time with an acid-vinegar mix, finally a third time with water. The "depth" of color in the wood varies greatly, so you'll have to assess the color after each section is dry to decide if you need to apply the bleach to it a second time, or even third time. After you have all the wood bleached you sand the entire thing down with 320 grit sand paper to remove the "fuzzy" grain from the surface, then put on a sealer/protector top coat. (After all the work of bleaching it, I'd suggest a clear finish to show off your whiter wood hahaha)
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Old 04-12-2019, 09:22 AM   #3
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


Mystriss, thanks for the pointers!

Does the existing stained/Polly’d wood have to be sanded down to raw wood before the bleach process?
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Old 04-12-2019, 11:50 AM   #4
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


Quote:
Originally Posted by jaketrades View Post
Mystriss, thanks for the pointers!

Does the existing stained/Polly’d wood have to be sanded down to raw wood before the bleach process?
hmm I'm not sure I've ever actually bleached prefinished wood before. I would imagine it does though, I think the stuff is designed to draw out the natural color of the wood, not "bleach" a finish stain...

hmmm so I just cleaned my 20 year old oak laminate (which I don't want to risk sanding, but was in absolutely terrible shape) I used Mr. Clean concentrated cleaning solution undiluted on it and it took the finish off for me... It might be worth giving this a shot; see if a potent cleaner like the Mr. Clean stuff can cut the finish [gloss] then try the bleach process on a small, easily hidden, section and see if it draws out the finish color. You might have to then do three or four applications of the bleach though. It might turn out to be easier/more cost effective to sand first.

I'd suggest looking at the costs for all the bleach you'll need before starting though, I recall the stuff I'd gotten being moderately expensive some years ago (not sure if the price went up for inflation or down for availability and it's likely way different cost where you are, vs me being in Alaska, the land of $40 shipping fees on everything.)
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Old 04-12-2019, 11:57 AM   #5
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


I only know a little bit about wood bleach - where you'd use it to try and get rid of or lessen the effects of a deep water/urine stain. I doubt bleaching the wood would be effective if you didn't sand it down to bare wood first.
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Old 04-12-2019, 12:08 PM   #6
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


JMHO, this sounds like something that seems viable in casual conversation, then turns into nightmare project in reality. I would guess the finish will need to be completely removed by sanding first. The bleach will only work if it penetrates the grain like a stain. It may cause adhesion problems with anything put on next.
I foresee a blochy mess afterwords.
If you do attempt this, be prepared with at minimum a full respirator. A supplied air respirator would be better. High exposure to chlorine bleach will fry your lungs!
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Old 04-12-2019, 01:09 PM   #7
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


You don't use chlorine bleach, it needs to be wood bleach [oxygenated bleach]
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Old 04-12-2019, 01:30 PM   #8
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


If this is for your 3-flat, aren't all those example pics dark stained?

You will get inherently different colors based on the wood species, and sometimes you're left with a slightly different hue than you imagined. I don't even know if bleaching 100+ year old red oak could fight the natural color evenly or achieve an overall "lighter" appearance because of the strong grain pattern.
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Old 04-12-2019, 04:22 PM   #9
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


I've bleached red oak before (using the two part wood bleach) but it was new stock.

Red oak gets its color from tannic acid(?) Literally the stuff they used to tan hides with. It has open pores though so it tends to take well to bleaching (and staining.)

It does have a lot of color variation in it, but I personally consider that a plus. This red oak floor [natural, not bleached] isn't a consistent color, but I'm sure everyone would agree it's absolutely beautiful:
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Old 04-13-2019, 07:49 AM   #10
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


Quote:
Originally Posted by 3onthetree;
If this is for your 3-flat, aren't all those example pics dark stained?

You will get inherently different colors based on the wood species, and sometimes you're left with a slightly different hue than you imagined. I don't even know if bleaching 100+ year old red oak could fight the natural color evenly or achieve an overall "lighter" appearance because of the strong grain pattern.
This is for a condo I own not the 3-flat.

I may try a sample in a closet and see how things turn out.
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Old 04-16-2019, 06:51 AM   #11
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Re: Bleaching a red oak hardwood floor


As with everybody, I also don't think any kind of bleach will lighten the stain without the sanding. After sanding, though, you can use white stain to counteract the wood. It used to be called pickling. From what I've seen, gel type of stain would be most even. It depends on the wood condition, but sometimes even the sanded wood turned dark anyway after wate based urethane, so if you want light, you need to use light stain.
This is something I read, but bleach can also lighten the grain into a kind of blank slate. I don't think you'd want that.
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