Wood Bleach Options

A finisher gets advice on finding and using bleaching agents for wood. April 18, 2010

I am searching for a wood bleach that works well. The brand I am familiar with is Kleanstrip. It is a two part liquid is no longer sold anywhere in southern Maine. I've tried powder but get zero results on the purple heart I intend to bleach a bone white. Does anyone have any suggestions or tips?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor G:
Is this for production or for a one-off project?

From contributor Y:
I’m not familiar with Maine, but usually you can get sodium hydroxide ( lye) part one bleach and Hydrogen peroxide (part 2)bleach in a 35% solution from local chemical supply houses. My question is - why are you bleaching purpleheart bone white? It will have no character left at all only the pores might be a giveaway as to what is originally was? Is there some significance to using it that's really worth ruining it for?

From contributor M:
This is a one of a kind piece, a cabinet (bleached purple heart) and stand (black walnut). The samples Ii have done with bleaching purpleheart have turned out quite beautiful after rubbing white vinegar over the pieces after bleaching. The purpleheart muddies up and the grain in combination with the color is quite unique.

From contributor G:
In that case, if you can't locate any sodium hydroxide or lye (Draino, Liquid Plumber) or you can't find hi-test hydrogen peroxide (if there's no chemical supply house nearby, how about a hydroponics supply shop), you could use regular 10 volume H2O2 and make a thin paste with oxy-clean. Cover your wood with this paste and cover that with plastic to prevent it drying. Next day, brush off any residue and spray with regular javex bleach. Repeat as necessary. If your last bleach step is javex, use your vinegar wash to neutralize.

From contributor Y:
Interesting response contributor G. I'm wondering if Javex is the same as javelle, a chlorine bleach. If so why would it need neutralizing? A water wash or two I can understand, but why the acetic acid/vinegar? Once HP loses it's nascent oxygen what remains is just H20 - no need for neutralization correct? The reason acetic acid/vinegar is used in the second part bleaching process is to neutralize the caustic lye - not the peroxide? If javex is some sort of combination of lye/peroxide I can see why.

From contributor R:
Ttry and get a hold of the wood bleach that Wood-Kote handles. They bought out a company that made a bleach called Spee-D-Way. No crusty residue to deal with and it does a fine job of removing the color of the wood without ruining the wood fibers or burning the wood beyond recognition. Experiment with the bleach samples just as you would a color sample, keep track of your formula so you can repeat it.

From contributor G:
To contributor Y: yes - just 5% hypochlorite bleach. As for the vinegar, I had forgotten momentarily that hypochlorite breaks down into salt and water and doesn't really need neutralizing. However, earlier contributor M said “rubbing white vinegar over the pieces after bleaching, the purple heart muddies up and the grain in combination with the color is quite unique". So, it may be part of the process.