Walnut is expensive and rare wood type compared to other wood types. But still, I love to use walnut over other wood, because it is strong, durable, and can have good shape easily last a lifetime with proper maintenance. But one thing I’ve wondered is Does walnut wood lighten over time?
I looked into it and here’s what I discovered:
Not like many other kinds of wood, Walnut will lighten over time. The consistent dark brown color of walnut will be fade away slowly over the years. It turns into honey-like, pale color tones above its original dark brown hues with exposure to light. The same thing happens to the wooden furniture made out of walnut.
But there’s a lot more we need to learn about the walnut color change.
So, in this article, we’ll explore a variety of topics like, why walnut wood lightens over time, how walnut furniture changes over time, how to keep walnut woodworks from fading, and also can you lighten walnut wood as well.
So, let’s dive in!
Why Does Walnut Wood lighten Over Time?
Many factors cause the changing of color of walnut over time. The main destructive factors for the color changing of walnut is
- Exposure to sunlight,
- Exposure to air,
- Heat factor
- Rapid short term chemical processes in wood
- Penetration of moisture.
Sun exposure is the main factor that causes walnut wood to lighten over time.
The rate of fading over time depends on the quality of the walnut you have. Mostly, most of the lightening process will occur naturally slowly within the first couple of years, but you’ll see a significant change in color within the first few months. This happens because of the UV rays which are naturally included in sunlight. Walnut wood is extremely sensitive to sunlight which means it will react with sunlight.
This display gets a lot of attention in our showroom and usually some questions about the wood species – it's walnut & our designers are always quick to point out one thing! Over time, walnut will lighten if it's in the sunlight ☀️ pic.twitter.com/YzfKMFeYPJ— Cabinet Designers (@cabdesigners) June 14, 2019
Another main reason for the color change of walnut is due to exposure to air because of the oxidation process. Natural wood like walnut have so much different complicated chemicals which will be activated due to oxidation and cause for color fading of walnut wood.
Even when we keep walnut furniture away from sunlight, the moisture and air will still always find microscopic pathways into your walnut wood.
A proper finishing will protect the wooden surface from humidity and exposure to air which can prevent the color change of walnut over a long period. The heat factor is also significant for the color change of walnut which causes the changes of chemicals inside the wood.
I’d say older means better in color for some woods like maple, cherry, and oak which will turn into dark deeper color over years while walnut is an exception that will tend to get lighter over time.
How does Walnut Furniture change Over Time?
Most wood furniture will have color change over time due to various reasons. While cherry wood furniture gets a rich dark look over time, walnut wood furniture will get faded. Direct exposure to the sunlight over a long time will change the coloring chemicals of walnut and cause the reduction of its darkish brown color. Also, the level of exposure will increase the speed of the color shift from dark to pale.
Victorian walnut, 3 drawer jewellery /collectors cabinet. pic.twitter.com/pXEuXMwo7p— Chart Sutton Antiques (@ChtSutAntiques) August 11, 2020
However, walnut furniture fades like mad in sunlight. As a result of this, the beautiful dark brownish color will go away over time within a couple of years. I have experienced this, after spending a couple of hours observing my old walnut cabinet which was kept more than 3 years outside with no use at all. Things that I have directly noticed,
All the outside of the cabinet was pale in color with uniform brown all over. But when I look at the cupboard inside and under the desk and inside drawers, they still have that old rich dark brownish color. This is a clear example of how walnut furniture changes its color from dark brown to pale color due to long-term exposure to the sunlight.
Color changes in walnut wood furniture tend to be dramatic in the first few years. If you’re planning to use walnut kitchen cabinets and flooring, once they are installed, mostly you have nothing to do to protect them from exposure to light. The best protection you can give them to do better finishing and applying a quality coat over the surface before the furniture is placed.
|Wood||Before exposing to the Sunlight||After exposing to the Sunlight over years|
|Cherry||Light straw color||Deep red color|
|Maple||Light color with grey pink tones||Dark golden honey color|
|Mahogany||Lighter tone||Deep rich tone|
|Black Walnut||Dark brown rich color||Pale light brown color|
|Redheart||Dark reddish color||Brown color|
The ultimate conclusion is the furniture that made of dark wood gets lighter in sunlight and light wood furniture will get darker over sunlight.
How to keep Walnut Furniture from Fading
Unfortunately, according to my years of experience with woodworking, there is no direct single shot solution for the color changing of walnut over years. But there are different steps you can take to reduce the color change significantly by minimizing the exposure to direct sunlight. Most of them are affordable and easy to do. Things like,
- Avoid placing walnut furniture surfaces to direct sunlight
- Avoid placing furniture in humid places
- Prevent the furniture from continuous water or heat touching.
- Keep the walnut woodworks away from wet fungus areas which can also cause discoloration.
To follow the above precautions, you can take actions like the given below.
1. Apply finishes that have UV inhibitors
Lacquer and Linseed oil are the best finishers you can use for walnut furniture. You just have to apply those finishers on top of the wooden surface. They already have anti UV agents to prevent UV rays from touching the wooden surface.
By stopping the UV rays from getting to the wooden surface, the walnut furniture can protect from fading and can keep its rich dark brown tone over a long time.
Lacquer is fast and easy when compared to linseed oil. It dries extremely fast, and two coats will do the job perfectly. If you wish to gain deep protection you can go up to four coats, but two coats are also well enough for any walnut furniture.
When you put boiled linseed oil on walnut magic happens. pic.twitter.com/6ruQAEDU14— David Picciuto (@drunkenwood) February 16, 2016
Linseed oil will penetrate to the pores and small holes inside the walnut and not only it stops the walnut from facing the UV radiation, but also it gives some sort of waterproofing and air proofing as well. The only downside is it will take much longer to finish the drying process.
2. Move Furniture and Rugs Time to Time
Rearrange your walnut furniture from time to time. Then the amount of sunlight hitting a specific location of the wooden surface will change occasionally. This will equalize the UV radiation exposure and reduce the lighten of walnut and also spread out the fading color by giving a consistent color all over the woodwork.
Honestly, this will help to stop the furniture looking weird with dark and pale patches where places hit more sunlight and for places hit with no sunlight at all.
3. Apply Window films
If you have a room or kitchen with most of the wooden furniture are made out of walnut, I highly recommend you apply thin multi-layer films to the windows. These thin layers help to cut down UV rays from entering the inside and it will protect your walnut furniture from hitting UV and help to prevent the lighten of walnut over years.
While most of us are trying to figure out Does walnut wood lighten over time, There are special conditions that we tend to think can we lighten walnut wood manually?
Lighten the Walnut Wood
Walnut wood lightens over time naturally because of sunlight and other environmental effects. But we can do the lighting process manually with bleach.
I’m not talking about the bleach that we use in our household, this is called the AB blech.
First of all, bleach out the color of the walnut and then apply the stain. You need to apply the bleach evenly throughout the surface and make sure to keep the surface wet.
Woodworkers mainly use this method to alter the color of walnut by removing the natural color of them.
After the drying is done, the dark brown color of walnut will be completely gone and, you can apply as much bleach you want until you achieve the exact pale color you want, or you can spray a different color as well. Finally, I’d recommend sanding with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the fuzzy grain texture from the surface and achieve the smoothness you want.
Did I Cover all you wanted to know about Does walnut wood lighten over time?
In this article, we took a look at why walnut behave weirdly when compared to other wood types under color changing, why does walnut wood lighten over time, how to prevent or slow down the lightening process, and also how can we manually lighten the walnut surface as well.
My advice as years of working with different types of woods is, whatever the wood you use for your furniture, woodworking projects, or crafts always make sure to do a proper finishing. Because finisher is an important factor deciding whether your woodwork last just year two or last throughout your lifetime.
Walnut is one of the most beautiful and strong wood you can use for any indoor or outdoor application, but you always have to keep in mind that maintains the item properly especially when they’re facing direct sunlight. Hope this article will help you to protect those valuable walnut creations from fading.