How To Neutralize Red Tones in Wood – Top 3 Methods

how to neutralize red tones in wood

If you’ve been working with woods for a long time, you get to know that each wood has a different appeal and unique characteristics. Wood tone, color, texture, figure, and grain make wood special from others. The wood tone is an important characteristic that gives high value to the wood when it comes to decorative purposes. Among different wood tones, red tint is a specialized color for most of the great hardwoods with medium texture and straight grain. While working with different woods with different tones for a long period, I was curious about how to neutralize the colors of the woods. I did some research to find out How to neutralize red tones in wood.

Here is what I’ve found:

Adding pure green to the stains neutralize red tones in wood. A slight amount of pure green works with red tones in wood to produce a more brownish lighter color. Apart from adding green, raw umber, and bleaching the wood help to neutralize red tones in wood.

But that’s a quick snapshot.

You must be careful when adding a green tone because an excessive amount of green tint will ruin the color of the wood. Also, there are lot more other ways you can try to neutralize red tones in wood with ease. We are going to discuss each method you can try to tone down red tones out of wood.

Methods to Neutralize Red Tones in Wood

There are three main methods to neutralize red tones in wood. They are,

  1. By adding a little green to the stain.
  2. By using raw umber with a greenish undertone.
  3. Bleach the wood.

I have followed all three methods over years to get red tones out of wood. So, let’s get going through each method you can try with its advantages and disadvantages. At the end of this article, you’ll be able to get an idea about which method matches you the most and give it a try.

1. Neutralize Red Tones by Adding Green

The easiest way you can get red tones out of wood is by adding green to the stain by following the color wheel. This is helpful when lightening the red tones in wood for the first time.

To neutralize a specific color tone, use the color in the opposite direction on the color wheel. For example, according to the basic color wheel theory, the green color is placed opposite to the red color. That means you can neutralize the red color by adding green color to the stain.

Every woodworker should have good knowledge about the color wheel. In wood, anytime you mix the color that already has on wood with its opposite color you get brown.

By following this method, you’ll be able to neutralize the red tones in wood without adding bleach.

If you need more green tones, the easiest method is to use stain products with greenish tones.

But here you need to be careful about the amount of green color you going to add to the wood. To get the neutralized brown color you wish, the red-green ratio should be 1:1. In other words, there should be 50% of green color to 50% red color to get the base brown color. Otherwise, you won’t end up with light brown color.

2. Raw Umber to Get Red Tones Out of Wood

 Raw umber is a cool brownish made of green, blue, and red. For this purpose, you need raw umber made with a greenish tone.

Raw umber made of greenish undertone is good to get red tones out of wood. But you need to concern about the amount of colorant. Otherwise, you’ll bet back to the same problem again.

By using raw umber with little raw sienna, you’ll be able to kill the red color. After the application of two coats, the red tone will be removed completely.

3. Bleaching the Wood to Neutralize Red Tones

Bleaching the wood to neutralize red tones is an easy but risky method. Because bleach can damage the wood if you didn’t follow the guidelines. Most people tend to stay away from bleaching because of this reason. But if you do the task properly, you’ll be able to get a better result out of bleaching the wood than the other two methods that we discussed above.

I have discussed that how to prepare your own wood bleach perfect for neutralize red tones and how you going to use that in detail.

Bleach the Wood with DIY Homemade Wood Bleach

There are lots of premixed bleaching products are available in the market. But many of them are overpriced. The ones that we find cheapy are not in good quality. So, to get rid out of this problem, I was thought to make my own beach product.

All bleaching products consist of two main ingredients. They are,

  • Lye and
  • Hydrogen peroxide

You can find these two chemicals at drug stores and Home Depot. Hydrogen peroxide is available at any drug store. Lye is available at the Home Depot plumbing aisle which is used to unclog the pipes. After mixing them properly I was able to make my own wood bleach and I used that to get red tones out of my wood.

From here onwards, I discuss the process of mixing and guidelines you should follow to make the wood bleach out of those two ingredients and complete the task.

1. Collecting the Materials, Tools, and Ingredients

  • Cup of Lye.
  • Cup of Hydrogen peroxide.
  • Plastic container.
  • 1 qt of water.
  • Wood.
  • Dry towel
  • Vinegar solution (optional)

2. Mixing Lye and Water

Important: Never pour water into Lye solution. Always first add water and then pour small amounts pour lye little by little. When working and handling Lye, you should always wear eye protection and gloves.

First, get the plastic container and fill it with 1 qt of water. Never go for a metal container because metal can react with chemicals that we use for this process.

The amount of water you should take depends on the quantity of wood. If you are willing to bleach a lot of wood, go for a gallon.

Then add 3 tablespoons of Lye solution to the plastic container that is already filled with water. After the addition of each tablespoon of Lye, slow stirring is recommended to mix them well.

3. Apply Hydrogen Peroxide to the Wood

After stirring the lye water solution well, keep it aside. Take the hydrogen peroxide solution and pour a little amount on top of the wood.

Make sure to soak the entire wood surface with hydrogen peroxide without missing any spot to make the bleaching happen uniformly throughout the whole wood.

You can use a foam brush to spread the hydrogen peroxide all over the wooden surface completely.

4. Apply Lye-Water Solution

After soaking wood completely with hydrogen peroxide, take the plastic container with a lye water solution, that we kept aside before. Then pour a small amount from that solution into the wood and spread the lye solution all over the wood surface with help of a foam brush.

Here also, don’t miss any spot and get good coverage.

5. Dry the Wood

After applying lye solution to the entire wood, keep it dry in the sun completely. This will help to build a good thick layer of hydrogen peroxide and Lye.

6. Rinse the Wood

Before coming into this step, you should make sure that the wood we soaked with hydrogen peroxide and lye solutions is completely dry. Once the wood is 100% dried you can notice a yellow tint.

This yellow tint occurs because the residue came from lye solution which nothing to worry about. Then you can rinse the wood using water and then again rinse the wood with white vinegar solution as well. Then again rinse the wood surface with water and wipe it out with a dry towel.

Then let the wood in the sun until it is completely dry.

I know you have wondered what the use of vinegar solution. Here we use vinegar solution as a mild acid solution which is helpful to remove all the excess lye from the wooden surface. But if you couldn’t find a vinegar solution, That’s completely ok. Rising with water for few more times will do the same job.

This is the complete bleaching process. Once the wood is completely dry, you can clearly see the difference in the color of the wood before and after the process. The reddish color is removed, and the wood has lightened. This is one of the best methods to neutralize not only red but also any color tones in wood.

If you’re unsatisfied with final output or you need to neutralize the wood more, repeat the step number 3, 4 again and again until you feel happy with the color.

Sanding the Wood after Bleaching

Never do rough sanding after bleaching the wood. Because bleach only affects the color of the top layer of the wood. It doesn’t do anything to the inner layer. So, if you keep sanding again and again the top layer will go away and inner layers come out which had no bleaching. They have a red tone. So, you have to do the bleaching process again to remove the red color from the wood. This can damage your wood. So, it better not go for the sanding process after bleaching the wood is done. Only light sanding is ok.

I recommend finishing the sanding before bleaching the wood.

Bleach the Wood with Store Wood Bleach

Wood bleach products that available on market are also great to neutralize red tones in wood. Commercial wood bleach products come in two bottles, one with hydrogen peroxide and the other with Lye solution.

The only difference between using commercial bleach and homemade bleach is, In homemade bleach, the main two ingredients apply separately to the wood, but here in commercial bleach both ingredients mix with each other and then apply the mixture to the wood directly.

So, let’s discuss how to neutralize red tones in wood by using store wood bleach step by step.

1. Mix the Solutions in Two Bottles

First, mix an equal amount of hydrogen peroxide and Lye solution into one plastic container. The number of chemicals you should use depend on the number of woods you want to bleach. However, the ratio between two chemicals should be always 1:1 for better results.

Once you add equal amounts from two bottles into the plastic container, the chemical reaction begins.

Important: When working and handling Lye, you should always wear eye protection and gloves. Don’t pour the lye into the peroxide bottle directly. Do the mixing and pouring slowly because both peroxide and lye are highly reactive chemicals. Always read the instructions displayed on the label. Do this in an area with a good air supply because both are highly toxic.

2. Apply the Solution to the Wood

This should do as soon as you mix both hydrogen peroxide and lye solution into a plastic container. But always be careful when working with them.

Apply the solution in a plastic container quickly all over the wood. You can spread the solution throughout the wood surface by using a foam brush. Don’t miss any spot and get good coverage.

Always try to spread the solution evenly to soak the wood perfectly and to reduce streaking. 

3. Dry the Wood

When the wood is fully soaked and evenly covered with solution, let it dry in the sun completely. High heat levels and fresh air help the wood to dry out quicker than in the interior environment.

4. Rinse the Wood

Before coming into this step, you should make sure that the wood we soaked with hydrogen peroxide and lye solutions is completely dry. Once the wood is 100% dried you can notice a yellow tint.

This yellow tint occurs because the residue came from lye solution which nothing to worry about. Then you can rinse the wood using water and then again rinse the wood with white vinegar solution as well. Then again rinse the wood surface with water and wipe it out with a dry towel.

Then let the wood in the sun until it is completely dry.

I know you have wondered what the use of vinegar solution. Here we use vinegar solution as a mild acid solution which is helpful to remove all the excess lye from the wooden surface. But if you couldn’t find a vinegar solution, That’s completely ok. Rising with water for few more times will do the same job.

This is the complete bleaching process using store bleach. Once the wood is completely dry, you can clearly see the difference in the color of the wood before and after the process. The reddish color is removed, and the wood has lightened. This is also, one of the best methods to neutralize not only red but also any color tones in wood.

If you’re unsatisfied with the final output or you need to neutralize the wood more, repeat step number 2,3 again and again until you feel happy with the color.

How to Tone Down Red Oak?

Think of having a raw red oak wood piece, stained red oak wood or red oak wood furniture, red oak cabinets. No matter what the application is, you can bleach any red oak wood material to tone down the red color. Any type of oak wood, reacts with bleaching to neutralize red tones in wood.

This will lighten up the wood.

In my experience bleach furniture is a little bit harder than bleach wood pieces. Because furniture is on a 3D scale and we need to pay more attention to each corner when soaking the wood with a solution. It is a bit hard to apply the solution all over the furniture surface because of having complex shapes. Also, in furniture, some places applied glues to attach woods, leathers, fibers any many more. So, when applying bleach solution, you need to be more careful. Because if bleach solution touched with a surface other than wood, the furniture will get damage easily.

It’s better if you can apply bleach solution after disassembling the furniture for better protection.

Also, make sure to sand the topcoat of the furniture before applying bleach. This is essential if your furniture has a glossy surface. Sanding will make the surface smooth and easy for the wood to soak by the bleach solution.

Read:Is Oak Good for Carving? – Everything You Need to Know

How to Tone Down Red in Douglas Fir?

To neutralize the red tone in Douglas fir you don’t have to add a little green to the stain or bleach the wood. Oil-based paint and minerals have the ability to get red tones out of Douglas fir. Here are the steps you should follow to tone down red in Douglas fir.

  1. First of all, wipe the surface with mineral spirit.
  2. Next, apply the oil-based paint to the wood. Oil-based paint mineral spirit should apply in equal amounts for better results.
  3. Apply the oil-based paint with 2-3 coats.
  4. Let it dry.

After the drying is completed. You can clearly notice the red tone has neutralized and Douglas fir wood is lightened.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: How To Neutralize Red Tones in Wood?

In this article, I have widely discussed how to neutralize red tones in wood with main 3 types of methods.

Among the methods that I have discussed, adding a little green to the stain to tone down the red color in wood is the most effective method that even a beginner can follow easily.

Bleaching the wood needs good supervision. You need to read follow the guidelines and warnings carefully because bleaching chemicals are highly toxic.

I have discussed how to make DIY wood bleach by yourself and mentioned the step-by-step guidelines you should follow during the entire process.

Most of the time above methods are great to neutralize not only red but also any color tones in wood.

Hope you have gained good knowledge from this article about getting red tones out of wood, furniture, or from any other application. So, let’s give it a try. Hope you’ll get the best results in the end.

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