Lighten Wood Stain With Mineral Spirits. (How to Guide)

Darker color-stained furniture stands out like a sore thumb, especially if you’re going for a light-themed decor. Thanks to mineral spirits, it is easy to transform it to the preferred stain color. 

To lighten wood stains with mineral spirits:

  1. Soak a rag or lint-free cloth in mineral spirit.
  2. Lightly scrub along the grain of the wood surface.
  3. Remember that mineral spirits will only lighten oil-based wood stains.

This article will explore detailed steps and reasons for using mineral spirits for wood stains. 

lighten wood stain mineral spirits

Why Do I Need to Lighten Wood Stain?

Take a look around you? Can you see that furniture that has lost its luster and shine? Do you wish for the glory days when it was the centerpiece of your decor? There you have it; your reason for lightening wood stains on furniture.

Most DIYers lighten wood stains to maintain more control over their preferred colored stain blend. You can add a lighter color to get the “right” shade by lightening the dark stains. In addition, this technique is cost-effective. 

You don’t need to buy a light walnut color if the wood stain is the darker version. A simple application of mineral spirits will get you the desired “lighter” color.  

What Tools Do I Need to Lighten Wood Stain with Mineral Spirits?

You don’t need to break the bank to lighten wood stains with mineral spirits. 

All you need is mineral spirits and a lint-free cloth. Sometimes, you need a sanding tool or metal wool to smooth the wood before applying mineral spirits. For an indoor DIY project, use a face mask to avoid inhaling mineral spirits fumes. 

How to Lighten Stain with Mineral Spirits

First of all, this is relatively straightforward.

Pour the mineral spirit into a small container. Dip a lint-free cloth or rag into the solvent and apply it to the stain. You can also use a foam brush for lightning. 

Remember to wipe off the excess wood stain after three to five minutes. Wait for the paint to dry and apply the desired coat. Furthermore, use a face mask during the process and properly dispose of the rags or foam brush to avoid fire outbreaks.

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What are the Alternatives to Mineral Spirits in Lightening Wood Stains

Bleach and soap, and water are also alternatives for lightening wood stains. Yes, your everyday bleach product is a far more robust option for this process. 

Before you grab that bottle of bleach, you need to know the cons. Bleach is a potent lightening agent that may break down the lignin in some softwoods. In addition, it completely “whitens” furniture. 

light wood stain

What You Need to Lighten Dark Wood Stains with Bleach

It’s time to ransack your toolbox. You will need many of these tools for lightening wood stains with bleach.

  • Finish stripper
  • Plastic scraper
  • Wood bleach
  • Tack cloth
  • Steel wool
  • Paintbrush
  • Lacquer thinner
  • Minwax stain
  • Wood filler lightener
  • Sanding tool
  • A sponge or a rag

How to Lighten Wood Stain with Bleach

There are two expected outcomes when lightening wood stains with bleach: You either create a masterpiece or an eyesore. 

To create a masterpiece, adhere to these steps:

Step 1: Prepare Your Workspace

Create a workspace indoors or outdoor and gather all the necessary tools. Furthermore, remember to spread a tarp or large covering on your workspace to catch all chemical spills.

Step 2: Remove the Top Coat by Using Chemical Stripper

Removing the topcoat is your priority in this step. Dip a paintbrush into the chemical stripper container and generously apply it to the wood surface. Ensure you create an even coat on the wood surface. Leave the chemical stripper on the surface for at least 20 minutes.

Step 3: Utilize a Scraper to Remove the Top Coat

Always use a plastic or dull-blade scraper to prevent gouging deep marks in the wood. So, place the scraper at 45 degrees and scrape along the grain till the old finish has come off. Here’s a caveat: This process is not enough to remove all topcoats. Some residues remain hidden within the grain.

Step 4: Sand the Wood, If Necessary

Use sandpaper to scrape off all residues of wood finish or topcoat. If you’re still unsure after sanding, pour water and confirm that you have removed all coats.

Step 5: Mix the Bleach Solution with Water

Follow the direction on the packaging when mixing bleach with water. Remember, bleach is a strong solvent that may damage the furniture. Mix it in a plastic container and set it aside for the next step.

Step 6: Apply Bleach on the Wood Surface

Dip a paintbrush into the bleach solution and apply it to the wood. Wait for 30 minutes after applying bleach. Furthermore, use a mop for wooden floors to save time.

Step 7: Neutralize the Bleach Solution with White Vinegar

It’s been 30 minutes since you applied the bleach. Are you satisfied with the result? Then it’s time to neutralize the solvent. Mix white vinegar with water and pour it on the bleached surface. Vinegar will stop the bleach from degrading the wood.

Step 8: Use a Damp Rag to Clean the Surface

Dampen a lint-free cloth or rag with warm water and thoroughly scrub every inch of the wood. You can also re-bleach to lighten the surface further. Most importantly, do not bleach more than three times as this may dull the wood.

Step 9: Sand It Again

The wood is a bit coarse at this stage. Use a sanding tool to restore the smoothness. Once again, sand along the grain.

Step 10: Apply Your Preferred Finish

Apply your preferred varnish or finish after sanding. Use a paintbrush to spread it evenly over the wood surface. Wait for a few minutes to see the results. And, voila! You’ve successfully renewed your furniture.


To lighten wood stains with mineral spirits is relatively straightforward. Follow these guidelines to get the right color of wood for all your furniture. Lastly, use safety goggles and rubber gloves when handling mineral spirits or bleach.