How To Lighten A Dark Stained Fence?

Lightening a dark-stained fence might seem like an impossible task. So now you’re wondering how you can complete this project properly. We researched the ideal method to lighten a fence stained with a dark color and here’s what we found.

Different methods exist to help lighten a dark-stained fence. One of these techniques is:

  1. Mix water, bleach, and white vinegar in a cup.
  2. Apply the mixture onto the dark-stained fence with a clean cloth or paper towel.
  3. Allow the solution to dry for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Sand the fence with fine-grit sandpaper.

Again, the process mentioned above isn’t the only way to lighten the color of a fence applied with dark varnish. Continue reading as we talk about other methods to achieve similar results for this project.

Texture of old dark-tone boards or fence background, How To Lighten A Dark Stained Fence?

How To Change Stain Color From Dark To Light?

painted terrace railings

Perhaps the best way to lighten a stained fence from a dark color to a light tone is to strip the existing varnish and apply a fresh coat. But some instances might prevent you from using that method. For instance, the only stain you can find from your local hardware store is a dark color.

If so, you can lighten the dark stain by following this guide:

What You’ll Need

  • Bleach
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Cup
  • Fine-grit sandpaper

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Place equal parts of water, bleach, and white vinegar in a cup.
  2. Apply the mixture onto the dark-stained fence using a clean cloth or paper towel.
  3. Let the solution air dry for about 15 to 30 minutes.
  4. Use the fine-grit sandpaper to help remove unevenness caused by the stain stripping.

Check out this bleach on Amazon.

You can also watch the video below to take a look at this process in action, along with alternatives to lighten the wood varnish. Take note that the clip shows how to lighten a dark-stained wooden cabinet top. But the process should still be fairly similar to lightening a dark-stained fence.


How To Use Paint Stripper To Lighten Wood Stain?

Keep in mind that paint stripper is a fairly strong chemical. If used indiscriminately, you can end up removing the dark stain from your wooden fence instead of lightening the varnish’s color.

Also, make sure that you’re wearing protective equipment if you plan on using this product for this task. Wear a respirator and a good pair of gloves to reduce the risks of potential health issues from being in contact with that chemical for extended periods.

After taking note of those precautions, continue this project by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • Paint stripper
  • Nylon pad
  • Soft-bristle paintbrush
  • Cloths or rags
  • Solvent-based polyurethane
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Light shade wood stain
  • Power sander (with 50- and 100-grit sandpaper attachments)

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Use the power sander with the 50-grit sandpaper attachment to remove the polyurethane layer of the existing stain.
  2. Smoothen the fence’s surface by using the power sander again, but this time with the 100-grit sandpaper.
  3. Remove the sawdust from the fence with a vacuum cleaner.
  4. Apply the paint stripper on the fence’s existing stain with the nylon pad dipped in the paint stripper.
  5. Let the solvent air dry for an hour.
  6. Apply the light shade wood stain on the wooden fence with the help of the soft-bristle paintbrush.
  7. Wipe any excess stain with cloths or rags.
  8. Allow the new stain color to air dry for at least 4 hours.
  9. Finish the stain by brushing with a layer of solvent-based polyurethane and let it dry for another 2 hours.

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Can You Paint A Dark Fence A Lighter Color?

Wooden fence.

It's possible to paint a dark-stained fence a lighter color. But if you do it without stripping the stain first, the outcome could appear unsatisfactory.

Applying paint over a wood stain isn’t typically an ideal solution for some people. Paint mixed with stain can lead to an inauthentic wooden look. The outcome might also come out glossy, even if you haven't applied a top coat to the painted layers yet.

Will Vinegar Lighten Wood Stain?

top view two bottles white vinegar and bottle of apple cider vinegar

Vinegar alone can lighten wood stains, albeit the results might be small at best. If you want better results while using this condiment, you may need to use it with other products.

Here’s how you can lighten wood stains using vinegar:

What You’ll Need

  • Mineral spirits
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • White vinegar
  • Bowl
  • Paintbrushes
  • Fine-grit sandpaper

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Wash the stained wood using mineral spirits.
  2. Let it dry for at least 2 days.
  3. Dilute a cap of bleach to a cup of water.
  4. Apply the diluted bleach solution to the wooden surface with a paintbrush.
  5. Let the bleach dry for at least 10 minutes.
  6. Create a mixture of 50% white vinegar and 50% water in a bowl.
  7. Apply the diluted vinegar onto the wood with another clean paintbrush.
  8. Allow the vinegar to dry before sanding it with fine-grit sandpaper.

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How Can I Lighten Wood Without Bleach?

Old rustic wooden surface. Boards for background and construction. Brown texture.

Before you continue this task, you may need to strip any existing paint or stain on the wood. Doing so should make it reasonably easy for you to lighten the material’s color.

After taking note of that piece of information, proceed with this project by following these steps:

What You’ll Need

  • All-purpose cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Clean rags or pieces of cloth
  • Water
  • Paint
  • Round paintbrush
  • Chalk paint wax

Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Clean the surface of the wood by spraying it with an all-purpose cleaner lightly.
  2. Wipe the cleaner with a sponge. Then, ensure that the wooden surface is dry by wiping it with a clean cloth or rag.
  3. Use a combination of sandpaper and a power sander to lighten the wooden material’s color.
  4. Mix two parts of water with one part of the paint in a fresh container.
  5. Dip a round paintbrush into the diluted paint and apply it to the wood.
  6. Wipe the paint wash with another clean cloth or rag.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 as many times as preferred.
  8. Seal the wood with chalk paint wax with another paintbrush.

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You can also watch the video below to see the steps mentioned above in action:


Is It Better To Spray Or Brush Fence Stain?

Applying protective varnish on a wooden texture

Spraying fence stain can be ideal for users that want to finish the job as fast as possible. However, over-spray can occur, which can lead to the stain getting on things like plants and other surfaces. You can minimize over-spray by using a small tip size for the sprayer, but that accessory might be an additional purchase.

On the other hand, brushing a stain usually demands more time and effort than spraying the solution. But you may have more control over the amount of product you use on the fence. Plus, a paintbrush is typically an inexpensive option as compared to buying a sprayer.

Check out this manual sprayer on Amazon.

Final Words

Lightening a dark-stained fence is possible by using solutions like bleach and/or paint stripper. But it’s important to pay attention to the careful handling of certain products to reduce the risks of health concerns.

Did you like this post? If so, here are other related posts you can read:

Can A Neighbor Paint My Fence On Their Side?

Can You Varnish Bamboo Fencing? [And How To]