How to Bleach a Hardwood Floor

During the NWFA Intermediate Sand & Finish Course we held in May, Lenny Hall, NWFA Regional Instructor, went over the process of bleaching a white oak floor.

You will need hydrogen peroxide and sodium hydroxide for this process. Mix together equal amounts, either by lines on your bucket or in cups. Make a master batch and pour it into smaller containers spread out across the room, because as you go your rag will pick up wood dust and contaminate your mixture.

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Make sure the space is properly ventilated during the application process. This should be applied to a clean and abraded floor. Make sure to tack and vacuum the floor before applying bleach.

This process works best with white oak. You can bleach other species, but the more tannins the species contain, the more material and rags you will need because the wood dust gets picked up and mixed up with the bleach as you go along. 

Use something absorbent to apply the bleach, such as a clean cloth rag. Lenny suggests using soft white flannel rags if you can get your hands on some.

It’s best to take your bucket over where you’re going to start applying the bleach, rather than bringing the rag from the bucket over to the application spot, which will leave drops behind. Be careful not to splash the bleach on any other wood elements that you’re not looking to bleach, such as wood cabinets.

Start applying the bleach to the floor. You don’t have to apply it in any particular way. You can apply the bleach either with the grain or against the grain. Apply it liberally.

Let the floor dry for 24 hours, abrade the floor with a fine grit such as 120, and apply finish on top as normal. You’ll most likely want to use a non-yellowing waterbased finish that will dry clear.

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