Bleached wood chair makeover

I gave an old office chair a makeover this week, sanding off the glossy finish, bleaching it, and putting a coat of clear wax over the raw wood.

bleached wood desk chair

Here’s what the chair looked like when I started:

vintage desk chair made by the B.L. Marble Chair Co. of Bedford, Ohio

I got it at a garage sale for $20. For its age, the chair was in pretty good condition. I gave it a test drive before I bought it, and everything was in working order. The old casters and wheels rolled along just fine, and the seat swiveled 360 degrees smoothly.

desk chair with dark stain and glossy finish -- and lots of scratches

The finish on the chair was another story, though. It had a really glossy sheen to it, and there were lots of scratches.

desk chair with dark stain and glossy finish -- and lots of scratches on it

Obviously, I saw the bad finish as more of an opportunity than a drawback. I knew immediately that I wanted to strip the chair and leave it with a rustic, raw wood look.

Step 1: Sanding the chair

To start the project, I broke out my sander and some medium grit sandpaper.

sanding off the dark stain with an electric sander

I was able to sand almost the entire chair with my sander — even the spindles, which were flat. The only spot where my sander wouldn’t fit was in between the spindles. I hand sanded there.

bottom of desk chair showing one half sanded down to the raw wood and the other half still having dark stain on it

After I had the finish removed, I gave the chair a once over with fine grit sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots.

vintage office chair after sanding

I was thrilled with how the chair looked after it was sanded. Honestly, I could have stopped right here with the makeover and been happy with it. But I really wanted to see if I could lighten the color of the wood some more if I bleached it, so I kept going.

Step 2: Bleaching the wood

Since I’d never bleached furniture before, I went to Bob Vila for advice. Bob said I could use regular household bleach for the job.

rubber gloves and bleach sitting on desk chair

I poured my bleach into a plastic bowl (because Bob warned me not to use a metal container, as bleach can corrode metal). Then I donned a pair of rubber gloves and went to work.

applying bleach to the chair to lighten the wood

Bleaching wood could not be any easier. You just wipe the bleach on with a rag or brush it on with a paintbrush and then wait for it to dry.

spreading bleach onto the chair with a paintbrush

Despite it being such an easy process, I managed to screw it up by accidentally dribbling bleach onto the seat while I was working on the back of the chair.

office chair immediately after bleach was applied

I didn’t think it was a big deal at the time because I was going to work on the seat next, but I was wrong. When I was all done and the bleach had dried, there were light spots where my dribbles had soaked in (which you can see in the photo below).

office chair after first coat of bleach had dried

In hindsight, I should have wiped the dribbles off immediately (or put a plastic tarp over the seat to protect it from dribbles in the first place).

For a while there I thought my sloppiness had ruined my beautiful old chair. Thankfully, after I applied a second coat of bleach, the spots were less noticeable. And after a third coat, they had disappeared altogether.

bleached wood chair

Besides “don’t dribble,” here’s one other tip I can share if you’re thinking about giving furniture bleaching a try: Don’t leave your brush sit in the bleach in between coats. If you do, you might not have a brush to come back to.

old chip brush with over half of the bristles dissolved

I was using a cheap chip brush when I made this mistake, so it wasn’t a big deal that the bristles disintegrated. The incident served as a good reminder about the power of bleach, though.

Step 3: Applying clear wax

When I was done bleaching the wood, I applied two coats of Minwax Soft Touch furniture wax.

waxing the bleached wood office chair

After the wax had dried, I buffed it with a lint-free rag, and my bleached wood chair was done. 😄

bleached wood office chair after waxing

Bleached wood chair: Before and after

overhead view of bleached wood chair

What do you think? When I asked my husband for his opinion, he told me it looked like it needed stain and varnish. 🤦 Then he offered to replace the antique casters with modern ones. 🤦🤦

In his defense, he’s taken to calling it “Mrs. Soquist’s chair,” in honor of his first grade teacher at Land O’ Lakes Elementary, which I think proves he’s not entirely soulless. 🤣

Here’s a final “before” and “after” look:

And here’s a peak at the tag under the seat.

paper tag attached to bottom of vintage chair reading, "B.L. Marble Chair Co., Bedford, Ohio, U.S.A

The B.L. Marble Chair Co. operated in Bedford, Ohio, from 1894 to 1985. I’m not sure what year my chair was manufactured, but it’s nice having the tag to provide a little bit of history.


P.S. Here’s a list of my other furniture makeover adventures if you’re interested in reading more.

5 Replies to “Bleached wood chair makeover”

  1. I love the chair’s natural color. I looks great! My father refinishes furniture, and he bleaches furniture often.

  2. Ooooooooooooo I have to try this!!!!!! The naturally bleached wood is so very pretty. It’s almost as if the natural grain “pops” more.

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