How to Make Dark Stained Wood Lighter

If you try to apply a light-colored stain on top of an existing dark finish, you will not notice much difference. To completely alter the color of the wood’s finish, remove the existing paint using an oil based solvent. Once you have removed the original finish from the wood, you can add a lighter color stain. Liquid coatings are well suited for softwoods, but tend to dry unevenly on most hardwoods. For a light finish that’s uniform, choose a specific type of paint that look beautiful on both soft and hard woods.


  1. Wear a mask and protective gloves. Remove the polyurethane finish by sanding the with an electric sander equipped with grain 50 sandpaper. Be sure to move the sander along the grain of the wood otherwise the results could cause be damage to the wood. Go over the wood again with 100 grain sandpaper.
  2. Clean sawdust from wood using gauze.
  3. Lighten dark wood by wiping it with a solvent, using a nylon pad. Stop once the wood is clear. Wait an hour for the solvent to evaporate.
  4. Applying a clear gel paint using a brush made for wood. Immediately clean the wood gel using rags.
  5. Brush the gel paint using mineral spirits. Let the paint dry for four hours.
  6. Apply a layer of polyurethane sealant using a natural brush. Move the brush with the grain of the wood. Let the sealer dry for two hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always use a mask when working with solvents or gases as the fumes can be very overwhelming. Similarly, use rubber gloves so you don’t suffer rashes or burns.
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