How to lighten a dark stained fence

How to lighten a dark stained fence
How to lighten a dark stained fence?

With the help of a variety of products, you can easily change the color of your stained fence. You can decide to borrow color ideas from your surroundings or your neighbors or you can decide to make a bold style statement and stand out.

Most people today are environmentally conscious, but it’s hard to avoid using the VOCs and chemical toxins found in stains and paints. However, you can still get earth-friendly exterior finishing products like water-based acrylic, vegetable-based stains, recycled paint, and products that contain zinc oxide as the necessary fungicide. Whether you’re trying to lighten the natural color of your wood or change the shade of an existing wood stain, the process is the same. Bleach is the best weapon for the job and selecting the right type of bleach will determine your success.

Types of wood fences that are good for your home

The type of wooden fence you choose to add to your home will largely depend on your budget, climate, and how long you plan to stay in your home. The most popular woods used for fencing include hardwood and softwood, but this can be confusing since the names don’t always correspond to the tree’s hardness. Softwoods work well for construction and are very popular for building wooden fences.


Cedar has natural acids and oils that repel insects which makes it ideal for building a long-lasting and attractive fence. It has a tight grain, few knots, warps less, and has a desirable red hue. However, it’s not impervious to soil as treated wood so it will rot after several years so it’s recommended that you install a concrete base or secure it to fence posts with treated wood. As it ages it turns to a silvery gray, but for long-lasting color and protection, you can apply a penetrating sealant after installing and annually.


A softwood that is very easy to work with because of its soft texture. It has a light color with a creamy white shade, but other varieties have a super white color or a yellowish-white tone. Their lightness makes it very easy to stain with any color you want and you don’t need to use more than one coat. It has prominent grains with darker knots giving the fence a unique appearance and doesn’t shrink.


A great alternative to cedar as it’s also insect resistant and has few knots. The odor from this wood can cause respiratory irritation so if you’re scent sensitive avoid this wood. Although it’s resistant to both rot and insects, if dried improperly it will warp and twist.


This is beautiful and durable wood, but very costly and most commonly used for wood fencing. Its overall aesthetic appeal and quality make it worth the expense. It’s advisable to treat your fence with a stain or apply a clear oil sealer to prevent your fence from turning gray. It’s insect-resistant and long-lasting.

How to lighten color stain in the fence

Before you start your lightening project, you need to wear protective glasses, vinyl gloves, and a face mask to protect your skin, eyes, and lungs from the chemicals, dust, and harmful fumes. Sand the surface down following the direction of the wood grain to remove all the oil, dust, and debris on the surface of your fence. Afterward, use a clean paintbrush to brush off the dust and pay close attention to the grooves and ornate areas. Then use a tack cloth to rub the entire fence.

When you’re beaching wood, you can either go for a mild treatment and use oxalic acid or a stronger treatment that requires a 2-part wood bleach solution. If you’re going to use oxalic acid follow the instructions on the label when you mix the crystals in the water. For the 2-part bleach, pour equal amounts of both parts of the bleach into a bucket and stir properly. The oxalic acid will lighten the stain slightly which is ideal on naturally light wood, while the 2-part bleach will remove most of the color and it can also lighten the natural color of dark wood. You can use both types of bleach on a water-based stain or oil-based stain.

Use a paintbrush to apply a thin coat of the bleach on your entire fence so that it lightens evenly. Let it sit for about 30 minutes for it to change the color of the wood stain.

After application, bleach can continue to work for hours even days, so you need to neutralize it with a white vinegar solution. Mix warm water and white vinegar in equal portions in a large bucket and stir properly. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and remove the excess liquid, then wipe the entire fence. Make sure you clean every area of any bleach and vinegar on the surface.

Let the fence dry overnight or 2 days depending on the humidity and weather in your area, then sand the surface down following the direction of the wood grain so you don’t leave any scratches and use a brush to remove the dust.

Use a polyurethane finish or a top coat of your choice to seal the wood. Use a paintbrush with natural bristles to paint a thin coat of the finish on your entire fence following the direction of the wood grain. After spreading the polyurethane finish, go over the area with your paintbrush using long strokes to remove any bubbles or uneven application. Remember not to shake the polyurethane can because it will form air bubbles which will ruin your finish. The protective finish gives your fence a fresh appearance, prevents it from fading in the sun’s harsh rays, and prevents it from rotting during the wet season.


With time, a dark stained fence can become dreary, but you can lighten the color of the stain to give it a new appearance and a fresh look. Wood is typically stained and it’s only skin deep so you can easily change the color whenever you want.


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