How do I get these cabinets to their lightest most natural state?


Are these cabinets honey oak or yellowed pine? And how light will they actually be if I sand them? I’m aiming for a white oak finish. Do I need bleach or chlorine to get them to their lightest natural wood colour? I don’t want to paint, whitewash or stain them.

q how do i get these cabinets to their lightest most natural state
  16 answers
  • Thea Thea on Feb 14, 2021

    I want it to look like the picture below

    • See 2 previous
    • Thea Thea on Feb 23, 2021

      Thank you, interesting, maybe I shouldn’t get my hopes up too much.

  • Janice Janice on Feb 14, 2021

    Hi Thea, I can't tell for sure from your pic whether or not the cabinets are oak. Here's a couple of links that may help you end up with the look you'd like to achieve.

    You could use Citri-Strip to remove the finish from your current cabinetry, sand well, then perhaps use one of thse for inspiration.

  • Strip and sand, then seal. This will be a huge undertaking as a DIY. If up for the challenge, it will turn out beautifully. If you want instructions, let us know.

  • This shows the process with a table, which will give you an idea of how to do it with your cabinets:

  • Dee Dee on Feb 14, 2021

    It would require stripping, sanding and then top coating. It will be a long tedious job, so really think it over.

    • See 2 previous
    • Thea Thea on Feb 16, 2021

      Thank you Dee😅 or should I say😦

  • Mogie Mogie on Feb 14, 2021

    Had hubby look at your picture. He worked in a sawmill for over 20 years and said it didn't look like yellow pine but not sure if this is honey oak.

    The Best Easy Way to Strip Kitchen Cabinets

  • Cheryl A Cheryl A on Feb 14, 2021

    strip the finish that is on there now and then use a clear coat on it or use a pickling paint on it here is info on that

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Feb 14, 2021

    Hi! If they are oak, stripping the factory finish off will be a lot of work. When I whitewashed my oak table, I decided against redoing my oak cabinets because it was such a process, stripping, sanding, sealing and then whitewash and sealer. I've refinished a lot of wood over the years, but, oak is a beast. Your example looks like limed wood, but, I may be wrong. You won't know how light your wood is going to be until you strip away all the layers. Good luck!

    P.S. I did this in 2017 and it still looks great!

    • Thea Thea on Feb 15, 2021

      Thanks Cynthia, interesting.🤔I’m beginning to wonder

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 15, 2021

    Refinishing by sanding is the only way to get wood lighter while maintaining natural wood.

    • See 1 previous
    • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Feb 16, 2021

      Yes, I would say so. I bought a small palm sander for a project a couple of years ago. I would think that's well worth the investment. I paid $90 for a cordless but I think one with a cord is less than half. I was stripping so I didn't have issues with practice but you might want to get a few odd boards to get the feel of it. It would be awful to let it get away from you and ruin this beautiful wood grain.

  • William William on Feb 18, 2021

    That is a factory finish. Stain and clear coat. Stripping the finish, sanding down to raw wood. Then you can use water based poly over the raw wood. Can't bleach clear coat or even the original stain.

  • Zard Pocleeb Zard Pocleeb on Feb 19, 2021

    Definitely not oak.

  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Feb 20, 2021

    I LOVE the rich colour of your cabinets! You have a whole lot of cabinets and it would be an arduous and expensive job changing. I think you want to lighten your kitchen??? There are a lot of browns .... cabinets, floor, countertop, backsplash. Countertop looks like granite and too expensive to change. But I'd lighten things up by replacing the backsplash, repairing the drywall and painting a light colour. (I never have a backsplash - I use a high quality paint that is not shiny. Easy to clean. Sometimes between floor pattern, countertop pattern and backsplash pattern, it is too much.) You could also change out the wooden knobs with black wrought iron. I might also replace the bulky kitchen curtains with off white blinds that can go right up to let in lots more light and provide more of the lovely view. Another inexpensive trick to lighten would be to line the inside of the open shelving where you have your glasses with mirrors. Is there a function for the piece of board running under the open shelf above your sink? If not, I'd remove it as it would help lighten the area. If you remove the backsplash and paint, a shot of colour would help - a picture above the sink for something nice to look at. Maybe a mat by the sink in the same/similar colours of the picture to break up the brown expanse of floor? Maybe some lighting under the shelf over the sink? Anyway, good luck on whatever you want to do.

    • Thea Thea on Feb 23, 2021

      Thank you for your advice. The little shelf , I think, is a spice rack and you are quite right, I do intend to stick something over it to lighten things. It is a holiday apartment so we are trying to get away with as little as possible. But yes, it is very brown!

  • Jeremy Hoffpauir Jeremy Hoffpauir on Feb 28, 2021

    This is not oak. The only way to get them lighter is to sand them. These cabinets are really pretty

  • Lifestyles Homes Lifestyles Homes on Mar 16, 2021

    If they are oak, they’re red oak, not white oak. I can’t see the grain when I zoom in.

    Wood bleach won’t do it.

    You might be able to find white wash Gel Stains, in various shades.

    Definitely traditional stains comes in many kinds of white wash shades and pickling shades.

  • Connie Lyons Furmanek Connie Lyons Furmanek on Mar 16, 2021

    Restore cleaner for the shade of wood they are. Works wonders!

  • Vimarhonor Vimarhonor on Mar 16, 2021

    Hello. Your cabinetry is beautiful. I think it’s going to need stripping and sanding to get down to the original color. We recently did this in the interior of our log cabin. Bringing it down to a very light color but the application of the clear poly polyurethane sealer deepened in the color once again. So it is a dilemma. Will your clear coat sealer just deepen the color back?

    You can see the change in my cedar logs and what the clearcoat it in the photos below. I am not sure this helped.