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Making Dark Wood Lighter

You just can't stop the aging process

guys on stairs

What cleaning product should I use to clean knotty pine board paneling in my den? It was installed in 1953 and is very dark. How can I lighten it without painting over it?

– Sandra, Ventress, Louisiana


Steve Thomas replies: Wood naturally darkens as it ages, through exposure to ultraviolet light. Surface dirt can be cleaned away using a wood soap, but this probably won't restore the light wood color you're seeking. You can either sand it down, which would be a lot of work but would expose new, lighter colored wood, or you could try a pickling stain that will lighten wood while still allowing the grain to show through. As a last resort, you could prime and paint the surface a light color, which would lighten up the paneling but lose its natural wood effect.


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