quick answer can cherry cabinets be lightened

Can Cherry Cabinets Be Lightened? A Quick Answer

Cherry cabinets are a classic addition to any kitchen or living space, offering a rich red-brown hue that exudes warmth and elegance. However, trends in home decor are continually changing, making it necessary to adapt with new styles. If you’re looking to switch up your interior design style without entirely replacing your cherry cabinets, then you’re in luck! Yes, cherry cabinets can be lightened, and this article will explore several ways in which you can transform them to match modern home decor.

What are Cherry Cabinets?

Before diving into the different methods to lighten cherry cabinets, it’s essential to understand what they are. Cherry wood is prized for its unique patterns and textures that range from straight grain with a uniform texture to curly, wavy grain with a complex pattern. It carries a reddish-brown color that darkens naturally over time due to exposure to sunlight.

Cherry cabinets are typically made from this beautiful wood type and provide a classic finish that complements different elements of home decor.

Why Would You Want Lighter Cherry Cabinets?

While cherry cabinets add warmth and elegance to any room, some people may want to lighten them for several reasons. Perhaps they find the classic warmer tones of cherry wood too dark and wish for lighter cabinets more suitable for contemporary looks. Alternatively, maybe the homeowners want their cabinets to match their homes’ overarching color scheme. Either way, lightening cherry cabinets is possible and can be done in several ways.

Is It Possible to Lighten Cherry Cabinets?

Yes! Several methods can help with lightening cherry wood by reducing its redness while still maintaining its natural wood pattern and grain detail.

Method 1: Bleaching

Bleaching is one of the most effective means of lightening cherry wood. It involves removing the natural color of the furniture, lightening it to a neutral state that can then be stained or painted to match new decor. Before starting this process, homeowners should be aware of the following:

What is Bleaching?

Bleaching is a chemical reaction that changes the wood’s natural hue by removing or changing its natural color pigments. This eliminates any stains that have seeped into the wood fibers, leaving it with a neutral, lighter shade that can then be stained, painted or left as-is.

Materials Needed for Bleaching

To bleach your cherry cabinets, you will need the following:

  • Gloves and eye protection gear
  • Bleach (chlorine or oxalic acid bleach)
  • Cloth or brush for application
  • Clean water for rinsing the surface
  • A well-ventilated work area to avoid inhaling harmful fumes
Types of Bleach: Chlorine bleach, Oxalic acid bleach

There are two types of bleach that homeowners can use: chlorine bleach and oxalic acid bleach. Both methods work similarly by stripping off the finish from the wood surface and lightening the color. However, while chlorine bleach tends to work faster than oxalic acid bleach, it tends to degrade the lignin (a natural glue that binds wood cells together) in the wood over time. As a result, it may weaken and discolor the natural wood grains.

How to Bleach Cherry Wood Cabinets?

To bleach your cherry cabinets, follow these steps:

  1. Put on protective gear before mixing the bleach.
  2. Mix bleach per instructions provided by manufacturer.
  3. Apply a thin layer of bleach evenly over the wood surface with a brush or cloth.
  4. Let the bleach sit for 10-20 minutes, depending on the manufacturer’s instructions.
  5. After the allotted time, rinse the surface with clean water to remove excess bleach.
  6. Repeat as necessary until you achieve your desired level of lightness.
Risks and Precautions for Bleaching

Before using bleach on your cabinets, it’s essential to note that the process can produce harmful fumes and may be toxic if ingested. As such, protective gear such as gloves and eye protection are vital. Additionally, ensure that your work area is well ventilated before starting the process.

Method 2: Staining

Staining is a technique that can help darken or lighten cherry wood by adding color pigments to change its appearance. This method takes longer than bleaching but offers better color accuracy. To achieve desired results, homeowners should follow these steps:

Advantages vs Disadvantages

Before settling for this method, consider both its advantages and disadvantages.


  • Better color accuracy with each coat applied
  • A more natural look since staining doesn’t cover up the wood grain
  • The final look is long-lasting since stains tend to penetrate deeper into the wood fibers than paint.


  • Blobs or dark spots may occur if stain isn’t applied evenly
  • The process may take several days due to drying time
  • The cost of materials tends to add up since several coats of color may need to be applied to achieve the desired outcome
Best Techniques for Staining

To get started on staining your cabinets, here are some best techniques to follow:

  • Choose a stain that is lighter than the cherry wood to achieve a lightened effect.
  • Clean surface without using harsh chemicals before applying the stain
  • Avoid getting excess stain on your wooden surface. Use a cloth or brush to remove any remaining stains to ensure an even finish.
  • Apply another coat if a darker finish is desired after the first coat dries up.
Colors and Finishes Available

Cherry wood that has been stained with lighter colors tends to blend well into different styles of home decor. Some colors to consider include:

  • Black Cherry: It adds warmth and richness without overwhelming smaller spaces, ideal for open living areas.
  • Caramel: A warm, honey-like tone that highlights the grain of cherry wood for a more sophisticated look.
  • Vintage Aqua: This is becoming increasingly popular as it provides a unique edge and gives your space a vibrant pop of color against white, black, or metallic finishes.
  • Sandstone: An earthy beige shade that offsets darker cherry cabinets beautifully.
Tips for Staining Cherry Wood Cabinets

Here are additional tips to consider when staining your cherry cabinets:

  • Wear gloves and goggles while applying stain so you don’t accidentally ingest any chemicals or get it onto your skin.
  • Avoid staining too thickly; always use thin coats to avoid drips or inconsistencies with its color.
  • When applying the color, use long, even strokes and work in the direction of the wood grain for best results.

Method 3: Painting

Painting is one of the most popular ways to transform your cherry cabinets. It allows homeowners to choose a color that fits their taste and provides an easy-to-clean finish that is durable against scratches or dents. Here’s what you need to know when you choose to paint your cabinets:

What Type of Paint is Best Suited for Cherry Wood?

Homeowners can use acrylic or latex-based paints when painting their cherry cabinets. These types of paint are easy to clean up with water and tend to dry quickly.

How Do You Prepare Your Cabinets for Painting?

To prepare your cherry cabinets for painting:

  • Remove all cabinet fixtures, including hardware such as hinges and handles.
  • Clean surfaces thoroughly with soap and water or degreaser until the surface is free of food debris, grease, and dust.
  • Sand the surface using 220-grit sandpaper to remove any excess finish or scratches.
  • Prime the surface with a high-quality primer recommended for painting over wood surfaces.
What Are Factors to Consider When Choosing a Color?

When choosing a color for your painted cabinets, there are several factors to consider:

  • The overall style of your home decor
  • Your color preference
  • Whether you want something dark or light in tone
  • The size of your space. Dark colors may make smaller spaces appear darker, while lighter hues tend to brighten them up.
Application Techniques

When painting your cabinets, here are some tips to ensure that your finish is clean and smooth:

  • Use a paintbrush, foam roller or sprayer to apply the color, with long strokes in one direction.
  • Avoid painting too thickly, as this may lead to drips or running.
  • Let each coat dry sufficiently before applying another coat
  • Apply as many coats as necessary to achieve the desired outcome

Method 4: Sanding

For those homeowners with older cherry cabinets that come with multiple layers of polyurethane or varnish, sanding down the existing finish can be a way to strip its original finish and reveal the natural cherry wood grain.

What Is Sanding?

Sanding is a process in which you use sandpaper to remove an existing finish or level any surface patches or scratches using abrasion. It’s advisable to sand after cleaning your cabinets before refinishing them.

How to Sand Down Your Cherry Cabinets?

Here’s what you need to do when sanding your cherry cabinets:

  • Start by removing cabinet hardware and hinges
  • Clean the cabinet surface using a degreaser before sanding
  • Sand the wood surface progressively using coarse-grit abrasive material until its shine disappears. Follow up with it by using high grit sandpaper.
  • Clean up all dust generated during sanding, so it doesn’t affect the furniture quality
  • If refinishing is required, use an appropriate coating.
Risks and Precautions for Sanding

It’s crucial to note that though sanding remains an affordable option when changing the look of your cabinets, it is a time-consuming process that requires special attention to avoid damaging the wooden surface. The dust created by sanding can also cause respiratory problems, making it necessary to wear protective gear during the process. Additionally, ensure adequate ventilation for a smooth experience.

Method 5: Covering Your Cabinets

Although covering your cabinets may seem like an ineffective way to transform their appearance, it’s still worth considering as an affordable, time-saving way to redecorate your space temporarily.

Materials Needed

To cover your cherry cabinets, you will need:

  • Contact paper or vinyl adhesive sheets
  • Scissors and an Exacto knife
  • A ruler for measuring and marking any cuts if required.
  • A flat surface where you can lay out materials before cutting
Steps to Apply:

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to use contact paper or vinyl adhesive sheets to cover your cherry cabinets:

  1. Clean the cabinet surface thoroughly and dry it off completely.
  2. Lay out the contact paper or vinyl adhesive sheets over each cabinet panel carefully.
  3. Cut out sections that are too long using scissors or an Exacto knife. Be sure not to cut too close to the edge so that it does not leave any exposed gaps.
  4. Once you have all sections covered, rub them down with a credit card or squeegee away any trapped air bubbles.
  5. Trim excess material around edges using an Exacto knife for a clean finish.
Pros and Cons of Covering Your Cabinets

Before choosing this method, consider the advantages and disadvantages:


  • Affordable option for those on a budget
  • Easy to install without the help of an expert
  • Flexible, as you can easily change your decor whenever you wish.


  • Materials may be less durable than other methods of finishing.
  • Contact paper may peel off over time, making it necessary to replace frequently.
  • An uneven usage pattern during installation may result in bumps and air bubbles on the cabinet surface.

Maintenance Tips for Lightened Cherry Cabinets

After lightening your cherry cabinets, it’s essential to take care of them to maintain their beauty and durability. Here are some maintenance tips:

  • Avoid using harsh chemicals when cleaning your surfaces. Instead, use mild soap or warm water to wipe down any spills or dust that accumulates over the time.
  • Wipe up spills immediately with a soft cloth or sponge so they don’t seep into the wood and leave stains.
  • Use coasters under any drinkware to prevent water rings from forming on the surface.


If you’re looking for a way to brighten up your cherry cabinets without replacing them entirely, then you’re in luck! Lightening cherry cabinets is entirely possible through bleaching, staining, painting, sanding or covering them with contact paper or vinyl adhesive sheets. Regardless

Can cherry cabinets be lightened without sanding?

Yes, you can lighten cherry cabinets without sanding them. You can use various methods such as chemical stripping agents, bleaching agents, and paint removers to achieve the desired result. Keep in mind that these methods require careful application, and it is recommended that you seek professional advice if you are unsure.

What are the best ways to lighten cherry cabinets?

The best ways to lighten cherry cabinets include using chemical stripping agents, bleaching agents, and paint removers. Chemical stripping agents work by dissolving the finish on the cabinet surfaces. Bleaching agents are used to bleach out the existing color of the cherry wood. Paint removers work by softening and lifting the existing paint layers from the surface of the cabinet.

How long does it take to lighten cherry cabinets?

The time it takes to lighten your cherry cabinets depends on the method you choose, the size of your cabinet, and how dark they currently are. If you use a chemical stripping agent or paint stripper remover, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. Bleaching agents may require several applications over a period of days or weeks.

Is it better to hire a professional or DIY when lightening cherry cabinets?

If you have no experience with lightening wooden cabinets, it is best to hire a professional who has the expertise and tools required for this task. However, if you are confident in your DIY skills and have researched thoroughly on the appropriate method for your specific situation, then doing it yourself can save you some money. Nevertheless, be aware that taking on this project requires caution and attention to detail so as not cause damage to your beloved cabinetry.

Similar Posts