How to Oxidize Wood

Wood is a natural material with a wide variety of appearances and properties. Among these, oxidation is one of the most important factors in determining the lifetime and appearance of wood furniture and other wooden objects. In this article, we’ll explain what oxidation is, how it affects wood, and how to oxidize wood to your advantage when restoring or crafting wood furniture or other objects.

We’ll also cover the different types of oxidizing agents available and show you some examples of how they can be used. So read on to learn everything you need to know about oxidizing wood.

How to Oxidize Wood

Summary: If you want to oxidize wood, there are a few things you need to do before starting. First, gather your supplies. You will need a bucket, water, and newspaper. Next, fill the bucket with water and place the newspaper inside. Finally, add the wood to the bucket and wait until the water has started to turn pink. Once the water has turned pink, drain the bucket and throw the wood in the trash.

What Is Oxidation?

In simple terms, oxidation is the chemical reaction that occurs when oxygen reacts with another substance. This can happen spontaneously or as the result of an external force, such as heat or friction. For example, when oxygen reacts with wood, it causes the wood to turn gray or black in color. This is because the oxygen molecules bind to the cellulose fibers in the wood, causing them to break down and change color.

How Does Oxidation Affect Wood?

Oxidation is a natural process that happens to all wood over time. However, the rate at which oxidation occurs depends on the type of wood, the amount of oxygen exposure, and the presence of other chemicals or agents that can accelerate the process.

For example, woods with high tannins, such as oak and mahogany, will oxidize more slowly than woods with low tannin levels, such as pine and fir. Similarly, woods regularly exposed to sunlight or other sources of ultraviolet (UV) light will oxidize more quickly than those not. While some people enjoy the aged look of oxidized wood, others may prefer the natural color of the wood.

In either case, it’s important to understand how oxidation will affect the wood before you begin a project. For example, if you’re restoring an old piece of furniture, you may want to oxidize the wood to give it an antique look deliberately. Or, if you’re building a new piece of furniture, you may want to choose a wood that will oxidize slowly so that it retains its original color for longer.

Oxidation is a Natural Process

Types of Oxidizing Agents

There are a few different chemicals that can be used to accelerate the oxidation process. The most common oxidizing agents are:

  1. Hydrogen peroxide: Hydrogen peroxide is a common household chemical that can be used to oxidize wood. It’s available in different concentrations, so be sure to choose the right one for your project.
  2. Potassium permanganate: Potassium permanganate is a chemical that is used in water purification systems. It can also be used to oxidize wood, but it’s important to use it carefully because it’s a strong oxidizing agent.
  3. Sodium dichromate: Sodium dichromate is a chemical used in the tanning and dyeing of leather. It can also be used to oxidize wood, but it’s important to use it carefully because it’s a strong oxidizing agent.
  4. Ammonium persulfate: Ammonium persulfate is a chemical used in etching and printing. It can also be used to oxidize wood, but it’s important to use it carefully because it’s a strong oxidizing agent.

8 Effective Ways How to Oxidize Wood

1. Soak the Wood

If you’re using hydrogen peroxide, potassium permanganate, or sodium dichromate, the first step is to soak the wood in the solution. This will help to ensure that the solution penetrates the wood and accelerates the oxidation process. You’ll need to experiment to find the right ratio of chemicals to water for your project. First, mix the chemical and water in a container. Then, submerge the wood in the solution and let it sit for 24 hours. If you’re using ammonium persulfate, you can skip this step.

2. Scrub the Wood

After the wood has soaked, scrub it with a brush to remove any dirt, debris, or other contaminants. This will help to ensure that the oxidizing agent can penetrate the wood more easily. To do this, first, mix the chemical and water in a container. Then, wet a brush with the solution and scrub the wood. If you’re using hydrogen peroxide, you can also use a sponge.

Scrub It With a Brush

3. Rinse the Wood

After scrubbing the wood, rinse it with clean water to remove any residual chemicals. This will help to prevent the wood from being damaged by the oxidizing agent. To do this, first, fill a bucket with clean water. Then, spray the wood down using a hose until it is completely soaked. Finally, use a sponge or cloth to wipe away any remaining water. Using a power washer, set it to the lowest to avoid damaging the wood.

4. Boil the Wood

Another option for oxidizing the wood is to boil it. This will help to create a darker color and make the wood grain more pronounced. You’ll need to use a large pot or boiling water can and add enough water to cover the wood completely. Then, bring the water to a boil and let the wood soak for at least an hour. You can repeat this process if the wood is still light in color.

5. Burn the Wood

You can also use fire to oxidize the wood. This will create a more natural look and is often used for furniture or flooring. First, you need to clean the wood with a wire brush to remove any dirt or debris. Next, use a propane torch to burn the surface of the wood evenly.

Be sure to move the torch around so that you don’t create any hot spots. Finally, use a wire brush to remove any charred wood. This method is best used for hardwoods, as they are more resistant to fire damage. However, you can also use it in softer woods. Just be sure to go slowly and be careful not to damage the wood.

Clean the Wood With a Wire Brush

6. Faux Rust Technique

This technique is best used on metal but can also be used on wood. It involves using a chemical to create a rust-like finish. You will need, A chemical oxidizer, A paintbrush, Protective gloves, and Eye protection. First, put on your gloves and eye protection. Then, using your paintbrush, apply the chemical oxidizer to the surface of the wood. Be sure to cover the entire surface.

Allow the chemical to sit on the wood for several minutes. The longer it sits, the darker the finish will be. Once you are happy with the color, rinse the chemical off with water. Your wood will now have a rust-like finish.

7. Brush on a Vinegar Solution

This technique is best used for small projects or to add a rustic touch to larger projects. You will need white vinegar, a paintbrush, and water. First, mix one part vinegar with two parts water in a container. Then, using your paintbrush, apply the solution to the surface of the wood. Allow it to sit for several minutes before wiping it off with a clean cloth. The longer you allow the solution to sit, the darker the wood will become. You can also apply multiple coats to achieve a darker color.

Apply the Solution to the Surface

8. Spray the Wood With Bleach

Bleach is a powerful oxidizing agent that can be used to create a variety of finishes on wood. It is important to use a bleach that is specifically designed for wood, as some bleaches can be harsh and damage the wood. You will need bleach, a spray bottle, and gloves. First, put on gloves to protect your hands.

Next, mix the bleach with water in the spray bottle according to the package directions. Then, spray the wood with the bleach solution and allow it to sit for the amount of time specified by the package directions. Finally, rinse the wood with water and allow it to dry completely.

Tips and Warnings on How to Oxidize Wood


  1. Be sure to wear gloves when handling the chemicals.
  2. Follow the instructions on the product label.
  3. Do a test patch in an inconspicuous area first to see how the wood will react.
  4. Apply the solution evenly and in thin layers for best results.
  5. Allow the solution to dry completely before moving on to the next step.
  6. If you are not happy with the results, you can always sand the wood down and start again.


  1. Do not inhale the fumes from the chemicals.
  2. Do not get the solution on your skin or in your eyes.
  3. Keep children and pets away from the area while you are working.
  4. Dispose of any leftover solution according to the instructions on the product label.
  5. Do not use this method on furniture that will be used indoors. The chemicals can be harmful to your health if inhaled.
  6. Do not use this method on antique furniture or other valuable items. The chemicals can damage the finish and decrease the value of the piece.


So there you have it, eight different methods for how to oxidize wood. As you can see, there is no one right way to do it. Each method will produce a unique result, so it is up to you to decide which one you like best. Experiment with different techniques and see what you can create. And, as always, be sure to follow the safety precautions when working with any chemicals.

Photo of author

Adrian Green

Adrian has been interested in woodworking since he was a child. His father had a woodworking shop, and Adrian would help him out and learn from him. He gained basic carpentry knowledge as well as an understanding of how to work hard and take care of business. He enjoys woodworking as a hobby. He loves the feeling of creating something with his own hands, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing his finished products used by others. So he started this blog to spread his passion and knowledge to those interested in DIY wood-working projects. He knows that with a little guidance and practice, anyone can create beautiful pieces of furniture or décor from scratch.

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