It’s not uncommon to find and use different colors in woodworking projects. However, if you end up with predominantly red surfaces, your next move lies in knowing how to neutralize red tones in wood.

The red tint in wood could be its natural color. Alternatively, you could be dealing with an overbearing redwood stain color or wood paint that’s doing an injustice to the overall ambiance in your surroundings.

This article will show you our tried-and-tested methods of neutralizing red tones in the wood and the recommended products to use.

Ready? Let’s get started

How to Neutralize Red Tones in Wood?

You can neutralize the red wood tone by bleaching the bare wood. You can use raw umber on red tones to tone down the red instead of bleaching. Finally, you can add pure green stains, paints, and polyurethane to the red-stained or painted surface to knock out the red in the wood.

Neutralize Red Tones by Bleaching

Using bleach is an alternative method of neutralizing red tones and other colors in wood. Notice that you can use pre-mixed bleach or make your own wood bleach to tone down the red in wood.

Keep reading to find out how to utilize this product and have the best results.

Using Store-Bought Bleach

Store-bought bleach is pre-mixed peroxide and lye. Then, it’s ready to use and doesn’t require further mixing, not unless with pure water.

We recommend using bleach on raw or bare wood for the best results. Also, ensure the wood you’re bleaching has undergone major shaping and sanding.

You can do some light sanding on the bleached surface before applying a finish. Otherwise, heavy sanding will expose a fresh layer of red tone and force you to bleach wood afresh.

If you want to neutralize red tones on finished wood using bleach, you must strip the existing finish to bare wood. This is because bare wood absorbs bleach better than wood finishes do.

Bleach is a potent product, and the smell may be overwhelming for some people. Therefore, use bleach in an adequately ventilated room or outdoors.

Also, wear gloves, eye protection, and long sleeves. If the smell is too much for you, consider wearing a respirator mask.

Step 1: Pour the bleach solution into a container

We’re using store-bought chlorine bleach that’s pre-mixed. Transfer a little bit of the product into a glass or plastic container and not a metal container; the bleach will corrode the metal and ruin the bleach.

You can mix the bleach with equal parts of water.

Step 2: Apply the bleach solution to the wood

Dip a foam brush into the bleach and then apply it to the red-toned surface. Keep applying generous amounts of bleach and ensure every part of the wood surface is evenly covered.

If there are hard-to-reach corners, apply the bleach using a spray bottle. Leave no inch uncoated.

Step 3: Let the wood dry completely

After saturating the wood with bleach, leave it outside in the sun to dry. A little heat from the sun and the fresh air flowing freely will help dry the bleach faster.

Still, if there’s cloud cover when you bleach the red-toned wood, let it sit in the garage until it’s completely dried.

Step 4: Neutralize and rinse the bleached wood

Rinse the wood with water after the bleach has dried out completely. But if you notice a yellow tint on the wood surface, you can wash it away with water and white vinegar solution.

The mild acid in the vinegar will dissolve the yellow tint left by the bleach. Rinse thoroughly and use pure water for the final rinse. Wipe the excess water with a dry towel.

Step 5: Let the bleached wood air dry

Let the wood air dry completely. You will notice the reddish wood tone is now lighter. If you want an even lighter color, repeat the bleaching process. You can bleach wood multiple times without damaging the wood.

Use DIY Homemade Wood Bleach

You can always find pre-mixed and ready-to-use wood bleach from the stores; unfortunately, they are a bit expensive. The good news is that you can make your own wood bleach solution using common ingredients that you may already have at home. 

The essential ingredients you will need are hydrogen peroxide and lye. If you need to buy these products, walk to the plumbing aisle in any home depot store, and you’ll find the lye.

However, for hydrogen peroxide, you will need to buy it from a drug store or any convenience store. These products will make homemade wood bleach that will neutralize red-toned wood.

What you’ll need

  • Lye
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Plastic container
  • Quart of water
  • White Vinegar
  • Foam brush
  • Towel

Step 1: Mix lye and water

Lye is a caustic product that needs to be handled in a well-ventilated space. You also need to ensure that you are wearing protective gear, like a pair of gloves and safety goggles.

You also need to read the instructions carefully to prevent potential disaster. Next, find a plastic container and fill it with 1 quart of water.

Then, scoop three tablespoons of lye and add them into the water, one spoon at a time, while stirring water slowly. Keep stirring the mixture until all the lye is dissolved.

It’s always recommended to add lye into the water and not water into the lye; it prevents an explosive chemical reaction from forming.

Related Post: How to Mix Stain Colors

Step 2: Apply hydrogen peroxide to the wood

Set aside the water and lye mixture once you’re done mixing. Apply hydrogen peroxide to the red-toned wood surface.

Ensure you saturate every inch of the wood to guarantee uniform bleaching results. You can use a bristle or foam brush to spread peroxide all over the wooden surface.

Step 3: Apply the lye solution to the wood

After a generous application of hydrogen peroxide, apply the lye and water solution on top. You can dip your foam brush in the solution and brush it on wood.

Or, gently pour the lye solution on the wood surface and then spread the mixture using a foam brush. The goal is to coat every inch of the red-toned surface.

Step 4: Dry the wood in the sun

Once the wood is fully saturated in hydrogen peroxide and the lye solution, leave it outside to dry under the sun. The sun will speed up the bleaching process and help dissolve or neutralize the red tones in the wood.

Step 5: Rinse the wood with water and vinegar solution

Inspect the surface once the wood is dry. You may notice a yellow tint on a few spots or widespread on the surface. Don’t panic; that’s residue from the lye solution used.

You can easily wash it off using water and white vinegar solution. The mild acid in the vinegar will get rid of every lye residue from your wooden surface.

Rinse again with pure water and wipe the wood dry with an absorbent cloth.

Step 6: Let the bleached wood air dry completely

Let the wood dry in the sun again until it is completely dry. The bleaching process is complete when you can hardly notice the red tones in wood.

The wood will look brighter and lighter as desired. But if that’s not the results from the first attempt, repeat the process until you’re satisfied with the new color.

Neutralize Red Tones by Adding Green Tones

Another way of neutralizing red tones in wood is by adding green tones to the wood finish before coating the surface.

By green tones, I mean using green paint, Mixol universal tints, powder dyes or dye stains, glaze, or using stains with green undertones. Based on the color wheel theory, you can neutralize a color using the opposite color on the color wheel.

For example, red (primary color) is directly opposite to green (secondary color). This means that you can tone down the red color by adding green.

Adding pure green to the red sounds easy, but only if you use the correct shade of green will give you the desired color. For example, neon and lime green are light colors that may not impact the red wood coloring

Still, if you like more greenish tones, consider using wood stains with greenish undertones like Varathane premium fast dry wood stain, Rustic sage, or Luminos outdoor wood finish stain protector.

Learn more here on staining green wood.

Step 1: Prep the redwood

If you’re working with raw wood or finished surface, ensure you clean off any debris using mild soap and water. Then, let the wood dry completely before you begin sanding.

Use 100-grit sandpaper for the first round of sanding. After that, sand with the grain to even out any defects. Clean the sawdust and sand further using 120 and finish with 180-grit sandpaper.

You can use a sanding block or power sander for the sanding process. Collect the sanding dust using a shop vac and finish with a damp rag or tack cloth.

Step 2: Prep the green neutralizer

Tint the semi-transparent stain or poly using liquid green tint or powder dye. Add a tablespoon of dye into the product and mix until you have a fairly concentrated shade of green. Add more dye if needed. 

Alternatively, if you’re using a stain with greenish undertones, gently stir the stain using a stir stick to mix well.

Step 3: Apply the green to the red tones

Use a foam brush to apply the green stain or poly to the red-toned wood. Apply the product in light, even strokes following the direction of the wood grain.

Step 4: Wait for the first coat to dry

Wait for the stain or poly to dry completely before recoating. This can take anywhere between a few hours to 24 hours.

Assess the newfound shade once the coated surface is dry to the touch. If it’s your desired color, stop here. However, if you can still see the reddish tone, proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Reapply the second coat

Only apply the second and subsequent coats if the red in the wood is still prominent. Remember to allow sufficient drying times in between.

Once you’ve achieved your desired color, store the remaining product and dispose of anything that needs to go.

How to Tone Down Red-Stained Wood Using Raw Umber or Raw Sienna

To begin with, raw umber or raw sienna are natural earth pigments. These pigments are usually brown in color with slight variations in undertones. 

Raw umber is a cool brown color with a greenish undertone. The greenish undertone is perfect for toning down the red-stained wood. On the other hand, Raw sienna is pale brown with yellowish undertones.

Step 1: Buy raw umber and raw sienna

You can buy these pigments in powder, glazing stain, or acrylic paint formulation. 

Step 2: Mix the two glazes to get a natural color

Mix raw umber with a little raw sienna to get a neutralizing brown color. 

Step 3: Apply glaze on the red-stained wood

You do not need to strip the red-stained wood to apply the glaze. Instead, use a high-quality bristle brush to apply the glaze to the stained surface. 

Step 4: Let it dry and wipe off excess

Then use a lint-free rag to wipe off the excess glaze and assess the depth of the new color. The raw umber and the Sienna mixture will be enough to tone down the red in the stained wood.

How to Tone Down Red in Douglas Fir?

Douglas fir raw wood has unevenly pigmented heartwood (orange-red to reddish-brown) and sapwood (yellowish-white). You can bleach raw Doug fir to even out the natural wood coloring. 

Alternatively, you can stain Douglas fir using gel stains with green undertones. 

The Steps

Step 1: Clean the surface using mineral spirits.

Step 2: Thin oil-based paint with equal parts of mineral spirits.

Step 3: Apply the paint using a natural-bristle brush and coat the wood evenly.

Step 4: Let the first paint coat dry completely.

Step 5: Reapply the following 2-3 paint coats and allow sufficient drying times between coats.

Step 6: After the last coat, let the wood dry completely before using the surface.

How to Tone Down Red Oak?

Red Oak is a predominantly red hardwood. Due to its red and porous nature, red oak is not suitable for cutting boards. However, you can tone it down using store-bought bleach, DIY hydrogen peroxide, and lye wood bleach solution.

Another viable option is staining red oak using stains with green undertones to tame the reddish tone. Alternatively, you can add green tints or dye to stain and apply it to the coat of the red oak. Still, you can paint the red oak using green paint or raw umber glaze.

Note that these methods are mostly practical on individual pieces of wood. But if you have red oak furniture, your best bet is to disassemble the piece of furniture first.

This ensures that whatever you use to neutralize the redwood won’t affect the furniture fabric. If the wooden pieces have a finish, strip the existing finish and then bleach.

Alternatively, you can apply tinted stain over the old wood stain. Reassemble the furniture once you’ve tamed the red in red oak.


What stain neutralizes red?

Green is placed directly opposite the red color on the color wheel. This implies that you need to use a green stain to neutralize red. The stain can either be oil or water-based or a gel stain. Also, the stain can either be green or have green undertones.

What color tones down red?

Green color tones down red. According to the color wheel theory, the opposite color neutralizes a specific color on the color wheel. Therefore, since green is the complementary color of red, adding green color to the red color will tone it down.

How to neutralize orange tones in wood?

You can neutralize orange tones in wood by bleaching. Alternatively, you can add blue tones to the orange to neutralize the color. This is done by mixing equal parts (1:1) of blue and orange paints. Alternatively, you can use blue stains or tint clear top coats with blue dye and apply it to the orange-toned wood.

What to do when the stain is too red?

If the stain is too red, you can completely tone it down or neutralize it. Tone the red by gradually adding green stains or dye to the red stain until you’re satisfied. Alternatively, you can neutralize the red stain by adding equal parts of the green stain to form a neutral brown color.

What is the best wood stain with green undertone?

The best wood stain with a green undertone is Varathane premium fast dry wood stain, Rustic sage. This oil-based stain is designed for use on wood furniture, paneling, cabinets, doors, and trim. It is a fast-drying formula ready to recoat after an hour. It’s also enhanced with nano pigments that highlight the wood grain. Unfortunately, it’s primarily designed for interior surfaces.

What color kills yellow?

From the basic color wheel theory, the purple color will kill the yellow color. This applies to paints, dye stains, and wood stains with these undertones. You can completely kill the yellow by mixing equal parts of purple with equal parts of yellow.

How to get pink out of red oak?

The pink color in red oak results from an encounter with white color in stains or paints. To get it out of red oak, use paint or stain colors that don’t have a white base. For example, green will neutralize the red and then camouflage the pink.

To produce a tint of the color green, you should add?

Add the color white to green to produce a tint of the color green. Whenever a white color is added to any color, the resulting color is lighter –referred to as a tint.

How to lighten red oak floors

You can lighten red oak floors by bleaching.

  1. Pour bleach into a plastic container and transfer it into a pump sprayer.
  2. Spray the bleach and saturate the red oak floors.
  3. Let the bleach dry completely.
  4. Rinse the bleached floors with water and vinegar. Then, rinse again with pure water and mop the excess water.
  5. Let the lighter red oak floors dry completely.


I hope I’ve covered all you needed to know about how to neutralize red tones in wood. Neutralizing red tones in wood is done by bleaching, adding green tones to wood stain or finish, and using finishes with green undertones like raw umber.

Always handle bleach, stains, and paints in a well-ventilated space, wearing personal protective gear. If you need any clarifications, leave a comment in the comments section below.

2 thoughts on “How To Neutralize Red Tones In Wood”

  1. Thank you do these techniques work with maple wood if it has red tones

    Do I mix thr bleecb with water

    Let me know pls Appreciate it


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