I found this vintage monkey pod wooden bowl when out thrifting a few days ago.
Actually, I think it found me.
It was poking out from under a huge pile of baskets at the thrift store.
I would have never seen it if not for me having to tie my shoe, glancing up and seeing its glorious wooden goodness beckoning to me.
I don't believe it was a salad bowl, more of a fruit bowl for the counter possibly.
Once digging it off the bottom of the shelf, I realized its 1950's finish had seen better days. Probably in the 1950's.
It had LOTS of minor scratches on the finish and some paint drips (Paint drips??? What on earth were they using her for?).
A couple years ago I repurposed a wooden salad bowl into a fancy wooden bowl using paint.
But this time, I decided to try to bleach the wood similar to what is popular for tabletops and dressers in the Modern Farmhouse crowd.
Some also call it a raw wood look.
Now before I start with all the
mind-numbing fascinating details, this is not something you will eat off, it is for decorative purposes only.
How To Bleach Thrift Store Wooden Bowls For A Modern Farmhouse Look
(This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. You can read my full disclosure policy here.)
- wooden bowl
- sander and sandpaper
- cup to hold bleach (nothing metal)
- paste wax (optional)
Please use all proper safety precautions while doing project including:
- Use goggles while sanding
- Use both goggles and gloves while working with bleach and vinegar
- Use bleach in a well ventilated area
Sand bowl to remove top coat of wood stain.
I used a Black & Decker mouse sander. You could also use a sanding block or sandpaper, although that would take longer and use a little more elbow grease.
I took my time sanding because I wanted to sand out some areas that had been stained, so it took probably about 30 minutes to get the whole thing sanded properly.
After sanding, your piece will look much lighter. Although not quite light enough!
Put a bit of bleach into a paper or plastic cup (bleach reacts with metal, so do not use a metal container) and apply with a brush in a well-ventilated area.
You'll notice the snow in the background since I decided to do this project on a day it was 17 degrees.
And you might think it would take the bleach forever and ever to dry in the frozen tundra of Ohio, but it actually dried in about an hour.
I ended up putting two coats of bleach on the bowl, not because it necessarily needed it, but I figured better safe than sorry (and I wasn't going to risk frostbite again the next day).
After the bleach has dried and your bowl is the color you want, take equal parts vinegar and water, mix it up, dip a rag in it and apply it to the wood.
PLEASE NOTE: I am not saying to mix a big old cup of bleach and vinegar, because of course, this would be dangerous. I am suggesting you soak a rag in a mixture of vinegar and water and wipe down the wood that has completely DRIED at this point. Please see this article from Bob Villa discussing The Do's And Dont's Of Bleaching Wood, where he also suggests the rag soaked in water and vinegar method.
This will stop the bleaching process. To be all technical and nerdy, it neutralizes the alkaline effect of the bleach.
And then rinse with plain water and air dry.
Once dried you can apply a paste wax to give a little protection if you want. I chose to just keep it naked.
I really do love the lighter color of the bowl. I think it's a more rustic, natural feel.
Now let's see what my Thrift Store Decor Teammates have up their sleeves this month:
DIY Chinoiserie Ice Bucket - Our Southern Home
Textured Stoneware Using Paint And Baking Soda - My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia
Bird Nest In A Basket - Petticoat Junktion
Cabinet Door Vanity Tray - My Repurposed Life
How To Make Macrame Plant Hanger - Domestically Speaking
DIY Coin Purse From Crocheted Potholders - Sadie Seasongoods
Bleaching Wooden Bowls | Farmhouse Look - House of Hawthornes (that's me)
Other Posts You may Enjoy:
Mid Century Modern Chair Restoration
Baking Soda Paint Thrift Store Makeover
How To Upcycles Old Books Into Clocks
I had no idea we could bleach wood bowls and things!! Thanks for this tutorial. Your bowl looks fantastic.
Oh, thank you! It was such a quick and easy project too!
Love it Pam! Very pretty. Question, does it have an odor of bleach, or does the vinegar solution take care of that?
OK, I just walked over and sniffed it for you 🙂 It smells like wood, no bleach smell at all, so the vinegar has taken care of it!
Now I just have to explain to my husband why I'm smelling a bowl!
THANKS for that Pam! And the happy chuckle! 🙂
I love the lighter wood. Thanks for this post. It looks like a good fast project!
Thanks for the idea. I love it, but have a question. Since bleach and water dissipates within an hour and after drying, it is wiped down with vinegar and water, why can’t it be used for food as long as we don’t use inedible wax on it?
How cool!!! I didn't know about bleaching wood. I definitely want to try this soon.
I was excited to see what you were going to do with the bowl when I saw you're before yesterday, it turned out amazing!
Oh my! That bowl looks so awesome!!
The bull looks so pretty. It looks like something you would buy at a high-end store. I had no idea that you could bleach would so easily. I'm inspired.
Love this! I had an old greasy basket with wood handles that I loved. It was dark. I threw it in the dishwasher and it bleached and cleaned it and it looks amazing. Just an idea. I didn't know what would happen but it turned out great.
It really turned out very pretty and looks like new. Good job.
If you oiled the bowl after bleaching, could it be used with food? Like as a salad bowl?
This was a totally new process to me; your tutorial was very clear. And the bowl is beautiful. You could make up a great story about how you turned it on a lathe....or paid big bucks for it at a high end store...or imported it from a third world country for big bucks.....
Cool project Pam! I had NO idea you could bleach wood in ohio in the dead of winter. hahahah
I haven't been to a thrift store in a year. Hard to believe, eh? And, I still have lots of junk to makeover.....
Pinned your cute bowl.
Wow Pam, this was a fantastic piece to find and you made it even better! Thanks for the tutorial, I would love to try this soon.
Pam you are so lucky to have an ever ending supply of vintage at your thrift stores ours never have this fun stuff.
Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces
Wow, Pam...such a great project! Looks beautiful...I can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing the tutorial! Pinning!
Christy @ Our Southern Home
I've been wanting to try the bleaching process on some furniture. I have a similar thrift store bowl and so have to try this! Wow, 17 degrees!! I wouldn't survive that! LOL!
If you have rinsed off the bleach, why is it that you cannot use it for food
Curious for an answer here too as I have some that I’d like to bleach but then use to serve food.
Actually, you probably could eat out of it. But since it's basically raw wood at this point it would be somewhat porous and could absorb the oils and such from whatever you are serving in it. So you would want to be careful to thoroughly clean it after each use to make sure the absorbed oils don't get rancid. Or better yet, you could use food grade beeswax or food grade mineral oil (you can find both on Amazon) to lightly seal them without changing the color of the wood.
Loved what you did with the wood bowl.. my mother had a bowl exactly like that when I was growing up, which I still have today. I’ve never done anything to it’s “patina”. It’s a nut bowl which we used especially at Christmas time. She filled it with a variety of nuts in their shells, added a couple of nutcrackers and placed it under the tree. Sitting around that bowl with my sisters cracking and nibbling nuts below that tree is a fond childhood memory.
I just found a similar bowl that sits on a rotating base (sort of like a lazy Susan) and the bowl area has 5-6 large indents to hold something. I can't figure out if it is for candy or cheese cubes or what? Now that you brought up nuts I'm thinking maybe that's the answer. I'm thinking about using it at Christmas time to hold some vintage Shiny Brite ornaments in the indented areas though.