Restore natural maple cabinets that have yellowed?

yaypeeMarch 12, 2012

Our 11 yr old maple cabinets are still in great shape but they have yellowed over time from the original natural maple color where the sunlight shines. I don't like the yellowed color and I hate seeing the outlines of the original color against the yellowed parts when I open the cabinet doors. Is there any way to restore them to their original color and keep them that way? Any help appreciated.

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I would consult cabinet makers in your area....they would probably be able to restore them for you.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:32PM
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You would have to strip them completely and then do something like a wood bleach to them. That's a pretty extreme professional process. That can counter the natural yellowing some, but since it's a natural chemical part of how maple behaves, you're not going to be able to 100% counteract that. If you don't like the color of aged maple, your easiest and most DIY option would be to paint your cabinets.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 7:33PM
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You will need to strip them to remove the old ambered finish & sand, lightly, to expose the light wood. Then recoat them with a water base finish. Look for a finish that is 'water white' like General Finishes' 'Polyacrylic' or 'High Performance' topcoats. High Performance has UV stablilizers.

I doubt that you will need to use a wood bleach; bleaches are nasty and really tough on the wood. You'll end up having to sand quite a bit after a bleach so I prefer to just sand thru to the un-oxidized wood and skip the bleach step. (This is assuming that your cabs are solid maple and not veneered.)

Do NOT use an oil based finish. All oil-based topcoats amber to some degree, more or less.

I'm just coming around to using the water-based finishes. Very low odor and I love that you can apply at least coats of finish in one day. Light sanding between coats--am using GF High Performance & it sands sooo nicely.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 9:55PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Just like cherry reddens with exposure to light, so does maple yellow with exposure to light. Unless you are going to keep your kitchen in the dark, there isn't any finish at all that will prevent the wood from doing what the wood will do. The wood bleach suggestion above might work to keep them light, but then again, it might not. Whitewashing them might also work, but then you'be back into the 80's pickled look.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 1:23AM
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We had the same problem with our 8 year old cabinets. Our kitchen gets a lot of light, so they had yellowed quite a bit. We opted to refinish them, but stain them a darker color so we wouldn't have to deal with the yellowing again. The clear coat may yellow some, but the wood itself yellows with exposure to light. Staining can be tricky with maple as it tends to take stain unevenly.

You can try sanding down the wood to expose the original color, but if you have any veneer, you run the risk of sanding through to the plywood underneath. This happened to some of ours and the panels had to be replaced even though the sanding was done very carefully.

Painting may be your least troublesome option on this. I would consult several cabinetmakers or refinishers in your area and do some research on refinishing maple before you make a decision on what to do.

We love how our cabinets turned out, but it was a lot of work. I hope you find a solution that works for you.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2012 at 3:20AM
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