How to Keep Pine From Yellowing

Pinewood is a very popular choice when building furniture, especially when you are going for a rustic look. It’s softwood, so it’s light and easy to work it. It’s also very strong and resistant to shocks: that’s why is commonly used in construction. And finally, it’s also rather cheap, which is always convenient. If you ever owned some pine furniture, you know it tends to develop a yellowish patina over time, which gives the furniture a sort of “antique” look. Depending on your taste, you might consider it a pleasing effect, or not. If you are here, reading this article, I assume you fall into the latter category. Now, is there a way to keep pine from yellowing?

Unluckily for us, there’s no way to stop pine from turning yellow completely. It’s a natural thing that is bound to happen no matter what. Don’t worry though, there are still a few things you can do to either:

  • Slow down the process: for example, use a finish that doesn’t yellow itself and protects the substrate against it;
  • Mask it: making the pine darker will lessen the visual impact of the yellowing process.

We’ll get into details in the following paragraphs.

How to Keep Pine From Yellowing – Follow These Steps

As we mentioned before, there are a few things you can do to your pine project to deal with the yellowing. Here are the most common ones.

Protect Your Project Against Light

“Recycled Pine Wood Bookcase | Shelves & Bookcases | Wisteria” by Wicker Paradise is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Atmospheric agents take a tool on woodworking projects. Even simple exposure to sunlight will damage your furniture, due to UV rays. Not all wood species react the same. Some will darken, others will lighten. With pine, there’s a yellowing effect.

That’s why you should not keep your pine project under direct sunlight exposure all the time. It will change the wood’s appearance. The finish will also start to fade into a yellow tone. After enough time, it will begin to crack and peel.

With this in mind, try to place your pine furniture strategically in your house to avoid too much sun exposure. For example, do not place it near big windows.

Keep these considerations in mind when choosing a finish. If the coating has UV inhibitors, that’s a very good thing. It will protect the wood against sunlight damage, to a certain extent.

Use a Non-Yellowing Finish

If you are familiar with wood finishes, you probably already know that many products tend to turn yellow as time passes. It’s a chemical process: it might look good on some types of wood, but it’s certainly bad with pine. It basically highlights the yellowing process that is already taking place. That’s why you need a non-yellowing finish. Check out these alternatives:

  • The first product to consider would be a policrylic finish. All policrylic finishes are water-based, so they are less toxic to deal with, which is a plus. To keep the light tone of pine, go for a clear finish. I really like the one Minwax makes. Check it out here. The only downside is that policrylic is not as durable, so use it only for indoor furniture, cabinets, etc.
  • If you need a product that is more resistant to both weather and day-to-day activities, consider a polyurethane finish. Make sure to choose a water-based poly finish, since they are less prone to yellowing than oil-based ones. Again, if you need to choose a brand, go with Minwax, like the following one:
  • Using a stain that matches the color of the substrate will also help against yellowing. It will also help enhance the wood pattern. Keep in mind that stain does not protect the surface against scratches. That’s why you’ll need to apply a finish of choice on top of it.
  • Another non-yellowing finish is wood wax. It will give a nice premium look to your pine, enhancing its qualities. Keep in mind that paste wax won’t protect the wood against water, scratches, etc. as a polyurethane coat would. So only use it on surfaces that won’t sustain excessive wear and tear.

In conclusion, any water-based product with UV inhibitors will work fine.

Make the Pine Darker

All the products introduced before will slow down the yellowing process, but it will happen over time nonetheless. A permanent solution to this could be changing the pine color to a darker one, for example by staining it. The yellowing process will still happen, but it will go unnoticed.

Softwood wood like pine is ideal for staining. You can give your project the illusion of being a higher-end type of wood, plus you can bring out the wood pattern and characteristics even more.

For the best results, keep in mind these considerations:

  • Make sure there are no scratches or anything of the sort before applying the stain. Staining would inevitably expose them even more. Consider doing a little bit of sanding before staining. Sanding will also help open up the wood pores to welcome stain better.
  • Carefully remove any sawdust before staining. Consider using a vacuum for deep cleaning.
  • To avoid the classic blotchy look, consider using a pre-stain product. They are specifically designed to even out stain absorption.
  • The stain won’t protect the wood against wear and tear. Apply a finish on top of the stain for that.

Another thing you might want to go for is the pickled finish. Basically, you want to pick some paint (usually white paint) that has been thinned out and brush it on the wood. After that, use a clean rug to work the paint into the wood grain. Then use another clean, dry cloth to wipe off any paint excess. Finally, apply a clear finish to protect your project.

With this process, you’ll get an old-style, kinda antique look. It might not fit with your pre-existent furniture, though. Make sure to try on scrap wood first to see if you like it. It will also help you master this new technique.

Final Thoughts

“Pine wood iPad wallpaper 1024×1024 px” by decar66 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

As you can see, there’s no definitive solution when it comes to wood yellowing. It’s just something that naturally happens, like sap coming out of wood. There’s still a couple of things you can do to slow the process down, like protecting your project from direct sunlight and applying the right finish.

It might be also a good occasion to experiment with different colored stains. Light softwoods like pine are ideal for that.

Whatever product you might choose, always make safety a priority. As I suggested, you should use water-based products, which are less toxic than their oil counterpart. In any case, protect yourself properly against toxic fumes with a mask and glasses. Don’t forget to wear gloves too when applying them.

So, what are your experiences with wood yellowing? Let me know in the comments below!

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