What is a Pickled Hardwood Floor?

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If you’ve been looking through design blogs and design magazines, you’ve likely come across pickled hardwood floors. It might not be clear what exactly a pickled hardwood floor is. The pickling process is one of many processes designed to make wood look aged and weathered. Antiquing distresses the cracks, crevices, and edges of the wood. Pickling lightens the color of the wood while also accentuating the grain. The processes can change somewhat depending on who is doing the pickling, but the end result is a white stained wood floor. 

Sand the Floor

As with any hardwood refinishing project, the first step in pickling will be to sand the floor. You’ll need to sand away the old finish and the old stain. If you have unfinished hardwood, then you’re ready to get to the pickling. Contractors typically use a medium-grit sandpaper to run over the floor. The medium grit will buf away some of the softer parts of the wood, exposing the grain. Allowing the grain to stand up will help to highlight the aged look of the wood. 

Bleach The Floor

After the floor is sanded, as much color as possible needs to be lifted from the wood. That will make it easier to achieve the white look without looking painted. If you just stained heavily over the surface of the wood, it could cover the grain and make the floor just look as if it’s painted white. 

Bleaching is typically done with a two-part bleach made from lye and hydrogen peroxide. This process can take as much as 24 hours to complete fully. At the end, the wood will be very light in color; this works best with woods that are already light. 

Stain the Floor

Next, the floor needs to be stained. A white stain is typically used. Since the wood has already been bleached, a few light coats of stain might be all that’s needed to turn the floor white. The grain will still be prominent, and it will still look like natural wood. 

Seal The Floor

Finally, the floor will be sealed with an oil or a polyurethane. If you want the floor to look as distressed and antique as possible, a matte oil or polyurethane is typical. A semi-gloss or glossy finish can be very striking but it won’t give the full pickling effect. 

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