How to Lighten Cane Furniture

If you have old, dark cane furniture you want to change up, you can totally do it! It may just need a good lightening to brighten it up as well as brighten up your space. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to lighten cane furniture, this guide is here to help!

In this post, we’ll go through the simple steps to refinishing furniture and giving your cane pieces a fresh, new look.

photo of cane before and after with text overlay

Cane furniture is often made of natural materials, such as rattan or bamboo, and can easily darken over time due to exposure to sunlight and dust. It could also be darkened due to its existing stain or finish. You can leave it as is if you prefer the look, but if you want to update your space, lightening the furniture can give it a modern and airy feel.

Click here for the stain removal guide and checklist

And fortunately, lightening cane furniture is a simple process that you can do at home! Let’s do some lightening magic on that dark cane furniture!

Supplies Used to Lighten Cane Furniture

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Stripping Cane Furniture Finish

We recently tried lightening cane furniture – we worked on 2 cane end tables and the first step was to strip off their old finish. We used Stripwell QCS stripper, which is specifically formulated for removing old finishes on furniture. It’s actually one of the best wood stain removers we have tried and tested.

photo of spraying QCS stripper onto cane

We applied 2 coats of the stripper on the cane tables, letting it sit for 15 minutes between each coat. Afterward, we used a toothbrush to brush off the old finish. The stripper worked amazingly well on one table, but the other was a bit stubborn.

We were able to remove most of its finish anyway, and then we wiped off the residue from both cane tables with paper towels, finishing off with a water rinse. We let them dry for a day or 2 before proceeding to the next step.

photo of removing old finish of cane using a toothbrush and  paper towels

Note that we did not do any sanding on the cane furniture. The stripping process was the only prep work we did for the new finish we were planning to apply.

Just make sure to allow enough time for the stripper to work on the cane, especially for finishes that may be thicker and harder to remove. Check out our Stripwell QCS review to know its features and learn how to use it effectively.

Applying Paint Wash

So the tables may have been a bit mismatched, but we were able to do a workaround with paint wash. For this paint wash, we thoroughly mixed equal parts of water and Fusion Mineral Paint Algonquin.

photo of applying paint wash onto cane

We then brushed a light coat onto the cane, wiping it off immediately with an INTEX lint-free rag. We had to wait a few hours for it to dry. The first coat of white paint wash didn’t quite create the look we were going for, so we decided to add another coat of the Algonquin wash to give it more depth and consistency.

And that’s one of the great things about paint wash – you can easily adjust it to get the exact look you want! Again, just make sure to let each coat dry completely before applying another one so you can see the full effect.

The type of paint for furniture you use can be mineral paint, chalk paint, latex paint, or acrylic paint – just pick the color you want for your cane furniture and make the paint wash accordingly.

Can You Stain Rattan Cane?

If you prefer the look of stained cane furniture over painted, then staining is a great option for you. It allows you to keep the natural color and texture of the cane while still giving it a new look.

General Finishes Gel stain works well on both finished and unfinished cane, making it a versatile choice for restaining. Plus, the coverage and quick drying time make it a convenient option for DIY furniture projects.

To begin staining your rattan cane furniture with General Finishes gel stain, clean the surface with a degreasing cleaner and sand lightly to create a smooth surface. Then, apply a thin coat of stain using a brush or lint-free rag, wiping off any excess for an even finish within 30 seconds to a minute.

photo of applying stain onto cane

After letting the stain dry for at least 24 hours, you can add additional coats to get your desired color. Top off the stain with a water-based or oil-based polyurethane topcoat for added protection. Here’s our post on how to restain wood furniture for a more detailed guide on the restaining process.

How to Stain Unfinished Rattan Cane

When it comes to staining unfinished rattan cane, the process is similar to staining any other type of wood furniture. After prepping the cane surface, apply the stain in the direction of the wood grain and allow it to penetrate for 5-15 minutes depending on how deep you want the color to be.

Wipe off any excess stain with a clean cloth and allow it to dry completely before deciding if another coat is needed. Once you’re satisfied with the color, leave it to dry then seal the surface with a topcoat.

This will not only add an extra layer of protection but also enhance the richness and depth of the stained cane. You can learn more on how to stain wood furniture here – the steps are all applicable to cane furniture!

Can You Sand Cane Furniture?

While it is possible to sand cane furniture, you should only do it by hand and with extreme care. The natural material of cane can easily be damaged or caught on sandpaper, causing more harm than good. It’s actually best to avoid sanding cane furniture if possible.

photo of sanding cane by hand

Don’t sand a finish off of cane furniture – this is why we did not sand our cane end tables and just used a stripper instead. You want the cane to remain intact and undamaged so that you can apply a new finish with ease.

Cane Spray Paint

For the most natural, fastest, and easiest way to refinish your rattan furniture, try using spray paint! Just use a primer spray to create a base. After it dries, apply two coats of spray paint in your desired color, allowing them to dry in between.

photo of spray paints

Proceed to seal it with topcoat spray to protect the finish. For that natural look we’re going for, choose a matte finish for both your spray paint and topcoat. Our how to refinish rattan furniture tutorial will guide you through the step-by-step process!

So there you have it – how you can lighten your cane furniture, as well as find different ways to refinish your rattan cane furniture. Your furniture will look as good as new and have a refreshed, updated look that you’ll love!

How to Lighten Cane Furniture

photo of cane before and after with text overlay

Our how to lighten cane furniture guide is here to help if you have old, dark cane furniture you want to change up.



  1. Strip off the old finish from your cane furniture using a wood stain remover like Stripwell QCS stripper. Apply 2 coats and use a toothbrush to brush off the old finish.
  2. Wipe off any residue from the cane furniture with paper towels. Rinse with water and let it dry for a day or two before proceeding to the next step.
  3. Mix equal parts of water and your desired color of furniture paint (we used Fusion Mineral Paint Algonquin) to create a paint wash.
  4. Brush a light coat of the paint wash onto the cane furniture, wiping it off immediately with a lint-free rag. Wait for it to dry completely before applying another coat if desired.
  5. Let the final coat dry completely before using your newly lightened cane furniture in your space!

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More Refinishing Furniture Tips

Click here for the paint removal checklist and guide

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