Bleach is great for that airy, sun-scorched driftwood look – think shabby chic Hamptons beach house. This effect can be achieved easily with commercially available bleaching agents. After bleaching, the cedar can be left in its natural state or given a coat of clear sealer.
Clear wax is a great finish option for smooth cedar. Few finishes bring out the inner luster of cedar quite so well. There are also unpigmented liquid waxes on the market that incorporate a penetrating component.
Clear plastics are a new generation of non-yellowing polyester coatings, and are available in flat (matte), satin (semi-gloss) and gloss finishes from a number of manufacturers. When choosing a brand, it’s important to specify a non-yellowing formula – unless an amber tint to the cedar is preferred. High-gloss polyurethanes provide the most durable finish, but the highly reflective surface doesn’t appeal to everyone’s taste. Note: These products are not suitable for exterior use.
Danish oil tends to darken wood more than sealants, so it’s great for traditional palettes. It’s easily applied with a brush to textured cedar or smooth cedar.
Clear Lacquer is another great option for smooth surfaces. It’s an unobtrusive finish, which helps to retain much of cedar’s natural beauty. It’s not recommended, however, for kitchens and bathrooms or any areas that generally require more than a light dusting to keep clean.
Because of their fast drying characteristics, it’s best to apply some clear lacquers with an air-less sprayer rather than brush. For the best possible results, apply two or more coats and sand with the grain in between applications. The first coat can be a high-gloss lacquer. However, for optimal surface durability, it’s recommended that you follow that base coat with one to two coats of matte or satin lacquer. On smooth cedar, a final coat of wax will impart a rich sheen to the wood.
Clear varnish is only recommended for smooth surfaces. It will inevitably add a richer, darker tone to cedar. Two coats applied by brush are acceptable for most areas, but additional coats should be added for kitchen and bathroom use. The surface will be slightly brittle and may show scratches but these can be touched up with a tinted wax. Varnish-finished surfaces can be scrubbed cleaned with soapy water, or wiped with thinners.
These stains are varnishes with added color pigment. Although they can be somewhat more challenging to apply than wax stains, the upshot is Varnish Stains are available in an extensive range of beautiful tones and tints.