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Brazilian Cherry: How to eliminate the red

Best ways to get rid of the redness and orange tones in Brazilian Cherry, Mahogany, Tigerwood and American  Cherry hardwoods.

Do you have Brazilian Cherry hardwood floor? And, are you looking to drown out the redness of these floors (or other red, orange or cherry species?  If so, you’ve come to the right place.

how to eliminate the red from Brazilian Cherry hardwood floors

Brazilian Cherry floors were extremely popular 8 to 10 years, but now these floors have become a bit dated as red floors are out of style, and often don’t match the rest of your hardwood flooring.


how to get rid of the red from brazilian cherry hardwoodI get calls all the time, especially among new home owners, asking me how to get the red out of the cherry floors…or how change the color to make them darker or lighter, so let me share with you the 3 options you have.


Please note that this article contains affiliate links.  You can read my full disclosure at the bottom of the page.


How to eliminate the red and cherry tones in Brazilian Cherry

There are 2 main ways to eliminate the redness and 1 alternative to reduce the impact the red/orange for woods that are cherry colored.  Before I share these, let me preface this by saying that Brazilian Cherry is a different species than oak, and the wood itself is naturally reddish/orange all the way through.  So, when you sand the floors, they will still be red/reddish.


brazilian cherry and how to sand out the red and orange tonesAnd, to state the obvious, the smooth (and pretty) graining that the wood has will still remain.  And, the color variation you see across the boards will still remain.


Each species starts at a different color and each species absorbs different stains different.  So, ALWAYS test to see what the stains look like on your floors.


Finally, if you are refinishing American Cherry floors (which is different than Brazilian Cherry), please see the special notes below.


1.  Go darker with a very dark stain

dark stain to camouflage the redness in brazilian cherryFirst, the easier way to eliminate and drown out the redness is Brazilian Cherry (or Mahogany or American cherry) is to simply use a darker stain to camouflage the redness. In general, the darker you go, the less red you’ll see.


dura seal dark walnut to hide the red of Brazilian CherryAmong the semi transparent stains (or normal stains), we have found that Dark Walnut made by Duraseal comes out the darkest on the exotic cherry species.  For some odd reason, it comes out darker on Brazilian Cherry than ebony does (even though ebony comes out darker on Oak). This seems to hold true for almost all reddish hardwoods.  It’s just the way the wood absorbs the stain.

buy it on amazon - duraseal dark walnut stain to hide the red

Now, when you use this stain, it will not fully eliminate the red.  Your floors will read as dark, but with some underlying red undertones.  It reminds me of the stain color called Royal Mahogany.

Before and after Mahogany with dark walnut stain


Here’s a before/after picture of a Mahogany floor with dark walnut stain.  It looks very dark (which is very stylish), but if you look closely, you’ll still see some red undertones.  (These pictures are from the same kitchen, but different sections.)


duraseal true black to eliminate the red in Santos Mahogany and Brazilian CherryIf you are looking to darker and hide the red even more, then, I’d suggest a new stain called True Black.  Unlike the standard stains, this one is more opaque and darker, so it will hide the red more, as well as hide the graining more (and make the floors darker…obviously).


true black stain is opaque to camouflage red in Brazilian cherry hardwoodHere is a picture showing True Black on and oak floor.  As you can see, it’s very dark.  And, it’s a bit challenging to keep it clean as it shows everything.


BUT, what often works best on Brazilian Cherry and Mahogany, if you want to drown out the red even more is to mix in some True Black with Dark Walnut . You can start by testing a 50/50 blend.  And, of course you can adjust it to make it 25%/75% or 75%/25% until you get to your desired color.

buy it on amazon - duraseal dark walnut stain to hide the red

The darker you go, the less you’ll see the red and the less you’ll see the color variation across the boards.  (And, the less you’ll see the graining within each board).


2.  Bleach the hardwood first

The 2nd way to get rid of the red in Brazilian Cherry is to bleach the floors.  Now, I must warn you that you need to hire an installer who is experienced here, especially as it’s both tricky to refinish Brazilian Cherry (since it’s a harder wood and an oily wood) and the bleach needs to be applied carefully and consistently.


This option will cost more (as it’s an extra step and more material is needed) and will add time to your sanding process (usually at least 1 more day for application and drying, but it could be more for large areas).


When you bleach the floors, you are starting with a fresh color palette and drowning out the red. When you do this, it will give you much more flexibility in stain colors (including going mid to lighter).


Now, I do want to caveat that the bleach will not completely drown out the red.  It will just majorly cut it down.  I would not do super light colors.  Whitewashed floors will look terrible on these woods…they will be pinkish.  Light grays also won’t look so hot.


But, mid grays and mid toned colors, as well a mid-dark (and of course dark) stains will work well.


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3.  Use a high grade water borne polyurethane

water based poly for Brazilian Cherry - reduced the rednessWhen you use a water based polyurethane, such as Bona Traffic HD, you can significantly lighten the redness of your Brazilian Cherry (or American Cherry) hardwood floors.  Bona Traffic HD is the best water-based poly, and since it’s water borne, it’s lighter than oil based poly and it doesn’t darken or yellow so much.


Now, I want to be clear here. This will only lighten your cherry flooring…it will NOT eliminate the red.  It will simply look lighter, and a bit more orange than red.  If this is what you’re looking for (i.e. you like the overall color, but just don’t want the floors to be so dark or so red), it’s a great solution.


Related article:  Best brands of water-based polyurethane


Videos: Eliminating the red in Brazilian Cherry

Here are 2 great videos from Chris at Duffy Floors (in Boston).  The first video shows a wide range of samples of lightening Brazilian Cherry.

This second video show some Brazilian Cherry samples that are stained darker.


Important tips when sanding Brazilian hardwood and other exotic species

1.  Do not use a sealer

This is a common mistake made by refinishers, especially ones that that aren’t flooring experts or ones that have little experience with exotic hardwoods.  It happens quite often with handymen, general contractors of do-it-yourselfers.


Why?  Because Brazilian Cherry and other exotic hardwood are oily.and these oils react with the sealer.  Here are two pictures that someone texted me a few days ago where there was a reaction with the sealer.

don't use a sealer with brazilian cherry   avoid using a sealer when refinishing brazilian cherry hardwood


2.  For American cherry, use a conditioner if applying a stain.

how to get rid of the redness in american cherry woodThis is another novice mistake.  With American Cherry, you need to apply an conditioner before you apply the stain. The conditioner closes the pores so that the stain will penetrate more evenly.  Here’s the wood conditioner that we typically use.


3.  Wait 6 months before adding area rugs

ways to eliminate and reduce te redness of brazilian cherry floors Exotic hardwoods, including Brazilian cherry and American cherry, are very light sensitive.  Over time, both natural and artificial light causes the wood to redden and darken.over time.


Some people are stunned by this when they get new Brazilian hardwood floors – the floors look lighter and more orange than they expected.  Same thing happens the floors are refinished (as you’ve removed the top layer.


But, over time, they will get darker and redder.  Most of this darkening happens over the first 6 months.  For this reason, it’s best to wait 6 months before placing area rugs on the floors.  (For anyone that’s removed an area rug on exotic hardwood floors, they are shocked by the “imprint” they seam to leave as the rest of the floors are exposed by light.


You can minimize this impact by simply waiting before you add area rugs.


4.  Hire a refinisher that is experienced with exotic species

It’s usually best to hire a flooring specialist to refinish your hardwood floors. They just come out better and last longer.  Period.  When dealing with non-oak wood floors, it’s even more important.  Not only do you avoid costly mistakes (like using a sealer when you shouldn’t, or not realizing you need a conditioner), but they also know the proper sanding grits to use for the different species.


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Related hardwood articles:


How to eliminate the redness in Brazilian Cherry, Mahogany, American cherry, and Tigerwood.

20 thoughts on “Brazilian Cherry: How to eliminate the red”

  1. Great article, Debbie. Thanks for sharing. Brazilian cherry has never been a favorite hardwood of mine because of all of the red. It is good to know it can be eliminated.

  2. You mention the use of a conditioner for American Cherry specifically. Would you ever use it for other exotic species since a lot of them seem (at least to me) to take up stain unevenly?

    1. Jade – It varies by wood species if you need a conditioner. You do use it on American Cherry, Maple, Douglas Fir and pine (when you are using a stain). you would not use it for Brazilian Cherry.

  3. I always thought of ebony wood stain as pretty much black. Is the difference between ebony and true black stain mostly one of pigmentation?

    1. Ruthmarie – Yes, there’s a huge difference in those dark stains, and even moreso on Brazilian Cherry. Generally true black looks black and is opaque…similar to how a paint will be. Ebony is semi transparent so you see the wood grain and it looks like a very cool dark brown. on brazilian cherry hardwood, the wood doesn’t absorb it that well so it looks lighter than dark walnut and still has a lot of red undertones, so a mix of red and brown.

  4. It might just be me, but in the video it seems as though adding gray wood stain on the bleached Brazilian Cherry creates a lot of color hues. Some warmer, some cooler. It’s interesting and I like the look, but it seems as though there would be a risk of a lot of variation in hues on the finished product.

  5. I’m really liking the look of the bleached floors with white stain. The graining makes it seem almost a light gray. Something you would never associate with Brazilian cherry. Is there a downside to durability or hardness when you bleach multiple times?

    1. Grace – Glad you love the bleached look on brazilian cherry. It’s very unexpected. If you bleach too often, it can weaken the wood, but you should be fine if you just do it one (or twice)

  6. I have a hallway and stairs in Acacia wood. Although I’ve contacted several wood flooring “experts”, no one thinks that this wood can be sanded to successfully change the color. They agree the wood is thick enough to be sanded, but I’ve been told that the color will visibly show through even after sanding. I live on Long Island (Suffolk County). Do you know of any professionals in this area?

    1. Toni – Well Acacia is not the easiest species to work with – another reason that I’m not a big fan of it. And, it has a log of yellow. You should be able to go darker for sure, but not sure how well the bleach will work with it given the yellow and oily make up. If it’s just a hallway, I’d probably replace it so it goes with the rest of the floor. And, I’m sorry that I don’t know anyone in Suffolk County.

  7. Kimberly Krause

    Thank you for this excellent article and accompanying videos!! We have Brazilian Cherry floors all throughout our home and we are getting ready to do a major remodel and we would like to refinish our Brazilian Cherry floors to a medium-dark brown with as little red in them as possible. Should they be bleached first since I don’t want them super dark? Second question, I am adding new Brazilian Cherry floors to my living room to match the existing floors and refinishing and staining the entire house at the same time. Do you think it will be a problem to get the new floors to match our original 25-year-old Brazilian Cherry floors?? Will they take the stain the same?? I would really appreciate your expert advice.

    1. Kimberly – You have some conflicting objectives here. So the darker you go, the less you’ll see the red. If you go more mid brown, the more you’ll see the red. I would test dark walnut and antique brown. If you go lighter than that, it will probably be to red.

      The new brazilian cherry will be lighter and less red than the already existing brazilian cherry. Over time, it will darken but may never fully catch up. The darker you go, the less you’ll notice this and probably after 2-3 years less of a difference.

  8. Thank you for you info on B. Cherry. I have 2 questions: 1. In addition to dark walnut, what is the next level of dark brown using the mixture of dark walnut with true black, and in what proportion? 2. Could you also use a mixture of dark walnut and ebony for a dark brown and in what proportion? I have an urgency to get the answers to my question because of a deadline to complete the job next week. I would appreciate your help. Thanks!

    1. Leo – you’ll just need to test the mixture to see what works and what you like. I’d start with 50/50 dark walnut/true black and then figure out if you want lighter or darker and then adjust (e.g. 25/75 or 75/25). I would not bother with ebony as that will come out lighter than dark walnut…on brazilian cherry. It’s no absorbed as well.

  9. Fabulous informative site. But I have Ipe floors inside, in a contemporary home (2005)I just bought and had them sanded and have tried samples of dark stain but they end up looking like paint. No Grain shows. I have been told to use Green Tint with a clear Bona water base finish. I live in Miami and No one seems to understand this. What is your advice? Where do I get tint? If I use bleach first should I try using Chlorox?

    1. Emily – Gosh I’m not sure what to recommend. The green tint may help offset the reds. Ipe is smooth grain wood and the darker you go, the less you’ll see the grain, so you may just want to try a lighter dark stain (e.g. antique brown or 50/50 mix of dark walnut and special walnut).

      I have no idea where you’d find a green tint. I might contact Bona as I know they have some colored water based stains including greens. Water stains are very difficult to use (and more expensive) as they don’t apply very evenly. Maybe Bona knows where to get a green tint.

      But, I will tell you, that you are going into unchartered waters on all of this. Hopefully, you are NOT doing this yourself but working with a professional refinisher who is very familiar with all of this (including bleaching). My guy makes a blend but I don’t know exactly what this is.

      But go back to whomever gave you this advice and ask them where to get this and how to do everything. This does not sound right to me at all. generally you only bleach to make lighter, not to go darker. And, test, test, test.

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