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.
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.
I 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.
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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.
And, 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
First, 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.
Among 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.
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.
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.)
If 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).
Here 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.
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
When 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.
2. For American cherry, use a conditioner if applying a stain.
This 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
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:
- Best water borne polyurethanes
- Most popular hardwood flooring species
- How to reduce scratches in hardwood floors