Why Does Woodwork Go Yellow?

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Jacky C

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Why does woodwork go yellow? It’s a question that many people have, and it’s one that has a few different answers. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the reasons why woodwork may turn yellow over time, and what you can do to prevent it.

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Woodwork, whether it’s furniture, floors or trim, can suffer from a condition called “yellowing.” While there are a number of possible causes, the most common is sunlight exposure. Ultraviolet (UV) rays bleaching the wood over time, causing it to lose its original luster and color. In some cases, the yellowing may be accompanied by darkening or graying of the wood.

While sunlight is the most common cause of yellowing, it’s not the only one. Other causes include:
* Age – Older woodwork is more likely to yellow due to years of sunlight exposure
* finishes – Certain finishes (such as lacquer or varnish) can cause yellowing over time
* Environmental conditions – High humidity levels can cause woodwork to yellow
* Smoke – Woodwork in homes that have been smoked in (from cigarettes, cigars, etc.) is more likely to yellow

The best way to prevent woodwork from yellowing is to keep it out of direct sunlight. If that’s not possible, you can try using window treatments (such as blinds or curtains) to filter out some of the UV rays. You can also repaint or refinish your woodwork on a regular basis to help protect it from sun damage.

The Science of Wood

Wood is a beautiful, natural material that can be used for a variety of purposes. It’s strong, durable, and easy to work with. However, one downside of wood is that it can go yellow over time. Let’s take a look at why this happens and how you can prevent it.

The Structure of Wood

Wood is composed of long, thin cells called fibers. These fibers are stacked and glued together with a substance called lignin. The amount of lignin in a piece of wood will determine how hard or soft the wood is. Softer woods, like pine, have more lignin than harder woods, like maple.

Lignin is also what gives wood its yellow color. When wood is exposed to sunlight, the UV rays cause the lignin molecules to break down and change color. This process is accelerated by heat, so you’ll notice that woodwork near a fire tends to turn yellow more quickly than other areas.

The Properties of Wood

Wood is a string of cellulose molecules held together by lignin. The strength of the bonds between these molecules determine the properties of the wood. Lighter woods are easier to work with because the bonds are not as strong, while harder woods are more difficult to work but are stronger and more durable. The type of tree the wood comes from also determines its properties.

There are two types of wood, hardwood and softwood. Hardwoods come from deciduous trees, which lose their leaves in winter, while softwoods come from evergreen trees. Hardwoods are generally more difficult to work with but they are also more durable. Softwoods are easier to work with but they are not as strong or durable.

The properties of wood also depend on how the tree is grown. If a tree is grown in a crowded forest, it will be shorter and have a thinner trunk than a tree that is grown in an open field. Trees that grow in the shade will have shorter and thinner branches than those that grow in the sun.

The Causes of Yellowing

Many people think that woodwork goes yellow because of a lack of sunlight. However, there are a few other causes of yellowing. One of the main causes is the presence of nitrogen in the air. Nitrogen is a gas that is produced by car exhausts and power stations. It can also come from burning coal and gas. When nitrogen reacts with sunlight, it can cause a chemical reaction that turns wood yellow.


One common cause of yellowing is due to sunlight. Over time, the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can penetrate the finish and begin to break down the wood fibers, causing them to change color. The UV rays will also break down any pigments in the finish that might be protecting the wood from fading.

To help protect your woodwork from yellowing, follow these tips:
-Avoid placing furniture in direct sunlight.
-Draw curtains or blinds during peak sun hours.
-Consider using UV-blocking window film.
-Be sure to apply a fresh coat of finish every few years to help protect the wood.


Water is the arch enemy of woodwork. It causes warping, cracking, and, of course, yellowing. Water doesn’t just come from rain and spilled drinks; it’s also in the air we breathe. Depending on where you live, the air can be full of moisture (humidity). This moisture can seep into wood furniture and make it yellow.


While sunlight is the primary cause of fading and yellowing, heat can also have an effect, especially on light-colored woods. The heat from a radiator can cause light woods to turn yellow or darken in color.


One major reason for why woodwork goes yellow is the presence of chemicals in the environment. Yellowness is typically caused by VOCs, or volatile organic compounds. These are particles that are emitted into the air and eventually settle onto surfaces, where they can cause discoloration. VOCs are found in many everyday household items, such as cleaning products, paint fumes, and even scented candles.

Another potential cause of yellowing woodwork is mercury contamination. Mercury is a heavy metal that can be present in both indoor and outdoor air. It can also be found in certain types of fish, so if you eat a lot of seafood, you may be more susceptible to mercury poisoning. Mercury poisoning can cause a range of neurological and developmental problems, as well as yellowing of the skin, nails, and eyes. In severe cases, it can lead to death.

Finally, another reason your woodwork may be yellowing is due to exposure to UV radiation. This type of radiation is most commonly associated with sun exposure, but it can also come from other sources, such as tanning beds and fluorescent light bulbs. UV radiation can damage DNA and lead to premature aging of the skin. It can also cause discoloration of wood furnishings over time.

Prevention and Treatment

Woodwork can go yellow for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because of the type of wood, other times it’s because of the finish that was used. There are a few things you can do to prevent your woodwork from going yellow, and a few things you can do to treat it if it does go yellow. Let’s get into the details.

Finishing the Wood

After the wood is sanded and smoothed, a finish is applied to protect the wood and enhance its appearance. stain is a type of finish that penetrates the wood and adds color. Stain can be applied with a brush, pad, sprayer, or cloth, and it’s important to follow the grain of the wood when applying it. Wood sealer is a clear finish that helps protect against water damage and fading. Wood Sealer can also be applied with a brush, pad, sprayer, or cloth.

Storing the Wood

Woods that are protected from light have a much lower likelihood of developing a yellowed patina. If you must store wood inside, do so in a dim area such as a basement or closet. If you’re storing the wood outside, cover it with a tarp or piece of cloth to keep the sun from bleaching it.

You can also buy products specifically designed to protect wood from sunlight. These products work by creating a barrier between the wood and ultraviolet rays. One product, called Sun Guard, is available in spray and liquid forms. It can be applied to both finished and unfinished wood surfaces


In conclusion, there are a few reasons why woodwork may go yellow over time. The most common reason is due to exposure to sunlight, which can cause the wood to fade and change color. Other causes include exposure to other types of light, such as fluorescent light, as well as heat and humidity. Yellowing can also be caused by certain finishes or treatments that are applied to the wood. if you’re concerned about your woodwork turning yellow, it’s best to consult with a professional for advice on how to prevent it.

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