How to Prevent Your White Bookcase From Turning Yellow

If you bought a white bookcase and now notice that portions of it are turning yellow, you may feel a bit dismayed. Fortunately, you aren’t without options. We are going to assist you in reversing this unwanted effect. Soon, your white furniture will look as bright and beautiful as the day you bought it.

Reasons Why Your White Bookcase Turned Yellow

Halifax Tall White Bookcase with Storage

If you bought white furniture and are now looking at yellow furniture, you’re not alone. This is actually a common concern that many people face. The good news is that it’s fairly simple to narrow it down. 

The most likely culprit is oil-based paint. The decision to use this type of paint is understandable. Oil-based paint works wonders in protecting your furniture against scuffs and dents. 

As beneficial as this is, oil-based paint tends to turn yellow over time. This becomes even more noticeable if the walls behind the white furniture are white, as well.

It’s also possible that your yellowed paint is the result of the environment. Sometimes this has a negative effect on white furniture, or even other colors.


This has to do with the natural aging process of the paint itself. When oil-based paints dry, the paint develops molecules. Known as chromophores, these molecules are responsible for producing changes to the paint.

Moreover, the chromophores need a catalyst to activate them. That catalyst is light, or a lack thereof. The drying process of oil-based paint needs light to break down chromophores. 

When this happens, the chromophores can’t wreak havoc on your furniture. Thus, the paint continues to age with its original color. 

What if you placed your white bookshelf in an area of your home that doesn't get any light? This will likely result in you noticing yellowing at some point.

White oil-based paint that doesn’t get much light will create a tint along the surface of your furniture. This tint will vary from dark to light yellow. While it may start out as gentle yellowing here and there, it can eventually get to where it’s hard to ignore.

How to Fix Yellow Furniture

Halifax White Bookcase Hutch Unit

Whether you have a white computer desk or bookcase, they could turn yellow over time. Fortunately, you aren’t without options if this happens to you.

There are many reasons why your furniture turned yellow. As you will soon discover, there are a few different things you may have to try in order to get the outcome you want. 

Let’s take a moment to discuss some key things you can do to either reverse yellowing or prevent it altogether.

1. Good Lighting

One thing you can do to counter yellowing is through your light source. The light will break down the chromophores and reverse the yellowing effect.

This means you need serious rearranging to get the lighting right. The effort is worth it, since it will bring out the qualities of your white furniture. Try to position your furniture so that it can get plenty of natural lighting during the day. 

If you have a small white desk with doors, be aware that the interior can turn yellow. As such, consider installing a small cabinet or access lights behind the doors. Doing so will ensure that sufficient light can get in and break down the chromophores.

You may see noticeable improvements in the yellowing in as little as a day. Remember to provide a light source for your furniture. This will help prevent yellowing as the paint ages. 

It’s important to note that oxidation can produce yellowing much in the same way as chromophores. With steady natural or artificial light, you can effectively eliminate further yellowing.

Obviously, providing light is much easier if you have a white desk chair that sits out in the open. But for larger furniture and those with doors, you may need to get creative in your positioning.

2. Moisture Control

Sometimes, moisture is to blame for the discoloration in your white furniture. This can be brought on by many factors. Those being proximity to the kitchen cooking area, leaks, cigarette smoke, and more. 

If you believe a leak is the cause of your white paint turning yellow, find the source of the leak. Once you have identified it, figure out the most effective way to repair it. 

Once the leak is fixed, you can move on to repairing the stain in your furniture. Begin by gently sanding the stain using sandpaper, preferably medium-grade. 

Follow this up with a stain-blocking primer. Finally, try to track down the exact matching paint color and try your best to cover the spot using a paintbrush.

If cooking grease or smoke caused your furniture to yellow, it’s going to take a bit more work to fix the problem. Before starting your repairs, make sure you are wearing eye goggles and using gloves.

You will also need the following items to complete the task:

  • Trisodium phosphate
  • ¼ measuring cup
  • A gallon of water
  • Clean rag
  • Sponge

Measure out ¼ of a cup of trisodium phosphate and pour it into the gallon of water. Wait until the trisodium phosphate has completely diluted. Then, dip your sponge in the new solution.

Remember to put on your goggles and gloves before you start working with chemicals. It’s always best to practice safety first.

Next, wipe down the discolored area with the sponge. This solution should clean the stain pretty quickly. Once you are satisfied with the outcome, use your rag to dry your furniture. 

If the stain is too severe to clean, you may have to paint over it to cover it up. Just be sure to use a water-based paint this time around. The contents of the stain could eat through oil-based paint.

The great thing about water-based paint is that it doesn’t react to any pollutants in the air. Thus, it is much safer for the environment. Furthermore, you will find that water-based paint has far less of an odor than that of oil-based paint. 

It’s worth noting that if you have breathing issues, you may want to stick to using water-based paint. Not only is this paint much better for the planet, but it’s much safer for humans, as well.

3. Oxidation and Curing

If you have tried all of the methods outlined above to no avail, oxidation is likely the problem. Oxidation is a natural process for oil-based paints as they cure. Some paints are made with synthetic resins, while others use plant-based oils. 

These compounds react to oxygen, causing the paint to harden as it dries. It won’t be much of an issue if this is all that happened. Unfortunately, yellowing can follow, leaving your beautiful white bookcase dull and off-putting.

It’s true that there is no way to reverse the yellowing effects of oxidation. However, you can certainly repaint your furniture. You have a couple of options in which paint you should use. Just be sure to use a primer before you paint.

For best results, stick with water-based paints. These paints dry via evaporation. This is effective for avoiding oxidation and putting you right back to square one. Perhaps more importantly, you won’t have to worry about yellowing anymore.

If you want your furniture to be as white and vibrant as possible, look for 100% acrylic paints. All-acrylic paints contain resins that produce a vivid finish. This is especially true when compared to traditional latex paint.

Preventing Future Yellowing

Halifax Tall Narrow Bookcase with Drawer

As you can see from the discussion above, yellowing is a problem that’s better off avoided if at all possible. Not only does it take time to fix yellow furniture, but it can also get mighty pricey. This is especially true if you have a unique shade of white. 

Knowing this, the best thing you can do is to work to prevent any future yellowing in your white furniture. You will save yourself a lot of hassle by implementing our tips in your home.

You can’t always tell what kind of paint is in the fabrication of your furniture. As such, you should assume that it could turn yellow without the proper precautions. 

Take a proactive approach to protect your furniture. You are much less likely to see yellowing going forward.

What You Can Do

Halifax Tall White Bookcase with 3 Drawers (on the left), Halifax Dining Table 200cm (center) and Halifax Tall Narrow Bookcase with Drawer (on the right).

If you are repainting furniture, make sure that you only use oil-based paint on certain areas. These should be places that are sure to get continual light throughout the day. It doesn’t matter whether it is natural or artificial. As long as it’s getting an ample amount of light, your furniture should be in good shape.

Let’s say you got the Halifax White Painted Grand Bookcase Display Cabinet that we linked to at the start. You must ensure that it is placed strategically in your home or office.

This means avoiding areas that produce heat, such as ductwork or radiators. Heat can result in the oxidation process accelerating. When this happens, it can cause your furniture to yellow a lot sooner.

If you bought this grand cabinet to go in your kitchen, consider installing exhaust fans. These will assist in drawing out harmful fumes. What's more, it will also assist in preventing the paint from staining.

What’s more, your kitchen stands to get hotter at times than any other room in your home. If you’re cooking, consider opening windows or doors. This will help move heat out of the kitchen and away from your cabinet.

Try to get in the habit of doing this every time the temperature rises around your white furniture. Doing so will help extend the vibrancy of the paint. It will also play a role in reducing the likelihood of it turning yellow.

If you or someone in your household smokes, make it a rule that no smoking is allowed around the bookcase. Taking this precaution will go a long way in preventing stains from setting in the white paint.

Want another helpful tip to help ensure the longevity of your furniture? Try to use different types of paint at separate times. Let’s say you were repainting a yellowed piece of furniture using oil-based paint. But on one section you need to use water-based paint, such as covering a stain caused by moisture.

Ammonia is released when water-based paint dries. As such, this could work to speed up the oxidation of the oil-based paint. When this happens, it can cause more yellowing to occur. 

It’s best to play it safe and allow one type of paint to fully dry before proceeding to paint with another type. Your project will take longer, but you will have much less work to do in the long run.

Last but not least, consider the positioning of your furniture. Placing white furniture in front of a white wall will cause any yellowing to stand out. You should try putting white furniture in front of a dark-colored wall. This will make any yellowing a lot harder to detect.

To Sum Up

By following these tips, you can ensure that your white bookcase keeps its natural appeal. White furniture is revered for its beauty and charm. By keeping it looking its best, you can look forward to long-lasting service.