7 Ways How to Distress furniture

Distressing furniture has been the easiest method of giving a brand new look.

This is particularly for old furniture sets that might need to show off their original character.

When furniture owners decide to distress their furniture sets, they can do it simply though it may take time.

What is Distressed furniture, and why do it?

Distressing furniture breathes fresh life into old pieces. It entails painting furniture and removing some of the paint to reveal the stained wood beneath. Distressed wood has a rustic appearance.

Distressed furniture is purposefully worn to appear antique. To add wear and tear, sandpaper, paint strippers, and distressing mediums are needed.

Furniture that has been distressed has a nostalgic and cozy feel, and many people prefer “lived-in” homes versus immaculate ones.

Distressing furniture involves hand-applying age and character with tools or chemicals.

However, there are 7 ways how to distress furniture or make new wood look old that homeowners might want to try.

Each method requires different techniques and tools. All in all, distressing furniture is worth trying to gain the best performance for any furniture.

1. Sandpaper for Distress Furniture

Sandpaper is the main tool for distressing furniture. This tool is considered the most effective one. Yet, the sanding methods vary, depending on the paint users want to apply to makeover their furniture sets.

Sanding is the required process to remove dark stain coats. Through sanding, old paint layers have vanished. It makes the repainting process smoother.  

The best sandpaper for distressing chalk paint is 220 grit. It is coarse enough to remove paint while not too quickly easily. You can distress with a single swipe of 220 grit sandpaper.

2. Distressing Furniture with Chalk Paint

Nothing beats the power of chalk paint. This paint always works well on all kinds of furniture.

It can deliver a fantastic look on old furniture as well. The preparation of painting with chalk paint is also very easy with simple supplies.

Besides chalk paint and paintbrush, they need transparent soft wax, sandpaper, and a sanding block.

First, use sandpaper to sand some surfaces until it is smooth enough. Make sure all debris and dirt are clean, so there is no bump on the surface.

One of the best aspects of chalk paint is that it does not require any sanding of the surfaces.

Instead, they only need to ensure they can sand surfaces that aren’t even. After sanding, wash the surface with soapy water that is about room temperature.

There are several color choices of chalk paint. For sure, users can choose the one that suits their taste. Whatever the color is, users can apply it once whenever they feel enough. But, applying chalk paint twice is fine for those who want to change the overall look of the old wooden furniture.

Remember that applying the second coat is required when the first coat is dry. Use another paintbrush for the second application.

Use soft wax to seal the coat to avoid damage to the furniture. Don’t forget to work in well-ventilated areas to avoid chemical exposure.

3. Distressing Furniture with Paint

The basic concept of distressing is repainting wooden furniture. Distressing furniture with paint without sanding it first might still work. But, the result can be dissatisfying whenever there are bumps on the furniture surface.  

Flawless finishing can be shown whenever homeowners use sandpaper for distressing furniture.

Refinishing with paint after the furniture is clean from any layer and debris can deliver significant results. So far, distressed furniture has become the most popular alternative for homeowners to enjoy variations on their furniture.

Many ask whether they need to paint with a thick or thin layer. Thick or thin painting layers are just fine. If users don’t mind sanding through thicker layers, they can paint as thick as they desire.  

Use coarse-grit sandpaper to lightly scratch the wood to make furniture with a worn look. Put on a base coat of paint and let it dry. Then put a crackling antique finish on top.

When the paint dries, there will be certain areas where it starts to flake off, making it look like it’s getting old.

You can use regular flat latex paint to make furniture look old. It’s a good way to save money.

Flat latex paint is simple to sand and can be aged with vinegar and water. You can layer two colors with flat latex paint to make many different looks.

The best paint for distressing is latex, but you can also use acrylic.

Fixing too much-distressed paint

Don’t worry if you damage your painted furniture too much! There are ways out.

Putting a layer of paint over the damaged area is one way to fix it.

This hides their flaws and makes them look more finished.

You can also fill in any damaged spots with wood filler.

Sand it until it is smooth after it has dried. Then paint over it with your favorite color.

You could also use a dry brush to add a tiny bit of paint to very worn areas to make them look less old.

4. Distress Furniture With Multiple Colors

Multiple colors for distressed furniture are fine.

But, owners should make sure they choose colors that suit each other. The method is still the same in which sanding is required though it shouldn’t be too hard.

Start painting with the first color from top to bottom.

When all the surfaces are all covered, leave it overnight. After drying, paint the next color with the same method as the first coat.

The trick to producing the look of weathered paint on new wood is to use two coats of different colored paints. Typically, the bottom coat is white or another light color; you can use white paint primer.

Then, a topcoat, often blue, red, or some other bold color, is added to the top and is partially removed.

5. Try Distressing Furniture With Vinegar

Even if vinegar is easy to find and costs very low, distressing furniture with this substance can be tricky.

Things can get messy because certain substances are used to mix with vinegar. Those who want a darker furniture look can mix the vinegar with shredded steel wool within a jar and keep it for a night. Vinegar creates a silvery-gray appearance.

You can also fill a spray bottle with vinegar and a smaller portion of water. After painting and allowing the furniture to dry, spray on the vinegar solution. Use a rag to rub the furniture and remove some of the paint.

Before applying the vinegar solution, users should sand the wooden furniture until the original finish is removed. Or else the solution cannot adhere to the furniture surface. Once it is ready, then stain the wood with the vinegar solution.

Black tea is a simple way to stain the wood and give a new piece of furniture that distressed look.

Some people prefer to paint the solution instead of spraying it. They consider that brush strokes can reveal the real color.

Apply the solution twice and ensure that the first application is dry before applying the next one.

Still, the furniture needs protection with any finishing wax to maintain the newly painted aged wood.

Finishes for Different Woods using vinegar

You can compare the two kinds of vinegar in different ways, such as:

White oak: Both types of vinegar give a gray finish, but distilled vinegar has a bluish tint.

Walnut: Both types of vinegar leave a gray mark on the wood. The color of the distilled vinegar is a medium gray, while the color of the apple cider vinegar is a nice bluish gray.

Pallet oak: is a brownish-gray color that looks like apple cider vinegar.

Poplar: Apple cider vinegar doesn’t make this wood very dark. If you want the stain on this wood to be darker, you can add more steel wool or use distilled vinegar instead.

Cherry: The finish on the distilled vinegar is a pretty medium gray, while the finish on the apple cider vinegar is a rough mix of gray and brown.

Pine: A finish made with distilled vinegar is gray, while a finish made with apple cider vinegar is red.

Cedar: The solution made from distilled water gives a weathered gray color, while apple cider vinegar gives a medium brown color.

Maple: Distilled vinegar makes a soft, pale gray color, and apple cider vinegar makes a soft, pale tan color.

Mahogany: The distilled vinegar is dark gray, and the apple cider vinegar is dark brown.

Another method of antiquing wood using vinegar and baking soda

Put the wood you want to age in a well-lit area.

To make a paste, mix baking soda and water in equal amounts.

Use the soda paste on wood that hasn’t been treated. Make sure to spread the soda paste over the whole surface.

Fill a spray bottle with pure vinegar and spray it all over the wood that has been coated with baking soda paste.

When mixing vinegar with baking soda, you get the graying antique finish.

Let the wood dry in direct sunlight for six hours.

Use a dry brush to remove the paste, and then use a damp towel to remove the rest.

If the finish isn’t as dark as you want, repeat the process as often as you need.

Advantages of using vinegar to distress furniture

You don’t have dust flying everywhere, with vintage furniture that could have lead inside the varnish or toxic paint.

Distress using the rag and vinegar method makes the furniture looks more authentic, and you don’t have the scratches and scrapes you get when you use a sanding block.

6. Vaseline and Spray Paint for Distressing Furniture

Vaseline (petroleum jelly) has long been used as a paint repellent. Using vaseline to distress furniture is a quick and easy approach to distress your painted furniture. What users need is vaseline, sandpaper, and spray paint or paintbrush.

  1. Sanding the paint of the old furniture can show off the basic layer. Sanding just gives a smooth, worn look that is different.
  2. Apply any desired paint color and let it dry thoroughly.
  3. Then, apply the vaseline with a paintbrush, particularly on chipped areas. Vaseline makes a layer between the surface you want to paint and the paint that doesn’t stick. So, the paint didn’t stick to the furniture covered in vaseline. Vaseline is only needed in small amounts.
  4. Afterward, spray the paint on the whole furniture surface. Vaseline can make the paint stick very well. But, it is essential to do it slowly. Or else the paint may get anywhere.
  5. Spraying paint is much easier than applying the coat with a paintbrush. Let dry for approximately four to five hours.
  6. Then, get a paper towel or a damp cloth to rub off the Vaseline coating. The areas where the vaseline was applied rubbed off pretty easily. The result is amazing, as the paint looks smoother.
  7. The paint is spreading as well as the vaseline is rubbed off. But be careful not to rub off too much paint.

When applying more than one color of paint to a surface, sand it so that the first layer shows through.

It would be best to have high-grit sandpaper, a light touch, and patience.

Pay attention to where you put the petroleum jelly. It was used where furniture gets used a lot and naturally wears out faster—corners, legs, edges of drawers, and pulls.

If you want to paint your furniture with latex paint, you should sand and prime it first.

Pros and Cons of distressing furniture with vaseline:

Pros: Using vaseline to distress furniture gives it a beautiful chippy distressed look. It happens quickly. It’s simple. And it’s on the messier side of things!

Cons: Distressing furniture with vaseline, it’s more difficult to achieve a genuinely worn look in the larger and flatter portions of your piece.

7. Wax Application

Particularly for wax application, it is essential to apply it only to certain areas where the second paint should appear.

The paint second layer cannot adhere to those areas, so it will be easy to get rid. Afterward, let it dry completely before distressing the wooden furniture with sandpaper, as sandpaper can show off more color.

Before distressing, you should put on at least one layer of wax because the paint is chalky, and sanding it makes much dust.

Buff after 30 minutes. You might get shiny and dirty spots if you do it too soon. Wax needs to rest. The next day, you can make it better.

Wax keeps the dust from sanding in place. The dust would be everywhere if you distressed the wood before waxing. It was distressing after waxing gives you more control.

Other Ways To Distress Wood

Authentic Texture is another technique for distressing wood. Using a hammer to make dents and gouges in the wood gives it the illusion of being used for a long time and gives the furniture an authentic appearance.

Distressing furniture with all of those methods is very simple. The result is even more impressive if users use the right materials properly than the original paint.

What Styles are Distressed furniture

Distressing is a versatile approach to improving many different types of furniture.

Weathered wood frames complement vintage images, and rustic buffets and sideboards are complemented by lodge-style decor.

Adding patina to antique bedroom sets and hints of wear to newly built mid-century modern tables helps them complement family heirlooms.

Shabby Chic incorporates distressing and antiquing.

Distressed furniture comes in various styles, from farmhouse to rustic to nautical, offering virtually limitless customization options.

Distressing is possible with wood, glass, metal, plastic, stone, concrete, plaster, and paint. On solid pine furniture, distressing works best.

Decorating with Distressed Furniture

Distressed furniture can be used to fill huge spaces or as a simple accent piece.

Wire-brushed baker racks and whitewashed or pickled cabinets are essential in farmhouse kitchens, while a crackle-finished urn is essential in sitting rooms.

Learning how to distress furniture and furnishings is a useful skill to have in your home decor toolbox.

Scroll to Top