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How to Distress Painted Furniture with Stain or Wax

In this tutorial, learn how to distress painted furniture with stain or wax.

In fact, I use these simple furniture distressing techniques to upcycle and sell used furniture for a profit.

If you like refinishing furniture, be sure to grab my FREE chalk paint recipe at the end of this article.

So, let’s get started with a list of things I used in this project.

Tools and Materials

Video Tutorial

There are several things which are difficult to fully explain with words and images, so be sure to check out the video tutorial below!


I built 2 identical console tables using scrap 2x4s and 2x6s for some friends.
These are the same friends I built the distressed farmhouse pantry door for earlier this year.

In order to match the farmhouse and shabby chic decor in my friend’s home, I used 2 different furniture distressing techniques on each console table.
I used wood stain on the first console table.
On the second console table, I used creme wax.
Both distressing techniques create a vintage, aged look.

furniture distressing technique using wax

At the end of this post, please leave me a comment and let me know which technique you like best!

Distressing Painted Furniture Overview

Distressing painted furniture involves using techniques and products to make the piece appear naturally aged.

Time needed: 1 hour.

How to Distress Painted Wood Furniture with Stain or Wax

  1. Apply Wood Stain or Dark Wax to Small Sections

    First, apply wood stain or creme wax to a small section of the painted furniture with a brush, staining pad, or rag.
    how to distress painted wood furniture using wax

  2. Remove Stain or Wax with Rag

    Next, use a rag to remove the stain until the desired distressed to distress painted wood furniture using wax

  3. Apply Protective Finish

    Apply a water-based sealer to protect the distressed finish such as Polycrylic, Shellac, or to distress painted wood furniture

Paint Wood Furniture

First, I painted each piece of furniture with white semi-gloss paint.
This is the first step for both distressing techniques.
Furthermore, it makes no difference if the painted furniture is old or new.

distress painted furniture techniques

I find semi-gloss or satin/eggshell paint works best for distressing painted furniture.

The semi-gloss sheen makes it easier to wipe off wood stain or wax as I’ll show you in later in this article.

Keep in mind, flat or matte paint can be distressed. However, I find I work harder and don’t have as much control over the distressing process.

Additionally, I always use the cheapest paint I can find when I know I plan to distress wood furniture.
Ultimately, it makes no sense to paint with expensive paint for furniture distressing projects.

Distress Painted Furniture with Stain

To distress furniture with stain over paint, I used varathane weathered gray wood stain.

I like using gray wood stain on white paint because it produces a vintage look.

how to distress painted wood furniture with stain

Also, this blends well with antique and farmhouse decor. Ultimately, any color stain works for distressing painted furniture.
For example, I used light blue and coral wood stain to distress furniture for a coastal beach look.
I use light stain on dark paint and dark stain on light paint.
One of the console tables needed to match the farmhouse pantry door, so I used the same distressing technique.

how to distress furniture with stain

Apply Wood Stain to Paint

First, I applied the gray stain with a chip brush in small sections in order to prevent the stain from drying, which makes it difficult to remove.

apply wood stain on painted furniture

I use chip brushes to apply stain simply because they are cheap.
Also, brushes work better than rags for this furniture distressing technique.

Remove Stain with Rag

First, I used a shop rag to wipe the stain.

remove stain from distress furniture with rag

Stain absorbs into the paint regardless of how much I wiped the surface. Essentially, this is supposed to happen.

remove stain from distress furniture with rag

It’s also difficult to remove the stain from the seams, corners, and other hard to reach places with a rag. Again, this is supposed to happen.

remove stain from distress furniture with rag

Ultimately, this makes the furniture appear as if it were naturally distressed.

As a quick tip, I find it helpful to have 2 or 3 rags available.
It becomes difficult to remove stain as the rags get saturated with stain.

Once I achieved the distressed look, I moved to the next section.

As I mentioned previously, the semi-gloss paint really allows me to control the distressed look and work much faster.

Distress Painted Furniture with Wax

For the second furniture distressing technique, I used the same process as the first technique.
However, I used dark creme wax instead of stain.

This wax is normally used with chalk paint, but can be used on raw wood or painted surfaces as well.

how to distress painted wood furniture with dark creme wax

Apply Wax to Painted Furniture

First, I used a chip brush to apply the dark creme wax to the painted furniture.

apply dark creme wax to distress painted furniture

I noticed the creme wax dries very quickly. Consequently, I worked in smaller sections.

apply dark creme wax to distress painted furniture

Additionally, it blends more deeply into the paint than stain.
Since the wax dries very quickly, the chip brush became stiff after the first 2 sections.

use hand to apply dark creme wax to distress painted furniture

As a result, I used my hand with a latex glove to apply the wax.

use hand to apply dark creme wax to distress painted furniture

I found this to be much easier and faster as well.

use hand to apply dark creme wax to distress painted furniture

Remove Creme Wax

I removed the wax with multiple rags until I achieved my desired distressed look.

distressing furniture with wax
distressing furniture with wax

Protect Distressed Finish

To protect and preserve the distressed finish, I used 3 coats of polycrylic.

I lightly hand sanded with 220 grit sandpaper between coats.

distress furniture polycrylic finish

Distress Painted Furniture: Wax or Stain

Ultimately, both furniture distressing techniques produced awesome results.

how to distress painted furniture techniques comparison
furniture distressing techniques comparison

The dark creme wax produced a more distressed antique look.
I used the entire can of wax for the console table and the can was $10.00.
Also, the wax required a bit more elbow grease.

distress painted wood furniture with wax

The stain produced a vintage look and was a bit easier to apply and control.

distress painted wood furniture with stain
distress painted wood furniture with stain

Also, the stain goes a very long way. I could distress 15 to 20 console tables with one can of stain.
The 32 ounce can of stain costs $16.00.

Is Wax or Stain Better to Distress Painted Furniture

Ultimately, I prefer to distress furniture with stain.
It’s more forgiving, cheaper, and produced the best vintage and antique look.

In conclusion, I hope you learned how to distress painted furniture with stain or wax..
Be sure to visit our online store for DIY plans and Handmade items.

Let me know in the comments which technique you like better.

how to distress painted wood furniture

The Best DIY Farmhouse Pantry Door Project

People love the farmhouse and shabby chic decor style for their home. This style is no longer just a popular trend, it’s here to stay.

Click HERE to see the best DIY farmhouse pantry door project for your home.

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Tuesday 15th of September 2020

Hi. In all the comments and instructions above I am just unsure about whether I need to undercoat the piece before using semi gloss? I assume a light sand, undercoat and then semi gloss followed by either stain or crème wax?? Thanks!


Saturday 5th of September 2020

I LOVED this video! Thanks for posting. Quick question...The furniture I want to distress has been painted with chalk paint. Will this technique work on chalk paint?


Thursday 30th of July 2020

Ok loveeee this and I really want to try BUT Sanding this piece of furniture is really tricky. We were thinking of using liquid sander before the white semi gloss paint. Then do the distressed wax technique you show here. I’m assuming you have to sand this between Coates? And if so can you just use a sand block or paper because We are attempting to do this on stall bars which has a lot of corners and crevices. Any thoughts welcome! Thanks!

Alberto Valencia

Wednesday 22nd of July 2020

Very good system of painting congratulation

Tammy Hammock

Wednesday 8th of July 2020

I have a wood table that the finish is wearing off and I was thinking of painting over it and trying to distress for that farmhouse look. Do I need to do anything to the table to prep it for the paint? A friend said I needed to strip it first. I don't want to do something that messy. Also the chairs are a greenish color and I want to do the same thing to them.

Comments are closed.