In this tutorial, learn how to distress painted wood furniture using easy distressing techniques.

Tools and Materials Used

Weathered Gray Wood Stain
Americana Decor Creme Wax, 8-Ounce, Deep Brown
2 inch chip brushes
Shop Rags
Polycrilic Spray Finish
Cheap white paint


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.

Since the 2 console tables are not my design, I didn’t record or document the build.

If you are interested in building these console tables, I included a link to the plans at the bottom of this post.

In order to match the rustic and shabby chic decor in my friend’s home, I used 2 different furniture distressing techniques on each console table.

Distressing painted furniture usually involves applying stain, wax, and/or sanding the painted surface.

Essentially, distressing techniques make new furniture look old.

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

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.

Distressing Technique Overview

Both furniture distressing techniques require the same steps to complete.

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.

  2. Remove Stain or Wax with Rag

    Next, use a rag to remove the stain until the desired distressed look.

  3. Repeat Process

    Then, repeat the process on additional sections.

  4. Apply Protective Sealer

    Apply a water-based sealer to protect the distressed finish such as Polycrylic, Shellac, or Polyurethane.

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 Was with Rag

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

Furniture Distressing Technique Comparison

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 probably distress 15 to 20 console tables with one can of stain.

The 32 ounce can of stain was $16.00.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, I prefer to distress furniture with stain.

how to distress painted wood furniture

It’s more forgiving, cheaper, and I like the vintage style look.

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


In conclusion, I hope you learned how to distress painted wood furniture using 2 furniture distressing techniques.

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In this tutorial, learn how to distress painted wood furniture using 2 distressing techniques.
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