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How to Distress Painted Furniture Like a Pro

In this DIY tutorial, I show you how to distress painted furniture using wood stain and creme wax. These simple techniques show you how to revive old furniture for a rustic aged look.

In fact, I use this simple furniture distressing technique to upcycle and sell used furniture for profit.

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!

furniture distressing technique using wax
Yield: Distressed Furniture

How To Distress Painted Wood Furniture

Prep Time: 1 hour
Active Time: 1 hour
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 3 hours
Difficulty: Easy
Estimated Cost: 50.00

In this tutorial, learn how to distress painted furniture with stain or wax. These simple techniques show you how to revive old furniture to decorate your home or sell for a profit.

Introduction

I built 2 identical console tables using scrap 2x4s and 2x6s for some friends.
In order to match the farmhouse and shabby chic decor in my friend's home, I painted and distressed the tables using wood stain and creme wax.

Drop a comment and let me know if you prefer stain or wax to distress painted furniture.

Instructions

  1. Paint Furniture
    First, paint the furniture with 2 coats of satin or semi-gloss white paint. If the furniture is already painted, make sure it is free of dust and dirt.
    If the furniture has a clear coat or shiny finish, paint it with a coat of primer before applying paint.

    white trestle console table

    Semi-gloss or satin/eggshell paint works best for distressing painted furniture.
    The sheen makes it easier to wipe off wood stain or wax as I’ll show you in later step.
    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.

  2. Apply Stain or Wax to Paint
    You should use contrasting colors for the best results. In other words, light stain or wax on dark paint and dark stain or wax on light paint.
    For a vintage look, use gray wood stain to distrtess white painted furniture.

    wood stain for distressing white painted furniture

    Brown creme wax produces a stronger distressed look.

    distressing furniture technique

    First, apply wood stain to a section of the painted furniture with a brush, staining pad, or rag.
    The section should be small enough to wipe on and wipe off within 10 minutes.
    Also, chip brushes work well to apply stain to paint. They are inexpensive and produce a natural look.
    These brushes work better than rags for this furniture distressing technique.

    how to distress painted wood furniture using stain

    distress painted wood furniture using stain

    how to distress painted wood furniture using stain

    The creme wax is very thick and dries very quickly.
    Therefore, a nitrile glove and your hand works best to spread the creme wax over the paint.
    If you try to use a brush, it will dry very quickly.

    furniture distressing technique using wax

    furniture distressing technique using wax

  3. Wipe Excess
    Use a rag to wipe the stain or wax from the paint until you achieve the distressed look.

    remove excess wood stain from paint

    how to distress painted wood furniture using wax

    The paint sheen allows you to control the distressed look.
    However, the stain will absorb into the paint no matter how much you wipe.
    The more you wipe the more stain will be removed.

    remove excess wood stain from paint

    distressing furniture technique

    The stain will saturate the corners, seams, and other hard to reach places.
    Obviously, this makes the furniture look naturally distressed.

  4. Move to Next Section and Repeat
    Move to the next section and repeat the process.

    remove excess wood stain from paint

    how to distress painted wood furniture using wax

  5. Allow to Dry
    Allow the stain or creme wax to dry for 12 to 24 hours.

    furniture distressing technique using stain

  6. Seal Distressed Furniture
    Finally, apply a water-based sealer or wax to protect the distressed finish.
    To protect and seal the distressed finish, used 3 coats of polycrylic.

    seal distressed furniture

    I lightly hand sanded with 220 grit sandpaper between coats.

  7. Stain or Creme Wax for Distressing Painted Furniture
    Ultimately, both furniture distressing techniques produced awesome results.

    furniture distressing technique using wax

    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.

    furniture distressing technique using wax

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

    furniture distressing technique using stain

    furniture distressing technique using 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.

    how to distress painted wood furniture

Did you make this project?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

Is Wax or Stain Better to Distress Painted Furniture

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

Let me know in the comments if you prefer wood stain or creme wax to distress white painted furniture.

how to distress painted wood furniture

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of paint do you use to distress furniture?

Latex paint with a satin or semi-gloss sheen works best to distress furniture.

How do you make paint look old and rustic?

Apply wood stain or creme wax over paint and wipe it off to make it look aged and rustic.

How do you make painted wood look distressed?

Sand the corners and edges to remove the paint is the easiest way to distress painted wood furniture.

Can you stain over paint to distress painted wood furniture?

Applying wood stain over painted wood furniture produces a distressed, aged look.

Related Posts:

Terry

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!

Sheila

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?

Katie

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.

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