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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.
Some of the skills you will learn in this step by step tutorial are:

  • How to Paint Wood Distressed White
  • Distress White Paint
  • How To Distress White Painted Wood
  • Best Wax for Furniture Distressing
  • And much more.

Consider downloading my comprehensive guide for distressing furniture.
This guide includes:

  • 23 Page PDF Guide
  • 3 Video Tutorials
  • Photo Illustrations for All Steps
  • Material/Tool List
  • Table of Contents for Easy Navigation
  • FREE Chalk Paint Recipe
how to distress furniture

How to Distress White Painted Wood Furniture 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: Distress Furniture

How To Distress 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 without using chalk paint or milk paint. These different methods show you an easy way to revive old furniture or distress bare wood furniture.


A few years ago, I built 2 console tables using raw wood for a friend.
In order to match the farmhouse style and shabby chic decor in my friend's home, I painted and distressed the tables using wood stain and creme wax for a similar look.

Also, be sure to download the complete furniture distressing guide.


  1. Paint Entire Piece of Furniture
    For the first step, paint the furniture with 2 coats of paint. Satin or semi-gloss white paint works best.
    Apply the first coat of paint evenly without using too much paint.
    As a quick tip, use a thin coat of primer on bare wood or on an already painted surface.

    white trestle console table

    Next, apply a second coat of paint after the first coat completely dries.
    Semi-gloss or satin/eggshell paint works best for distressing painted furniture.
    The sheen makes it easier to wipe off distressed areas as I’ll show you in later step.
    Keep in mind, flat or matte paint can be distressed.
    However, you lose control over the distressing process.

  2. Sand Painted Furniture (Optional)
    Use a sanding block, orbital sander, or hand sander to sand the corners and edges of the painted finish.
    Any grit between 120 grit and 220 grit sandpaper work well.
    The light sanding should expose the bare wood in areas of the furniture which get handled most often.

    DIY Farmhouse Pantry Door with Glass - Paint Distressing Technique

  3. 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 distress 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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

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

    furniture distressing technique using stain

  7. Seal Distressed Furniture
    As a last step, apply a water-based sealer or wax top coat to protect the distressed finish.
    To protect and seal the distressed finish, use 3 coats of polycrylic.

    seal distressed furniture

    As a quick tip, lightly hand sand with 220grit sandpaper between coats for better protection.

  8. 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 unique 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 Dark Wax or Wood Stain Better for Distressing Furniture?

Ultimately, I prefer to distress furniture with wood stain over dark wax.
Wood stain is more forgiving, easier to apply, and produces a vintage antique look on the distressed piece.

I encourage you to explore different ways to antique furniture by using different paint colors.

Let me know in the comments if you prefer wood stain or creme wax to distress white paint.
Before you go, consider subscribing to my YouTube channel for more DIY tutorials like this one.

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.

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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.
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