Woodworking Tips

How to Make New Wood Look Old? It’s Easier Than You Think!


I totally get why people love the look of old and distressed wood. Adding a piece of distress wood furniture would bring a touch of unique and classic charm to your space.

But how to make new wood look old? How to distress wood to make it look old without years of waiting?

In this post, I’ll walk you through basically everything you need to know about how to make new wood look old and gray.

How to Make New Wood Look Old: Materials You’ll Need

Before we dig into the detailed steps for how to make wood look old and distressed, let’s take a step back for a second and check for the materials you’ll need during the process:

  • Gloves
  • Vinegar
  • Paint brush
  • Steel wool
  • Black tea
  • Sandpaper
  • 2 jars or containers

Basically, this is the supply list you’ll need. And the wood furniture you’d like to distress, of course.

Editor’s Tip: If you’re wondering how to distress wood with paint, how to distress wood with chalk paint, or how to distress wood with Vaseline, and considering to replace the staining material listed above with paint or Vaseline, I’d highly recommend doing some test on a small piece of wood to ensure they will give you the color you want before applying them to your wood furniture.

To distress wood furniture or distress wood DIY, in general, I’d encourage you to use the materials you already have. And we’re going to talk about how to make wood look old with steel wool and vinegar today.

How to Make New Wood Look Old in 7 Easy Steps


Once you have all the materials at hand, let’s jump into the procedure to make wood look old with vinegar and wool steel!

Step 1. Create the vinegar and steel wool solution for aging wood.

To start with making the stain to weather the new wood, you’ll need to break up the steel wool into several pieces, so you can make a good mix with vinegar and steel wool pads and speed up the process.

Fill the jar or the container with white vinegar, mix the steel wool pads with the vinegar, put a rag over the container to keep dust out, and let it sit. The color intensity of the stain depends on how long the solution sits, and how many steel wool pads you put in there.

To achieve the most desirable color intensity to distress wood furniture, you definitely need to allow the solution to sit for long enough to oxidize and turn into rusty brown. I’d suggested to let it sit for 1-3 days before using it to distress new wood, depending on the color intensity you desire.

Step 2. Brew some black tea in another jar.

While letting the solution sit, brew some strong black tea in another jar or container and let it steep for about half an hour. How much black tea you’ll need is determined by how big the wood furniture you’re going to distress is. 2-4 tea bags will fit most of the projects of making new wood look old.

Step 3. Sand the wood furniture before distressing it.

If you’d like to distress a piece of wood furniture, for instance to distress wood table, you’ll need to sand the wood with sandpaper removing the stain from the surface, or the following steel wool and vinegar solution won’t adhere to the piece.

In this step, you’ll need to be careful not to gouge the surface of the wood furniture. Then remove the dust by wiping it down or with a blow dryer to make it expose a fresh surface before moving forward to the next step.

Step 4. Paint the black tea to the wood.

Use the paintbrush to paint the black tea all over the wood furniture, and let it sit till it’s entirely dry.

Make sure that all areas are covered — this may sound basic, but this step is crucial. The tannins in black tea will react with the steel wool and vinegar mixture later on, to form a darker finish for the wood.

Step 5. Strain the steel-wool-and-vinegar solution.

When the stain solution sits for long enough and reaches the color intensity you want to use for wood distressing DIY, strain the steel wool and vinegar solution into a container.

Step 6. Paint the stain onto the wood.

Once the wood is completely dry from the strong black tea and the solution is strained, you’re absolutely ready to apply the second coat to make the new wood look old.

Brush the steel wool and vinegar stain onto the wood in the direction of wood grain. When the application is finished, the stain will make wood look old and gray as it reacts with black tea. And now you just need to let it sit.

Step 7. Wax your distressed wood furniture.

At this point you’re doing this to protect the color of weathered wood furniture, to give it a polished sheen, and to avoid transferring the stain to your sheets or other objects.

Wax the entire distressed wood piece when it’s completely dry from the previous step, let it dry for a couple of hours. Done and done!

The video below will show you detailed steps about how to make new wood look old from start to finish:

Questions You May Have About How to Make New Wood Look Old

To dig further into the topic about how to make new wood look old, here we’ve listed some FAQs concerning distressing new wood and had the answers offered as well.

1. “Can I screw a lid on the jar instead of using a rag to cover the steel-wool-and-vinegar solution?”

Well, the answer is pretty straightforward: Absolutely NOT!

The reason why we’d suggest using rag, cloth, or a lid with holes lies in that it’s extremely dangerous to seal a chemical reaction in a glass jar or container and that the oxidization reaction like this would need oxygen to proceed.

2. “How to make the wood look old and gray. I don’t want it to be too dark brown.”

Keep tabs on the stain forming process and don’t let the mixture sit for too long. The longer it sits, the richer the color would be.

And I would highly recommend testing the solution on a surface of the wood furniture, or sample pieces of wood (it has to be the same type of wood, because different types of wood respond differently to the same solution!) before applying it all over the furniture to distress the wood.

3. “Can I use the distressed wood table outdoors? Is the distressed wood furniture weatherproof?”

Use sealer in the final step to seal the wood instead of waxing it if the distressed wood furniture is meant for outdoor use.

Join in the Discussion About How to Make New Wood Look Old

Now we’ve walked through all the steps to distress wood to make it look old! By utilizing the guide and tips I shared, you are now fully ready to start your project and give your wood furniture the weathered look now!

Do you have any other tips or suggestions? Tell me below in the comments!


① Questions on Reddit: How to make wood look old with vinegar? how to distress new wood?
② Questions & Answers on Quora: How to make wood look old and distressed?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *