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How to Distress Wood and Transform Old Wood

Gary Campbell addresses some commonly asked questions about how to distress wood and make it appear reclaimed and then, on the flip side, how to brighten up older wood. Stay tuned for how to do so.

Gary Addresses the Commonly Asked Question about How to Make Your Wood Appear Reclaimed and Vice Versa


We have a lot of folks that approach us, and they ask us, “How can we turn our wood gray? We want to learn about how to distress wood. We want it to look reclaimed.” Or they’ll say, “We’ve got some gray wood, and we want to make it bright again. How do we do that?” So I just thought we address these questions.

If you’ve got gray wood and you want to turn it back to bright, we offer something called miracle mist. It comes in a gallon, and you apply miracle mist on the wood, and it will take something that looks like this, and it’ll turn it into something that looks more like this, bringing it back to bright. We recommend miracle mist when you’re trying to go from gray back to bright.

And then, on the flip side of the coin, when it comes to taking something bright and making it look gray, you can find recipes online on how to do that. Most recipes include white vinegar and steel wool. You put the steel wool in the white vinegar in a bucket, and then you put a rock on top of the steel wool to weigh it down and keep it below the surface of the white vinegar. And the reason for that is if the steel wool rises above, then it’s going to rust and make this color that you don’t want a dirty brown color.

You keep the steel wool below the surface, and the white vinegar will melt the steel wool. So after it melts, which takes two or three days, you’re going to stir that up, and you’re going to dip your brush in it, and you’ll apply it on the wood, and you leave it outside for a couple of weeks. Within a couple of weeks, your wood turns gray. The hardest part about it is getting the formula just right. You have to have the right amount of vinegar and the right amount of steel wool for this to work. And you have to read online and figure out what the right chemical mix would be for that.

I also wanted to mention this product called NBS30. It stands for No Bug Stuff, made by outlast, and this is good to help keep boring bees off your wood. So, this little container is suitable for five gallons, and you pour this right into your stain, mix it up, and then brush your two coats of stain on the wood. And this is good for outdoor use to keep the boring bees off your wood. Here at Reliance Timber, our job is to share your options with you and help you make the right choice.

Ingredients & Recipe for Vinegar/Steel Wool Solution:


    • White vinegar
    • Steel Wool (easily found on Amazon)
    • Glass Jars
    • A paintbrush
    • Black Tea
    • Hot or Room Temp Water
    • Sandpaper
    • Paste Wax
    • Gloves and a smock to protect yourself
    • Old rags

How to Distress Wood Recipe:

      1. First, make the solution. The easiest way to age wood is with things you probably already have laying around in your pantry or kitchen. Pour vinegar into the glass jar, filling it about halfway. Shred the steel wool and added it to the jar. Let the steel wool and vinegar sit in the jar uncovered for at least 24 hours. (Letting it sit for longer will create a darker look—don’t allow rust to form, or you’ll end up with an orange stain which you probably aren’t after.) The vinegar will cause the steel wool to dissolve.
      2. Mix up the tea: Mix hot water and tea in another glass jar once your solution is ready. The tannins in the tea will react with the steel-wool-and-vinegar solution to create a darker finish.
      3. Sand the Wood: If your piece is already painted or finished, you’ll need to sand it before applying the stain—otherwise, the solution won’t adhere to the wood.
      4. Paint on the Tea: Use the paintbrush to apply the tea to the wood. Allow the tea to dry, and then apply the solution to the wood. The aging process will continue as it dries, so you may want to wait before applying a second coat of the solution.
      5. Protect the Finish: If you achieve your desired result, now is the time to seal it. Protect the finish with some paste wax.

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