It’s been a while now since people started to go crazy about the vintage-looking furniture and this trend is still hot as hell. People love things with the rich history, and the old look of your table or cabinet can be really exciting. It makes your guests think what kind of story is behind that piece of furniture and how interesting this is. You, on the other hand, can surprise them with something super entertaining and keep the conversation going.

Did you know that you can get yourself a piece of old-looking furniture without waiting for dozens of years? You no longer need just to wait for your furniture to get old and its finish to wear out. You don’t really have to go shopping for that as well; you can just distress your furniture in a few simple steps. Intrigued? Let us introduce you the full guide on furniture distressing.

Distress furniture

Get the necessary tools and supplies

It’s essential to start with the basics. You won’t be able to distress your furniture
without the required tools and supplies. Among the most important:

  • Sandpaper
  • Paint
  • Brushes and rollers
  • Candle
  • Polyurethan
  • Drop and tack cloth

You can find these on Amazon or any local furniture/handy shop in your city. Have you already got all of these? It’s time to do the groundwork and preparations.

Prepare the work area

The work area should be clean and only include the furniture you’ll work with, needed tools, supplies, and different kinds of cleaners to keep the area clean. You’ll have to get a bit dirty, so be ready to clean after.

Dismantle your furniture (knobs, bolts)

Before sanding and cleaning procedures, you’ll have to dismantle your furniture into the basic pieces. It’s very important to avoid getting too crazy about it, remember that you’ll have to assemble it back after.

The fundamental idea here is to take off the knobs, bolts, and other small parts of your furniture piece. Make sure you hide them away so you won’t lose them. Now when you’ve got your furniture ready, it’s time to start the cleaning process.

Sand and clean your furniture

Sanding is an essential thing here, cause it allows you to peel off the old layer of paint and also make the whole thing a bit imperfect. Those imperfections that your furniture may have gotten through years of usage will complement the whole retro look.

This process requires you to use a few different sanding papers: from large ones to the smallest ones. The large ones allow you to take off the paint layers, and the small ones will enable you to make some parts of the surface more smooth.

It’s not the actual distressing yet; we’re just preparing your furniture for the new paint that we’ll apply. We decided to give it a more personalized look than it had before we got it from the store.

Apply the paint you’ve chosen

Now let’s paint the whole thing to apply the color you like. When you shop for the paint, you should make sure it will adhere well to the wooden surface. If you’re not sure about that, you can just check with the help desk in the store or Google the paint brand and name.

Paint the Surface

Most of the paints will adhere ok, but only if you did an excellent job sanding the whole thing.

We have a complete guide on applying a new finish to your furniture; you can see it here and avoid making the most common refinishing mistakes.

Distress the Piece with Sandpaper and Steel Wool

When your furniture piece has dried out, we can start distressing that thing. Sandpaper and steel wool will work great for that. Start sanding random areas of your furniture to make the paint look old and worn out.

You can also get some tools and add scratches and another kind of imperfections.

Apply a Stain (Optional)

Despite the fact it’s optional, we recommend you giving the stain a chance. It’s a great way to make it look authentic and genuinely retro. Most of the vintage furniture examples have the stain applied to the surface. It’s super stylish.

You can get a stain in the same shop as paint; it’s a very popular product. You can apply it with the regular painting brush. Make sure you don’t use too thick of a layer, it may look like a lousy job.

Protect the Finished Piece with Polyurethane

Yes, we’re making a piece of old-looking furniture, but you still should care about its look throughout the years. Don’t let the water or chemicals destroy it.

To ensure the safety of your furniture finish, you’ve got to use polyurethane. It’s easy to apply; just a thin layer — like paint or stain. It will serve as a shield for your furniture.

Give some time to dry out

Every step that includes the paint, oil, wax, polyurethane, or another kind of finish requires patience from you. We understand that you may want to hurry up and rush this process, but giving it the needed time will result in a great piece of vintage furniture that you’ll be able to add to your interior.

Before you apply the polyurethane, wax or oil, make sure the paint layer has dried out. Otherwise, you’ll get a weird-looking result with these chemicals blended together.


We genuinely believe that distressing your old furniture is a great way to refresh the look of your table, chair or any other piece of furniture in your house. While it requires some time and work, it also makes people truly happy with the result they get.

To make sure your result will surprise you and your future guests, you should follow every step of our guide attentively. Save this guide, add it to bookmarks and use as a checklist while working with the furniture you want to distress.