How to Antique Wood with Tea, Steel Wool and Vinegar

Posted on August 14, 2014 by Jared

Reclaimed or reused wood shelves and furniture are a hugely popular trend in home decor. There’s just something about old wood that everyone loves.

Unfortunately, reclaimed wood isn’t easy to find. And when you do – and it’s of quality – it’s often not cheap. That’s why sometimes you need to fake it.

Here’s how we naturally antique wood to imitate the look of reclaimed wood without the use of toxic chemicals. The process is called Tea Staining and works wonders!

tea bagsWhat You’ll Need for Tea Staining

– raw, unfinished solid wood (we used pine)
– 1/2 dozen tea bags (we used black tea)
– two bundles of 00000 fine steel wool
– distilled vinegar
– two mason jars
– metal objects such as a hammer and crow bar
– paint and/or sponge brushes
– small jar of black stain
– (optional) stencil and paint
– (optional) wax or other finish

Step 1: Steep the Tea

In a pot of boiling water, steep your tea bags until the tea is dark. Once steeped, pour the tea into a mason jar, add the lid and set it aside for at least 24 hours.

Step 2: Mix the Steel Wool & Vinegar

Place the two bundles of steel wool in a second mason jar and fill it the vinegar until the steel wool is covered. Add the lid and set it aside for at least 24 hours. (We set ours aside for almost 4 days!)

Step 3: “Beat Up” the Wood

Old wood is never smooth. It has years of wear and tear with lots dents and scratches. Using your metal objects, let out a bit of frustration and “beat up” the wood. (Watch your fingers!)

how to antique wood naturally

how to antique wood naturally

Step 4: Tea Stain the Wood

With a paint or sponge brush, apply a thin layer of the tea onto the raw and unfinished wood. Make sure to apply it everywhere, including the all sides, edges and dents. Once nicely stained with tea, let the tea dry completely.

how to antique wood naturally

Step 5: Add Steel Wool & Vinegar Mixture

Once the tea stain is dry, apply a thin layer of the steel wool and vinegar mixture to the wood. Wait a few minutes and watch the wood antique before your eyes!

how to antique wood naturally

 Step 6: Apply Black Stain

When the wood is dry, it’s time to add even more personality to your new old wood. After assembling our shelving unit (using 3/4″ black steel pipe and matching couplings), we spot applied black stain with an old rag to make the wood look burnt. Let the stain dry.

how to antique wood naturally

Step 7 (optional): Add Stencils

We created this large (90″ wide x 39″ high) shelving unit for McBurney Junction Furniture & Interiors in Langley. We personalized the shelves by adding their tagline “Live with Style” onto the shelves.

We created the stencil by printing out each word on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, cut out the letters, tapped our DIY stencils onto the each shelf and then very lightly spray painted the words. (Nice touch, eh!)

Step 8: Finish with Wax & Buff to Smooth

Apply a thin layer of natural wax finish over the entire surface to protect your newly aged wood. We then buffed the three shelves to create a smooth, matte finish.

And voila! Here’s the  new “old” shelving unit at McBurney Junction. Love!

how to antique wood with tea staining

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