You are currently viewing How to Weather Wood with a Vinegar and Steel Wool Stain

Do you love farmhouse, rustic or a coastal look? You know that we do! Would you like to know how to create that weathered look for a piece of furniture? While there are stains you can purchase and use, often they look fake. Today we would like to share How to Weather Wood with a Vinegar and Steel Wool Stain.

There is something so satisfying about transforming a discarded piece of furniture into a real treasure. If you are new to refinishing furniture this may seem a little intimidating, but if you take it step by step and are willing to give it a little elbow grease you too can create a piece that you will treasure. Today we would like to share How to Weather Wood and get that Restoration Hardware style finish.

We both LOVE the Restoration Hardware style! I will never forget when the store opened up in Salt Lake City and I walked in the door and my eyes lit up … I was in LOVE with all of the finishes, the lighting, everything! Then I looked at the prices, yikes, well it didn’t fit into my budget.

That’s the beauty of refinishing a good solid piece of furniture, not only is it satisfying to say “Hey, I did this”, but you can save thousands of dollars!

Steph had been eyeing a bed at Restoration Hardware with that vintage coastal style and it was nearly $3000, but luckily we are DIY’ers and we knew we could figure out how to get a Restoration Hardware style finish. We have come up with a simple 3 step process to achieve their wood finish.

Stephanie bought this bed after graduation from high school, I guess she was anxious to spend all that $ she was making! 🤣

It is a solid pine bed with lots of rustic character which she loved at the time, however as her tastes changed, she married and began looking for something else.

Thank goodness she kept this bed, because it is a good solid piece with real wood, which is hard to come by these days.

Lets take a look at the before photos of the bed.

Before the New Weather Wood Finish

Rustic yellow pine headboard and footboard against unfinished basement wall.
Before image of the bed, with white bedding, white walls with purple and green accent pillows.

The bed in fact was still in great condition, it was that Steph just no longer liked the finish.  The finish was a natural pine, not only did it have a yellowish hue to it, but it really seemed dated.

Steph loves the relaxed coastal look, along with a bit of a vintage vibe. She began to wonder if we could transform this bed into the inspiration bed from Restoration Hardware. Well, take a look, and see if we succeeded in getting that Restoration Hardware style finish!

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Supplies we used

  1. paint brush
  2. Jasco paint and epoxy remover
  3. steel wool pads (medium grit)
  4. steel wool pads (0000)
  5. sandpaper
  6. old toothbrush
  7. paper towel
  8. vinegar
  9. white wax
  10. waxing brush
  11. cotton rag (like an old t-shirt)

Step 1: Strip off the finish ...

Women apply stripper to remove the old finish of the bed.

We believed that the bed frame had a wax finish on it and knew that we would need to remove it in order to apply our Vinegar and Steel Wood Stain. It must be bare wood for the stain to work. That will require either stripping or sanding the wood.

The stripper we prefer to use is Jasco Paint and Epoxy Remover, not only did it strip off the wax quickly, but we have used this product on other projects to strip off varnish and paint as well.

This is a great product, we prefer to use it because of its gel like consistency which clings to the surface and makes it very helpful if your project is vertical, as well as it works quickly.

PRO TIP: When working with a chemical stripper always wear chemical gloves and goggles, it is very powerful and can burn your skin. Remember to always be safe when working with chemicals and tools.

Pour the stripper into a glass or metal container, because it will eat right through plastic. Brush on the stripper with a paint brush, let it sit for 15 minutes while it dissolves the finish.

If you are more of a visual learner, we created a video of the process.

Watch the magic happen . . .

Women apply stripper to remove the old finish of the bed.

Let the stripper sit on the wood for about 15 minutes, then the magic happens. The finish will dissolve and is ready to be removed.

Use a medium grit steel wool pad and then rub back and forth with the pad, pulling off the finish. This method works really well for surfaces that have moulding and carved details.

We used this method for the entire piece, however we noticed that in some of the corner areas there was still some finish that needed to be removed.  

We dipped an old toothbrush into the stripper and worked it into the corners and then wiped the area with a paper towel.

Once the entire piece is stripped, wipe down all of the surfaces with a damp cloth, removing any remaining chemicals.

When refinishing a piece, it makes it a whole lot more enjoyable to do this with a buddy. Crank up some tunes and enjoy the process. We love working on these projects together, it is so rewarding and FUN!

Step 2: Staining the Furniture

Woman holds a jar filled with vinegar and steel wool.

We made our own natural stain which we made with vinegar and a steel wool pad. Fill a glass jar with vinegar and drop in a steel wool pad. Let it sit for a day or two until the steel wool pad almost completely dissolves. The longer the steel wool pad sits in the vinegar, the darker the stain will be.

Steel wool & vinegar is a very old staining technique, sometimes called “ebonizing.” It works with the tannins in hardwoods. This will make a chemical reaction with the wood that will give it a wonderful aged and worn look.

PRO TIP: Each species of wood will accept the stain differently. Be sure to test your stain in an inconspicuous spot to make sure you like it. Our wood was pine and it was just the look we were going for.

Women apply stripper to remove the old finish of the bed.

Using a brush, paint on the vinegar mixture onto the wood. It will look clear as you first apply it and then in a matter of minutes the magic happens. We loved this amazing weathered wood look!

Up close details of the process of aging the wood of the headboard and footboard.

In the first photo we are holding up a piece of the original pine next to the stained headboard. It made quite a transformation, absolutely amazing! 

We did have a few areas where the stain did not take, we came to the conclusion that we must not have gotten all of the wax off,  this however was an easy fix.

Close up imaged of the headboard as vinegar is applied to the wood and sanding the wood.

On the areas that did not take the stain we took some medium grit sandpaper and gently rubbed off any remaining finish. We then brushed on our vinegar and steel wool stain mixture.

Up close details of the process of aging the wood of the headboard and footboard.

Here it is all touched up after sanding. We did have one spot that you can see that would not stain. It may have been filled in with wood putty, but you will see in the end it all worked out.

Step 3: Waxing - Our Final Step

After the wood is aged with vinegar and steel wool, white wax is applied by women to add another layer of depth and dimension to the finish.

To achieve that great vintage looking, worn Restoration Hardware style finish, we applied a white wax, Behr white wax to be specific.

Using a waxing brush apply the wax in a circular motion, pushing the wax into any grooves or crevices in the wood.

We also wanted the wax to look a bit streaky, so after the wax was applied we gently drug a chip brush (stiff and short bristled brush) across the wax, giving us the worn streaked look we were going for.

Buff the Wax

Buffing wood head board after white wax is applied to the vinegar and steel wool finish.

Once the wax has dried it is time to buff. We like to let it sit overnight, just to make sure the wax is all dry, then buff.

Buffing can be done with a soft, clean cotton cloth (old t-shirt) or a buffer also works well. Every time we get out the buffer our little helper arrives.

Little Miss loves to be a part of all our projects, especially if there is a paint brush involved 😉. Usually we say, “no, you can’t help with this,” but with the buffing she can totally do it!

The Final Reveal

Close up image of Weathered Wood headboard with finger pointing to the imperfections in the finish.
How to weather wood with vinegar and steel wool, footboard showing the details of the finished with rustic nail head accents.
How to age wood with vinegar and steel wool, footboard showing the details of the finished with rustic nail head accents.

Here is the finished bed! In the first picture we are pointing out that one spot that wouldn’t take the stain, but after the waxing and buffing it looks great! We applied this method to the headboard, foot board and rails. 

Inspiration bed from Restoration Hardware, along side our refinished bed with the aged finish with vinegar and steel wool. Bed styled with white and navy blue bedding with a navy blue board and batten accent wall.

Drum roll please…  take a look at the inspiration bed from Restoration Hardware on the left and our bed with the Restoration Hardware style finish on the right.

We think it looks fantastic and this project only cost around $35.  Can you believe it? That is quite a savings from the nearly $3000 bed from Restoration Hardware!

Before and after images of the refinished bed frame with the weathered wood finish.

Take a look at the before and after, it’s quite a transformation! We are thrilled with the way it turned out!

Weathered wood headboard with white bedding with navy blue trim.
Full view of farmhouse/coastal bedroom with weather wood bed with headboard and footboard, navy blue board and batten accent wall, framed coastal photography above bed, white nightstands. The bedding is crisp white with navy blue accents. Navy blue and white striped curtains are hung at the window.

As you can see by following our 3 steps on How to Weather Wood with a Vinegar and Steel Wool Stain, not only is it doable, but you can see how rewarding it is.

Not only were we able to take a furniture piece that was in storage, in the basement and transform it into a gorgeous piece, but in the process saved thousands of dollars!

If you love a natural wood finish, checkout our pro tips for applying a water based stain.

And if you’re looking for tips for evenly staining pine wood click here.

Do you LOVE it? Are you going to give this technique a try? We would love to hear from you, please drop us a comment!

If you are new to our website, welcome! We love new friends,  please say HI in our comment section and be sure to sign up for our weekly newsletter, so you don’t miss any of our latest projects.

We always love to share what we have been working on during the week. You can also learn more about who we are here.

Thanks for stopping by and as always here at Sunny Side Design 


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PInterest image: How to Age Wood with Vinegar and Steel Wool, image of aged wood bed against navy blue board and batten wall.

We also used this Vinegar and Steel Wool technique to get this finish on our DIY Blanket Ladder. Check it out and see how we used vintage croquet mallets!

Are you curious to see the complete makeover of Stephanie’s Master Bedroom?  Then click here.

For more budget friendly ideas for for home follow us on Pinterest.

You can also find more of our video tutorials on our YouTube channel. 

This Post Has 28 Comments

  1. Peter Kirk

    Hi Girls
    Love your creativeness, it inspired me to take on projects around the house I thought was only jobes for pros. All of the best for you and God Bless. 🤗

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Peter for visiting our site. We are so happy that you found inspiration here. We look forward to hearing from you again. Happy DIYing!

  2. Sue Mastroianni

    Hi, The bed came out beautiful. When you make your stain, did you use the 0000 steel wool pad in the vinegar? Or does it matter? Also, do you know if cleaning vinegar was used how it would change the outcome? I never knew cleaning vinegar existed until I read about it on another post and I now use it instead of the regular white vinegar I was using for other projects and cleaning. I just figured I would ask.
    Thank you so much!!!

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Sue! The steel wool we used in our stain was the 0000, because that’s what I had on hand. I don’t think it really matters. The vinegar we used was 5% acidity. I believe the cleaning vinegar is 10%. I don’t believe it would change the outcome of the stain. But be sure to test first in an inconspicuous spot. Please let us know if you try the 10% acidity vinegar and how it turns out. Good luck!

  3. A W

    My gloves leaked with the vinegar/steel wool stain.
    How to remove it from hands and nails please?

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Oh no! I think it will just have to wear off. 😬

  4. Barbara

    Hi, I have a banana leaf glass top table and chairs Do you think I could use this process on them.

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Hi Barbara, I would first try the vinegar and steel wool stain in an inconspicuous place first. Each species of wood will stain differently. You’ll want to make sure you’re happy with the color before you do it to the entire set. Please let us know if you try this and how it turns out.

  5. Kaye Mangin

    The whole room is just beautiful and inviting. Thanks so much for sharing

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you so much Kaye!

  6. Amy

    Hi, wonderful tutorial thank you! I have a vintage dresser I would like to try this technique on, it has a very light stain on it, that is cracking do I need to sand it down first or can I just put the epoxy on that?

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank for your question Amy. For this technique to work, it needs to be bare wood. So you will either need to sand it down or remove the finish with a stripper. Let us know how it turned out for you.

  7. carol v morris

    I have ugly varnish steps I would love to try but is t slippery when done?

    1. Michelle

      Hi Carol, the finish is smooth from the wax, but it is more of a matte finish. Try it first on a scrap of wood so you can see what it feels like. Good luck! Let us know if you give this technique a try.

  8. Deboorah Hossman


    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Deboorah, We appreciate you taking the time to comment. Please keep us posted if you try this technique, we’d love to hear how it turns out.

  9. Laramie

    Did you strain the steel wool pieces from the vinegar once it had set long enough?

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Hi Laramie, thanks for your question. No we didn’t strain the steel wool pieces. We just used the mixture straight from the jar. Hope this helps.

  10. Lauriane McMurdo

    Hi there from new Zealand. Love love love this! Question do you or would you cover any metal finishings on the bed with the mixture. Kindly lauriane

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Hi Lauriane! Thanks for reaching out to us. When we refinished this piece we did apply the mixture to the metal accents. It just made them look more aged and a little more rustic. We also applied the white wax over them too. This of course is totally optional. We just didn’t want to take the time to try to remove the accent pieces and/or mask them off. You could always test the mixture on a small surface to see how you like the way it turns out before committing to the whole piece. (By the wway, my Mom and I are saving up to go to New Zealand in a couple years! We’ve never been but her Dad served a mission there and has been back a few times since so we’ve both LOVED learning about the beautiful country and wonderful people there! You’ll have to share some of your favorite things for us to do while we’re there. 😊)

      1. Denise Grise

        Love it, heading to an antique mall. Got me creating. 😉

        1. Michelle Dickson

          Thank you Denise! We’re happy that this was inspirational. Keep us posted if you try this technique on something!

  11. Cs

    Does this technique
    Work on other woods? Do you know?

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Hi, thanks for reaching out to us. Yes this technique will work on other woods, although the patina and finished color may vary slightly. You can always test a small area on the back of the furniture or somewhere else less noticeable to see how you like the finish. Also the longer you allow the stain to sit on the wood, the darker it will get. The white wax really made this look come together!

  12. Loretta

    You ladies take the cake! My daughter and I do not do projects together, but we discuss how to and if it will look the way it should. I am an artist and old craft teacher. I love looking at projects that others do. I happened onto your post just recently. You do so well. Not my style, but I still got a lot out of your blog. Good luck, lore

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Loretta for taking the time to respond to our post. We appreciate your kind words. We both enjoy working with our hands, working together and creating beautiful pieces.

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