Guide to Distress Painted Wood with Sandpaper

By MWB-Team •  Updated: 04/07/23 • 

Distressing wood is one of the ways of antiquing wood. Older furniture looks different from new furniture. This difference is caused by the change of color over time because of oxidation and UV light, slow wear and tear, and dirt accumulation as the wood ages.

There are many ways of distressing wood to make it look older. Hitting it with chains and other metals, ding, and gouges can all do the trick. However, natural wear is not just hitting wood but wearing away parts such as the edges of furniture, chair rungs, and tabletops. This can better be imitated using sandpaper, rasps, or a wire brush.

In this guide, we’ll talk about how to distress painted wood using sandpaper. This is a fairly simple process; you’ll only need sandpaper to create a beautiful distressed finish.

How to Distress Painted Wood

Before you begin to rub sandpaper on your furniture or wood, first, you have to determine the type of wear to add. The best way to do this is to look at old furniture and notice how it’s been worn down over time.

Distressing works best if the painted wood surface has dried out completely. If that is the case, you can then move on to distress the wood.


You can use any sandpaper to distress wood. Normal sandpaper, sanding blocks, or sanding sponges are all good. However, sanding blocks and sponges are easier to use and control compared to just using sandpaper.

Start with fine-grit sandpaper, anything between 180-220 grit, and see if the results are what you want. The higher the sandpaper grit, the finer it will be. Avoid using coarse sandpaper because it will make distressing look unnatural.

Using sandpaper, sand the areas that would naturally wear down, such as edges, raised details, and corners. You can take off as much paint as you like, but try to make it look as natural as possible. If you find you have removed too much paint on one area, repaint and wait till it dries, then start over again.

Distressing Painted Wood Using Sandpaper

Once you’re done distressing the wood, use a dry rag and wipe off the dust from the wood. If you love the look of your distressed painted wood, you can then seal the wood with wax or a clear coat to preserve it.

Tips for Distressing Painted Wood


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