How to Distress Furniture with Paint and Petroleum Jelly


Tropical Storm Ana has kept me inside for the past couple of days. It’s given me some time to address the accumulated project items in my garage. Sometime last week I found this little black plant stand in my neighbor’s trash.


It was in three pieces that were easily reassembled with some Gorilla glue. Unfortunately, it was still pretty ugly. But a fresh coat of paint can easily remedy any unsightly piece of furniture.

Free pieces of furniture are a great thing for testing out any new technique you have been meaning to try. As long as it holds no sentimental value, it doesn’t matter if you aren’t happy with the result. I decided to experiment with a method of distressing furniture using paint and petroleum jelly. I am all about inexpensive ways to decorate, so this seemed right up my alley. Given that the furniture was free and I didn’t have to purchase any supplies for this project (I used some paint I had on hand from my DIY Grey Wash Coffee Table), the total cost of this project was probably about 20 cents.

Here is a really easy tutorial to follow if you are looking to try to distress furniture but don’t want to spend a fortune on chalk paint or a million hours sanding edges. If you do need to buy paint but don’t want to fork out $30 for a pint of chalk paint, I recommend Valspar Signature in a flat finish. It gives a similar look and many colors will cover in just one coat. Here I am using Smoked Oyster.

Materials you will need:

  • a project piece (furniture, frame, etc)
  • sandpaper
  • paint
  • paintbrush
  • petroleum jelly
  • paper towels
  • sealer (wax, varnish, etc)

The process:

First, lightly sand the piece to allow the new paint to adhere better. This is especially important if there is existing paint or stain, not as important if it is raw wood. Then, wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove the dust.

Using your finger, apply the petroleum jelly to the edges and corners of your piece. These are the areas that would naturally show wear over time. You can also apply a little in random areas on the flat surfaces if you wish. You can also apply it more heavily on places on the edges so that the look isn’t too uniform. You can also decide if you want the piece to appear minimally or more heavily distressed, and increase or decrease the jelly-covered areas accordingly.


Paint your piece. Wait until it is dry to the touch. This will vary depending on the brand of paint and where you live. If you are in Coastal Carolina where the humidity is something like 5000%, it will take hours… but you will wait patiently so you get the best results.

If you need to, apply more than one coat of paint. Notice how the petroleum jelly repels the paint.


Now, using a damp cloth or paper towel, wipe the areas where the petroleum jelly was applied. It should wipe away easily, taking the overlying paint with it.



Protect you piece! I sealed mine using a coat of SC Johnson Paste Wax.

Clean Up:

When cleaning your brush, use a little soap and warm water to remove any excess petroleum jelly.

So here it is!!

10-DSC00539 11-DSC00540 12-DSC00541 13-DSC00542 14-DSC00543

Now get out there and paint something! Be sure to share your thoughts and photos with me in the comments if you give this a shot. Happy DIYing!


Linking to the HOST


One thought on “How to Distress Furniture with Paint and Petroleum Jelly

  1. What a great project idea! I’ve been wanting to do this with a couple of pieces we have. Cab’t wait to test it out!


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