I stumbled upon the below picture today via social media titled Aging Wood Instantly.

Sample image

The method shortly summed is staining the wood first with black tea and then, after drying, with vinegar that's imbued with steel wool for 24 hours.

While the result looks like many other possible stains, it got me wondering, what, if any, good properties would such a stain have? Any reasons why it's not a sustainable idea?


The process is known as wood pickling. The vinegar (acetic acid) combines with the steel wool to create iron acetate which reacts with the various tannins in the wood to darken it from grey to black. Some woods don't have many tannins, so you can apply the black tea to add some.

You can dilute the mixture if it darkens your wood too much. The effect doesn't go very deep, so it can be sanded off. It doesn't provide any additional protection to the wood, so some sort of top coat would be necessary.


Nit, the only downside to using such stains has to do with repeat-ability.

If you come back the next day and mix up a new batch of stain, it may not match the batch from the day before.

So while it's fine for single small objects, or areas that you can do with one batch, you may run into trouble if you've got multiple objects that you want to match, or a large surface that requires mixing up a new batch.

From an environmental perspective they're great- no solvents and no VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). If you use a powerful tea, you may inbue the piece with a nice smell, too. :)

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