How to Age Wood (almost Instantly)

I love the look of aged wood, and I use a lot of it in my projects. However, there are times when I need a certain size, or in this case, a certain something (a clothespin) that I don’t have in my pile of beat up old lumber. I wanted to make a flour sack pillow, and I saw a nifty way to finish it off at Funky Junk Interiors by simply tying it off with jute cord, and adding a clothespin that seems to hold the bag closed. Really cute! But, I needed a clothespin, and a brand new one with a shiny new hinge was simply not going to work for my project.
So, back to the clothes pin issue… I went and got a bag of new clothes pins, and simply dipped them in “magic juice” and once they dried, I had old, rusty clothespins to use on my pillow. And what is magic juice you ask?
Magic juice is a combination of Apple Cider Vinegar and steel wool. Yes, steel wool, and it will age wood almost instantly! Here’s how to make it. Buy apple cider vinegar with the “mother.” This is a very acidic vinegar, and the acidity will dissolve the steel wool. While you can buy steel wool in the furniture refinishing aisle at Lowe’s, its much cheaper to use SOS pads (or the generic equivalent. If you use them right away, be sure to rinse all the soap out of them. Or, use them until the soap is gone for dishes, then shred them up and save to make your magic juice.
I usually make my magic juice in the vinegar bottle, and if you do this, it’s probably a good idea to put a label on it, so someone doesn’t decide to use it for cooking, or whatever. Once the label is applied to the bottle, simply shred the SOS pad, and stuff it into the vinegar bottle. The magic juice will work best if its allowed to sit for three or four days, but will produce results if it sits overnight.
Magic juice can be put into a spray bottle for applying to larger pieces, or it can be applied to the wood with a rag. For smaller wood pieces, like my clothespin, age the wood by simply soaking in a container of magic juice for a day or so. If the wood is soaked, it won’t lookany different until it is taken out of the juice and dries. The dissolved steel wool provides the gray coloring, so the more steel wool that is dissolved in the vinegar, the darker gray the final color will be. It can also be used to rust some metals, although it can take a bit longer. The hinges on my clothes pins rusted quite nicely!
So, I was able to make my grainsack pillow, with a cute, aged clothespin to hold it closed! I'm on the look out for a few more grain or feed sacks so I can have enough pillows to go across my porch bench!

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Cori Warner

Want more details about this and other DIY projects? Check out my blog post!


Have a question about this project?

3 of 4 questions
  • Jimmy
    on Jan 7, 2016

    I used this to create the magic juice. I used a plastic vinegar bottle; however, after a couple of days I went into my shop to find out the bottle had exploded. Should I have used a glass bottle and should I put the lid on the jar?

  • Sam DiGeorge
    on Jan 31, 2018

    HI! I am a set designer for a Theater and I built an indoor deck for my next play and I need this deck to look old. Can i use this trick and spray the deck? Do I just apply the spray directly to the wood deck or do you think I should stain the deck first? I plan to take a hammer to the wood and give it some rough spots. Any ideas would be awesome!
    • Beth
      on Feb 6, 2019

      Be sure to do your dis-stressing first, then depending on the project size I would paint with brush or roller for the deck, multiple applications may be required, you want to thoroughly soak the wood, let dry and repeat as needed.

  • Lori G
    on Jun 3, 2018

    going to do this. Will it harm anything to let sun dry?

    • Tina
      on May 28, 2019

      No. May take more tha one application to get the desired results.

Join the conversation

3 of 37 comments
  • Itsmemic
    on Mar 4, 2018

    I wonder if this magic juice in a spray bottle will work well on a new wooden fence piece that was replacing a broken old one and now stands out like a sore thumb. Gonna give it a shot ! Also power washed graffiti off of my stockade fencing in an area and think this will work well to age that area too.

  • Swinnen Lisette
    on Aug 19, 2018

    I discovered that, if you drop your clothpins into the dirt and leave them in the rain for about 2 weeks, they look like that too..

    No good if you want to use them to hang white sheets to dry.

    And yes, here in Europe, most people don't use dryers but hang their washing outside. In my case, I work in holidayhomes and do the laundry of the sheets myself. I have to buy a lot of clothpins because the dirty ones leave marks on my laundry.

    Somethimes we have Americans visiting us, my favorite guests. They always wonder why there are no dryers in our gîtes..

    • Cathy Hays
      on Aug 26, 2018

      My Mother always hung our sheets out to dry. I do use my dryer for some of my other laundry but I do love to hang my sheets on the line to dry. About the only thing that I put in my dryer would be my heavy cotton towels. I just love the way that my laundry smells when its dried on the line. And I feel its much better on the fabric as well.

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