Safe No Chemical Wood Finish

Shelly L Nemeth
by Shelly L Nemeth
5 Materials
2 Hours

I have posted a few painting techniques in the past, take a look at my most recent one which I used for some fall pumpkins. The thing is, I really don't like using chemicals. It's pretty hot here in Arizona, and I hate using chemicals in my home, so if I can use a no chemical solution to get the same results, then I'm all in! Today I was cleaning out my under the sink flip out drawer. It was looking really rusty and dirty and then I had a light bulb moment! If by leaving my Brillo pads in that drawer creates a rusty finish, then who says I couldn't do the same for wood? Using tea bags (which can stain pretty nicely as well) I created this new finish for my wooden wall ladder.

Dirty Drawer Shelf

The dirty drawer shelf that inspired me to get this look on my wood.

For this project you'll need:

  • Brillo pads
  • vinegar
  • tea
  • hot water
  • paintbrush

Soak the Brillo Pads in Vinegar
Soak the Brillo Pads in Vinegar

I took my Brillo pad and soaked in vinegar over night. It was a bit pink, which is not what I was going for, but onward we go!

Make Tea
Make Tea

I used this open tea bag and added some hot hot tap water (next time I’d leave the tea in the bag so the gains don’t strain out).

Paint the Tea On
Paint the Tea On

I began by painting the ladder with the tea first. Once again I was worried because the tea was raspberry and it was very red. But I made it work!

Paint with the Vinegar
Paint with the Vinegar

Then I used the vinegar that I had soaked my Brillo in overnight. I painted it over the tea stain.

Remove the Brillo Pad
Remove the Brillo Pad

I removed the Brillo...

DIY Weathered Wood

As it started to dry I got really excited! It began to look like a grey and weathered look- love!

DIY Weathered Wood Look

I continued and painted with the tea and then the Brillo solution over the whole ladder.

No Chemical Weathered Wood

And it turned out great! No paint, no chemicals, and it looks so good.

Cleaned Drawer

PS- I cleaned my drawer, but it remained a but stained. Looks like this technique would also work on plastic! I think I'll try this technique along with my cinnamon rust technique which I posted a few weeks ago.

Resources for this project:
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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 23 questions
  • Myarley Myarley on Sep 21, 2021

    Why not just buy the stain? It looks great this way. I just don't have the patience, I suppose.

  • Mike Mike on Sep 23, 2021

    Brillo pads are classified as a hazardous substance as defined by OSHA. They contain sodium nitrite that has been linked to heart disease and diabetes. A byproduct of Alkyl alcohol ethoxylate is a carcinogenic. Inhalation of cocoamide MEA is toxic. Are you aware these are chemicals?

  • Carole Molina Taylor Carole Molina Taylor on Jan 11, 2022

    You can also used plain steel wool pads with vinegar. Put a couple in a quart jar. Cover with white vinegar. Let set overnight or 24 hours. Then just strain. Brush over wood. Leaves a very nice stain. Zoos use it a lot in their monkey enclosures.

Join the conversation
4 of 130 comments
  • Deb Schroeder Deb Schroeder on Sep 28, 2021

    Shelly, your ladder is beautiful! I love the technique you used because it will enable me to add as much or as little red to the wood tone as I desire. On a separate note, please ignore those who chose to nitpick at others achievements. I hope they all read this quote from the Autism Foundation: “In a world where you can choose to be anything, please choose to be kind”.

  • Theresa Theresa on Sep 08, 2022

    🤣Lol about staining plastic.but I’m going to purposely try to stain some plastic because you have inspired me. I have thought that the coffee creamers containers have a shape that I think could make into outside Christmas bells by cutting off the bottom, drilling some holes for light and putting solar lights into the top. But exterior spray paint just not budget friendly or actually creative. But if I can just soak the contains in your mixture and they get red…’m all in. Thank you