Homemade Acetone to Age Wood: 5 Easy Steps

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Today we will cover in 5 easy steps how to mix vinegar, steel wool, and oil to make your own homemade acetone to age wood, create a great rustic look, and/or enhance the look of reclaimed wood.

What you will need:

  1. Distilled White Vinegar (1/2 Gallon or Gallon – or 2-4 liters if you live in countries that have not been to the moon)
  2. 0000 Steel Wool (Amazon Link) 
  3. Boiled Linseed Oil (or Tung Oil can work as well (Amazon Links))
  4. Container
  5. Paper Towel (or other cloth strainer)
  6. Latex Gloves

DON’T FEEL LIKE READING?  You can watch our video using the video link!

Step One: Mix Vinegar and Steel Wool

The ratio is pretty simple:  One steel pad for every 1/4 Gallon (approximately 30 ounces) or if you use metric one steel wool pad to 1 liter of vinegar.  You can either pull the pad apart to aid the vinegar in dissolving the steel wool or you can just toss it in (may add some time needed before solution is ready).  PRO TIP: Make sure the container lid is loose – there will be gases released and will need a route to escape.

Step Two: The Waiting

According to Tom Petty, this is the hardest part.  After 24 hours it will look like nothing is happening.  The vinegar might be slightly tinted but you will wonder if you did something wrong.  You did not do anything wrong, you’re on the right track.  At this point I tighten the lid and shake the container.  It will turn grey (maybe, sometimes it does not) and you will feel vindicated.  Loosen lid and let stand again.  After another 24 hours (now 48 hours total) the solution should look dark grey or almost black with no steel wool visible.

Steel Wool and Vinegar after 24 hours. Steel wool still solid and vinegar mostly clear.

Step Three: The Filtering of acetone

Using paper towel to strain any remaining steel wool from vinegar. You can also use a clean cloth rag or a coffee filter

The solution needs to be filtered to make sure you catch any debris or steel wool that is left undissolved.  Because I make this in one gallon batches I put everything back in the gallon container. Next, I just use two paper towels as my filter when adding solution back.

Two paper towels to filter acetone

Step Four: Adding Oil to Acetone

After you finish straining out the debris you can mix oil into the solution to help seal the wood as it ages.  I prefer to use a 50/50 ratio, or 1:1 by weight of the acetone we just created to Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO).  You can also use Tung Oil if that is your preference.  I have not used any other oils to mix but I would guess it would have much the same effect.  After the wood is aged and dry (at least 1 week) you can add a finish such as polyurethane to the surface.  You can also choose not to add oil and instead add whatever finish you like after you have aged the wood with the acetone solution.

50/50 Mix of acetone with Boiled Linseed Oil (BLO)

Step Five: Applying Acetone to the Wood

Using a paint brush to apply the acetone and oil mix to the wood.

The last step is to apply the acetone and oil mixture to the wood.  I prefer to use a paint brush but you can use a rag as well.  Make sure you put a generous amount on all sides, including the back.  This will help prevent warping and dramatic movement.  After about 30 minutes you will notice a dramatic change in the wood.  I would say the aging process is about 85% done with how aged it will look in an hour.  It will continue to slightly darken and age overnight.  The next day you will be able to see the final form of what the wood will look like.  Now it is ready for whatever use you had intended.  If you wish to apply a finish (such as polyurethane) you should wait a week before doing so.

This is the wood before aging with acetone and BLO. It was painted on the night before and applied to reclaimed wood wall the next day.
Boards after aging applied to Reclaimed Wood Wall

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