The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

Be sure to watch the short video at the end of this post to see how to pressure wash wood!

Collecting reclaimed wood is most definitely one of my hobbies since I build with reclaimed wood SO much.

So as you can imagine, I end up with all kinds of reclaimed wood collecting with wood being in all kinds of conditions, covered with green mildew being the most common.

In fact, some of the reclaimed wood is so dirty, you may even think to turn it down!

Coming up with an easy way to clean reclaimed wood was a must.

Since using this method, I don’t turn down ANY wood any longer, thanks to how easy this is.

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Before and after

.

I most recently came across this great old fence wood with a whole lotta reclaimed wood that needed some work.

The above plank is generally the condition I land wood. It’s generally full of black or green mildew for the most part since a lot of my wood gathering is from gathering wood from old cedar fences.

The bottom plank is the cleaned cedar plank from the same fence!

Doesn’t even look like the same wood, does it? Would you have brought that top plank home?

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

My first attempt to cleaning reclaimed wood was to use a scrub brush with a bucket of soapy water.

I’ve also attempted using diluted bleach in water with a decent pair of protective gloves. Works in a pinch. But oh my goodness… the scrubbing involved is over the top.


Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

So I decided to pull out my beloved pressure washer and see how that would work out…

Your first thought may be, pressure washers would use too much water on the wood. However I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.

Pressure washers gives a powerful burst of water that’s so short term, once the wood is left to dry quickly, you won’t have any issues!

So toss out the scrub brush this round. Here’s my own method of cleaning reclaimed wood using plain, safe water that works every time without a ton of effort!

This post contains some Amazon affiliate links in which I earn a small percentage from qualifying purchases through these links, at no extra cost to you. Thank-you for helping to support my blog!

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

 

How-to:

.

1. Remove all nails or staples from planks.

Check out THIS POST which shares an easy way to remove nails or take pallets apart!


Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

How to spread out the wood

.

2. Lay planks down on the lawn, spreading them out far apart enough so you have room to easily flip them over to the other side with your foot.

I have tried this on my driveway, however I prefer the lawn, since the grass appears to grip the wood better. Plus, the water simply soaks into the grass without requiring further cleaning. So easy!

And.. more room than most driveways so there’s that.

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Clean wood with a pressure washer

.

3. Bring out the pressure washer, then spray about 5 planks at a time on one side only to start.

I suggest to spray them as briefly as possible, just enough to remove the grit without removing all the decadent original patina if possible.

4. Flip the cleaned planks over with your foot, then pressure wash the other sides clean as well.

I like to work with 5 planks at a time so I don’t have to backtrack too much.


Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Stack wet wood on cement to dry

.

5. To dry, lean the cleaned reclaimed wood planks upright, on top of cement if possible, so the planks dry well.

If you space the planks out well and lean them enough for good air circulation, you shouldn’t need to turn them around.

And whatever you do, do not allow the planks to dry on the grass!

Reclaimed wood sitting on grass continues to absorb moisture leading to the boards warping. Ask me how I know.

The idea is to get the wood wet as briefly as possible, then dry thoroughly.

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Storing reclaimed wood

 

6. Store wood in a clean, dry place.

Ideally, if you can stack it with some air space, that’s the best, especially if it’s still slightly damp.

See how I stacked wood for good airflow HERE

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Learn how I created lumber storage underneath my work table HERE

Check out my very fav curbside found wood storage shelving HERE

And this dumpster found red metal wood storage rack HERE

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Sand dry wood to further prep

.

6. Once wood is dry, an additional great way to prep reclaimed wood is to gently sand it on both sides. 

I generally reserve the sanding part right before I build with it.

But boy is it nice to pull a plank out of stock and have it ready to go!

My fav palm sander for sanding wood is a Bosch variable speed palm sander, having various sandpaper grits on hand.


Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

Here’s the astonishing before and after of two cedar planks from the same fence.

The top plank hasn’t been touched yet, which is all full of mildew.

The 2nd cedar plank has been pressure washed, then lightly sanded.

Isn’t it gorgeous?! You seriously cannot get this outcome any other way!

How to clean reclaimed wood easily and quickly:

.

  • Lay out all the planks on the lawn.
  • With the pressure turned down low, make one pass across each board with a pressure washer,  taking care not to remove all the patina.
  • Flip the boards over and do the same to the other side.
  • Prop boards up on a cement surface to air dry.
  • Once dry, lightly sand with a palm sander before working with them.
  • Store the wood with air spacers if possible if laying on its side.

Video!

.

.

Click above to watch a short video on how easy it is to clean reclaimed wood with a pressure washer!

Visit the full post on an Adirondack pallet chair makeover HERE

Learn the easiest way to clean reclaimed wood that just requires clean, safe water using a pressure washer! Includes how to prep, clean, dry, and store reclaimed wood! Click to read the full tutorial.

The outcome

.

And let me tell you what a complete and utter joy it is to pull out a clean plank when you’re ready to build something! Aren’t those cedar plank wood tones gorgeous?! Who knew they were black with mildew at some point?

I made something really cool that I’ll be showing next week when a few more are complete. Until then, you know I just can’t publish a post without some pretty projects… so…

Other wood prep posts you may enjoy:

How to take pallets and fences apart without fancy tools!

How to take pallets and fences apart easily with no fancy tools!

Learn everything you've ever wanted to know about pallet wood! Is it safe? Learn how to choose wisely.

Is your pallet wood safe? Find out how to choose wisely.

How to protect chippy barn wood to retain the patina using Tough Coat.

How to protect chippy barn wood to retain original patina

How to treat or refinish wood surfaces. A side-by-side comparison of waxes and hemp oil.
Refinishing wood projects with waxes and oil… a comparison with project samples

How to condition new or rusty metal, preserving the original finish and bring out more lustre.
How to condition rusty metal

Visit many unique reclaimed wood projects to make HERE

Facebook Pinterest Twitter Instagram RSS

Subscribe to projects!

Categories: Junk Drawer, Reclaimed wood projects
Tags: ,
20

20 thoughts on “The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

  1. Ah, the pressure washer! I love it but I think it hates me! The setup, connecting, leaking, tangling, coiling! Every spring I get itchy to clean up yet brace myself at the same time and mine isn’t nearly as monstrous as yours. Bring on Spring!!

  2. The difference is like night and day! I appreciate this post because I have some old picket fencing I’d like to do something with, but it’s got a pretty nasty “patina”…now I know how to rid of that without breaking my back…thank you! I can hardly wait to see what you decide to do with all of these beautiful planks!

  3. Being someone over 50 myself, I love this idea. And I just rent my power washer from the local hardware store when I need it. No room at my little cottage to store it. Thanks!

  4. i recently started stripping the vinyl ugly wall paper from my small bath…of course the vinyl came off easy but the paper backing not so much it looks like they use something other than paste to put it up and it is going to take me a year (having back issues surgery coming soon) to wet and scrap it off also it was put right on the wall board with no a speck of primer. so i would put that fence board on the walls so i wouldn’t have to remove the dam paper ha ha xx

  5. Pulling out ours this weekend. I don’t know how we ever lived without a pressure washer. Our cedar fence was looking terrible but after a few hours using our pressure washer the cedar looked like new again. You must’ve been the talk of the neighborhood that day while your reclaimed boards dried on the lawn!

  6. What a great answer to my recent thoughts of how to clean reclaimed boards! I have a wall (maybe two) I want to plank with the neighbors old fencing they offered me. This was shortly after you said your neighbor gave you some fencing. (wow) Love your blog!

  7. Loving this! I’ve been wanting to do some stuff with reclaimed wood, but I’m always hesitant since I mean, I don’t know where that’s been!! But this is a great tutorial here, now I’m a little less wary of using reclaimed wood.

  8. Hi Donna, I live in Northern California in a drought with water use restrictions. I’d love to use a pressure washer to get my wood done so well, but I have to be careful. I wonder if it uses less water to spray the wood with the hard pressure and get the crud off quickly, than to scrub it with a brush and have to keep changing the bucket. Any thoughts? Thanks!!

    • Pressure washers use very little water. If you can line the boards up, turn on the water, do your spraying and turn it off you will probably use less water than with a bucket and brush.

  9. dear Donna i would like to commission you to make me a dining room table from those pallet slats of wood i want a six foot long table just nailed to frame and two by fours at legs about 4ft across not stained just natural and sanded. i m on a very did i say very cheep budget. but it will help to move some of that wood. if your interested contact me siamesegueu@hotmail.com I love what you can do with wood.Susie

  10. Hi there I recently had a bunchanged of reclaimed wood I was able to grab and I want to make a coffee and side table. However that would mean fresh cut ends. Do you have any suggestions on what to do with the fresh cut ends? What do you do in your projects to hide them?

    • Hi Arianna!

      I do my best to hide the fresh cuts when necessary, but other times, I allow them to just be a part of the project.

      That said, you could always experiment with watered down stains made from craft paint that will ‘dull’ the fresh cuts some. I’ve done that with success too.

  11. Donna, I recently was gifted with two of the heaviest, old wooden doors, with the most gorgeous chippy paint on them. How do I clean that without removing all the chippy character? I can use a garden hose with no pressure I suppose. And I want to use them to make an outdoor arbor so maybe they don’t need a lot of cleaning?

  12. I have an big old house that I can get the old wood off of it and I am going to use it for my tiny house for my siding. What you think? and also use it for other projects to. So I am glad that I found your site on how to clean the wood. But i don’t know what to put on the wood to preserve it when I put it on my house. Do you have any Ideal? I would appreciate if you could tell me what to use. I don’t want to paint it I want to keep the old look. Thank you kathy

    • Hi Kathy! I think using the old wood for your tiny house would be fabulous! I’d suggest to visit a local paint store for expert advice on how to best preserve it. I don’t seal smaller projects however for a house, I would certainly be looking into something as that is a long term commitment. Hope you get the right advice!

  13. I just discovered your page today. I’ve only in the last couple weeks started experimenting with painting on old wood we have around the shop. I’m interested in learning how to make “not yet old” wood look like it’s old. Is there a process for doing this?

    Also, your ideas are very creative. I look forward to creating more art using whatever wood I can find. Thanks.

  14. Ok, I have pallets of barn wood from buildings I tore down. Using the 1 x 6 x 11′ on two walls in the Master Bedroom, 1 x 4 x 8′ on a knee wall in the Master bath, and other siding on the Western wall of the kitchen. Also a salvaged barn door as the entrance for the Master bedroom. Making a fireplace mantle with a cross beam, The rest of the siding will be used on the 3 season wellhouse as wall art. Question: is this too much reclaimed wood to be using? We are selling in Spring.

    • Hi Sten! Love your ideas, they sound fab!

      Regarding the amount of wood, it’s hard to say. I like to have sections where there is none so it doesn’t take over. As in, reclaimed wood maybe here but not against or touching other reclaimed wood to break it up abit. A feature wall is a nice addition though!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *