The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / before and after /
So… remember all that great old fence wood I came home with not long ago?

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / boards on lawn /
At one point I attempted to use a scrub brush to clean them. But after huffing and puffing over 1 square foot, (I’m too old for that nonsense…) I got the pressure washer involved.

Best. Decision. EVER!

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / pressure washed boards /
The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / pressure washed boards /
Pressure washing the reclaimed wood was the way to go. Within minutes, I had tons of fence planks air drying so I could eventually work with them.

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / pressure washed boards /
Here’s the astonishing difference. The top one is fresh off the fence, and the bottom one is pressure washed and sanded. Now if this doesn’t convince you to get a pressure washer in house, I don’t know what would!

(I will attempt to make a video next batch I clean… will update this post when it’s done)

I’ve used a scrub brush and bleach on old wood before. But because this stuff was so full of mould, the pressure washer really did the trick.

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / sanding boards after cleaning /

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood

  • Lay out all the planks on the lawn.
  • With the pressure turned down low, make one pass across each board with a pressure washer, (affiliate link) taking care not to remove all the patina.
  • Flip the boards over and do the same to the other side.
  • Walk across all the planks while spraying both edges (sides) of each plank.
  • Allow to air dry.
  • Once dry, lightly sand with a palm sander before working with them.

The easiest way to clean reclaimed wood / wood tone variation /
The fence wood had gorgeous variations in tone, which will make for some neat looking projects when mixed up!

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…

Easy reclaimed wood project ideas

Route 66 reclaimed wood puzzle coasters /
Reclaimed wood puzzle coasters

Drill handled toolbox with purple hydrangeas and firewood coasters /
Drill handled toolbox

Reclaimed wood shutter shelf /
Reclaimed wood and shutter shelf

Garden shed made from reclaimed fence boards /
Make a rustic shed with fence wood

Reclaimed wood arrow sign, bingo board and shutter toolbox /
Reclaimed wood arrow sign

Bingo board sign

Shutter toolbox

Who knew a falling down mouldy fence could become so handsome? 🙂 

What would you make with all this wood?

Other how to related posts:

How to treat wood
Refinishing wood projects with waxes and oil… a comparison with project samples

How to condition metal
How to condition rusty metal

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Categories: Junk Drawer, Reclaimed wood projects
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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 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!

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