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.
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?
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.
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
1. Remove all nails or staples from planks.
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.
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.
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.
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 how I created lumber storage underneath my work table HERE
Check out my very fav curbside found wood storage shelving HERE
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.
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.
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
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 easily with no fancy tools!
Visit many unique reclaimed wood projects to make HERE