For the most part, we recommend that you don’t mess with old wood scraps. These materials can have sharp edges, pests, and toxins that you won’t want to be anywhere near. If you’re interested in reclaimed wood, your safest bet is to purchase from a supplier with a certified background in cleaning reclaimed wood or seek out help from a professional. But if you have wood that you know is not dangerous and you would like to clean it up to be repurposed elsewhere, there are a few things you should keep in mind when cleaning. 

Safety First!

First thing’s first, ensure your eyes, ears, hands, and mouth are all protected from dust and sharp edges. Wearing protective eyewear and ear protection will help when you’re dealing with tools and other equipment. Invest in a good pair of heavy-duty gloves to ensure your hands are safe and protected against any sharp unwanted materials. You’ll also want to make sure you conduct reclaimed wood cleaning very cautiously and carefully when removing nails, screws, or simply just holding the materials. 

Trial and Error

When it comes to cleaning reclaimed wood, you’ll learn the most by practicing and perfecting your methods. Certain wood will require more than others, and you’ll want to be sure you don’t over-clean or sand off areas that make your wood beautiful and unique. You will learn as you go what works best for the variety of wood you have and the style of reclaimed wood you’re hoping to achieve. 

Kiln-Dried Reclaimed Wood

Before diving into the details of cleaning wood at home, one of the best options for purchasing reclaimed wood is looking for companies that kiln dry their materials. Essentially, kiln-dried reclaimed wood is wood that has been stored in a large oven for some period of time to remove moisture and any presence of pests. This process can be expensive, tedious, and time-consuming depending on the wood variety and amount of manufacturing equipment that the company already has. This process will often reflect in the higher price tag on some of these reclaimed wood varieties.

It’s important to keep in mind that this wood, although more expensive, is essentially 100% sanitized and safe to install either in the interior or exterior of your home. This can save you loads of money down the road if any repairs or damage should arise. Be sure to check with your supplier if kiln-dried materials are available, they are some of the best reclaimed options on the market for those looking for safe and secure interior design options. 

Air-Dried Reclaimed Wood

Air-dried reclaimed wood materials have been sorted and stored outside to dry naturally. This process is far less expensive than a kiln, but will take a sufficient amount of time longer to fully dry. Air drying the wood can also make the wood easier to work with, but does not fully sanitize the wood to the same extent as a kiln. 

Cleaning Reclaimed Wood at Home

If you have reclaimed wood at home and are looking for efficient and inexpensive ways to clean it, there are many options for you. First, a pressure washer can come in handy when looking for a simple and effective method to clean the surface of your wood. These are more ideal for bigger areas to clean, and you can also rent one from a local box store for fairly cheap to get the job done. Be sure to keep it on the lowest setting and stand at least a foot away from the wood so as to not damage the patina. Also be sure to check the weather ahead of time because the wood will need to dry in the sun for 1 to 2 days after. 

One of the most common methods for cleaning reclaimed wood is by hosing it down and using a bristle or brush to gently scrub the surface. This method can be labor-intensive, but is certainly one of the most cost-effective options for those in need of cleaning their reclaimed materials. Start by rinsing your wood on all sides, scrubbing the boards down with soapy water. Using a bristle brush, be sure to get the soap in every crevice and scratch off any residual dirt that you can find. Afterwards, rinse again and set aside to allow for the boards to dry in the sun (about 1 to 2 days). 

To ensure that your reclaimed wood doesn’t lose its patina, cleaning it with a steamer may be preferable. Steamers will help sanitize the wood and clean up any dirt while preserving the beauty under the reclaimed wood surface. The only issue that some may find with this method is that it’s unable to deep clean and remove any presence of bugs that may be living inside. 

Finally, one other way you can clean your reclaimed wood is by sanding it. Before sanding the surface, it may be advisable to use a bristle brush and scrape the surface clean of dirt. After that, lightly sand the wood to clean it and make the surface a bit more smooth. Hand sanding is most likely the way to go to ensure the details and beauty of the wood are preserved. It is definitely more time intensive, but the result will be well worth it!