Bob Vila Radio: Cleaning Reclaimed Wood

Salvaged wood often comes with an intriguing backstory and a unique appearance—but also with embedded dirt, dust, and debris. Here's how to clean the material before including it in your next project.

By Bob Vila | Updated Nov 8, 2015 11:33 AM

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Looking to add a sense of warmth and history to your home? For your next project, eschew stock lumber in favor of salvaged wood. Though it sometimes commands a higher price, you can still find weathered, character-rich old timber at an affordable cost in many parts of the country. Consider the material not only for the familiar applications—exposed beams and columns—but also for creative new uses like fireplace mantels and countertops.

How to Clean Reclaimed Wood


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Listen to BOB VILA ON USING SALVAGED WOOD or read the text below:

Typically, reclaimed boards are rough hewn and pocked with nooks and crannies. Especially when held in storage for a prolonged period of time, all those little crevices collect no small amount of dirt and debris. Therefore, the first thing to do is give the salvaged wood a thorough cleaning. The easiest way to dislodge the dirt is to use a pressure washer. Just be sure to turn the tool down to its lowest setting. That way, you avoid ruining the patina that gives the wood its special look. Remember to wash all sides, including the ends, and when you’re done, run a fun to facilitate the drying process. Finally, if desired, lightly sand the wood before getting to work.

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