How to Clean Reclaimed Barn Wood

Reclaimed Barn wood

As I mentioned in this post, I was over the moon to learn about the story of a 1600s barn in my hometown and to be able to have a piece of history with the scrap wood that is unable to be used in its restoration.  My mind has been churning with ideas of what to make out of this reclaimed wood.  With the limited amount of resources (if I need more or change my mind there is no going to Home Depot for another piece), I measured what I had and got to sketching what I could make.  However, before I could hop to making anything I had to stop and remember this wood has been outside for FOUR HUNDRED YEARS.  That is 400 years of weather and housing animals and machinery.  In other words, not the most sanitary thing to bring into my clean home.

how to clean reclaimed wood

First step, there were about 50,000 nails, screws, and staples (or so it felt like it) embedded in the reclaimed wood.  Before any cleaning can be done these had to be removed.  Since some of these have presumably been in the wood for quite a long time you have to be creative to get them out from being wedged deeply. Some of the staples were in deeper that the surface of the wood making it difficult to grip from the top to pull them straight out.  From the back of the reclaimed wood where the two sides stick out, it is easiest to hammer them back through gently first, then allowing space to work a flat head screw driver underneath.  Rather than try to pull hard with pliers (and probably hitting myself), I used a crow bar as a lever under the flat head to pull the staple out.

removing staples

Once all the metal was removed, I made a mixture in a spray bottle of about 1 part bleach to 3 parts water.  I sprayed this all over the pieces and let it sit for a few minutes before being power washed off and left to dry in the sun.

 Reclaimed wood

The next day, after they had dried, I did another cleaning cycle.  This time I had a bucket of hot soapy water and used a brush to scrub them down and once again let them dry in the sun.

Next up, measuring and cutting! What projects have you done with reclaimed wood?


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