Everything You Need to Know about Cleaning Barn Wood

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For your next project, you have decided to use barn wood instead of a new wood panel. This decision, while very important, comes with a lot of work. The most important part of all the work is to make sure that the beautiful barn wood is clear of any bugs, insects, dirt, or anything else that can ruin the result of the process. Admittedly, cleaning barn wood is essential and sometimes complex, especially if you don’t know about such processes and details. In this article, we aim at explaining everything that you need to know about cleaning Barn Wood, also known as reclaimed wood.

Why Use Barn Wood?

Let’s be honest. There are several reasons why we use and should use barn wood. One includes its strength, rot resistance, or stability. However, the primary reason is its unmatched originality and beauty. The aesthetic characteristics of barn wood outshine all other woods because of its mature age. The maturity is perhaps why each of these woods comes with their own historically rich story. Each mark, tobacco stain, nail mark, saw scar tells a story for deeper then what we usually perceive. This would explain why it is exceptionally soothing to be surrounded by a warm, homey feeling that barn wood provides.

They also come in a variety of different sizes, unlike the new woods due to their scarcity. Barn wood is also incredibly versatile in its usability for various projects. Projects made from reclaimed barn wood are not only functional but trendy too. What’s great is that you can make most of these projects at home.


Everything You Need To Know About Cleaning Barn Wood

To get that perfect earthy finish, we cannot emphasize enough on the importance of clean and bug-free reclaimed barn wood. This is why, in this guide, you will not only learn how you can clean your reclaimed barn wood but also your options, tips, and tricks in doing so.


Everything you need to know about cleaning barnwood


Pre-Clean Up Safety

The pre-clean routine is all about safety. To start, you need to make sure that you have all the protective gear like eye protection, dusk masks, and heavy-duty gloves. Once you have all your protective equipment, you need to make sure that you have removed all the fasteners or nails from the boards.

The Professional Clean Up Options

Before we consider the options and methods of cleaning a barn wood at home, we thought it would only be appropriate to lay out all your options, which include the professional cleaning options. The most popular options to keep in mind are:

  1.  Air-Dried Vs. Kiln-Dried -Air drying barn wood is the process of sorting the wood outside in the open air to let it dry naturally. While this process is more time consuming, it is less expensive then Kiln-dried ones. Kiln drying is a process of placing the wood in a kiln, which is somewhat similar to a large oven for a certain amount of time. This process not only dries out the moisture, but also kills almost all of the insects, bugs, or bacteria living in the wood. This perfect sanitization of the wood is why kiln-dried woods are more expensive than air-dried or as-it-is wood.
  2. Milled down – Milling down wood is the process of flattening and squaring a piece of wood. This creates a smooth and cleaner surface on the wood. Milling down wood will also save you a ton of weight as the wood is usually milled down pretty thin. However, it lacks the sanitization of kiln-dried.

At Home Clean Up Options

If you already have a piece of barn wood that just needs cleaning, then the best option for you is to clean it at home. Here are some of the methods you can consider for cleaning your reclaimed wood.

Pressure Washer

PRessure Washer
Photo Credits to Olympic Stains

A pressure washer is the most effective and efficient method of cleaning. It is also the least time- consuming method out of all the ones mentioned here. You can rent a pressure washer for quite reasonable rates if you think purchasing one is too excessive. Keep the nozzle of the washer at a distance of one foot from the wood to avoid damage. After washing, you need to make sure the wood is under the sun for at least two days. However, it is also important to note that people mostly use a pressure washer for bigger projects.


Photo Credits to Steam Cleaner Master

A steamer is a method that not only cleans the barn board, but it also sanitizes and retains the patina of the wood. Although a steamer successfully cleans off caked-on dirt, it doesn’t deep clean the wood like a pressure washer.


Hose, Soapy Water, and Bristle brush

This method may be the most cost-effective one, but it’s also the most labor-intensive one. Start by rinsing the wood boards with a hose and nozzle in the downward direction. Then scrub the boards with the bristle brush and the soapy water. After you have thoroughly scrubbed the dirt and gunk off the board, rinse the board down in a similar fashion like before. Leave the boards under the heat of the sun for two days, at least to be air-dried.


Wire Brush

A wire brush also lacks the deep cleaning ability in contrast to using a hose and soapy water. However, going over your reclaimed wood with a wire brush can help loosen up the stubborn dirt without damaging the beautiful patina.


Sand Paper

Sand Paper
Photo Credits to Toan Phu Ming Tuong

Sanding by hand is also another light cleaning method that you can implement. We suggest against using a palm sander because harsh sanding may remove more of patina then that is necessary. This method will not only clean the surface of the barn wood but also make it smoother.


Your Options To Fight Barn Wood Bugs

Barn wood bugs
Photo Credits to Tennessee Barn Doors

While some of the methods mentioned above can prevent bugs in reclaimed barn wood, it is better to treat them for bug resistance. This is primarily a good idea when we don’t know exactly where the wood came from or how old it is. Here’s a list of all the methods that can help you remove, fight off, or
prevent insect infestation:

  • Kiln Dried – As mentioned before, the process of kiln drying treats the wood at a temperature that kills off all insects, bugs, and bacteria that reside in the wood. This is one of the surest methods to fight and
    prevents barn wood bugs.
  • Commercial Products – After kiln drying, the second most reliable method is using commercial products like Timbor and Bora-Care. These products can kill existing bugs as well as prevent future infestations. You can apply these products to the wood by spraying or painting them, which can understandably get expensive.
  • Borax – Using borax to fight off bugs is an easy and cost-effective cleaning method that works quite well. The borax solution that kills any existing bug and prevents future infestation contains the following;
    • One teaspoon of borax
    • 8 Oz of warm water
    • Add both the ingredients in a container and stir until you dissolve the mixture entirely. Now pour the mixture in a spray bottle and mist the wood with the solution. After spraying, leave the mixture to sit in the wood under the sun for a few days to make sure it is completely dry. A point to note while working borax is that it might not be toxic, but it does kill the grass. Therefore, you need to be careful of where you are treating your woods with it.
  • Oven – You can use your home oven as your own kiln processor for small pieces of wood that are perfect for smaller projects like recreating some of the trendiest home décors of 2020. You need to exercise extra caution if you decide to bake your wood sheets. Make sure to place the wood on a cookie sheet, they are not touching, and you have set the oven to its lowest setting. You can leave the wood pieces in the oven for a duration between 20 minutes to one hour. Do not leave the wood unattended and keep an eye on it at all times.
  • Freezer – This method of killing existing bugs living in the wood is surely one you could try. Place the pieces of wood in a zip log bag and leave it in the freezer for a few days. You should know that while this method may sound easier than baking wood in the oven, it might not be a full-proof one. This is because some bugs survive even in the harshest and most freezing temperatures.

Final thought

When you think about it, cleaning barn wood is not as difficult as it seems in the beginning. In fact, the process of cleansing something old but beautiful, and making its originality shine, can even be therapeutic. A good clean, realigned wood gives a solid base for people to work on with their various projects. Be sure to try the methods mentioned above and let us know how it turned out. You can purchase some great reclaimed wood for your projects at www.rockinwoodusa.com

By the way – When you order your wood from us, it is clean and ready to use!

If you have any questions, give us a call!