How to clean reclaimed wood

Written by jim wildman
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How to clean reclaimed wood
You can use old barn boards as reclaimed wood. (old barn image by AGphotographer from

Many people have become involved in going green. This is evident in the use of reclaimed lumber for many new woodworking projects. You can find reclaimed lumber on the Internet and at some woodworking supply stores. The old boards have great charm after they have been cleaned up. The do-it-yourself handyman can clean up the reclaimed wood for a project without a lot of trouble.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Saw horses
  • Metal detector
  • Marker
  • Trim pry bar
  • Hammer
  • Scrub brush
  • Dust mask
  • Power washer with fan tip

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  1. 1

    Place each board on a pair of saw horses. Visually check each board for any hidden nails or screws that may be in the boards. These will damage your tools if left in the lumber. Use a metal detector to check the boards for any broken off nails or screws. Mark any that you find with a marker so you can remove them. Use a trim pry bar and a hammer to remove any metal you find in the board.

  2. 2

    Scrub each board with a stiff scrub brush to remove as much surface dirt and debris as possible. Wear a dust mask while cleaning the wood. A lot of reclaimed lumber comes from old barns and can harbour old debris that is harmful to breathe in. This will remove some of the existing paint from the boards.

  3. 3

    Spray the boards with a power washer with a fan tip. You do not want to damage the wood with a fine-tip sprayer. Keep the tip of the power washer at least 12 inches away from the surface of the board. Otherwise you will damage the surface of the board. Wash off any surface dirt and debris from each side of the wood. The power sprayer should remove any remaining old paint from the wood.

  4. 4

    Stack the boards after you have washed them off so they can dry. Use spacers to separate the boards while they are drying and before you use them. This will keep the wood from warping or moulding. Make sure it is completely dry before you use it.

Tips and warnings

  • Wear eye protection, a dust mask and gloves when working with reclaimed lumber.

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