How to finish driftwood

Updated April 17, 2017

Driftwood is a sought-after style of wood that is crafted naturally by water exposure. The harsh waves and water movement continually smooth out the surface of the wood to create an attractive item. To protect and preserve the driftwood for many years, you can stain the wood and apply a sealant. This is a process that requires patience and minimal painting skills to complete.

Smooth the surface of the driftwood. Sand down the surface using 220-grit sandpaper to remove any roughness in the texture. Sand off any broken ends to create a smooth, rounded surface. Wipe away dust with a damp rag.

Treat the wood before staining. Soak a rag in wood conditioner, and apply it generously to the surface of the driftwood. Wood conditioner is used during the staining process to ensure an even and consistently stained finish. Allow wood conditioner to set for 15 minutes.

Put on rubber gloves and dip stain cloth into wood stain. Cover the drift wood with stain, applying a generous amount in a circular motion to work the stain into the wood grain. Allow stain to set for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the desired depth.

Remove excess stain with a dry rag. Wipe the wood surface to remove excess liquid, while leaving a light coating of wood stain over the entire surface. Set driftwood aside for 4 to 6 hours or until the wood is dry to the touch and no stain is lifted when you run your finger over the surface.

Apply a thin layer of polyurethane over the driftwood. Dip the tip of the foam brush into the polyurethane, and apply a thin layer over the entire surface. Allow polyurethane to set for 6 hours, and apply a second coating. Allow completed driftwood to set for 24 hours before placing any items on it or exposing the wood to harsh conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • Wood conditioner
  • Wood stain
  • Polyurethane
  • Stain cloths
  • Rubber gloves
  • Foam brush
  • Old rags
  • 220-grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Nicole Byerly has been writing since 2003. She has published multiple works that have appeared in "Campus Philly." Byerly is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in cybersecurity at Utica College.