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How to wash barn wood

With rustic farmhouse home décor being all the rage these days who doesn’t love a reclaimed barn wood project? I’ve been collecting reclaimed barn wood for about a year to make a plank wood wall around my gas fireplace. I was lucky enough to find someone locally that tears down old homes and barns and then sells the beautiful reclaimed materials.

What you probably won’t love about  reclaimed barn wood is really dirty and full of old broken nails. After all it’s been outside in the elements becoming this beautifully colored and weathered wood for decades.

Before you get started, I highly recommend cleaning and sanitizing the reclaimed barn wood if your planning on using it for an interior project. I however don’t recommend a lot of sanding it because it will remove the barn wood’s beautiful patina.

Supplies you’ll need to wash barn wood

To wash and sanitize reclaimed barn wood you’ll need a few simple things. You may already have most of these things around the house.


Instructions for washing barn wood

  1. Wearing work gloves start by looking closely for old nails. You may want the look of the nail holes so you’ll need some needle nose pliers or vise grip pliers to pull them out. Some nail heads may be broken off and you can just leave them in depending on the look you’re going for. I tried to pull out all the nails I could find because I was going to be cutting these boards down and didn’t want to saw through the nails. I certainly wasn’t able to get all of the nails out, and that was totally fine. After all, I’m going for a very rustic look.
  2. Then I laid out all the wood in my driveway and mixed up my cleaning solution. This may vary slightly depending on how much barn wood you need to wash but the basic solution is white distilled vinegar, hot water, & Dawn Platinum Power Clean dish soap.
  3. I used a very large bucket with about 5 gallons of hot water, 1/2 gallon of distilled white vinegar, and 2 cups of Dawn Dish soap. Mix together and use a large push broom soaked in the cleaning solution and start scrubbing! Then flip the wood over and scrub some more. Using this awesome hose nozzle on a garden hose rinse the wood very thoroughly.
  4. The next step is one of the most important. Let the wood DRY in the sunshine. Hopefully, you will be doing this on a warm sunny day and you can let the reclaimed wood dry completely. You may have to get creative with drying out the boards so that air can pass around them. If you have sawhorses available those would work great. If not you may have to come up with something as equally creative as my crib rail and truck tailgate drying rack. (work with what you have)




5.Once the reclaimed barn wood is completely dry use a wire brush to remove any large and loose pieces of wood. Then switch to the extra-fine sanding block to knock down any rough spots. Depending on what kind of project you’ll be using your barn wood for will determine how much sanding you’ll do. Again I recommend minimal sanding so that you don’t remove all the beautiful color and make it look “new” again.


Old barn wood project ideas

Here’s a list of creative ways to use your reclaimed barn wood in your house.

How I used my barn wood

I replaced my boring ugly pink tile around my fireplace insert to create an accent wall and mantle with my washed and sanitized barn wood. This wall is the main focus of our living room and is defiantly a great conversation starter. It’s fun to decorate for all the holidays as well. 



barn wood wall before and after