Unlock the Secrets of Cleaning Driftwood for Effortless Crafting

If you’re gearing up for a project, the very first step is to prepare and wash the driftwood.

Follow along with my handy step-by-step guide, and soon you’ll be working with beautifully washed driftwood for your next masterpiece

To wash driftwood for crafting, start by scrubbing off debris and loose dirt with a brush. Soak the driftwood in a mixture of water and bleach, ensuring it’s fully submerged, to kill bacteria and remove any remaining dirt. Rinse the driftwood thoroughly with water.

Table of Contents

Why Wash Driftwood?
Materials Needed
Step-by-Step Instructions

  • Soak the Driftwood
  • Scrub the Driftwood
  • Rinse and Dry the Driftwood
  • Sterilize the Driftwood
  • Preserve the Driftwood

Pros & Cons of Cleaning & Preserving Driftwood
Tips for Cleaning Driftwood 

Why Wash Driftwood?

You’ll often notice that the driftwood you collect is often covered in dirt, sand, and salt. Washing it thoroughly is important because of the risk of harmful bacteria. In a 2020 study published in the Nordic Journal of Botany, researchers uncovered 145 possible species. I’ve learned that cleaning driftwood is not just about removing dirt and salt but also ensuring its safety for handling.

Materials Needed

Start by collecting together all of the bits to wash your driftwood. Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Large bucket or container
  • Scrub brush
  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Gloves
  • Protective eyewear
  • Cleaning Driftwood: Step-by-Step
  • Follow these steps to achieve the best results:
Step Action
1 Soak the driftwood in a large container of water for 24 hours before cleaning. This will help to soften any dirt and debris.
2 After soaking the driftwood, use a cheap scrub brush to remove any remaining dirt and debris.
3 Once the driftwood is scrubbed clean, rinse it thoroughly with clean water. 
4 To ensure that the driftwood is free of any potential pests or bacteria I like to sterilize it. 
5 Preserve the driftwood to maintain its natural beauty and prevent it from deteriorating over time.
Note Let the wood dry completely before applying any finishes

How to Wash Driftwood: Step by Step

Step 1: Soak the Driftwood

Soaking the driftwood is the first step. This allows any dirt or debris on the surface to loosen up and soften, making it easier to remove. To do this, place the driftwood in a large container of water for 24 hours. You can use a bathtub, a large bucket, or any other container that is big enough to hold the driftwood. Make sure that the driftwood is fully submerged in the water.

Step 2: Scrub the Driftwood

I like to leave it to soak for around 24 hours, at which point, it’s time to scrub it clean it. Use a scrub brush to remove any remaining dirt or debris. Be sure to scrub in the direction of the wood grain to avoid damaging the wood. You can also use a toothbrush or other small brush to get into crevices or hard-to-reach areas. If the driftwood is especially dirty, you may need to repeat this step several times until it’s completely clean. This process also contributes to helping understand the age of the wood.

Step 3: Rinse the Driftwood

Once you’ve scrubbed the driftwood clean, rinse it thoroughly with clean water. This will remove any remaining dirt or debris, as well as any soap or cleaning solution that you may have used during the scrubbing process. Rinse the driftwood under running water, or fill a container with clean water and submerge the driftwood in it.

Step 4: Sterilize the Driftwood

To make sure that the driftwood is free of any potential pests or bacteria, it is important to sterilize it. There are several methods for sterilizing driftwood, including:

Fill a large pot with enough water to fully submerge the driftwood and bring it to a boil. Place the driftwood in the pot and allow it to boil for at least 30 minutes. Be sure to use tongs or gloves to handle the driftwood, as it will be very hot. an experiment on Aquariumscience.org, boiling is effective for removing only the top layer of tannins, making it less suitable for aquariums. Nevertheless, for crafting purposes, especially with driftwood, boiling driftwood remains an acceptable method

Align the baking temperature with the recommended guidelines. Preheat your oven and place the driftwood on a baking sheet. Bake the driftwood for at least 30 minutes at a core temperature of 133 °F (56 °C).complying with international trade standards outlined in the Guidelines for Regulating Wood Packaging Material in International Trade

Fill a bucket with a solution of one part bleach and nine parts water. Submerge the driftwood in the solution for at least 24 hours, then rinse it thoroughly with clean water and allow it to dry completely.

Step 5: Preserve the Driftwood

Once the driftwood is clean and sterilized, it is important to preserve it to maintain its natural beauty and prevent it from deteriorating over time. There are various methods for this stage including:

Varnishing: Use a clear, outdoor varnish and apply it to the driftwood using a brush.
Waxing: Use a clear wax or a wax and apply it using a soft cloth.
Oil Treatment: Use clear, outdoor-grade oil and apply it to the driftwood using a soft cloth

Pros and Cons of Cleaning & Preserving Driftwood

There are several methods you can use for cleaning driftwood, each with its own set of pros and cons. Below ive created a simple table to show the pros and cons of popular methods such as boiling, baking, bleaching, varnishing, waxing, and oil treatment.

Method Pros Cons
Boiling Effective at sterilizing Can cause wood to split or crack
Baking Easy and inexpensive Can release harmful fumes
Bleaching Quick and effective Can weaken the wood over time
Varnishing Provides a shiny, protective finish Can alter the natural look of the wood
Waxing Adds a subtle sheen May need to be reapplied periodically
Oil Treatment Enhances the natural color and grain of the wood Can attract dust and dirt

Tips for Working with Driftwood

Now that you have clean and sanitized driftwood, here are some tips for working with it:

  • Always wear gloves and protective eyewear when handling driftwood.
  • Use a saw or sandpaper to shape the wood as needed.
  • To prevent the wood from splitting, pre-drill holes before inserting screws or nails. Use a drill bit that is slightly larger than the nail or screw you will be using.
  • When using driftwood for furniture or outdoor projects, seal it with a waterproofing agent to protect it from the elements. 


Having worked on many driftwood projects from candle holders to mirrors, I’ve learned the importance of proper cleaning and sanitizing before using driftwood for any project. By following the steps in this guide, you can make sure that your driftwood is clean, safe to handle, and ready to use for your next creative project! Happy crafting!


Is it safe to use driftwood for crafts?

As long as the driftwood is properly cleaned and sanitized, it is safe to use for crafts.

Can I use any type of bleach for sanitizing driftwood?

I find it best to use regular household bleach. Tip: Do not use scented or colored bleach as it can mess with the wood

Can I skip the soaking step and just scrub the driftwood?

Soaking the driftwood is an important step that helps to loosen dirt and debris, making it easier to scrub the wood clean. Skipping this step could result in a less thorough cleaning

Can I use sandpaper to shape the driftwood?

Yes, sandpaper can be used to shape and smooth the wood. Be sure to use fine-grit sandpaper and sand in the direction of the wood grain.

Do I need to seal the driftwood after cleaning it?

Sealing the driftwood is up to you, but it can help to protect the wood and give it a polished look. Use a waterproofing agent if you plan to use the driftwood for outdoor projects.


🌿”Have you tried these driftwood cleaning methods? Share your experience and tips in the comments below!✨


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