How to Clean Driftwood

Nick Davis

Driftwood, or wood that has come ashore after floating in the sea or a lake, has distinctive wear patterns and a variety of shapes that make it a sought-after material for exterior and interior decor. Before using driftwood in your home, it is important to clean the wood properly to remove dust, dirt and debris.

Driftwood has distinctive wear patterns and a bleached appearance.

It is also important to remove any tannins, a natural compound present in the wood’s fibers, from the driftwood.


Pieces of driftwood in aquariums provide interesting natural decorations and places for fish to hide; the cleaning process is especially important for driftwood used in aquariums, because poorly cleaned driftwood will foul the water and kill the fish. It's best to do this process outdoors, particularly with large pieces of driftwood; simply drain the dark water into a storm drain or outside drain.

  1. Place a piece of plastic sheeting on a flat surface, table or ground; place the driftwood on the sheeting.

  2. Scrub the driftwood thoroughly with a scrub brush to remove any dust, dirt and debris. Wear latex or work gloves to keep your hands clean. Turn the piece of driftwood over and continue scrubbing until the wood is clean.

  3. Place the driftwood in a large bucket or tub; completely cover the wood with distilled water. Let the driftwood soak in the water.

  4. Change the water whenever it becomes dark. Remove the driftwood and pour fresh distilled water over it. Drain the old, dark water and place the wood back in the large bucket or tub; fill it with more fresh, distilled water. Continue to let it soak for two weeks.

  5. Remove the driftwood; pat it dry with a clean towel or rag before placing it in your home.