Can You Leave Driftwood Outside?

Driftwood left outside treatment

You must have been intrigued by the pieces of driftwood that wash up on the shores of rivers or seas. The smooth weathered look makes them a perfect fit for your rustic home decor. Indeed, driftwood can be really versatile in terms of design. So if you’re wondering if you can leave driftwood outside, find out the answer below. 

Can you leave driftwood outside?

The short answer to this question is ‘Yes, you can.’ As mentioned before, driftwood has a lot of uses. It is not just used as a decoration in your aquascape. You can put it in your fish tank or sculpt and shape it into some work of art. It is also used in furniture, just like normal wood. However, there are some approaches to follow when working with driftwood. 

Before using driftwood in any of your crafts or artwork, it is necessary that you clean and sanitizes the wood. Since it has been floating in the water for too long, the wood gets exposed to bugs and other organisms. It is important to treat the driftwood before using it to prevent any smell or bugs. 

You can do so by cleaning the wood with a brush and then boiling it in water for a few hours. Some driftwoods might release tannins or a foul smell which might need longer boiling to be fully removed. If the piece of wood is too big to boil, you can soak it in a water-bleach solution for a few days and dry it out in the sun. The driftwood can then be sanded and sealed to prevent further damage. 

Will driftwood smell if left outside?

Sometimes, if you take driftwood out of the water, it might smell really bad. However, this doesn’t mean that the wood is rotting and you need to get rid of it.  

The foul odor comes from the anaerobic bacteria, which process nitrates into nitrogen gas. It is normal for driftwood to stink for a while once it is removed from the water.

Some pieces of wood also stop smelling on their own once they’re removed from the water. However, if you want to get rid of the smell sooner, you can try other methods. 

To remove the smell from the wood, you can boil it for some time and leave it out to dry in the sun. If the piece of wood is too big to boil, it can also be placed in the oven. Be very careful during this process, though. Use gloves and tongs to move the pieces of wood and avoid touching the wood until it has cooled down. 

How to prepare driftwood to be left outside

You can use driftwood in all sorts of arts and crafts. You can paint on the driftwood to create colorful masterpieces. It can be used as a decoration piece as well. Many people also make unique sculptures using driftwood. Bigger pieces of driftwood are also used in making furniture such as wooden chairs. 

If you are planning to do any of the above-mentioned DIY to your driftwood, make sure you prepare it well before using it. Follow these steps to prepare your driftwood for outside use:

1. Cleaning

As mentioned above, it is important to clean the driftwood thoroughly before using it anywhere. Make sure you keep the wood outside of your home in a well-ventilated area until it is completely clean. Use a brush to clean off any debris, dirt, or decaying wood. Wash it with boiling water to kill off any bugs. 

Once that is done, soak the pieces of wood in a diluted bleach solution. Use 2 cups of bleach for every gallon of water. Rinse off with cold water and move to the next step. 

2. Treating

You can take an extra step and also spray insecticide on the driftwood to prevent any bugs in the future. You can do so by spraying a concentrated insecticide spray and leaving the wood out in the sun for a few days. 

3. Sanding

Once the wood is completely clean, you can sand it down or trim it to give it the shape of your choice. If you want smoother wood, use low-grit sandpaper. And if you prefer a more natural look, you can opt for high-grit sandpaper too. The main goal of sanding is to smooth out areas from where you trimmed the wood and which can give splinters. 

4. Staining

You might see a change in the shade of wood once you sculpt or sand it. To give it an even tone, you can use a stain. To do so, apply wood conditioner to the wood. Wait for at least 15 minutes before applying the wood stain. Use a brush to apply the stain and a cloth to wipe off the excess. Let the wood dry for a few hours before covering it with the finishing layer. 

5. Finishing

Multiple options are available to finish your driftwood once it is complete. You can use furniture wax, or matte, satin, or glossy protective finish. There are multiple ways of applying the finishing layer. You can use a brush, a cloth, or even a spray. Multiple layers might be needed to cover the wood evenly. Make sure you leave the wood to dry for at least 6 to 8 hours before applying the next layer. 

Once the finishing layer is dried, your driftwood is ready to go to that decorative shelf or become the statement piece in your room. 

Final words

Whether you use driftwood in aqua spaces or outside, if maintained properly, it can last very long. There are a lot of things you can do with driftwood to add beautiful decoration pieces to your home. They can be used as shelf holders, coat hangers, art pieces, or just simple statement pieces too. 

No matter how you plan to use it, make sure to clean the wood thoroughly and prepare it correctly before using it. Now get out there, find yourself some driftwood, and start crafting.

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