How to Clean Your Logs Before You Stain
Before you stain your log cabin, it’s important to clean your logs and make sure they are free of old stains and chemicals. But what’s the best way to clean your logs?
The answer varies, depending on the size and scope of your job.
1. Corn Blasting
For larger jobs that require a significant amount of stripping, we recommend corn-blasting.
Corn blasting is the most thorough cleaning and stripping action, combined with the highest production rate of removal of any of the available methods.
Additionally, the corn medium is dry, so it doesn’t wet the wood. Plus, it’s biodegradable, so it won’t harm surrounding plants and shrubs.
Corn blasting is messy. You need a certain amount of experience and skill to keep from raising or fuzzing the wood fibers, and it also requires relatively heavy duty, expensive equipment.
For lighter-duty and smaller jobs, a palm sander with 60- to 80-grid paper is a viable alternative.
The advantages of sanding with either a palm sander or cup brush are that it is quick and easy, doesn’t require much setup time, it doesn’t wet the wood, and there’s no heavy or expensive equipment.
Sanding is a slower process, and you have to be careful not to burn the wood surface with the abrasive, which is what seals the pores.
3. Power Washing
Power washing is a quick and accessible way to wash and prep new construction for staining.
Power washing is quick and probably creates the least mess — even the mess it creates can be washed away. They’re also readily available at equipment rental stores.
The main disadvantage of power washing is that using water wets the wood, adding a significant amount of drying time — so you’ll have to wait longer before you can stain. It’s also impractical for interior use on anything but new construction.
Pro tip: A power washer shouldn’t have an output pressure greater than 500–800 PSIG, otherwise the wood might fuzz. Most power washers on the market are in the 1500–3000 PSI pressure output range and cannot be regulated down to the 500–800 PSIG.
If you can’t find the right power washer, a simple solution is to keep the tip of the washer far enough away from the wood to avoid fuzzing the grain. At 3000 PSIG, the tip of the washer should be at least two to three feet from the wood. In this process, it is very important to watch what you’re doing.
4. Chemical Strippers
There are several chemical strippers and brighteners you can use to clean your logs before staining.
Chemical strippers are great for light-duty cleaning. They attack the resins in the wood, as well as the chemistry of the finish. A mixture of chlorine bleach, dish soap and water is very effective.
Mix the chlorine and dish soap, prime the pump, and spray the solution on the logs in three- to four-foot sections at a time. Once applied, brush the solution using a back-and-forth motion to properly clean the logs, and then rinse the solution off.
When the chemical stripper is rinsed away, it leaves a fresh layer of bleached wood. The wood is then neutralized using a metallic or citric-acid based neutralizer which must be thoroughly rinsed off with water, and the log surfaces checked for a neutral pH balance (6–8) using litmus paper strips in a simple method as shown in the video above.
Chemical strippers are not a great option for large-scope jobs, where a pressure washer or corn blasting will be much quicker and easier.