Sterilizing and Desalinizing Driftwood

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September 4, 2014

driftwoodHere in the Pacific Northwest, you encounter a lot of driftwood along the beaches. I always seem to come home with a bunch of little (sometimes huge) pieces. I wanted to use some of them in a terrarium that I started, but first I needed to remove any pests that may have hitched a ride and remove all of the built up salt so that I didn't kill my plants.



  • driftwood
  • cook sheet, optional


  1. Soaking is a time consuming process. I recommend spending days on this important step to ensure that all of the salt has been removed. Start by brushing as much sand off of the wood as possible. You can use a toothbrush and fresh water to clean it. Place the wood into a sink or bucket and fill it with water. Initially your pieces of wood may float. You can weight them down, although they will eventually sink as they become water logged.
  2. soaking wood
  3. Pour off the water and refill the pot (or sink) with fresh water and allow the wood to soak for a few days. I changed the water daily, for about 5 days. I wanted to be extra sure that all of the salt had been removed. You can change the water as often as you think about it. You don't need to use a ton of extra water, just use enough to completely cover the wood. NOTE: If you get a lot of rain like we do and aren't in a hurry, you can leave the wood outside for a few weeks and let nature do some of the work. :)
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  5. An additional safety measure to sterilize the wood is to boil the pieces in water a couple of times. Put the wood into a pot and fill it with water. Boil the wood for 1-2 hours, checking the water level occasionally. After you have boiled the wood, drain the water and refill the pot with fresh water. Return the water to boiling, for another 1-2 hours. NOTE: I chose to do this with some of mine, to protect the delicate balance of my terrarium. This step is optional, based on your intentions.
  6. boiling wood
  7. Once you feel that the wood has been sufficiently desalinized it is time to dry it out and get rid of any potential pests. There are two options for that. If you live somewhere that is hot and sunny you can put the wood outside in a black trash bag for a few days. Otherwise you can use your oven. Start by laying the wood on a cookie sheet or directly onto the oven rack.
  8. wood on cookie sheet

  9. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Place the wood into the oven and bake for 2-4 hours. Remove the wood and allow to cool completely before trying to handle it. Now your wood is safe to incorporate into a terrarium or planter. Have fun!
  10. wood in oven
    wood in terrarium
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