I really like old wooden crates. My husband hardly even bats an eye now when another one shows up in our garage. But here’s the thing… a lot of the old crates I find are just that… old. And with age comes dirt. Usually LOTS of dirt. I don’t usually find my crates at pristine high end antique stores where everything is polished to perfection. And those stores are absolutely lovely, by the way. But with my budget, my crates are usually freshly hauled out of someone’s basement or garage and are full of who know what. And I don’t really want all that who knows what inside of my house. So, what to do? Here’s how to clean and restore a wooden crate.
Last Saturday, we took a drive along the lake and happened upon a little antique shop that was closing up business. Well, you know that we had to stop. Micah, (my son,) and I had a lot of fun exploring everything they had to offer. I ended up coming home with a new crate for only $3.00. (It was freshly hauled out of their garage 🙂
So, Monday morning I decided this crate was too nice to just hold more junk in the garage, and so I brought it out into the backyard to clean it. Sorry, I didn’t take any before pictures or of the cleaning process. I just wanted to get it done and didn’t think of it until after.
How to Clean a Wooden Crate:
First, you’ll probably want to dry brush or vacuum any loose dirt off it. Get rid of any visible spiders, eggs etc.
Then, get out your hose and rinse off as much dirt as you can.
Oh by the way, you’ll probably want to be wearing older clothes as you might get splattered with muddy water.
Then, I filled up a bucket with hot soapy water and dissolved some Oxi Clean into it. Then I scrubbed it all over with a scrub brush. The crate got pretty muddy looking at this point. You can let the soap sit on it for a few minutes before rinsing it off. Make sure you rinse it really good to get all soap and mud off.
Then, I let it sit out in the sun all day to dry. The sun can help get rid of any odors, too, if that’s an issue with your particular crate.
At this point you can be finished if you’d like. I decided with this one to take it a little bit further.
We noticed that it was the same size as Luke’s bookshelf up in his room. So we decided that it would be perfect to help contain his overflowing collection of books. That kid loves books 🙂 Old wood can be full of splinters, though.
So, I took it back out and lightly sanded it. I used a mix of 150 and 400 grit papers. The 400 grit made it really smooth. If you have nice lettering like I did, you’ll want to be careful how much you sand in that area. You don’t want to erase the old words! I focused more on the edges, where it was roughest.
There were also a few nails that had to be dealt with. I just hammered them in all the ways. My crate was structurally sound, but at this point you can take the opportunity to nail any loose boards back into place, too.
Then I brushed all the sanding dust off and wiped on some hemp oil with an old rag. You don’t necessarily need to do this. But it can hydrate old dry wood and give it a bit of “life”. It definitely darkened it a little bit.
Here you can see where I started to apply the hemp oil.
I would probably steer away from a poly/varathane finish. I’ve seen crates that have been varathaned and too me, the finish doesn’t quite suit them…it just seems a bit artificial.
The boys were pretty excited to set it up in their room.
Here’s my staging:
And then 5 minutes later, here’s Luke’s 🙂 His favorite thing to do right now is to look at books. He’s always pulling them out and leaving piles everywhere I turn around. But it’s a good thing 🙂
I hope you found this post on how to clean and restore a wooden crate to be useful. I would love it if you pinned it!