Get the most out of log home stain and seal by properly cleaning before application. Be sure to read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions of the product to be used.
Here are a few simple ways to clean logs before applying the stain and seal to ensure a long lasting finish.
Use a medium bristle brush or even a broom to brush off all dust, dirt and pollen.
If you need to wash the logs use as little water as possible. Some people like to hose down or power wash their logs – I do not recommend this. Generally the idea is to keep water off of your logs as much as possible. Hosing down and especially power-washing can do more damage than good.
There are people that promote power-washing and prey on uniformed log home owners and are more than happy to take your money. Power-washing is neither wise nor safe. The likely damage, both visible and hidden, can cost you dearly for years. Power-washing can damage chinking be it synthetic or mortar based, damage or rip out caulking, and force water at high velocities into checks, cracks and other areas it should not be. I will address the dangers of power washing in a separate article. Suffice it to say that power-washing a log home promotes rot. Don’t do it.
If you really need to spray down a large area quickly use a spray bottle or simple hand pump garden sprayer and then get the area wiped down quickly.
Treat your logs as you would fine furniture. You certainly would not power-wash an antique dining room table. Be gentle.
Clean warm water applied with a damp cloth should take care of most dirt. Wipe down the area with a damp cloth and let dry. If you need to use a cleaner I suggest using a mild detergent in warm water and a damp cloth. After cleaning rinse the area with a clean damp cloth and let dry.
For stubborn areas I’ll mix a solution of TSP in warm water and spot wash the log. To make the mix use 1/2 cup of TSP (Tri-Sodium Phosphate) in a bucket with 2 gallons of warm water.
If there is a stubborn stain or or I want to brighten the wood I’ll use about a 1/2 cup Cascade powdered dishwasher soap in a 1/2 gallon of warm water. Apply the mixture to the area liberally with a clean cloth and let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it off with clean warm water and a clean cloth. Sometimes I’ll use a medium bristle brush to scrub the area with the Cascade mixture.
Cascade will brighten the wood. It does not raise the grain like some cleaners do.
If I have a particularly bad stain I’ll make a thick poultice or paste of Cascade and warm water, apply and let sit for a few minutes. Rinse and then wipe off the area with a damp cloth.
To remove sap stains one reader has suggested using Pine Sol which they have used to effectively clean sap from saw blades.
If the logs have become a bit gray and weathered a light sanding should remove the gray. After lightly sanding I’ll clean with just a damp cloth or one of the methods suggested above and let dry.
No matter what method you use to clean your logs sure that they are thorougly dry before you apply your log cabin stain and seal finish. Providing a clean dry surface will provide better results.