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How to Restore French Oak Barrels

Restoring oak barrels takes some effort.
Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Things You'll Need:

  • Laundry detergent
  • Warm water
  • Plastic bucket
  • Soft sponge
  • Pressure washer
  • Sodium percarbonate
  • Small bowl
  • Oil soap
  • Soft cloth
  • Distilled white vinegar


If your oak barrel has a lot of damage, use wood putty or a putty stick. Fill in the damaged areas with the putty, and sand it down when the putty dries. Follow up with a layer of polyurethane or natural-colored stain.

French oak barrels have a rustic and homemade appearance. The addition of a small piece of wood turns the barrel into a funky side table for your living room or a quick bedroom nightstand. Designers even use the barrels as coffee tables and accent chairs. Before using the barrel for any decorative purpose, you must restore the finish and hardware. Restoration removes the dust and small pieces of debris clinging to the barrel without harming the wood.

Pour a few drops of laundry detergent into a plastic bucket, and mix with enough warm water so suds form. Clean the wine barrel with the soap and water solution, and then rinse with fresh water. Laundry soap removes most surface stains.

Fill a pressure washer with hot water if the oak barrel has any remnants of wine inside. Spray the inside of the barrel with the hot water, and then dump the water out. Empty the pressure washer and fill it with cold water. Spray the inside with the cold water, and then dump the barrel again. The combination of water and pressure releases tannins and wine clinging to the barrel.

Mix the sodium percarbonate with hot water in a small bowl, following the ratio described by Okanagan Barrel Works. The amount of sodium percarbonate that you will need varies depending on the size of your barrel. Add water to the barrel until you reach the halfway mark, and then add the sodium percarbonate. After 24 hours, empty the barrel and rinse with fresh water.

Rub the oil soap on the outside of the wood barrel. Pour a small amount on the soft cloth, and rub it in small circles. The oil soap conditions the wood and brings back its natural appearance without damaging the oak.

Pour the distilled white vinegar on a soft cloth, and wipe across the metal bands on the old oak barrel. Use more vinegar on each metal band. The acidity of the vinegar removes rust and other debris clinging to the metal and restores its natural shine.

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