Can You Refinish or Polish a Petrified Wood (Tips and Strategies)

how to clean and polish petrified wood

Despite its name, petrified wood is not wood but stone. And in my opinion, it is one of the unique minerals on our planet.

While smaller, flawed, or low-quality petrified wood pieces may be worthless, a high-quality petrified wood log might sell for several hundred to thousands of dollars. If you own such a high-quality piece or have found it somewhere, you are in luck.

Maybe you will consider refinishing or polishing your petrified wood to increase its value. But wait, that would be a big mistake because the value of petrified wood is in its natural state – it’s the process of fossilization that makes it so unique and exciting.

So don’t try to refinish or polish your petrified wood – just enjoy it as it is. But still, if you are not convinced, you can try cleaning and polishing it without using any paint, stain, or other chemicals.

Below in this detailed (but interesting) article, I will discuss more on how to clean and polish petrified wood without damaging its properties and value. And later, we will also cover some history and current uses of this piece for your home decor purposes.

How to Clean and Polish Your Petrified Wood?

Beautifying and refinishing the piece of found petrified wood is often a two-step process, i.e., cleaning and polishing.

But you may sometimes need to cut or carve the stone, which will require proper skills and tools. So, I will not recommend cutting, shaping, or carving the piece unless you are very confident about your skills.

But otherwise, here are the steps to clean and polish your petrified wood…

Cleaning Petrified Wood

The first step is to remove any dirt, grime, or debris that might be collected on the petrified wood for ages – it comes directly from nature and is likely to be quite dirty.

  • The best way to clean petrified wood is to soak it in a bucket of warm water and then scrub it with a soft brush.
  • Use mild soap if you want, but make sure to rinse the piece thoroughly to remove all the soap residue.
  • After rinsing, dry the piece using a soft, lint-free cotton cloth.

Remember, you can use household products such as apple cider vinegar for cleaning the dirt or stains that are too stubborn on petrified wood, but it could dissolve minerals such as calcite.

Only if you are pretty sure that your piece does not have any such minerals can you proceed with adding a few drops of apple cider vinegar to a bucket and soak the piece for a few hours before rinsing and drying.

TIP: Do not use any scourers such as steel wool or harsh chemicals such as bleach or harsh detergents, as they can damage your valuable piece of colored petrified wood.

Polishing Petrified Wood by Hand and Sandpaper

Polishing the raw petrified wood by hand, if done right, will make the piece shine and bring out its natural beauty while also increasing its overall resale value.

  • Start with a lower grit (#220) fine sandpaper, and work your way up to a higher grit, such as 400 (extra fine), to polish the piece of petrified carefully.
  • Use a few drops of water to lubricate the sandpaper, if needed, and to avoid the wood surface getting overheated during the hand-polishing process.

Polishing Petrified Wood With Handheld Wet Polisher and Dremel

Here are some tips to get started…

  • Use a diamond polishing pad kit with different grits such as 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800.
  • Starting with the lower grits, work your way up to the higher ones.
  • Make sure to go slowly at first and increase the speed only when you are comfortable with grinding and polishing.
  • After you are done, rinse the piece thoroughly in clean water and dry it using a soft, lint-free cotton cloth.
  • Once the piece is dry, use a Dremel tool (either with a soft brush attachment or a felt polishing wheel) to buff and shine your petrified wood.
  • It’s good to start with the brush attachment on your Dremel to remove debris, then switch to the polishing wheel for a final shine.

If you need to cut or shape petrified wood, it’s best to use a wet saw (tile saw) or a high-powered Dremel with a proper bit.

These tools are designed with special features that keep everything in place while still providing enough pressure that will help prevent the valuable piece of raw petrified wood from cracking or breaking before you plan to polish it.

polishing petrified wood with Dremel tool

What is Petrified Wood – Where to Use it in My Home?

Petrified wood is a type of fossilized wood where all the organic matter has been replaced with minerals (usually quartz) while retaining the original wood’s external form.

Petrified wood can be dated back millions of years and is found in various parts of the globe, including the US, UK, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Germany, Ecuador, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Italy, etc.

The most famous petrified wood deposits are in the southwestern United States, particularly in Arizona (Petrified Forest National Park) and New Mexico.

Petrified wood makes a great conversation starter and can add a touch of class to any room. So, if you have that big, ugly rock you found in your backyard, here are a few creative ideas for ways to use it in your home:

  • In the bathroom – on a shelf above the toilet.
  • In the reading nook, tucked into a corner with some plants.
  • In the entryway, on a small table to catch keys and mail.
  • Use it as a doorstop to keep your doors from slamming shut.
  • As a paperweight to keep your magazines from sliding off the coffee table.
  • On a side table in the living room next to the lamp. Or on the windowsill in the kitchen to add a splash of color.

Wherever you put it, a piece of petrified wood will surely add beauty and interest to your home. Just make sure you clean and polish it using the right methods and techniques.

Why is Petrified Wood Valuable – How Much is My Piece Worth?

The piece of petrified wood is valuable for two reasons –

  • First, it is quite rare. It’s not something you can find anywhere, and even if you find it, it’s not likely to be of good quality.
  • Second, raw petrified wood is naturally beautiful. The colors and patterns created by the mineral replacement process are simply stunning, and no two pieces are exactly alike.

Depending on the piece’s size, weight, color, and condition, it may range from a few dollars to a couple hundred or even thousands. And that’s the reason it’s extensively used in jewelry, sculptures, and as a decorative element in homes and offices.

To find out if it’s a genuinely rare piece of petrified wood and how much your piece is worth, you can take it to a local jeweler, appraiser, or gemologist

Since many rocks look like expensive petrified wood, a professional should be able to tell if your piece is authentic by testing it for colors and texture or by using a hammer.

Unlike rocks, real petrified wood is smooth and will most likely have curvy sections that are often a brownish bark color with unique circular, grainy, and bark-like patterns. Some of the rarest colors of petrified wood also include charcoal black, Green Chromium, and rainbow color patterns.

Genuine petrified wood is also extremely tough and will not scratch, chip, or break when hit with a hammer or knife on the surface.

The bottom line

Working with, cutting, and polishing petrified wood can be tricky because the material is so hard and brittle that it can easily break if you’re not careful.

That said, if you take your time and handle it with care, you can turn out this challenging raw piece into beautiful, unique, and valuable décor items.

For polishing petrified wood, advanced-level polishers can use the tools such as a tumbler, Dremel, or a handheld wet polisher. And for a complete novice who is not skilled in using these polishing tools, the best way is to use fine-grit sandpaper.

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