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Chemist's Corner: What Cleaner or Wood Restoration Product is Right for Your Project?

With so many different choices on the market for wood restoration and cleaning products, it can be confusing trying to decide just what to use. Unfortunately, when it comes to cleaning or restoring wood, there is no “one size fits all” approach. Each unique situation has a chemical solution that best solves that problem. Perma-Chink Systems understands these challenges and we have developed specific products to address each situation.

We offer a wide range of cleaning and restoration products that are designed to be fully compatible with our other wood care products. Our name says it all – Perma-Chink Systems. If you choose to stay within the system, you can have confidence in a fantastic outcome. It is difficult to determine exactly what is in a typical store brand of cleaner. Many of these cleaners, conditioners and brighteners may contain ingredients that are not compatible with our products. Some brands of wood cleaners may leave residues that prevent adhesion of our stains - even after considerable rinsing. Many of these cleaners may even damage the wood to the extent that adhesion of our stains may be a serious problem. Furthermore, a number of these cleaners can even cause unsightly wood discolorations. But do not worry, stop playing the guessing game. For over forty years now, Perma-Chink Systems has been working towards creating and testing products that work together for your success! Let us take a closer look at a few of them.

Log & Timber Wood Cleaners

Log WashOur wood cleaner Log Wash™ was originally developed to clean coated wood surfaces of mold, dirt, oils and other debris and not harm the coating. However, it was discovered that Log Wash could also be used to clean bare wood surfaces. The chemistry of wood is complex. For example, wood naturally contains chemicals that help protect it from disease and rot. Some of these natural extracts and resin oils can - and do - cause discolorations that can be undesirable to look at. Wood tannins are one such class of chemicals that, when combined (or complexed) with iron, can form dark discolorations on the surface the wood. Our Log Wash contains Phosphoric Acid which can also form chemical compounds with iron, such as iron II phosphate or iron III phosphate, that compete with the natural tannins present in most wood species. By effectively reducing the amount of free iron available to the tannins, these dark ink-like discolorations can be prevented.

Using Log Wash not only helps to clean but to also stabilize a very complex system! Many available commercial cleaners are also high in pH, such as caustic cleaners. These cleaners can do damage to the coating by softening it. Once these cleaners are rinsed or pressured washed off, the coating comes off with it. Using Log Wash according to our labeled instructions keeps the pH slightly on the acidic side where wood is naturally. By keeping the pH balance close to where wood is naturally, some undesirable chemical reactions that could more easily occur at high pH can be avoided altogether.

Cedar WashWood is a unique, natural substrate that appeals to us due to its beauty and natural characteristics. Are all wood species the same in chemical composition? The obvious answer is no they are not. Although all wood contains cellulose and hemicellulose, it is the wood extractives and resin oils that contribute in large part to the differentiation of one species from another. In addressing these differences it brings us to our next wood cleaning product: Cedar Wash™. This product was developed to deal with certain species of wood that naturally contain very high levels of extractives and resin oils. The presence of these extractives can cause several problems including discoloration, stains and adhesion problems with a coating. Wood that falls into this category of “extractive-rich” includes Redwood, Western Red Cedar, Walnut and Mahogany. A second class of wood that contains high levels of extractives but not as high as the “extractive-rich” includes Southern Pine, Douglas Fir, Spruce and Cypress.

Cedar Wash is a Ready-To-Use formula designed to effectively remove resin oils and wood extractives from the surface of wood and it will not harm finishes that are in good condition. In addition, the product is safe to use on chinking and sealants and has a low environmental impact due to its safe chemical composition.

Dealing With Dark, Vertical Streaks

What if my wood already has metallic iron tannate stains what can I do about them? First, you need to be certain that the discoloration is from iron tannates. You can perform a simple test with a Q-tip dipped in diluted 3-to-1 bleach solution. Apply this to a small test area and if the dark color disappears, your color problems are most likely from surface mold. In contrast, iron stains will also have the appearance of streak marks running down a wall in a vertical direction and will not go away with the Q-tip test. Oxcon™, which contains Oxalic Acid, was developed to help brighten wood with dark discolorations due to iron stain. Ferric Iron, which is dark in color, will react with Oxalic Acid to form Ferrous Iron which is colorless. The key to all this working properly is good rinsing afterward. If the oxalic acid is not rinsed well it can leave surface crystals that can interfere with adhesion.

Brighten Bare Wood Back to Original Color

woodrenewaugust2Bare wood when left exposed to the elements will weather. What do we mean by weather? Wood is continually going through changes due to sunlight, water, mechanical forces and heat. Each of these can present problems, but sunlight does considerable damage to the surface of the wood due to a process called photooxidation. In this process lignin, which provides support structure in the cell wall, is broken down and degraded, turning the wood grey in appearance.

After this damage has occurred it would be unwise to stain or paint on the surface of the damaged wood. Ask yourself would you apply paint to an old rusty metal pole and expect it to stay adhered for a long time? Of course not. In the same way, the compromised wood surface must first be removed through mechanical and chemical means before applying a coating to the surface. Perma-Chink’s product to deal with this problem is called Wood Renew™, and when dissolved in water produces hydrogen peroxide.

This, along with additional highly effective cleaning agents, work together to remove resin oils, dirt and disinfect the wood. A pressure washer is used to help mechanically remove the damaged layer of wood leaving behind a bare, clean, and newly restored surface to apply a coating. The appearance of the wood changes from a dark gray to a freshly milled yellow color. It is truly amazing to see the difference this process can have on the wood. Surface mold and spores, dirt and damaged wood fibers are all removed in this process. We are cleaning and restoring wood back to its original, bright clean form.

Finish Removal

If you have an existing finish that you need removed, we have two chemical options for you. The first is called S-100™. S-100 uses a proprietary, environmentally-safe ingredient to help soften the existing film prior to removal. It forms a gel on the surface of the film, allowing it to have maximum contact time with the surface. The surface is then rinsed using a pressure washer to remove the film and S-100 from the surface. Our second option, called Strip It®, uses a highly effective but low toxicity active ingredient called Benzyl Alcohol. Like the S-100, this product also acts on the surface to soften the film and is removed with the assistance of a pressure washer. Both S-100 and Strip It are water-based products that are environmentally friendly and safe, as opposed to hazardous solvent-based products like methylene chloride, methanol, and petroleum solvents. Strip It is practically odor free, S-100 has a citrus odor, and both are non-flammable and biodegradable.

Rinse Completely

phstripssampleFinally, there is one important procedural step that all these cleaners and wood restoration products share, and it has to do with proper rinsing. Each product used should be thoroughly rinsed from the wood. You might ask yourself, “How do I know with certainty that I have rinsed enough?” Perma-Chink Systems can provide help with this too. We offer pH Strips that are used for testing the pH of the rinse water and wood. We strongly recommend using pH strips to help you determine if you have rinsed the substrate back close to a relatively neutral pH range of 6.5 – 7.5. Improperly rinsing the wood can lead to many problems that could easily have been avoided if proper rinsing were done in the first place.

Final Notes

At Perma-Chink Systems we have worked tirelessly to develop quality log and timber home products that work for you each step in the process, while at the same time being aware of your safety and the stewardship of our environment. We always strongly recommend that you follow all labeled instructions when using our products.

In addition, we have developed technical tips to help guide you through the process. For example, we have a cleaning guidelines and pH tech tip and many more all designed to assist you in solving your problems. These tips can be accessed through a link on the bottom section of our web site under Info > DYI Section. We also have product specialists available at 1-800-548-3554 to help answer any questions you might have. We hope this information helps you to better understand the purposes and differences behind each of our cleaning and restoration products.

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Project Spotlight

  • Do you have an old stain that doesn't really show the warmth and beauty your home deserves? Ready to restore it to its natural look? It's easy to start by stripping old finishes using StripIt or S-100. Check Out This Video...

    Project Spotlight