How to Remove Tannins from Wood [3 Easy Methods]

Tannins are common on old wood, especially on driftwood. If you own an aquarium in your home, you are most likely to decorate it with some driftwood to make the aquarium look way more natural. However, before adding the wood pieces it is important to remove the tannins first.

So, you might be looking for the answer to the question, how to remove tannins from wood? Well, luck to you since today we are here to enlighten you on this very topic.

Well, tannins leave stains on the wood. Many think that removing the tannins and stains is a tough task. But actually, it is not. In fact, vanishing the tannins along with the stains is a super easy task only when you pick up the right tools and follow the right method.

Now the question: What are the effective methods to remove tannins from wood?  The quick answer; Boiling and soaking them in water would be the best way.

Let’s put you on track with a detailed discussion.

What are Tannins?

Tannins on driftWood

Tannins are natural organic compounds. They are found on almost everything including wood, bark, leaves, fruits, and others. Tannins make things unpalatable. Tannins stain and make it harder to remove from wood.

However, there are tannin removals available in the market. Moreover, there are oxidizing agents are effective in breaking the tannin compounds. Hence, many people use chlorine to remove tannins.

1. Boiling Method to Remove Tannins from Wood

Though this process is considered ideal yet not so easy. In fact, this method is quite time-consuming and painstaking as well. Moreover, the time length depends on several factors and might vary in several situations. The factors include the type and size of the woods, their dryness, age, and all.

Nonetheless, the boiling method for removing tannins from wood basically requires some steps. Let’s describe it in detail.

Step – 1: Cleaning of Wood

This is the first and foremost thing to do before getting into the boiling process. The wood must have dirt and debris on its surface. Use a bristle brush to clean off the debris from the wood.

Once the debris comes off, rinse the wood pieces with clean water.

Step – 2: Let the Wood Dry

After cleaning off the wood, it is important to dry them. you can sun-dry them by keeping them on the windowsill. Wherever you keep the woods dry make sure there is enough ventilation and direct sunlight.

However, let the woods dry completely. Half-dry wood will give birth to mold when you keep it in a tank or aquarium. So, make sure the wood is properly dry.

Step – 3: Now, Boil the Wood

Here comes the main part. Now depending on the size of the wood, take a large pot. The pot should have enough depth so that you can submerge the wood. Many people go for lobster pot as well for boiling wood. Moreover, if there is nothing you can still use large soup pots.

First, fill the pots with water and let them boil. When the water in the pot comes to a boiling point, submerge the wood into it. Let the wood pieces boil till they start to roll violently. Take the action for about 15 minutes.

Step – 4: Boil for the Second Time

When you are done boiling for the first time, let the water drain and fill the pot again with water. And then repeat the entire boiling process.

Step – 5: Go for Third Boil

After the phase of the second boil, it is time for the third and last rounds. Drain the previous water and again, add new water. Let it boil again along with the wood pieces. You should not stop boiling for less than 10 minutes.

After ten minutes of boiling, stop the process and leave the pot to cool. When the pot and wood pieces are cool, remove the pieces from the pot.

Step – 6: Finally, Inspect

Boiling three times is required for removing tannins properly. When you boil the wood, the tannins get loosen and eventually come off.

Also, when the tannins come out of the wood and mix with water. they make the water dark brown. Therefore, it becomes necessary to change the water for the second or third time.

Only when you get clear water after boiling the wood, consider there is no tannin left. Clearwater indicates you have done the job properly.

But if you still find the water is dark brown even after the third boil, then you might have to give it another try and boil the wood for the 4th or 5th time. But obviously, you have to dry the wood pieces first.

Keep trying till the water gets clear. When you discover the wood pieces are legit out of tannins congratulate yourself!

2. Soaking Method for Removing Tannins from Wood

Soaking is basically preparing the wood for removing the tannins. However, this method is the longest method. Even, the boiling method takes less time than this method.  Its time length depends on the type of wood. If the wood is larger in size and is green then it will certainly take longer periods to be soaked properly.

Generally, soaking young timbers is really time-consuming. On the other hand, if the wood comes in small pieces and is quite aged or dried, then it will not take much time for soaking. However, to make the process a bit quicker you can use activated charcoal as well in the water along with the wood.

Nonetheless, the soaking method also requires frequent changes of water. Once the water gets dark with the tannins, it is time to exchange the container with fresh water. This way, you have to continue the process, till all the tannins are gone from the driftwood.

3. Other Ways to Remove Tannins from Wood

There are some other ways to remove tannins from other kinds of wood like deck wood. Yes, deck wood can get tannins on it from being constantly exposed to favorable conditions like moisture, humidity, and all. So, you can follow the process below,

  • First of all, you have to seal the source from where the wood is getting tannins and later has stains. It must be a source of moisture that is causing the problem. Hence, find the source and repair it right away.
  • Then take a scraper and start scraping and removing the loose paint. You can also use a wire brush for this task.
  • If the tannins leave stains on the wood surface it is hard to remove then you can use oxalic acid. Or, any oxalic-based solution would also do. Apply the substance over the stains and let it rest for some time.
  • After a few minutes, the stains will come off reacting with the oxalic acid. When the stains come off, rinse the wood with the help of a pressure washer.
  • After washing, leave the wood surface for about 48 hours to dry it completely.
  • Then, take the quality wood primer and apply it to the stained spot. Apply two layers of coating. For severe stains, you can go for more coatings. However, make sure you dry each coating before applying another layer of coating.
  • When you are done applying primer, it is time to apply quality wood paint. So, select a quality one and then apply.

However, for a go-to solution, you can simply go for a tannin remover. Tannin removers are good but they may not serve you hundred percent. They are good for eliminating natural extractives. But for removing tannin stains, you have to do more.

How to Remove Driftwood Tannins Out of Water

using activated carbon granules in aquarium

It is a very common situation that your aquarium water might also get tannins from the driftwood. So, surely you have to remove it. Otherwise, it will create an unsightly view. Thus, to bring the situation under control you can use activated carbon granules.

Aquarium filters containing carbon granules play a great role in declining excess tannins. In most cases, the activated carbon is heat and chemical treated. They are purposefully made for aquariums. Hence, it clears up the stains by binding the tannins in the water.

However, if the tannins are at a severe stage and playing stubborn then you may have to replace the filter.


How Long To Boil Wood To Remove Tannins?

We have already mentioned that the time length depends on several factors. However, if the driftwood is medium in size, then it may take half an hour to two or three hours to remove tannin. Of course, you have to consider the wood’s age, type, shape, and also its level of moisture content.

Again, if the wood is quite large, then the boiling might take several hours to several days for removing tannins properly.

How Do You Get Tannins Out Of Wood Fast?

Using a large stockpot can make the tannin removal from wood faster. It works like a tea bag steeping in hot water.   

Is Boiling Wood Any Good For Removing Tannin?

So far, boiling is considered the best method for removing tannins and it also helps the driftwood sink. However, boiling has to be done while maintaining some proper steps. This method also helps in sterilizing the wood and killing fungal and algal spores that might affect the aquarium adversely.

What Does Baking Soda Do To Driftwood?

Baking soda is effective enough if boiling the wood to remove tannins does not work for you. Just dissolve the soda in a bucket of water and soak the driftwood. Eventually, the soda will react with the tannins and will draw them out. But this process of removing tannins might take weeks or months.

Final Word

Now that you know how to remove tannins from the wood, you should definitely try out the methods. Wood tannins are not good for your fish in the aquarium. Fish requires fungi and bacteria to thrive but wood tannin compounds act defensively against them.

Moreover, tannins can also change the water pH which may sometimes affect the fish. So, you must remove tannins from driftwood before placing them in an aquarium. However, the methods of removing tannins are applicable in different types of woods as well.

So, if our article was fruitful enough for you, let us know through your feedback.

Howard Parker

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