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How to sanitize sticks for crafts

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How to sanitize sticks for crafts
August 14, 2019 Books 3 comments

by Christine Pittman0 comments »

Types of Sticks to Use in Candy Apples

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Push yourself way beyond lollipop sticks to make those candy apples more fun and festive than ever.

So there I was at the grocery store buying supplies for a full day of candy-apple making. I was planning to test a bunch of candy apple recipes and test out some store-bought candy apple kits (here’s the test of the powdered candy apple coating and here’s a test of store-bought caramel apple kits) The grocery store had everything I needed. Except popsicle or lollipop sticks.

I asked one of the employees and he told me that they only carry them in the summer when people are making popsicles. Say what? I live in Florida. We make popsicles all year long! But whatever. No popsicle sticks to be found. I therefore had to get creative (or drive further to the craft store. Creativity won out).

Here are some ideas that I came up with.

First, if you get a Candy Apple Kit or Caramel Apple Kit, these come with popsicle sticks. These are just your regular typical popsicle sticks. Like this.

You can also order special candy apple sticks online. These are long round dowels that are pointed at one end, to make the insertion into the apple easier, we suppose. But it’s never hard to get the sticks in so it’s not really that big of a deal.

Note: The Cookful may receive a commission on purchases made through Amazon/affiliate links.

Now, if your store doesn’t have popsicle sticks and you’re not using a kit and you didn’t order special sticks online (and you don’t want to make a special trip to the craft store) what can you use?


You can get the basic wooden ones that you get wrapped in paper at Chinese and Japanese restaurants. They don’t sell these at my grocery store but they do give them away for free in the Seafood Department where they have some sushi that you can buy.

What they do sell are sets of 6 plastic chopsticks, like this:

These insert easily into the apples, are nice and long so you can go right in and still have a long handle and they’re reuseable. You can, in fact, have them in your silverware drawer to use as chopsticks and then pull some out for candy apples whenever the mood strikes.

Tree Branches

Head outside and survey the trees. To use a tree branch you need it to be thin enough to hold as a handle (and to be cut off the tree easily too!) but sturdy enough to support the weight of an apple.

We were a bit worried about food-safety when randomly choosing branches from trees. What if a tree branch was toxic or something. But since the branch goes into the middle of the core, it never touches the part of the apple that people eat. We’ve decided that it should be fine but you should be aware that this could be an issue.

If you don’t want to scour the neighborhood for branches, you might already have some in your house. In my living room I have a vase with tons of tall decorative branches stuck in it. I snagged one of those and broke it into 3 pieces.

It works perfectly.

There you have it. Some alternatives to popsicle sticks. And I do want to say this: Even if you can get your hands on popsicle sticks, these alternatives are preretty fantastic. Here they all are together.

Which is your favorite? Do you have other ideas for things that can be used as candy apple sticks? Do tell!

This article originally appeared in October, 2015 and was revised and republished in September, 2016.

Christine Pittman

Christine is the Senior Editor and Owner of The Cookful, COOKtheSTORY and IsThisThatFood. Her sites reach over 1.5 million readers per month, which means that things can get a bit crazy. She's constantly writing, taking pictures, editing, managing contributors, and, oh yeah, cooking. To say that she wears many hats is an understatement - there are many hats, and also many shirts, shoes, pants, and even the odd cape!

More Posts By Christine →

Crafts Using Tree Branches

Painting a Branch for Home Decor

December 14, 20161 found this helpful

This is a page about painting a branch for home decor. You will be pleasantly surprised how nice a painted branch can look when used as part of your home decor.

Read More...Pin it!Was this helpful? 1

Halloween Bat Branches

October 12, 20160 found this helpful

This is a page about Halloween bat branches. For an inexpensive holiday display, decorate tree branches with glittery bats and cobwebs.

Read More...Pin it!Was this helpful? Yes


Share on ThriftyFunThis page contains the following solutions. Have something to add? Please share your solution!

Tip: Twig Art Chair

Using very dry branches, wire, glue and coco fiber mat, I made these two chairs for decorative effect. On the wall behind the one chair with orange flowers on it is a twig trellis on the wall. Twig art is fun as long as you remember to have dry wood to work with.

By Carol from Aurora. IL

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Tip: Clothespin out of Maple Tree Branch

This is a branch that is cut and then cracked in two. Where it is cracked in two, I put duct tape on the top. It will hold clothes. They would really be pretty if they were all covered in duct tape rather than just the top.

I have a project this month of recycling all that is left over after getting rid of the extra maple branches on our maple tree. It is too close to the electric line.

We have made a chime out of one of them, and now we have made a clothespin out of some of the smaller ones.

We stuck them in the rooster gate to keep him from jumping out over the fence at mother. :)

CommentWas this helpful? 2

Tip: Uses for Branches and Logs

With many people pruning at this time of year I thought I'd come up with some useful things to do with the pruned twigs and branches. Today a neighbor gave me several large bundles of long supple apple tree branches.(3 - 6 feet long and about 3/4 inch thick).

Being a crafter, I couldn't resist them! I have several ideas for them: I'm weaving them through my chain-link gate in a vertical pattern. It not only adds privacy, it looks great! Another idea I had was to make a trellis by tying brown nylon rope around the thicker branches to form "squares".

I've also decided to make twig-covered vases with them. I will start with clear straight-sided drinking glasses from the dollar store then glue the twigs to the outside of the glass with clear E-6000 glue then wrap raffia around the top and bottom then tie a knot or bow. The neighbor who gave them to me says he uses the apple-wood branches for barbecuing with.

I've also thought these green branches would make wonderful doll furniture and if they are supple enough, maybe a wreath? They need to be stored in the shade or they will dry out. It's also a good idea to hose them down once in a while to keep them supple if you want to bend them. Any other ideas?

By Cyinda

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Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

Question: Using Pine Limbs in Crafts


I have never had an issue with allergic reaction to pine boughs, nor have I had a sap-drip problem. You may want to spray the needles with hairspray/sealer of a clear nature to prevent them falling due to the warmth inside your home.

ReplyWas this helpful? 1

i have read about all kinds of answers but the main consenses is to wait until the sap stops flowing on its own .... or some woodworkers will heat the wood to dry it up .. but i do not think i would like to put this in my oven ....

ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

Thank you for the reply! These limbs are not sappy, but I was told they could produce even though they are dry. I wouldn't want them in my oven either :)

ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

place on parchment or foil covered cookie sheet or large pan, bake in 200 degree oven for 30 minutes. This is supposed to remove the sap plus kill and critters.

ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

Answer this Question...

Can I use fallen pine tree limbs for crafts? I wanted to create a Christmas tree craft and want to know if I will have to contend with sap drip or allergen issues inside the home. I have abundant SW Florida pines on my property.

Question: Craft Ideas for Tree Branch Rounds

March 14, 20120 found this helpful

What can I craft from tree branch slices?

By Shirley from LA


Depends how big around the slices are what u can make with them. If they are small , drill holes for peg legs and make doll furniture like stools, chairs, tables. If larger, make human sized footstools or side tables using the same idea but studier legs.

If they are thickish, glue a pretty ceramic tile to one for a trivet.

Note: you may want to router or have someone do it for you around the center in square the size of the tile so it will be recessed in the slice. Seal wood with some sealer before putting in the tile for a neater look.

ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

Answer this Question...

Question: Kid Crafts Made from Tree Branches

I have some tree branches I cut down and want to know what I can make with them. I have Cub Scouts and want to make some boy related stuff.

By Tessa from Las Vegas, NV


If your branches are 1 inch diameter or larger, you can cut rounds or ovals for tie-slides. Cut the rounds/ovals, give the boys sand paper or sanding blocks to sand them smooth. Decorate with whatever your theme of the month is, and hot glue them to 3/4 inch pvc pipe sections.

ReplyWas this helpful? Yes

Answer this Question...

Question: Making a Christmas Decoration from Large Branch


We use a large branch of a healthy tree (eucalyptus, fir, pine etc.) as a "holiday tree". We hang the branch on a wall slanting downward as it would be if still on the tree. We love birds so have many types of bird baubles-little nests with babies, small realistic birds, crochet and cross stitch birds, my naturalist husband's photos, etc. Add clear lights only.
This is mainly for our grandkids and guests when visiting.

We celebrate the day mainly as a winter's festival break from the cold and dark season.

ReplyWas this helpful? 1

Answer this Question...

I recently cut off a large branch from my tree. The branch is about 3/4ft high. I would like to use it as a decoration for Christmas. What is the best way to support it? A board or pot? Do you have any suggestions please?

Making a Willow Wreath

December 14, 20160 found this helpful

This is a page about making a willow wreath. If you or a neighbor have a willow tree you can make your own willow branch wreath.

Read More...Pin it!Was this helpful? Yes

Making a Twig Flower Vase

December 14, 20160 found this helpful

This is a page about making a twig flower vase. Using items you have collected from nature can make this twig vase filled with pine cone flowers.

Read More...Pin it!Was this helpful? Yes


ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

Archive: Uses for Branches and Logs

April 15, 20090 found this helpful

We had to get half of our 60 foot hackberry tree cut off and now we have mounds of branches and "logs". Any ideas on what to use these logs for besides saving it for firewood to sell {we don't have a fireplace}. We have lots and lots of branches also!

Gretta from Wayne, OK


Uses for Branches and Logs

You could chip up the smaller branches and leaves with a wood chipper and use it for mulch on your plants or for a wood chip garden path.

You could wait & let the leaves die from the branches and use them as mulch around your plants or in your compost.

Offer the wood for sale or freecyle it. Or make an offer for someone to come clean up the tree branches in exchange for ? what have you.

I'm not familiar with hackberry wood, but perhaps you could whittle on some of the branches of appropriate size and length and make walking sticks to sell...maybe at a crafts fair. Or offer them up to someone else who could whittle them into walking sticks. (06/24/2008)

By Sherry

Uses for Branches and Logs

The branches may make good bean poles or tomato stakes. Strip the leaves and smaller branches off of a branch about 5-6 feet long, and sell them as garden stakes or bean poles. Another thing you might do with the logs is to make simple coat racks. Take a 3 inch diameter (mostly straight)log and cut it into about a 3 foot length with a diagonal cut on each end (it is more decorative this way). Leave the bark on. Drill 3-4 evenly spaced holes on one side, pound pegs (mine were made from peeled 3 inch sections of a smaller branch, about 1/2 inch in diameter) or glue pieces of dowels in the holes. These will be your pegs. Now fasten some type of a hanger on the back, and you have a "primitive" coat rack. It looks really cute, and you could have a wonderful gift to give someone, for little to no cost...just your time. (06/24/2008)

By Patty

Uses for Branches and Logs

Thanks for the input! I might try the coat hanger idea, sounds neat! We cannot locate a wood chipper to borrow. We are still cutting it down to 4-6 ft lengths and piling it for now away form any buildings. (06/24/2008)

Uses for Branches and Logs

With a good chainsaw, you could make garden benches out of them. Just cut 2 stumps and a long piece could be cut on each side to create a bench. Or you could use in large cut pieces as a landscaping bed frame. There are lots of uses. Hope this helps. d (06/24/2008)

By Denise W

Uses for Branches and Logs

Save branches for natural plant supports. Any plant that wants to flop, let it grow up into some branches that you stuck in to the dirt. Much nicer than tomato cages. (06/25/2008)

By Kim Churchman

Uses for Branches and Logs

I'm not familiar with Hackleberry trees either, but if it is a fruit tree or the wood has a nice fragrance, there is a huge market for wood chips in the Barbecue World for smoking meat with. You might even be able to sell it on EBay if it is a desirable wood for smoking. Good luck (07/10/2008)

By Sue

CommentWas this helpful? Yes

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Removing Solid Debris from Driftwood

  1. 1

    Shake it. If you picked up your driftwood from a natural location, such as a lake, you might see particles of dirt sticking to the wood’s surface. Grab the piece by the end and give it a good shake. Perhaps tap it gently on the ground a few times to loosen any additional grains.
    • This also helps to remove any pests, like ants, from the wood.
  2. 2

    Scrub it. If you are working with ‘outside’ wood then you may need to get more serious about removing the grime. Grab a sturdy brush and scrub the wood. Try to go over as much of the surface area as you can. You may want to repeat the scrubbing process after the soaking the wood as well.[1]
    • If you plan to use the driftwood for a craft or furniture project, you may want to carefully consider your choice of brush. A soft-bristle brush will not scratch the wood whereas a wire brush will clean more effectively but can also leave scrub marks behind. It is generally a good idea to scrub with the grain.
    • A wire brush is a good option if you need to remove bark.[2]
  3. 3

    Pick at it. Driftwood often contains small nooks that are hard to fully clean. Use a screwdriver or knife to dig into these areas. Carefully apply pressure so that you don’t splinter the wood.[3] If you want a gentler method, push into crevices using the edge of a slightly damp toothbrush. This is especially effective at removing sand.[4]
    • You can also use an air compressor to shoot concentrated bursts of air into deeper holes. This is less damaging then picking and often equally effective.
  4. 4

    Rub it with sandpaper. Removing the outer layer of the wood is one way to get it clean. Use a garnet sandpaper with a light grit. This type of sandpaper works well with handcrafted projects and will not overly scratch the wood. If you want to dig deeper into the wood (perhaps in a rotten area), upgrade to a higher grit.
    • If you are unsure about what your driftwood project requires, go to your local home improvement store to feel your various sandpaper options firsthand.
  5. 5

    Kill off any bugs. No one wants driftwood that is infested by insects. Shaking it off will remove some pests, but to get extra reassurance seal your driftwood in a plastic bag and leave it for a few days. Check back for evidence of dead bugs.
    • A more aggressive way to kill off insects is to spray an insecticide into the bag before sealing it. Be warned that the chemical residue from this method could prove potentially fatal to fish if the wood is intended for an aquarium. This is best used in crafting or woodworking situations.[5]


Cleaning Driftwood Using Water Solutions

  1. 1

    Power or pressure wash it. Hold your wood underneath a steady stream of water until you feel as if it is clean. Monitor this process carefully as too strong of a water stream can start to strip away the wood. You can also break off finer wood details if you are not careful. Allow the wood to dry outside when finished.

  2. 2

    Submerge the wood in distilled water. ‘Curing’ driftwood is the most popular cleansing method amongst aquarium users. Place the wood inside a large container. Slowly pour distilled water into the container until the wood is completely covered. Soak for one to two weeks. Remove the wood and allow it to dry in a cool location.[6]
    • You will notice the water darkening over time. This is normal. It is the result of tannins being released. Leaching all tannins from your wood will keep your aquarium water clear. For maximum effectiveness, replace the soaking water if it takes on a ‘tea-color.’
    • When the distilled water appears clear and is no longer noticeably discolored, it is time to remove the driftwood.
    • This is also a good, chemical-free way of diminishing the buoyancy of your driftwood. Ideally, you want your wood to sit on the bottom of an aquarium without floating to the top.[7]
  3. 3

    Soak it in a bleach solution. Get a large container, mix bleach and distilled water together, and place your driftwood under the water. Use 2 teaspoons of bleach per gallon of distilled water. Soaking in a bleach solution will help to kill off any spores or bacteria that are lingering on the wood. Keep the driftwood submerged for a minimum of 15 minutes.[8]
    • If you plan to use your driftwood in an aquarium, it is best if you follow-up a bleach soak with a straight-distilled water soak. For the safety of your fish, all traces of bleach need to be out of the wood.
  4. 4

    Soak it in soda water. Woodworking artisans often prefer to use a soda bath to clean their driftwood. Buy a cleansing soda, such as Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda. Get a large container and mix hot water and the soda together. Keep adding soda until it stops dissolving into the water easily. Then, lower your driftwood into the mixture. Soak for 48 hours minimum.[9]
    • If your driftwood keeps rising to the surface when soaking, you may need to place a rock or other heavy object on it to hold it down and keep it submerged.


Cleaning Driftwood Using More Aggressive Measures

  1. 1

    Boil it. This is one of the quicker ways to sterilize driftwood found in nature. Place the driftwood in a pot filled with boiling water. Keep the driftwood boiling for 1-2 hours. You may need to refill the water as it boils away. When the time is up, drain the water out, replace it, and repeat the process.[10]
    • Many aquarists like this method as it is virtually guaranteed to kill any fungal spores found on the driftwood.
  2. 2

    Bake the wood in the oven. Get out a cookie sheet and cover it with foil. Place your driftwood pieces on the foil, not overlapping. Bake the wood at 200 degrees for 2-4 hours. You will want to closely monitor this process to ensure that the wood does not start to singe or burn. When finished, set the wood aside and allow it to cool.[11]

  3. 3

    Apply a sealant. If you don’t want to bother with extensive cleaning methods and if you plan to use your wood for a project, you might consider simply applying a varnish or coating to the wood as is. Any grains present on the wood will lead to an uneven finish, but the coating itself will sanitize the wood to some extent.

Community Q&A

Add New Question
  • Question

    I received a beautiful piece of very old driftwood, and it has a lot of dust all over the nooks and crannies. How do I clean it without breaking off any of the pieces?

    A gentle rinse and soak should take care of dust without damaging the piece. You could even used compressed air to help clean it.

  • Question

    Which cleaning method is best if I want to add plants to my driftwood?

    Dip it whole in boiled water for a while, rinse it, and scrub it with a brush in a sieve.

  • Question

    I live on an island with septic and we cannot use bleach products. What else can I use to clean driftwood - both small and large pieces?

    Either you can let the wood sit in fresh water for about 14-18 days until it stops giving off dirt. On the safer side, if you have small driftwood, boil it for about 6 hours and for bigger boil for about 4-5 days.

    Ajay Sawant

    Community Answer

  • Question

    I have big pieces (4' long) that were sitting in our canal. It has barnacles and oysters shells on it. How do I clean it and get the fishy smell off it?

    Soak it in bleach for at least 1-2 weeks for total saturation.

    Titans - Gaming and more

    Community Answer

  • Question

    I have a large piece of driftwood that I plan to keep outdoors for succulents. Is it still necessary to clean/ sterilize before use?

    Only if you want to. It isn't necessary to clean it unless you're putting it in an aquarium.


    Community Answer

Ask a Question


  • If you are interested in adding driftwood to your aquarium, seriously consider purchasing your wood from a reputable retailer. And, be sure to buy wood intended for water settings, not terrariums. You will still want to soak it in distilled water, but it will be far safer for your fish than wood found outside.


  • Be very cautious using chemicals of any kind when working with aquarium driftwood. The chemicals can leach into the tank water and result in illness, or even death, to your plants and fish.
  • Hardwoods are the best driftwood options for both terrariums and fish tanks. Soft woods, such as cedar, are more prone to leaching resin.[12]
  • When working with bleach or even when boiling water, be very careful. Use protective goggles and gloves when needed and use caution around hot substances.

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How to Treat Tree Branches for Indoor Use

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Family members are still straggling downstairs this morning, but as soon as everyone’s awake and functional we’re going to do our weekly Popsicle Stick Cleaning Session. My kids love this!

Just kidding. They don’t love it. But it works.

I keep a bunch of popsicle sticks with jobs written on them in a “To Do” jar. When it’s time for a cleaning session, I go through the popsicle sticks and select the jobs that need to be done, lay the sticks on the counter, and then summon the troops.

Depending on the number of tasks, we might set a timer for 15 minutes to make it a bit of a race. If it’s been a while since we’ve cleaned, we forget about the timer and power through until all the sticks have made it into the “Done” jar. Sometimes, if we’re all in fairly cheerful moods, we’ll put music on and make it a party. Other times, we work in gloomy silence until it’s all over.

I’ve tried other systems in the past. Marble jars worked great when the kids were younger, but they stopped making sense when Andrew wanted a laptop but Lily still wanted Barbies. It was too hard to equalize the value of the marbles, if you know what I mean.

I also tried a system where I assigned specific jobs every week. But that led to comments such as “But I’m doing dishes this week!” when I’d ask someone to take the garbage out. Oy. I want to raise people who walk into any situation and roll up their sleeves and say “What needs to happen?” and not “That’s, like, not my job.”

Enter Popsicle Sticks. The beauty is that you can customize the sticks for all ability levels but you’re working together. Younger kids might just put toys away while older kids clean toilets. Some jobs might need to be done only once or twice a year, while others need to be done every week. And of course you can also add new popsicle sticks at any time.

One last thing: No one is done until everyone is done. So if I’m still cleaning a bathroom, then everyone else is wiping off baseboards or light plates until I’ve finished.

Every household’s needs will be different, but here’s what’s on our popsicle sticks. (Reminder: we don’t do all of these every week! This is just a list of possible jobs).

List of Jobs
Feather dust something
Polish coffee/sofa tables
Vacuum away room rug
Vacuum hall rugs
Vacuum living room rug
Swiffer upstairs
Swiffer downstairs
Re-fill soap containers
Organize your desk
Pick up playroom
Wipe off light plates
Wash kitchen floor
Clean sink in kids’ bathroom
Clean sink in powder room
Clean sink in master bathroom
Fold and put away clothes
Put clothes away
Sweep mudroom floor
Clean toilets
Straighten art area
Throw away 10 markers that don’t work
Wipe down washer and dryer
Clean the outside of four kitchen cabinets
Clean the outside of four kitchen drawers
Clean out microwave
Organize DVDs
Clean mirrors
Clean door to screen porch
Clean out silverware holder
Wash light fixtures in kitchen
Wash light fixtures in bathroom
Wipe down baseboards
De-clutter a drawer
Tidy up utility room
Sweep basement stairs
Clean bugs out of light fixture
Vacuum kitchen (garbage, toast & pantry)
Clean a shelf in the refrigerator
Clean dog hair off bottoms of chairs
Pull 10 weeds
Pick up 10 things in the yard
Clean out car
Clean bugs off windowsill
27-Fling Boogie: Garage (see FlyLady)
27-Fling Boogie: Charity

Filed Under: Home, OrganizingShannon5 Comments

wondering if you use real sticks and bark from actual trees if there is I think I will try and just make sure they are clean and dry in the sun and spray well. I have some craft mosses that are steril so all I need now is some.

Glitter Craft Stick Christmas Tree Ornament

This post will teach you how to treat tree branches for indoor use. Learning how to clean, strip, and finish branches for decor and crafts will ensure they look wonderful and last.

How to Treat Tree Branches for Indoor Use

I’m back from vacation 🙁 But I am really excited to get back to my projects list. Consider this post an appetizer for a post I have coming up later this week on how to make a cat tree out of a real tree!

I was starting to put together the cat tree post when I realized that it was going to be really long. So I decided to break out the part about how to treat tree branches for indoor use, specifically how to clean, strip, and finish the branches, and make it its own post.

Besides, stripping and finishing branches is something that I think a lot of people might be interested in. Not just those of you who want to build a real kitty tree.

Using tree parts for home decor is beautiful, cost effective, and not too hard. Check out my post about my DIY tree stump side table and this post on a lovely stained stump with wheels! 

I also absolutely love these tree branch drawer pulls by Kelly over at Design Asylum. The possibilities are endless, and if you’re lucky, you can get the materials you need to create these awesome projects for free.

When I started researching how to treat tree branches for indoor use, I was overwhelmed with the many different approaches. I had just pulled some branches from off the ground in the woods. We weren’t even sure what kind of tree they were from, although we had some guesses.

We also weren’t sure how long we had to let them sit out because we didn’t know how long it’d been since they’d fallen off the tree and what kind of conditions they’d been in since then. So consider the steps I followed below to be only one approach. I’ll provide some additional tidbits on other approaches I read about but didn’t use along the way. 🙂


(This post contains affiliate links. You can read more about that here. Thank you!)

  • Branches and a dry space
  • A paint scraper—like this one here.
  • Small hand-held saw—see one here—and a miter saw (not completely necessary, but we needed to trim some thick branches down).
  • Assorted sandpaper—I used 100 and 150 grit depending on the spot.
  • Minwax Stain in Natural and Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin.

Here are the steps to clean branches for decoration.

(Remember to wear a mask and eye protection while sanding and working with wood, and wear an appropriate mask while working with paints, stains, and finishes. Follow the directions and warnings from your particular brand. Do not use any tools without proper training, precautions, and supervision from a professional. Read my full terms of use here.)

Step 1: Find a suitable branch

We foraged the woods behind my parents’ house and found two great branches that were already on the ground. I’d read that you had to let the branches dry out for a while—upwards of a year, even. So I thought it would be best to find something that had already been drying out on the ground.

We also didn’t want to hack up any trees that were still growing when there are plenty of fallen sticks and branches to choose from. Not knowing how long it had been detached from the tree was a risk we were willing to take. 🙂

After cutting the branches, we brought them into my dad’s workshop, which has baseboard heating, to dry out for 2 more months. We guessed the pieces we had were pretty dry since they did have some cracking, but we wanted to be sure. If we’d thought they were newer branches, we would have let them dry for longer.

Step 2: Remove bark from branches

After about 2 months, I started scraping the bark off. This is a very important step that a lot of people skip when bringing tree parts indoors. You need to scrap the bark off because there could be bugs living under it!

In fact, I found guide a few little guys while I was scraping. Bugs have a purpose, but I don’t want them living in my home 🙂 The bark will eventually fall off anyway, so it’s best to take it off at the start of your project.

There are lots of ways to de-bark trees. The ease with which you can remove bark depends on many factors, including what type of tree it is, how dry the wood is, and even what time of year it is. Unfortunately for me, my bark was not easy to remove—and it looks like that’s the case for many people if my Googling is any indication. But don’t worry, the results are totally worth the time and frustration!

While I read that a lot of people use a draw knife and even a pressure washer to remove bark, I used a paint scraper. It was my dad’s idea, and it worked really well! It just took time and elbow grease, and it was extremely messy.

Step 3: Sand and polish

After I’d scraped all of the bark off, I cried of happiness that the miserable process was over and grabbed some sandpaper. I used 100-grit sandpaper on some of the rougher spots.

Then I gave the entire piece a good, thorough sand with 150-grit sandpaper. I was truly amazed at how well sanding polished the piece. I did all sanding by hand since the branch was a bit curvy and bumpy—just seemed easier.

Step 4: Stain

After cleaning off my work space and wiping down the branch with a dry paper towel, I used a chip brush to apply a generous coat of stain. Minwax Stain in Natural really helped to bring out the wood’s character.

I didn’t even wipe off the excess stain—I just left it to soak into the wood for about 24 hours. Like I said, my pieces were pretty dry, so the stain soaked right in. (I also have a whole post about how to stain and finish wood if you’re new to the process!)

Step 5: Finish to protect

At this point I was giddy with excitement about how good the branches looked. I finished them off with two coats of Rust-Oleum Ultimate Polyurethane in Satin because I wanted to bring in a bit of sheen while providing further protection for the branches.

This is a water-based polyurethane that dries much faster than an oil-based one. I also really love Varathane water-based polyurethane in matte. I used it on my daughter’s dollhouse bookshelf, our cat house side table build, and our DIY plywood planter because I didn’t want much shine on any of these pieces. You can see it’s a beautiful, understated finish.

Left: Stain dried; Right Top: First coat of poly on; Right Bottom: Drying poly

And here they are finished…

You can see that the pieces have just the right amount of sheen for what I wanted. I wanted them to look polished but not super shiny and fake, and I think the water-based poly in satin really achieved that look.

They do look a but shinier in person—this was hard to capture in photos. If you want them to look like these pictures, I’d err on the side of caution and go with a matte water-based formula. You can always add a layer of satin on top of the matte if you don’t love it.

You can see the cat tree made out of a real tree build that these branches were finished for as well! And I also did a post about how the tree held up years later because I get a lot of questions about it. This is probably my favorite project of all time.

Also, while making the cat tree, we have to level off the branches. After all this work staining and finishing the branches, I couldn’t bear throwing out scraps we had to cut off. So I made a tiny faux succulent planter out of one of the branch pieces. It’s a cute and easy DIY!

**2019 Update**

Hey guys! Popping in with a September 2019 update. I have had a lot of traction on this post (and questions about it!). I’m working on a video showing the branch finishing process. I’ve also made a few other projects using some smaller branches, so here’s a peek at those in the meantime!

Share my tips about how to clean branches for decoration and crafts on Pinterest!


How to treat tree branches for indoor use, specificially how to clean, treat, and finish the branches for decoration and crafts.


  1. Find a suitable branch. Ones that are already laying on the ground are best because they have already started to dry out. Note that is best to let them continue drying out for at least 2 months if you are wanting to use them indoors.
  2. Remove all the bark from the branch using a paint scraper.
  3. Sand the branch to remove any rough spots using 100 grit sandpaper. Then, using 150 grit sandpaper, sand the entire branch.
  4. Wipe down the entire branch with a dry paper towel to remove all the dust and debris.
  5. Use a chip brush to apply a generous coat of stain. No need to wipe off the excess stain, leave it to soak into the wood for 24 hours.
  6. Finish the branch with 2 coats of polyurethane in satin to protect it and you're done!

Filed Under: DIY, DIY HomeTagged With: home decor, scrap wood, thrifty

how to sanitize sticks for crafts

WATCH THE VIDEO ON THEME: Sanitizing Tree Branches

apple tree that I cut into a very nice play gym. However, I honestly don't know how to clean it. It's too large to. how to clean twigs for crafts.

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Written by Dorr
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