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What color is natural driftwood?

Natural driftwood comes in a wide variety of colors, ranging from light tans to dark browns and even grays. The specific color depends on factors like the wood species, age and weathering of the wood, and minerals present in the water where the wood was submerged. Here are some key things to know about natural driftwood color:

The Source Tree Species Affects Driftwood Color

The original tree species that the driftwood came from impacts its coloration. Some common tree species found as driftwood include:

Tree Species Typical Driftwood Color
Oak Golden brown to dark brown
Maple Pale brown to tan
Cherry Reddish brown
Cedar Grayish brown
Cypress Yellowish tan
Redwood Reddish brown

Oak, cedar, and redwood tend to produce darker colored driftwood, while maple, cypress, and cherry create lighter tan and brown shades. The natural heartwood color within the living tree impacts the resulting driftwood tone.

Age and Weathering Alters Driftwood Color

Newly fallen driftwood that has only been submerged for a short time retains a fresher, lighter wood color. As driftwood ages and undergoes weathering in the water for months or years, it develops a much darker, grayer hue.

Exposure to sunlight also accelerates the natural weathering processes that turn the wood gray. Longer UV exposure slowly bleaches the outermost wood layers, while deeper layers retain more color. This creates color variations from the weathered gray surface to the original inner wood tones.

Water Minerals Stain Driftwood Over Time

Being submerged in water allows natural minerals and other elements to slowly leach into the porous wood. Driftwood found in saltwater or mineral-rich freshwater often shows staining from:

Mineral Source Color Impact
Iron Rusty orange
Manganese Dark brown to black
Copper Blue-green
Sulfur Yellowish

The staining appears concentrated around cracks, holes, or softer areas of the wood. It creates interesting accents and adds to the uniqueness of each driftwood piece.

Temperature Extremes Create Color Changes

Long exposure to extreme cold or heat also impacts driftwood coloration:

– Coldwater immersion leaches some of the natural wood pigments, resulting in faded, bleached coloring.

– Heating by the sun dehydrates the wood, turning it a light gray/white hue in areas. Prolonged wetting and drying cycles promote additional weathering.

Driftwood Can Be Naturally White and Gray

While rich golden browns are most common, some species of trees naturally produce very light colored wood that appears white, gray, or pale beige as driftwood. Examples include:

– Aspen
– Birch
– Basswood
– Cottonwood
– Buckeye
– Willow

The fine-grained texture and minimal knots of these woods limit pigmentation, keeping them on the white to gray end of the driftwood color spectrum. Finding a silvery-white piece can create an eye-catching focal point.

Bleaching Driftwood Impacts Color

Many people choose to intentionally bleach or whiten collected driftwood to achieve a lighter, more uniform appearance. This also helps kill any organisms or microbes in the found wood.

Bleaching turns most woods a light grayish white depending on the process used. Some methods for bleaching include:

– Prolonged submersion and soaking in water with a bleach solution. The bleach strips away pigment.

– Pressure washing with a dilute bleach solution to pull color from the surface.

– Boiling or baking driftwood with hydrogen peroxide which naturally whitens the wood.

However, bleaching and aggressive cleaning also removes character from the wood. Many prefer to keep found driftwood in its natural state.

Stains and Finishes Change Driftwood Hues

For furniture or decor, driftwood is often purposefully colored and stained to give adesired finished effect. Common stains used include:

Stain Color Description
Honey tones Warm yellows and golds
Reddish browns Cherry, mahogany, walnut tones
Cool grays Creates weathered, worn effect
Whites and bleached Natural or pickled look
Opaque paints Any color imaginable

The natural imperfections and shapes of the driftwood create beautiful accents when combined with different stain colors. A polyurethane finish is typically applied over the stain to seal and protect the wood.


Natural driftwood covers a complete spectrum of wood tones from nearly white to black. The initial tree species, age and weathering of the submerged wood, water minerals, and preparation methods all influence the final colors. Oftentimes a single piece of driftwood displays a diverse blend of hues and character markings. Finding a driftwood section with harmonious and complementary tones can create an attractive addition to outdoor gardens or indoor decor. Let the natural variations spark design inspiration for your unique project.