Not only does creosote prevent rot, but it also helps to resist insects and critters that might try to invade your fencing. It can be applied to both new and old fences and will make them last years longer than they would without it.

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What is Creosote?

Creosote is a thick, dark brown or black liquid that is produced when wood is burned. It is often used as a preservative for wood, especially in the railway industry. It is effective in preventing rot and insect infestation. Creosote is also used as a fire retardant. Formerly it was known as coal tar, and it was commonly used in the past to protect against rot and insect infestation, however, in the UK it was banned in 2003 due to its harmful effects on the environment.

Why is Creosote Banned?

Creosote can be harmful to human health if inhaled or ingested and is a known carcinogen. Inhaling creosote can also cause irritation to the throat and lungs. Symptoms include coughing, wheezing, and difficulty breathing. Creosote is also a fire hazard. The liquid is highly flammable and can easily ignite. If creosote catches fire, it can burn rapidly and produce harmful smoke.

Important: If you come into contact with creosote, it is important to wash the affected area with soap and water. You should also see a doctor if you experience any health problems after exposure to creosote.

How to Creosote a Fence?

As we mentioned above, creosote is banned in the UK. Luckily, however, there is now an environmentally friendly alternative called creocote which is an oil-based treatment that is just as effective at protecting the wood.

What You Need

  • Soapy Water
  • Bowl
  • Rag
  • Sandpaper
  • Creocote (amazon link – opens in a new tab)
  • Gloves
  • Safety Goggles
  • Brush, Roller or Spray Gun

Step 1 – Clean the Fence

The first step in staining your fence is to clean it. This is important because you want the creocote to adhere to the fence, not the dirt. Begin by removing or covering any plants that may be in the vicinity of the fence. Then use a garden hose to wet down the fence and follow up with a soapy solution.

Now scrub the fence with a brush to remove any dirt or grime that may be clinging to it. Once you’ve finished cleaning, rinse off the fence with clean water.

Step 2 – Allow to Dry

Allowing your fence to dry naturally is the best way to make sure it is fully dry and will not be damaged when we move on to treating the fence. Depending on the size of your fence and the amount of sunlight it gets, this could take anywhere from a few hours to a day or two. You’ll know it’s dry when it feels completely smooth and there is no longer any water beading up on the surface. Once it’s dry, you can move on to the next step.

Step 3 – Strip Paint (if required)

In order to ensure that the creocote will bond properly to the wood surface, it is important to remove any paint that may be present. This can be done using a paint stripper, which can be purchased at most hardware stores or here on Amazon (opens in a new tab). Once the paint has been removed, it may be a good idea to sand any rough or sharp edges to create an even surface for the creocote to adhere to.

You may want to fill any cracks or holes with a wood filler before applying the creocote.

Step 4 – Apply Creocote

Applying Creocote is the fourth step in the process of treating your fence. Creocote can be applied with a brush, roller, or sprayer, and applying additional coats will result in a deeper colour. When applying Creocote, be sure to saturate the timber completely, especially end-grain timbers. This will ensure that the treatment is effective. While it may take some extra time to apply Creocote thoroughly, doing so will help protect your fence from the elements and prolong its life.

Important: Creocote is toxic to humans and pets when in liquid form so wear your gloves and safety goggles. Creocote is also highly flammable. Source.

Step 5 – Allow to Dry

Once you have finished applying the creocote, it is important to allow it to air dry. This will help to ensure that the wood is protected from moisture and rot. Depending on the temperature and humidity levels, it can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for the creocote to fully dry. If you are in a hurry, you can speed up the process by using a hair dryer or fan. However, we do not recommend this as this can cause the creocote to become sticky and difficult to work with.

Step 6 – Clean Tools

Whilst your fence has been left to dry, now you should clean your tools. As creocote is an oil-based product, you will want to clean everything up with white spirit but be careful, you don’t want to get any on your newly treated fence.

Step 7 – Replace Plants

Once the creocote is dry, your fence is ready for use. That means that you can replace any plants you may have moved or covered.

What to Do if Someone Has an Accident with Creocote?

Creocote is perfectly fine and safe once it has dried on your fence or other outdoor wooden furniture, but it is extremely hazardous when it is wet. You will need to take precautions when using it. If, however, an accident does occur when you are using it, please see below.


If unconscious or breathing is irregular place them on their side in the recovery position and ensure that their airway is clear. Artificial respiration may be administered by suitably qualified first aiders if the patient is unconscious, or breathing is difficult.

Get immediate medical attention.



Get medical attention immediately.

Skin Contact

Remove contaminated clothing immediately and wash the skin with soap and water.

Get medical attention if irritation persists after washing.

Eye Contact

Promptly rinse your eyes with plenty of clean water while lifting the eyelids. Continue to rinse for at least 15 minutes. Continue until the eyes are free of all traces of contamination. Get immediate medical attention.


We were asked how to creosote a fence but since it was banned in 2003, we have come up with another solution – creocote. Although similarly dangerous when wet, creocote is a great substitute for creosote and can be used to treat fences in the same way. It will help protect your fence from rot, decay, and insects while also providing a beautiful finish. If you’re looking for an alternative to creosote, give creocote a try!

Dangers of Creocote Infographic

Garden Doctor Tips

“Clean away any dirt and grime including moss!”

“Ensure that the area is clean and dry before applying the creocote!”

“Apply the creocote evenly to the surface of the timber using a brush or roller!”

“Be sure to get into all the nooks and crannies, as this is where most rot and decay starts!”

“In its wet state, creocote is still a very dangerous substance and is toxic to living things. It must be kept away from water sources, plant life and pets!”

Frequently Asked Questions

How is creosote made?

Creosote is formed when wood is burned at high temperatures. The smoke from the fire contains chemicals that condense on the surface of the wood. When the wood cools, these chemicals form a liquid.

How much creocote do I need?

Creocote will approximately cover an area at the rate of 1 litre per 6 to 8 square meters.

Is Creocote harmful to humans?

Yes, creocote is harmful to humans. Although it is environmentally friendly and safe when dry, it is still toxic to humans. Exposure can cause skin and eye irritation, as well as headaches, dizziness, and nausea. It is important to use caution when working with or around creocote and to always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.


Trevor Wright is not just a seasoned horticulturist; he’s the esteemed Garden Doctor. With a BSc in Horticulture and years of hands-on experience in the soil, Trevor has become a trusted mentor for all things gardening. As the founder of Garden Doctor, he’s committed to clarifying the intricacies of gardening, offering straightforward advice that’s rooted in years of practice. His writing is a garden of how-tos, savvy insights, and comprehensive guides that enable individuals to nurture and grow their garden dreams. When he’s not knee-deep in garden beds, Trevor is at his keyboard passing on his green-thumbed wisdom to budding gardeners, ensuring that the legacy of sustainable and joyful gardening blossoms far and wide.

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