How to Shine Landscaping River Rock

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Things You'll Need

  • River rock

  • Scrubbing brush

  • Soap

  • Water

  • Rags

  • Newspapers

  • Marine varnish

  • Vegetable oil or liquid wax

  • Soft cloth


You can use shellac or urethane if displaying river rock indoors. Marine varnish is formulated for outdoor use. Clean used brush with turpentine.


Do not varnish traffic surfaces such as flagstones, as it makes them especially slippery when wet. Open a window to vent fumes if working indoors.

A group of shiny river rock adds a signature accent to gardens.

River rock comes in different sizes, shapes and colors, and lends a beautiful signature or accent to landscaping. Select rocks that imitate a stream, outcropping, ravine or river raceway, or create a Zen garden or footpath. River rock helps hold and direct water in your garden after a rain, when the rock shines at its most brilliant. With a small outlay of money, time and effort, you can achieve a rain-washed effect that lasts for years.

Shining Landscaping River Rock

Step 1

Choose a variety of river rocks to imitate a natural setting.

Spread river rock on a clean surface and rinse thoroughly with water to loosen dirt, grit and algae. Squirt soap on a brush then scrub each rock individually. Continue brushing while rinsing the rocks. Wipe with rags and lay on a flat surface until completely dry.

Step 2

Do not pick rocks from a living stream or river.

Spread dry rocks on newspapers and spray or brush marine varnish on one side of each rock. Let dry. Turn rocks over and spray or brush until rocks are completely coated. Dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Step 3

Pour a small amount of vegetable oil or liquid wax onto a rag and rub on each rock. When dry, take a soft cloth and lightly burnish each rock to create a brilliant shine. This adds extra depth and protects the finish.


David Coates

David Coates has more than 30 years of experience as a professional writer. He worked as a journalist with "Maclean's" magazine and "The Globe and Mail" in Toronto. In 1989, Coates formed his own company, providing writing, editing, media relations and training services to clients. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Guelph, Ontario.