How Do You Get Stains Out of Plywood?

Plywood is one of the most versatile forms of wood used in home projects and construction work. Contrary to most people’s idea of plywood, it’s not always the “messy wood” it’s made out to be – when you are using plywood for finished products, you don’t want it to look nasty! How do you get stains out of plywood? 

To get stains out of plywood, sand down the finish and carefully pour bleach onto the affected area. After safely applying the correct bleach to the stain, you should neutralize the wood and refinish it to prevent any lasting damage from the bleach.

I am going to give you the step-by-step method for getting any stain out of plywood. I will also talk about the different types of stains and which kind of bleach will work best to remove these stains. Finally, I will give you alternate stain removal options and how to get rid of odors that accompany plywood stains. 

How To Get Stains Out of Plywood

Plywood works a little differently from other types of woods. Because it is laminated in individual layers, it is not as solid as other woods. Plywood usually isn’t used for decorative work or finished products. Because of its thinness and large sheet size, it’s often used underneath different kinds of woods in floors or structures. 

How Do You Get Stains Out of Plywood?

However, the thinness and layers of plywood do make it easier to remove stains from it. Usually, a plywood stain will only affect the top layer of the wood. This means that you might not even have to do anything else about the stain once you remove the finish and sand the wood. 

If you need bleach, the plywood’s thin layers make the process go much faster than if it were another kind of wood. The bleach won’t have to sit on the wood for nearly as long and is less likely to cause permanent damage. Safety is always essential when you use bleach; be sure to wear gloves and pour and mix it very carefully. 

A Guide to Getting Stains Out of Plywood

To get stains out of plywood, you need a bleach solution. Which kind of bleach you get depends on the type of stain you are working with. No matter which bleach you need, the steps to get stains out of the plywood itself are the same. After you are done, you can finish, paint, or use the plywood as it is.  

Strip Plywood

Strip the plywood of any laminate or finish. This will also help you ensure that the stain isn’t just on the wood’s finish (you will save a lot of time and energy if this is the case!). Sand the surface of the stain down so that the bleach mixture can penetrate the wood.

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Choose and Mix Bleach

When you’ve decided which kind of bleach to use, mix the bleach according to the package directions. Only make enough bleach for one application and be very cautious. Make sure to wear gloves and safety goggles when mixing and keep the bleach away from clothes. It is best to mix and apply bleach in an outdoor or garage setting to avoid too many fumes. 

Apply Bleach

Carefully pour your mixed bleach onto the stained area, making sure it covers all of the stains. Because the laminate on plywood is thin, the bleach will probably work quickly and will not need to be left on for very long. You will be able to remove the bleach and see the affected area within twenty minutes. 

Neutralize Plywood

To ensure the leftover bleach doesn’t leave lasting damage, you need to neutralize the wood after the stain is gone. For oxalic acid bleaches, rub the area with a quart of water with two tablespoons of baking soda mixed in. If you are using a peroxide (or A/B bleach), mix one-part white vinegar and two parts water as a neutralizer. For chlorine bleach, use distilled water. 

Which Bleach Should I Use?

To choose a bleach, you have to decide what created the stain you are working with. The three main types of bleach for wood stains are oxalic acid bleach, chlorine bleach, and peroxide bleach. If you don’t know what made the stain, it’s okay to try a cheaper form of bleach to see if that works. 

How Do You Get Stains Out of Plywood?

Oxalic acid bleach is the most potent bleaching agent and can be hard to find. It is best for iron stains or tough water stains and will bleach the wood itself as well. This bleach comes in crystals, which can cause internal damage if they are inhaled, so always be extremely cautious when using this (or any) bleach mixture. 

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Peroxide bleach is a two-part system of bleaching. You will use two different chemical mixes, sodium hydroxide and hydrogen peroxide, to remove the stain and lighten the wood. This kind of bleach will cause the color of the wood to change somewhat dramatically – it is best for extremely tough or significant stains. 

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Chlorine bleach is the most commonly used form of bleach (it’s the same as laundry bleach). For gentler stain removal and stains such as tea, wine, or juice, use chlorine bleach. This is the only bleach that will remove the stain without leaving lasting effects on the wood itself, as long as you don’t use too much. 

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Other Ways of Cleaning Wood Stains

There are some other methods for cleaning stains from plywood. These work well if the plywood won’t be visible when the project is done, such as sanding down the area until the stain (and the varnish) is completely gone. While bleach is the quickest and most effective, these other fixes can work in specific situations. 

How Do You Get Stains Out of Plywood?

For water stains, you can use a hairdryer to dry out the wood. Keep it on a low heat setting and close to the stain. After a while, the water should dry out, and the wood will look clean. You can also leave a thick layer of mayonnaise or toothpaste on the stain for a while. Alternatively, gently rub the stain with steel wool and lemon oil – this will loosen the water trapped inside the wood. 

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Of course, you can also treat the entire piece of wood to be the same color. Either stain it all a darker color or use wood bleach (which won’t just wipe off like the other bleaching products) to lighten all of the wood you are using. If you plan to stain the wood anyway, you don’t need to do anything about it unless it’s darker than your desired color. 

How To Remove Odorous Stains

Unfortunately, the most challenging kind of stains to remove are the ones that leave a stink. Even the best-removed animal stain can still haunt you, especially on hot summer days or in high humidity. The most effective way to get rid of the stench of in-depth cat or dog stains is to cut out that section of the wood or replace it entirely. 

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Some mixtures help with the odor of pet stains. These mainly work when the stain is fresh – it will be nearly impossible to get rid of ingrained odors and stains. You can rub the wood down with hydrogen peroxide and baking soda or an enzymatic cleaner (with an odor remover) before adding the finish. This should eliminate the stinky part of the stain while the bleach takes care of the discoloration. 

Final Thoughts

The most effective method for removing stains from plywood is to mix the proper bleach and use it to clean away the stain. Once you’ve done this and revarnished the wood, you should hardly be able to tell the difference between the stained part and the rest of the piece of wood. You can use your plywood without it looking messy or being stained!  


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