Tips for Maintaining Plywood Walls and Cabinets

When you hear the word “plywood,” you might think of rough, splintery wood with visible knots and other flaws that might be used for subflooring or construction bracing. But there are different grades of plywood, and while the rougher, D- and C-grade plywood might fit that description, higher grades have either only minor blemishes or, in the case of A-grade plywood, no blemishes at all.

When finished and maintained properly, plywood can look like fine furniture and last for decades.  With the right information and approach, it requires very little time and effort. Keep reading for sustainable tips to help you keep these unique wooden surfaces in top-notch condition.

Understanding Plywood: How It’s Made And What the Different Grades Mean

Plywood is a versatile engineered wood product made by bonding several thin layers of wood veneers, typically with the grain of each layer of wood in alternating directions to make it much stronger and reduce the possibility of warping or cracking.

Plywood is graded based on the quality of its veneers and how its core is constructed, with each grade being suited for different specific uses. The grades range from A to D, with A-grade plywood having the highest quality veneers that are smooth, free of knots, and ideal for visible applications like cabinetry and wall panels. Most of the plywood you’re likely to have in the interior of your home, either as walls, cabinets, or countertops, will be A-grade plywood.

B-grade plywood allows for minor imperfections and is often used for less visible parts, like interior shelving or paneling for workshops where a high-quality finish isn’t a priority. C- and D-grade plywood includes more noticeable flaws such as knots and splits, making it better suited for structural uses, base layers, or rough construction.

WOCA Master Color Oil is an eco-conscious choice for coloring and finishing plywood in more ways than one.  Master Color Oil penetrates the thin veneer to color and actually strengthens it, by sealing it from the inside out and repel liquids.   

Plywood surfaces sealed with a water or oil based polyurethane, shellac, paint or any other kind of film finish cannot be refinished.   Plywood veneer is not thick enough to handle sanding, making it disposable and destined to end up in a landfill.  The WOCA wood finishing system makes plywood more than a single use building material.   

The WOCA Wood Finishing System for plywood is a simple process with beautiful results that will not flake or peel.  Whether you are a DIY enthusiast or a wood professional, you’ll appreciate the ease of use, low odor, and color options.

How to finish plywood with WOCA Oil

  1. Spray surface with WOCA Intensive Wood Cleaner Spray and wipe the surface clean, let dry at least.  Let dry for 3-4 hours.
  2. Polish by hand, 1-2 coats of WOCA Master Color Oil with a white polishing pad.
  3. Wipe off the excess oil with a clean cloth and let dry.  

Interior Design Tip for a light, neutral look- Treat plywood with WOCA Wood Lye White to lighten the natural color and minimize yellow tones, then finish with WOCA Master Color Oil in White.

If and when WOCA Oil treated plywood needs to be refinished or renewed, the process is simple: Repeat steps 1-3.  

Keep reading for cleaning and maintenance tips to help you keep these unique wooden surfaces in top-notch condition.

Regular Cleaning of Plywood Surfaces

Like any other wooden surface, plywood requires regular dusting about once a week with a soft, lint-free cloth to remove dust buildup. You’ll want to do a more thorough cleaning of your plywood surfaces once a month, using a damp cloth and a mild cleaner like WOCA Natural Soap Spray.

It’s a ready-mixed cleaner made of oils and natural soap that’s perfect for thoroughly and safely cleaning wooden surfaces. Unlike harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage the finish, Natural Soap Spray is specially formulated to protect while it cleans and closes the pores of wooden surfaces to protect them from excess moisture or staining.

Handling Spills and Stains on Plywood

Accidents can happen, and you’ll want to clean up any spills immediately to prevent stains. Blot any excess liquid with a clean, absorbent cloth and let dry completely. If you do end up with a stubborn blemish on a plywood surface,  WOCA Stain Remover is a great choice to tackle even tough, soaked-in stains since sanding is not an option on plywood.

It’s effective on stains from wine, grease, coffee, or other spills that might leave a visible blot. Once you’ve treated the plywood with Stain Remover, you’ll want to refinish or re-oil it with WOCA Master Color Oil to make sure the surface stays protected.

Walnut plywood MCO Natural Shelves

Additional Tips to Keep Your Plywood Cabinets or Countertops Looking Their Best

Plywood cabinets and countertops are durable, affordable, and can last for many years if cared for properly. To reduce wear and tear on doors and drawers, regularly check and tighten cabinet hardware like knobs, hinges, and drawer pulls. Loose hardware can damage the cabinets over time, making them difficult to use or even more easily damaged.

Always use cutting boards on your countertops to prevent gouges and nicks on the plywood surface. Even tiny scratches can expose the interior core of the plywood to moisture, which can lead to warping or bulging over time. Likewise, never set hot items like pans or baking dishes directly on plywood surfaces. Always use trivets, hot pads, or another suitable thermal barrier to protect the wood from heat damage.

Strong, Durable, Beautiful Plywood Surfaces

Plywood offers a versatile solution for a variety of uses, ranging from high-end cabinetry to structural applications. Proper maintenance, including regular cleaning and quick attention to spills and stains, helps make sure these tough wooden surfaces hold up and look their best.

Interested in more tips on woodcare, sustainability, décor and design? The WOCA Woodcare Blog has plenty of valuable insights to help you maintain and beautify the wooden surfaces in and around your home, as well as great information on the latest trends, green living, and more.

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