How to Stain Plywood Furniture

Plywood furniture has a distinctive look. While it may fit in well with other lightly colored furniture and decorations, sometimes the contrast with other wood hues is glaring. In these instances, it is often far cheaper to stain the plywood furniture with a store-bought wood stain rather than replace furniture. Learning how to stain plywood furniture is therefore the key to renovating your woods and making them blend in better with their surroundings.

When brushing, go with the grain for a more natural finish.
  1. Sand the entire surface of the furniture with coarse sandpaper to remove any surface marks, paintwork or other debris. Sand the surface again with medium sandpaper to smooth out the surface, making the furniture suitable for staining. Always sand in the direction of the grain, rather than against it, to achieve a smoother surface. Clear away the dust and debris with an old cloth.

  2. Buff the entire surface of the furniture with a cloth. Apply mineral spirits to a rag and buff the surface again. Allow the spirits to dry for a half-hour.

  3. Apply wood conditioner to a sponge. Rub the furniture with the sponge to prepare a suitable base on the wood for staining. Clean the sponge thoroughly.

  4. Dip a paintbrush in a tin of wood stain. Brush off any excess into the wood stain tin, to prevent drips and spills. Brush the stain onto the furniture in short strokes. When brushing, go with the grain rather than against it as this gives a far more natural finish to the wood. Leave to dry for an hour or two before applying a second coat of varnish in the same manner.

  5. Sand the entire surface of the furniture with low-grit sandpaper. When sanding, do not press too hard. The purpose is to provide a lightly keyed surface, without scoring the wood. Apply polyurethane sealant to a sponge. Rub the furniture with the sponge, ensuring as even a coat of sealant as possible. Allow the sealant time to dry. The exact amount of time needed varies, so consult the sealant's instructions for more precise details.


  • Working with mineral spirits, wood stains and sealants can be dangerous. Inhalation of evaporating solvents can cause headaches and respiratory problems. Always wear a mask and gloves when working with these chemicals. Work in a well ventilated area, or outside if at all possible, to minimize the risk of chemical inhalation.

About the Author

Based in the United Kingdom, April Kohl has been writing since 1992, specializing in science and legal topics. Her work has appeared on the Second Life News Network website and in British Mensa's "LSQ" magazine. Kohl holds a Bachelor of Science in physics from Durham University and a diploma in English law from the Open University.