Cleaning work pieces

I’m starting to do engravings of photos and other detailed images and I was wondering, what would be the proper way of cleaning the wood work piece? I don’t want to sand because it would just take away the detail. I saw in some YouTube videos that people are washing it and scrubbing it in water , but that would just warp the wood, especially the plywoods. Any advice?

If you do a forum search on “removing char” you’ll get quite a few hits. The answer can be different depending on the material. For instance, for plywood I usually use denatured alcohol.


I use baby wipes.

Can be gotten at Walmart and other places.
Will even take the brown cut marking off the edges if you persist and rub long enough.
For char flash though, just a few wipes does the job.
Doing it on a photo engrave may disappoint. It will remove some of the dark/light image gotten by burning with the laser

For 3D engraves I also use the large container of this Orange that is available.
Pump a line of the gel onto a toothbrush and rub away. Clean residue with a paper towel and it really highlights the depth differences.
If you were doing the entire face of an engrave vigorous enough you may have pumice buildup in fine details. A brisk whisking with a paint brush will clear this out.

Alcohol can warp a board if too liberal. If using alcohol on wood I spray the towel, not the board.
On some that were warped from other malady, I have sprayed alcohol into the bowed part, then put another board on it with a weight to let set for a day or so, and it becomes flat. Depending on the warp it may need doing more than once. (once got it flat enough - seal it so it will not suck up moisture and warp again).


What about finish applied over the cleaned areas. Have you tried anything??

Not sure what you are asking?

So if you have an engraving and you clean it up with fast orange and you just sort of brush away any residue with a paper towel … is that surface ok to apply a finish like lacquer or poly over it just as it is or do you have to wash it or something? Seems like the residue of the fast orange would prevent the application of a finish…

Ahh no problem. A brisk brushing with a dry paint brush will remove excess cleaner and stuff in the cracks, and a light wipe on the edges with an alcohol sprayed towel can be done if needed.

Never seen any issues with finishes after sorting a design using these items.

Only finish problems with any wood has been with Proofgrade woods. That finish on them is hard to remove and darn near impossible to glue without scraping some off.

As for photo burns, I have taken to spray sealers for them, to prevent any of the coloring from being brushed off with handling. Not tried any of the rubbed sealers on these type of designs, since not convinced it would not disturb the overall looks.

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Someone use salt to clean bookboard (thick cardboard). He put it in a container and shook it around and the salt scrubbed the residue off. Worth a shot…