Remove Water Stains from Wood

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Remove Water Stains from Wood


7 Tips for Removing Water Rings from Wood Furniture and Wood Surfaces Using Simple Household Products

Spilling a beverage or leaving a window open next to heirloom furniture can feel devastating when it happens. White rings from glasses or blotches from rain can ruin the surface of an otherwise beautiful piece of furniture. Fortunately there are a few solutions to remove water stains from wood that can reduce the appearance of blemishes and sometimes remove them altogether. Of course, if the damage is too great, a furniture piece might require refinishing, but you owe it to yourself to try a few of these easy water stain removal methods before throwing in the towel.

  • Sometimes carefully applied heat via an iron (with a cotton ironing cloth) will lift white rings – especially if they are still fresh. Applying heat removes some of the moisture trapped in the grain.
  • Toothpaste, very carefully rubbed in to a small area with a cloth. Use the white paste, not the gel, and don’t over-rub because the polish can alter the finish and make it glossy.
  • Mayonnaise – rub it over the stain and leave for an hour. Wipe it off and see if it improves the stain.
  • Equal parts olive oil and vinegar. Rub across grain with a soft cloth and see if it restores some of the depth and color of wood. This works the same way as mayonnaise, as it replaces oils in woods but it has a higher oil concentration.
  • Massage petroleum jelly into the stain (yet another variant of the oil remedy).
  • Combine a teaspoon or so of salt with a little water and put that on the stain. Salt has an absorbing capability but will also act as a mild abrasive so do this with caution, or you may polish the surface of your dresser.
  • Mix oil or butter with powdered charcoal or cigarette ashes and rub into the wood. Using a dark substance is especially effective on dark old furniture as it can replace some of the color and conceal the damage.

The main photo shows before and after images of a water-damaged walnut dresser top. Imagine my dismay as I woke to find those water rings after absent-mindedly leaving the windows open. I used the mayonnaise method to remove the water stains, which produced rather amazing results. As you can see in photos, it’s barely visible now. The stains were about two years old. If you treat water damaged wood right away, it’s likely to yield even more impressive results.

There are no guarantees that the methods above will fix your water rings, and please try them at your own risk. Before resorting to refinishing or even veneering your furniture it may be worth it to try some of these water-stain-removal hacks, however.

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