How To Remove Water Stains From Wood And Rescue Furniture

White spots, white ring marks, and other water stains on wood can spoil the look of perfectly good furniture.

They look terrible and you might worry that your coffee table is ruined…

But don’t panic!

This post is all about removing cloudy water stains from wood to restore your table or wooden furniture back to its original glory!

What Causes Water Marks On Wood?

White cloudy water rings or spots are caused by moisture getting into the wax.

It is the finish on the table that is damaged not the wood itself.

So the varnish or wax that was applied to protect the wood is actually doing its job.

The secret to removing watermarks from wood is to get the moisture out of the wood finish.

With a little TLC and effort, white water stains usually can be removed from the wood.

So if you are feeling like Bryan relax, don’t panic, you’ve got this.

6 Ways To Remove Water Stains From Wood

The Pro Method

This method works best for older water stains.

Guardsman Water Mark Remover Cloth is a popular product that promises to remove water stains from wood.

It’s a treated cloth that you wipe across the stain in the direction of the wood grain.

The older the stain the longer you’ll probably need to scrub at it.

The downside is that it’s a product that’s only for glossy tables. It’s best to test the cloth on a hidden area of your furniture first.

While Guardsman makes a great product it’s worth trying the techniques below first to see if they work for you.

The Hair Dryer Method

If you spot a white water stain early then quickly run and grab your hairdryer.

Put your hairdryer on the lowest heat setting and blow air over the water spot.

Make sure you don’t get too close to the surface and move the airflow around, you don’t want to make a burn mark on the table!

With luck, the moisture in the water stain will evaporate and the white mark will vanish.

The Hot Towel Method

This is similar to the hair dryer technique and works best with flat surfaces like tables.

Lay a clean cloth or a towel over the watermark.

Heat your clothes iron to a low temperature and place your iron on the cloth for a few seconds.

Check the water stain to see if it has improved.

Keep repeating this process and you should be able to evaporate the moisture in the water mark.

You don’t need water in your clothes iron since steam would only make the situation worse. It’s a dry heat that is required.

The Oil Method

Oil and water don’t mix, so rubbing oil into a white water spot with a soft cloth can sometimes help.

As the oil penetrates the finish it forces the moisture out removing the white cloudy mark.

You can use many different types of oil to try this.

Some people even recommend mayonnaise!

Others use olive oil with vinegar.

Petroleum jelly is another popular alternative or furniture wax or even car wax.

The main principle is that by gently rubbing oil into the water ring you force the water out making the stain disappear.

Since we are dealing with wood furniture and oily wood wax would be a good choice.

The Baking Soda Method

Sometimes removing older water stains requires more than simply heat.

Baking soda is a great gentle abrasive.

Mix a little baking soda with little water to form a paste. Then gently rub the paste into the surface of the water stain.

This actually rubs off the top layer of the furniture wax allowing the trapped moisture to escape.

You don’t want to rub so much that you start damaging deeper layers.

The last step is to reapply a furniture wax to reseal the finish of the wood furniture. 

The Toothpaste Method

Non-gel white toothpaste also makes a good abrasive for treating water stains.

Gently rub the stained area with a moderate amount of toothpaste.

You might need to apply some pressure to break down the outer layer of the wood finish.

Complete the job by using furniture polish to bring the shine back.

The Bottom Line

It’s easy to remove water stains on wood if only the surface varnish is damaged.

The deeper the moisture has penetrated and the longer it has remained the harder it will be to remove water stains.

Time is of the essence. Cleaning any spills quickly obviously makes sense. Checking your tables after parties for water rings left by guests is also smart.

A quick blast with the hair dryer before bed is much better than hours of scrubbing later.

If the moisture has got through to the wood you might not be able to completely remove the stain.

Your only option then would be to sand down the entire surface and reapply the finish.

And as they say… prevention is better than cure.

Next time use a coaster like your parents told you to avoid water rings!

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