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Water Stains On Wood: 6 Home Remedies To Know

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Have you ever found a hazy white area on your table, or discovered damp rings on your dresser that furniture polish did nothing to help? You’re dealing with water stains which can make your favorite furniture look shabby.

Fortunately, you don’t need power tools to get rid of them. Let’s look into some common household ingredients and home remedies to remove water rings and stains from wood.

Water Stains on Wood: Light vs. Dark

When you find a water stain on your wood furniture, its color will tell you the source of the damage.

White stains: White or light-colored rings or hazy areas on wood are caused by moisture getting trapped beneath the surface, usually under the wax or furniture polish.

These are superficial marks you can treat by displacing, releasing, or evaporating the trapped moisture using any of the methods below.

Dark stains: Darkened areas that look black or scorched are signs of more significant water exposure that’s gone beneath the finish to get into the wood.

For those, you’ll likely need to refinish the piece or contact a pro, but there are a few things you can first try. 

Did You Know?

Did you know that wood is hygroscopic? This means it naturally absorbs and releases water from its environment, which is why wiping up spills is so crucial in preventing water stains.

Home Remedies to Remove Water Rings from Wood

For those times when wiping spills right away doesn’t fix the problem, here are six home remedies to remove water stains from wood, starting with the easiest method and working up to the more labor-intensive approach. 

The Mayonnaise Method

Plop a spoonful of mayo onto the water stain and use a clean, soft cloth to work it into the wood ring. If it the water stain fades right away, you’re done.

If it lingers, add more mayo and cover it with plastic cling film overnight. The next morning, wipe the mess away with a warm, damp cloth and buff it dry. 

The Cooking Oil Method

Follow the steps above but use your favorite cooking oil instead of mayonnaise. Olive, coconut, avocado, canola are all fine, even baby oil.

But cooking spray isn’t a suitable substitute because it contains butane and propellants that can damage your furniture’s finish.

The Toothpaste Method

Dab a small amount of non-gel toothpaste on the water stain and rub it in with a soft cloth until the stain disappears. Then wipe with a clean, damp cloth and buff dry.

The toothpaste method relies on creating micro-abrasions that let moisture escape without damaging the finish.

The Baking Soda Method

Make a paste by combining baking soda and water. Rub it in gently with a soft cloth. When the water stain disappears, wipe the surface with a clean damp cloth then buff it dry.

As with toothpaste, baking soda offers mild abrasion that can remove water stains from wood without damaging the finish.

The Blow-Dryer Method

Next up, try heat. But to be safe, you need to plug the blowdryer directly into an outlet — using an extension cord with a blow-dryer is a fire risk. 

Using medium heat, aim your blowdryer at the water stain for 5 minutes, keeping it in constant motion so it doesn’t soften the wood finish. When the stain’s gone, let the surface cool and apply furniture polish.

Did You Know?

Did you know that applying heat to a water stain on wood helps evaporate the trapped moisture? This is because heat speeds up the movement of water molecules, allowing them to escape the wood’s finish more quickly.

The Ironing Method

So, for the final home remedy to remove water stains, grab your clothes iron and a plain white cotton cloth. (Anything else might leave a print or dye, or bond to the wood’s finish.)

To remove the water ring, spread the cloth over the area and run your iron with a no-steam, low setting over the spot. Check it every 30 seconds. When the water ring is gone, let the wood cool then polish it.

Preventing Water Spots on Wood

  • Wipe up spills promptly and you can avoid a water stain altogether. 
  • Use coasters or placemats to catch drips on tables. 
  • Wring out damp cloths before cleaning tables.
  • Keep an eye on houseplants to catch leaky pots.
  • Avoid silicone furniture polishes create sticky layers on wood that trap moisture.

Want to stick with the DIY approach? Use my homemade furniture polish which adds a moisturizing shine that helps protect your home’s wood surfaces from water rings.

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5 Comments

  1. The heat method worked perfectly on a water stain on my grand piano after all else failed.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Glad to hear it, John!

  2. CrazyCatLady says:

    I messed up and got some water under some polyurethane. Better than mayo, hair dryer, or vaseline was Baby oil. It worked way better and I’m sad that so few sites even recommend it. I only found it by googling baby oil after I had just randomly tried it. Hope it helps someone else going super crazy trying to fix a water stain under polyurethane.

  3. Hi,

    I was trying to clean a “my little steamer” and I filled it half water half distilled white vinegar. Then somehow when the solution boiled or perhaps before it came out. I’d blame the cats but it might be my fault for not watching it or over-filling it. Now there’s a big stain on a chest made of cedar. I tried dish soap and water and scrubbed with two different brushes as well rags and paper towels but that didn’t work. Is there any way to fix this or will it have to be sanded and polished again or something? Thanks for any help.

    1. Katie Berry says:

      Try the oil-based approach.

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