Stain Removal

How to Get Rid of Water Marks from Wood

You invited your friends for beer and pizza, and since you’re all too busy watching a comedy film, you barely noticed all the mess you’ve made. When you started clearing up, you realized you forgot to bring out coasters for the beer bottles. Now, your beautiful antique living room table is ruined: there are white water marks all over the polished surface.

Before you wring your head in your hands and curse yourself, stop. There’s still a solution for this unpleasant mess. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to bring back your table’s flawless gleam.

What Causes Water Marks

Although they commonly appear in numerous household furniture, very few people know how water marks form. When you place something very cold or very hot on a wooden surface, the moisture or water from that object penetrates through the wood’s protective finish, whether it’s shellac, varnish or lacquer. The moisture is trapped below, causing the finish to look white and lose its transparency. These are the unpleasant white marks we see.

Plenty of objects can cause water marks to appear. Glasses, cups, and other drinking containers filled with liquid are common culprits. Hot pizza boxes can also cause the problem. Even a few careless raindrops from your umbrella that are left unwiped can cause the marks to appear.

White marks make your furniture look terrible, but the good news is you don’t have to live with them. There are numerous methods to get rid of these furniture stains for good.

Cigarette Ash Does Wonders

It’s amazing how things we think we no longer need become useful sometimes. Take cigarette ash for example. Smokers discard it easily, but if you’re one of those looking for a quick water mark solution, this does the trick. Here are two ways on how you can use cigarette ash.

  • Disguise It. If it’s a fairly small mark, like one caused by a drop of water when you accidentally nudged a glass with your hand, you can easily disguise it. First, rub the cigarette ash into the mark using your finger. Buff it with furniture polish after. If you don’t have furniture polish, some shoe polish will do, but make sure it suits the dark shade of your table’s wood. Soon, the mark will be invisible, cleverly disguised under the polish.
  • Do Away With The Mark. You can also completely eliminate the stain using cigarette ash. First, make a paste out of olive oil and cigarette ash. Work this slowly into the mark. You’ll see the stain coming out as you rub in the paste. This works best if your wood is dark and polished, like mahogany.

Lubricate The Surface

This is a very easy tactic, and of all the available solutions, it’s the one that’s least likely to damage the finish. You’ll need an oily, lubricant substance for this, such as liquid furniture polish, furniture wax, or even petroleum jelly. Apply the lubricant over the affected area, and allow it to sit there for eight hours. The trapped moisture under the wood’s finish will be replaced by the lubricant.

Check the progress. If there’s still a faint sign of the water mark, leave the lubricant for a few more hours. Check again, and if no more mark remains, wipe clean with a cloth. Voila! No more ugly water marks.

Apply Heat

The white mark is caused by trapped moisture, which is water. It then makes sense that to eliminate it, you need to cause the water to evaporate, and the best way to do is is by directly applying heat. If you do this method properly, the stain will be gone in no time.

You can use either a flat iron or a blow dryer. If you’re using the iron, place a clean towel over the affected surface first. Set the iron to moderate heat, then slowly run it over the wood. Make sure the setting isn’t too hot, so you won’t burn your surface. Raise the towel every now and then to check on your progress.

If you’re afraid you’ll burn yourself or the furniture with the flat iron, another option is using a blow dryer. Set the iron to low heat, and direct it at the affected area. The stain will be gone soon.

Try Denatured Alcohol

Alcohol can also leave marks on wooden surfaces, but if you know how to properly use it, you’ll find out that it can also take out the dilemma quite effectively. First, get a clean cloth and dampen it with denatured alcohol. Very lightly pass it over the stain. The cloth should be moving, but just skimming the surface.

Remember, be very careful with this tactic. Using too much denatured alcohol can damage a water-based or lacquer finish, and dissolve a shellac finish. It’s a good idea to use a small amount of alcohol at first, and just keep adding some if needed. Watch closely what happens. If you’re not sure whether alcohol is compatible with the finish, try it on a very small area first. As long as this is done properly, you’ll be able to remove the stains without worries.

The Amazing Mayo Method

Yes, you read it right. The gunk you place all over your hot dog can be used to remove the nasty water mark on wood. Of the many possible methods, this is perhaps the most unusual one, yet many people swear on how effective it is. Here’s how.

  1. Get two tablespoons of mayonnaise (more, if the stain is bigger than the average glass bottom size). Spread onto a paper towel.
  2. Place the paper towel on the stain, then press lightly, rubbing in a bit.
  3. Leave the towel on the mark for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Check under the towel too see the improvement. If there’s still sign of the mark, rub more mayo into the wood. Check it again after 15 minutes.
  5. If the stain is very pronounced, you can add a bit of baking soda to the mayonnaise to make it more effective. The mixture will be grittier, and easier to rub on the surface.

When the stain is completely gone, wipe the wood with a clean paper towel. You can also apply a bit of furniture polish, to remove the mayo’s scent.

There’s really no use crying over spilled milk, or water, in your case. Instead of doing that, why don’t you just try these wonder tactics? Your wooden table may be stained now, but if you properly try these tips, you’ll restore its lovely gleam.

Click here for more information on how to get rid of water marks from wood.

About the author

Nicole Harding

5 Comments

  • There are all sorts of products to buy for removing ring marks and we find that none of them actually work. The only method we use is dangerous, extreme fun and we have only known it not work twice. But we take no responsibility if you get it wrong! You need methylated spirit, cotton wool and a cigarette lighter. Just dampen the cotton wool with the meths and hold only in your left hand. Hold the lighter in your right hand. Wipe over the ring mark with the cotton wool, make sure that your hand is well away and flick the lighter on at the edge of the mark. The meths will light and the mark will disappear. Do you want to know why? Well the white mark is caused by putting something hot and wet on the table, such as a dripping mug of tea. The heat opens up the pores of the timber which soak in the moisture. As the cup cools the moisture is trapped inside the wood. Meths burns at a very low temperature and does not burn for long. What happens is that the lit meths opens up the pores long enough for the moisture to escape before they close up again. This way you are not disguising the mark, you are removing it. But remember: Only use meths, make sure you use the smallest amount, if it burns for more than 3 second then just blow out the clear flame as you would blow out birthday candles and do not set fire to the cotton wool or your fingers. It will hurt! Also remember that heat resisting mats for your table are not a license to put 200 degree pans on. You will damage your table, the mats resist heat they don’t repel it!

  • The iron over a towl totally worked! I set it to cotten heat. Thank you so much for the tip. I had tried petro jelly and it didn’t work for me.

  • I don’t have a tip but I do want to say that I just tried the ‘apply heat’ with a steam iron and it worked in less than 1 minute. I had baked bread and cooled it on racks on top of my beautiful kitchen table and it left water marks. Now it’s all gone! Thanks for the tip!

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