What is the best way to remove water stains from a wood table? I just bought cute matching bedside tables at a yard sale, but they have marks on them. The spots look like water rings made by wet glasses.
Paula Smith, Schenectady, NY
Congratulations on your find. Let’s see if I can help you fix the problem. There is actually more than one best way to remove water stains from a wood table.
Sadly, if you had been able to treat the wood right away, the solution would have been simpler. All you needed to do was heat the surface with a hairdryer. Or you could use a hot iron on top of a towel. Either way, you’d force the moisture out of the wood before it spotted it.
On the other hand, it’s possible to remove older water stains, too. The way to clean wood furniture and get rid of unsightly water marks involves using mayonnaise on the stains. Use a soft, clean rag to massage some mayonnaise into the marks.
Apply it with circular motions and let it sit overnight. The next day, wipe it clean with a damp cloth, then with a dry towel. If you can still see the spots, repeat the steps. Some people have luck adding cigarette ash to the mixture.
I’m guessing that these bedside tables have a finished surface. But if they are unfinished, you have another process to try.
All you need is one tablespoon of white vinegar with two tablespoons of table salt. Rub this paste over the water rings to erase the stain. Then wipe with a damp cloth and polish the wood. You may find that this simple home remedy also will get food coloring off counters and other hard surfaces. Be careful on natural stone, though.
Also, white toothpaste can remove water spots from unfinished wood. You may prefer this method as it smells more pleasant than using vinegar. Do not use colored gel paste.
Sometimes, burn marks are as much of a problem as water stains. A too-hot cup of coffee can leave an unsightly mar on your wood table. Removing white heat stains from wood is just as easy as eliminating water rings. Try gently rubbing petroleum jelly into the burn. This is usually enough to wipe out the stain.
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