How to Remove Water Stains from Wood Furniture

A ring shaped water stain on a wooden desk surface.

It’s almost inevitable. You’re cleaning up after a great party or family get-together and, while dusting, you see it—a ring-shaped water stain on one of your wood tables. You’ve tried some standard methods for removing these kinds of stains with mixed success, which makes you wonder if cleaning these stains is even possible. And while cleaning furniture that has been stained by water can be a constant reminder of each failed attempt, we have some good news! There is a way you can successfully remove water stains and rings from your wood furniture. In this article we explain how you can remove water stains from wood furniture to keep it looking beautiful.

What Causes Water Stains?

Most water stains appear with white or light-colored rings or clouds. If you see a water stain like this while dusting your wood furniture, it means moisture is trapped within the wood’s finish. Most of the cleaning methods listed below will lighten or remove this kind of stain. However, if it is a dark stain, it has likely penetrated the wood and the surface to the point that your furniture may have to be refinished to completely remove the stain.

Removing Water Rings with Heat

If you are cleaning your furniture and notice the water stain is new and small, you may be able to remove it by using heat to evaporate the moisture. Lay a cotton cloth over the stain and use a household iron to apply heat. Ensure the iron is set to the lowest temperature and not set to steam. If you are uncomfortable using an iron, you can use a hairdryer at its highest setting. Aim it directly towards the stain until it disappears. Once the stain is gone, apply a coat of furniture polish to make your furniture shine.

Related Topic: How Often Should I Dust My House?

Removing Water Rings with Oil

If you have a more significant but still recent water stain, try using one or all of the methods listed below:

  1. Mayonnaise and Vinegar—One of the most effective methods is a mixture of 2 parts mayonnaise to 1 part vinegar. Dab the mixture on the stain with a paper towel. Let it sit, covered by a paper towel, for a few hours or overnight. Wipe away the mayonnaise with a clean cloth and finish by polishing it with vinegar.
  2. Vinegar and Olive Oil—Mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Use a cotton cloth to wipe in the direction of the wood grain until the stain is gone.
  3. Mineral Oil—Use a soft cloth to apply mineral oil to the stain in the direction of the wood grain. Let a light coating of the oil sit overnight, then buff out the next day with a clean cloth.

Removing Water Rings with a Mild Abrasive

If the water stain is a few days old but still looks white and cloudy, you may need a mild abrasive to remove the moisture. Make a paste of white, non-gel toothpaste and baking soda. Apply the mixture using either a soft cloth or an old toothbrush. Gently rub the spot in a circular motion until it disappears. Being gentle is most important here — you can remove or scratch your furniture’s finish if you apply too much pressure.

Removing Old Water Stains

Old water stains are more challenging to remove because they have penetrated deeper into the wood. If you’re going to refinish a piece of wood furniture to remove old water stains, it’s best to sand the surface first to remove any top coating or finish. Apply a 50/50 mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water to lighten the stain. Soak a white cloth in the solution and place it on the stain for ten minutes. Allow the area to dry completely before applying a new finish.

Call the Cleaning Experts

A water stain can really diminish the beauty of wood furniture. Using some of the techniques mentioned above can help restore the wood’s natural beauty. And if you want the rest of your home looking beautiful, but are too busy to do it all, Molly Maid can help. Whether you need regular cleaning services or special event cleaning, the pros at Molly Maid help make everything easier, with over 30 years of experience. We know how to keep your home looking its absolute best, so you can spend more time on the things you love. Contact us today for a free estimate.