5 Quick and Easy Ways to Remove Water Stains from Wood

Ice-cold glasses of water (and a lack of coasters) can spell disaster for your wood surfaces. But before you start searching for a replacement coffee table, turn to our expert tips for removing water rings from your home's furniture.

You know the scenario: A guest forgets to use a coaster under their chilled glass and soon a faint white stain appears on your favorite wood furniture. This stain is often referred to as a water ring, and while it's certainly frustrating, it doesn't have to ruin your party. Learn how to remove water stains from wood with our easy cleaning hacks that use everyday products you already own, including toothpaste, distilled white vinegar, and even mayonnaise.

Before you begin removing water stains from wood surfaces, examine the color of the water ring. White water stains appear when moisture is trapped in the wood's finish. Our cleaning methods work best for these types of stains. If the water rings are dark, the liquid has likely reached the wood itself, and you may need to refinish the surface entirely. It's also important to note that some tough water stains may be best treated with a combination of cleaning techniques; experiment with each method as needed. Below, we'll show you how to remove water stains from wood so the party can continue.

water in from glass on on wooden surface that could become of a stain
Chettarin / Getty Images

1. Remove Water Rings with Mayonnaise

One surprising fix for water stains is probably already in your fridge. The oil in mayonnaise works to displace the moisture in a water ring and remedy any cloudy residue in the finish of wood furniture. Using a paper towel, dab mayonnaise onto the stain. Let it sit for a few hours or overnight with the paper towel on top. Wipe away the mayo with a clean cloth and finish by polishing. Voila! We found this to be one of the most effective cleaning methods for removing water stains.

2. Combine Vinegar and Olive Oil for a DIY Wood-Stain Remover

In a small bowl, mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Apply the mixture to the water stain using a cloth. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain until the stain is gone. The vinegar will help remove the stain while the olive oil acts as a furniture polish. Finish by wiping with a clean, dry cloth.

3. Use an Iron to Remove Water Stains from Wood

To remove water rings with an iron, start by laying a clean cloth over the mark. We recommend using a cotton cloth without any prints or decals to avoid any transfer to your surface. Make sure there is no water within the iron, then set it to a low temperature. Once warm, briefly set the iron on the cloth over the water stain. After a few seconds, lift the iron and cloth to check the stain. If it's still there, repeat steps until the stain is removed. This water stain removal method works best for stains that are still damp, rather than set-in water stains, as it effectively evaporates moisture in the surface finish.

4. Remove Water Rings with a Hairdryer

This method works best for fresh water stains. As soon as a water ring appears, head to your bathroom and grab a hairdryer. Plug in the device and turn it to its highest setting. Aim the hairdryer towards the stain and hold until the stain disappears. Unplug the hairdryer. Finish by polishing the table with furniture oil ($9, Ace Hardware). If you don't have furniture oil on hand, olive oil works too.

5. Use Toothpaste to Get Rid of Water Stains

For this water stain fix, you'll need white toothpaste (skip the gel and whitening varieties) and a cloth or paper towel. Dab a generous amount of the toothpaste onto a clean cloth. Buff the toothpaste onto the stain. Continue to gently rub the stain until the stain is completely removed. Wipe away any residue with a cloth or paper towel.

Best Commercial Cleaning Products for Removing Water Rings

In addition to homemade cleaning recipes, there are many store-bought products available formulated to remove water stains on wood. Both Homax ($9, The Home Depot) and Guardsman ($8, Walmart) offer a pre-treated reusable cloth that removes white rings from wood. Before using, check the manufacturer's instructions to make sure it's suitable for your wood furniture's finish, such as shellac, lacquer, or varnish. Test on an inconspicuous spot if you're unsure of your furniture's finish.

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