Have you ever regretted not using a coaster after lifting your glass and noticing the condensation left a mark? A ring of discoloration can occur when condensation from a cold beverage drips down the glass and seeps into the wood. We know how alarming it can feel when you lift your drink to find a gruesome mark.
Rings can range in color from milky white to dark brown — and certain types are easier to reverse than others. In many cases, the sooner you treat a water stain, the better. While white stains may lift with a little elbow grease, dark water stains may be there for good.
We’ve curated several ways to remove water stains from wood, organized by color:
How To Treat White Stains on Wood Furniture
Light-colored rings are signs of newer stains and are likely easier to remove. Moisture marks can occur from spilled drinks and glass condensation. Heat can also cause a spot to appear, although heat damage happens when moisture enters the wood from steam rather than liquid. If you’ve ever made the mistake of putting a dish directly on the table after it’s been in the oven, you may have already had this experience.
A quick word of caution: If you go about your stain removal process and notice the finish starts to change texture, moving from smooth to sticky and tacky, it’s an indication you need to pivot tactics.
Wait And See
Quite simply the easiest of all methods is the wait-and-see approach. Newer wood furniture, not that vintage piece you picked up from the thrift store or your grandma’s house, isn’t very porous, so it’s harder for moisture to permeate. If you’ve wiped up the liquid right away, it may evaporate overnight — disappearing into thin air.
If that doesn’t magically solve it, there are numerous other remedies that include ingredients or tools you probably already have in your house.
Reach For The Hair Dryer
If the stain is relatively new, you might be able to zap it with a hair dryer. The warm air can help disperse moisture and dry up the stain. Try pointing it toward the affected area for 10 minutes, while still leaving a little room between the appliance and the wood. If you see moisture droplets release, wipe them up with a dry cloth. If you see progress with this method, you can repeat the process — just make sure the surface cools completely between sessions. Complete the job by polishing the table with furniture oil or olive oil.
Here’s another quick fix that can be found in your bathroom: One small dab of toothpaste can go a long way — just be sure to avoid gel or whitening kinds. Using a soft cloth and a smear of toothpaste, gently buff out the spot. Use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess paste.
Mayonnaise To The Rescue
Head to your fridge for a jar of mayo and slather it on top of the stain. Then place a paper towel on top. Wipe it off after several hours (or even the following morning) and the stain should be gone.
While this is a great hack, it’s not always foolproof. Mayonnaise might only lift the stain somewhat and it can also discolor the finish, so be sure to run a test in an inconspicuous area first.
Oil And Water Concoction
Try mixing equal parts olive oil and water in a dish. Dip a clean cloth into the solution and rub the stained area in the direction of the wood grain. This powerful stain-fighting duo works uniquely: The water removes the stain while the olive oil works to polish the furniture. Wipe and dry the area with a clean cloth.
How To Remove Dark Water Stains From Wood
Water stains that have been left untreated for weeks or longer take on a darker appearance. This occurs when water penetrates the finish and reaches the wood. This doesn’t mean the piece of stained furniture needs to be trashed, but it might require refinishing or painting to fix.
Pesky dark stains may mean you need to call a professional for help. A carpenter might be able to refinish the piece of furniture or, if you’re an avid DIYer, you might be able to tackle it yourself.
What About Rubbing Alcohol Spills?
White marks that appear after cleaning up spilled rubbing alcohol are a different beast. The milky stain isn’t from moisture; it’s from the rubbing alcohol softening the finish. Thankfully, the stains can be treated the same way you’d treat a water stain.
Prevention Is the Best Medicine
Now you know how to remove water stains from wood, but preventing them is easier than fixing them. Leaving a set of coasters out on the coffee table will provide a visual cue for family members and guests. If you notice someone isn’t using a coaster, politely pass one over to them with a smile — they’ll get the hint.