How to Remove Water Stains from Wood Furniture

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If you don’t use coasters, the condensation from cold drinks glasses can seep into the wood and cause water stains. There are a number of ways to remove water stains from wood, and we’re going to take a look at them.

Table with water stains and glass of water

These blemishes can ruin a piece of furniture. But these easy-to-follow methods will help you remove  water rings from your wooden furniture.

Whether it’s a coffee table, dining table, or antique piece, we’ve got you covered with simple solutions that anyone can use. No need for expensive products or professional help – all you need are some household items and a little patience. 

What causes Water Stains in Wood?

Water rings are the result of moisture penetrating the protective finish of your wooden furniture. Once it sinks it, it causes discoloration.

There are two types of water rings: white rings, which indicate that only the finish is affected, and black rings, which indicate more severe damage where moisture has penetrated the wood itself. 

Prevention is key: Use Coasters

Before we get into the methods, let’s just be honest. Using coasters prevents this from happening, and prevention is best here. Sometimes these stains can’t be fixed.

Put coasters or trivets under glasses or hot dishes to protect the wood surface from direct contact with moisture or heat. Politely ask guests to use them if they don’t.

You can also put down placemats or tablecloths during meals to provide an extra layer of protection.

Removing Water Stains From Wood – White Rings

We’re going to start on white rings because they’re easier to fix. If the ring is still white, it means the water hasn’t penetrated all the way into the wood yet.

1 – The Hairdryer Technique

One simple method for removing white water rings involves using a hairdryer. First, set your hairdryer to its lowest heat setting and hold it around six inches away from the water ring.

Gently move the dryer in circular motions for about 10-15 seconds while monitoring the progress. The heat will help evaporate the moisture trapped within the finish without causing any damage.

2 – Mayonnaise Magic

Yes, you read that right! Mayo can be a surprising ally in the battle against water stains on wood. Apply a small amount of mayonnaise directly onto the water ring and let it sit for at least an hour, or overnight if possible. 

The oils in mayo can help restore moisture to the wood, gradually reducing the appearance of the water ring. Afterward, wipe away the mayo with a soft cloth and buff the area to restore shine.

3 – The Ironing Hack

For this method, you’ll need an iron and a clean, white cotton cloth or towel. Set your iron to its lowest heat setting without steam.

Place the cloth over the water ring and gently press down with the warm iron for around 10-15 seconds, allowing heat to transfer from the iron to the wood.

Check periodically to ensure you’re not overheating or damaging the finish. Repeat as necessary until the water ring disappears.

4 – The Toothpaste Trick

Toothpaste is not just for your teeth anymore! Its gentle abrasive properties can be effective in removing shallow water rings from wood surfaces.

Apply a small amount of non-gel white toothpaste directly onto a soft cloth and rub it into the affected area using circular motions. Continue rubbing gently until you start noticing improvements in reducing the visibility of the water ring. 

Remember to wipe off any excess toothpaste residue with a clean damp cloth.

5 – The Baking Soda Solution

Baking soda is renowned for its versatility in household cleaning tasks, and it can also come to your rescue when dealing with unsightly water rings on wood furniture.

Create a paste by mixing baking soda with just enough water until it forms a thick consistency. Gently apply this paste onto the water ring using a soft cloth or sponge.

Let it sit for a few minutes before wiping it off and buffing with a clean cloth.

Removing Dark Water Marks from Wood

Dark water stains are deep-set stains that have seeped into the wood grain. This makes them a whole other level of challenging compared to white water stains.

However, it’s still possible to restore your furniture’s original appearance. It just takes more work. 


To effectively remove black water stains from your wood furniture, you’ll need some of the following supplies, depending which method you try:

  • Clean cloths
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Mineral spirits
  • Wood stain or oil (to match furniture color)

Test in an Inconspicuous Area:

Before applying any cleaning solution or technique on the stained area directly, it’s crucial to test it in an inconspicuous spot first. This step ensures that the method doesn’t cause further damage or discoloration.

1: Hydrogen Peroxide

Note: This method is suitable for light-colored wood furniture only, as hydrogen peroxide may lighten dark wood.

  • Dampen a clean cloth with hydrogen peroxide (3% concentration).
  • Place it over the stained area, ensuring full coverage.
  • Cover the cloth with plastic wrap to prevent evaporation.
  • Leave it overnight or for at least eight hours to allow the peroxide to work its magic.
  • Remove the cloth and wipe away any remaining residue.

2: Sanding and Refinishing

If peroxide didn’t work, it’s time for more drastic measures. This method should only be used as a last resort when other methods fail.

It’s best performed by experienced individuals or professionals to avoid further damage. But if you’re confident in your DIY skills with wood, you can try it.

Step 1: Sanding

  1. Start with fine-grit sandpaper (e.g., 220-grit) and sand lightly in the direction of the wood grain.
  2. Gradually increase the grit size (e.g., 320-grit, then 400-grit) for a smoother finish.
  3. Be cautious not to sand too aggressively, as it can damage the wood further.

Step 2: Staining or Reapplying Finish

  1. Once the stain is removed through sanding, you may notice a lighter spot on the furniture.
  2. Apply a matching wood stain or finish to restore uniformity and protect the exposed area.
  3. Follow the product instructions carefully and apply multiple coats if needed.

If the water rings are fine or small, you might be able to use a wood marker instead of a stain. It’s easier to work with and they can match a finish just as well.

I’ve had great results with and highly recommend these Dewel Wood Markers that I used to touch up some wood trim around my home.

Finishing Touches

After successfully removing the water ring, it’s essential to give your wood furniture some extra care. Apply a layer of high-quality furniture polish or wood wax to restore shine and protect the surface from further damage.

Regularly dusting and using coasters or protective pads will help maintain the beauty of your wooden furniture for years to come.

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Last Updated:

January 17, 2024