How to Remove Water Stains From Wood

No matter how careful you are with your wood furniture and floors, often they get stained by water. Knowing how to remove water stains from wood, using common household items, can potentially save you a lot of money and hassle.

Remove Water Stains from Wood

Please note that these instructions are for wood furniture or floors that are not high-value antiques and are already in relatively good repair; priceless heirlooms or antiques should always be repaired by a professional. Attempting to repair the finish on an antique can destroy older finishes or greatly reduce the value of the piece. Likewise, wood finishes that are in bad repair, such as those with cracked or crazed finishes, can be further damaged by attempts to remove water stains or other problems.

Removing Water Stains From Wood Using Mayonnaise

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Mayonnaise
  • A soft, clean cloth

Turns out mayonnaise is good for much more than adding flavor to a sandwich or making a salad -- mayonnaise is often recommended for removing water stains from wood surfaces. The fatty oils in full-fat mayonnaise may not be good for your waistline, but they are great at conditioning wood.

To use mayonnaise to remove water stains:

  1. Always use full-fat mayonnaise. Lower fat versions may not have enough oil to remove water stains from wood.
  2. Rub the stain with a cloth dipped in mayonnaise, covering the stain completely with the mayonnaise.
  3. Allow the mayonnaise to sit on the stain over night. Remove the mayonnaise with a clean cloth; if any stain remains, re-apply fresh mayonnaise, and let set overnight again.
  4. Repeat these steps until the stain is removed.
  5. When the stain is gone, remove any mayonnaise residue from the table by rubbing with a soft, clean cloth.

Removing Water Stains From Wood Using Olive Oil

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • Olive Oil
  • A soft, clean cloth

So maybe you're not a mayonnaise person, and don't keep a jar of full-fat mayo on hand. Never fear -- you likely have another common ingredient on hand that can help your stained wood table or floor: olive oil.

Olive oil works similarly to mayonnaise in removing water stains from wood in that the oil penetrates the stain, reconditioning the wood and filling in the areas of the wood's finish that the water has compromised. While olive oil is the preferred oil for removing water damage from wood due to it's rich, high-fat properties, nearly any oil will work, although it may mean repeated applications. So if you're all out of olive oil, but have sunflower seed oil, canola oil, corn oil or just plain mineral oil on hand, you can substitute any of these oils in a pinch.

To remove stains with olive oil:

  1. Apply the olive oil to the clean cloth.
  2. Rub the stain with the olive oil-saturated cloth.
  3. Continue to rub gently until the stain disappears.
  4. Should the stain re-appear once the oil has been absorbed into the wood, repeat steps 1-3.

Removing Water Stains From Wood Using Toothpaste

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • White, non-gel toothpaste
  • A soft, clean cloth

Some water stains on wood are so stubborn that no amount of mayonnaise or olive oil will make them budge. When this is the case, it's often because the varnish or other finish of the wood has been damaged in such a way that the oils in mayonnaise or olive oil cannot penetrate the finish completely and reach the wood. In these instances, it often takes a gentle abrasive to undo the damage.

Fortunately, there's a common abrasive in your bathroom that's gentle enough to remove a stain from wood without damaging the wood further -- toothpaste! But not just any toothpaste, mind you. The only toothpaste formula that will remove a water stain from wood is the old-fashioned, simple white paste. No fancy gels, which will not be abrasive enough, and  no whitening formulas, which could bleach the wood; just plain old white toothpaste.

To use toothpaste to remove a water stain from wood:

Removing Water Stains From Wood Using an Iron

What You'll Need Before You Start:

  • An iron (dump any water in the iron used for steaming prior to use)
  • A soft, clean cloth (plain white is best; dyes or any printed designs may transfer to the wood)

Sometimes, a water stain on a wood surface is the result of water trapped between the varnish or other finish and the wood below. In these instances, gentle heat is often enough to dry the water out and remove the stain completely. A clothing iron can provide just enough heat to evaporate the water and restore your wood.

The key is gentle heat. High heat can scorch or warp wood.

To use an iron to remove water from a wood surface:

  1. Set the iron to low-medium heat. Anything hotter can damage the wood.
  2. Apply the clean white cloth to the stain.
  3. Set the iron on the cloth. Make sure the cloth is completely covering the wood underneath, protecting it from the iron.
  4. Allow the iron to set on the stain for a few seconds, then remove and check the stain.
  5. Repeat steps 1-4 until the stain is gone.

A misplaced drink or a leak does not have to spell doom for your wood surfaces. Your cupboards are full of ways to gently remove a water stain from your furniture, floors, or other natural wood surfaces. Try these methods until you find what works for you.