How to remove water stains from wood furniture

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Water stains are very common on antique furniture. They usually appear after long periods of rain or humidity, or from objects left on their surface. The problem is they don't come out easily.

Learn how to remove water stains from wood furniture, depending on the type of stain. These techniques can also work on vintage wooden storage boxes. Some require professional cleaning services. Other ways to remove water stains can be done at home using simple household items.

What you will need to have ready

  • Clean Cloths
  • Sand Paper 
  • Rubber Gloves - If you're doing some serious work, wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
  • Bicarbonate of Soda - This is great for cleaning up spills and getting rid of odors.
  • Salt 
  • White Vinegar 
  • Tooth paste
  • Mayonnaise
  • Petroleum Jelly/Vaseline
  • An electric iron
  • 0000 steel wool

Before you try and remove the stain

The best way to eliminate stains is to remove them from the source. If you notice water marks or discoloration on your wooden surfaces, it’s important to address the problem quickly. But before you begin the stain removal process for both white and dark water marks, make absolutely certain that the wood surface is clean. Dust, dirt, grime, and debris will prevent the stain remover from working properly.

If the area is particularly dirty, use a soft brush to gently rub away any loose particles. Make sure to wipe down the entire surface thoroughly to ensure there are no hidden areas where residue can remain. Once you’ve cleaned off any loose material, let the surface dry completely. Next identify if the stain is a white or dark stain. Darker stains are more difficult to remove.

How to Remove Water Stains and Rings From Wood Furniture

Water (or other liquids) can leave a white mark on wood. This happens because the wood absorbs moisture. If you notice water marks on your furniture, try to dry out the spots immediately. Use a hair dryer if possible. If you don't have one, use a blow dryer. A fan blowing directly onto the spot might work too.

Remove White Water Stains

For white water stains you will need to try and draw both liquid and minerals out of the wood. Water (or other liquid) leaves a white mark on wood. This is called a water spot or water ring and it usually happens because there are too many minerals in the water, such as calcium and magnesium. When the water dries out, it leaves behind a residue of salts. If you don’t clean up the mess immediately, the salts harden over time and turn the wood greyish. There are a number of methods for doing this:

Use an electric iron to draw out moisture 

You'll need to expose the stain to the right amount of heat and pressure. To do this, turn on your iron (with the steam setting off) and place it on the lowest setting. Then, take a clean cloth and cover the entire stain. Hold down the iron for approximately 20 seconds, and let go. If the stain is still visible, repeat this process until the stain is gone. Be very careful if you are doing this on veneered wood as too much heat can cause the veneer's glue to melt resulting in bubbling. Do not overheat the wood. The warmth in the iron will draw any remaining moisture and minerals out of the wood and into the cloth.

Use salt to remove moisture from water stains and white rings

Try making a paste and then rubbing a little table salt on the area in a circular motion. Salt works well to absorb moisture and draw it away from the wood. Once the salt does its job, rinse the wood with warm water. Let the piece air dry completely, or gently dry with a hair dryer set on low heat.

To get rid of grey marks, mix equal parts table salt and warm water. Use just enough water to hold the salt together; adding too much will cause the mixture to become runny, which won't work well. Apply the solution directly to the stained area, rub it in gently, and let dry. Then use a soft cloth to buff away any remaining grit.

Use petroleum jelly or Vaseline to remove water and heat stains

Petroleum jellyVaseline is great for many things, including soothing chapped lips. But did you know it can help remove water stains from wood too? You don’t even have to use it on every spot. Just apply some directly to the affected area, let it sit there for 15 minutes, and then wipe away the excess oil.

Next, try dabbing it onto the offending mark and gently rub the stain. Preferably it should dry overnight, before being wipe it off the following day. If you want to make sure it works best, wait about 24 hours before washing the surface again.Heat marks are unsightly stains left behind on wooden surfaces following exposure to high temperatures. They occur because heating causes moisture within the wood to evaporate, creating bubbles which expand when cool. As the surface cools, the bubbles collapse, causing visible patterns to form.

Use Mayonnaise to lift stains out of your wooden furniture

All you need is mayonnaise. Yes, that ubiquitous condiment that's often used to make sandwiches and fries. But did you know it could help you get rid of water marks too?

To start, you'll want to take a damp cloth and rub down the area where the mark is located. Then apply a thin layer of mayonnaise to the spot using a cotton swab. Leave it for around three hours and then wipe away the excess. You'll probably find that it takes longer than expected, but once it's done, you won't believe how much better it looks.

Remove Dark Water Stains

Dark stains take considerably more effort to remove than light stains as the liquid has penetrated the finish and sits in the wood grain itself, rather than the top layers of the wood. Quite often with darker stains in old wooden furniture it will be more likely that you will further damage the item trying to remove the stain and should turn it over to a professional to restore and refinish it. That said there are a number of things that can be attempted to remove dark stains from wood before taking that step or resorting to sanding and refinishing yourself.

Use tooth paste and baking soda to remove dark stains on wood

With a clean, soft new toothbrush and a little paste gently scrub at the stain. The toothpaste should be non-whitening and non-gel. Allow the tooth paste to dry before removing the paste by wiping off. Repeat the process several times if necessary but try not to scrub to hard to avoid damaging the surface.

If the stain still remains after using tooth paste, try using baking soda instead. Mix one part baking soda with two parts water, and brush the mixture onto the stain. Wait 30-60 minutes, then wash the area with soap and water.

Use white vinegar to lighten a dark stain on wooden furniture

The simplest way to remove a water stain is by rubbing it with white vinegar. Mix equal parts vinegar and water; or squeeze a lemon into a cup of water. Then, lightly scrub the solution over the stain, moving in the direction of the grain of the wood. This will lighten the stain without damaging the finish. If you are nervous about trying this add an equal measure of olive oil into the mix. Olive oil also helps prevent future staining.

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