Water stains on wooden furniture or flooring can be tricky to remove. And worse, using the wrong cleaner on it can result in permanent marks or dulling.
Fortunately, we wrote a simple and reliable guide to removing water stains from wood for you here.
So we’ll show you how to do it step by step as well as answer some common questions about it.
Why do wooden surfaces get water stains?
Wooden surfaces form water stains due to moisture penetrating behind the top layers or finishing.
Whether the liquid is hot or cold, the same thing happens. Thus, there’s no difference in methods of working to remove the water stains.
What type of water stains are on wood?
Two types of water stains can appear on wood objects or surfaces: white and dark water stains.
Light or white water stains occur if moisture has seeped into the wax or protective finish of the wood. These can be easily removed with mineral or oil-based cleaners.
Mineral cleaners include baking soda, salt, and Vaseline, whereas oil-based cleaners include lemon and olive oil.
On the other hand, dark water stains show as a result of water penetrating deeper into the wood. As such, they will require more work and time to treat and clean.
What to do first if a wood surface is spilled on?
If you have spilled liquid on a wood surface, don’t let the water seep into the finish of the wood. You need to blot the spill immediately with a dry cloth.
Doing so minimizes the stains that will ensue from the spilling accident and allows you to treat and remove the stains with less effort.
How do I remove water stains from wood?
Remove water stains from wood by following these simple steps:
- Wipe the spills quickly.
- Draw out moisture from the wood with a hairdryer on the lowest setting.
- Prepare mayonnaise, vaseline, toothpaste, or a store-bought cleaner.
- Rub the product or solution onto the water rings.
- Let it sit for a while.
- Wipe the wood clean.
- Buff the wood with furniture polish or olive oil.
What household items remove water stains on wood?
Below are the natural household items that can remove water stains from a wood surface:
- Baking soda
- Lemon oil
1) Mayonnaise cleans and polishes wood
Mayonnaise contains certain oils that make it effective for cleaning grease, tar, stains, and sticker residues.
It acts as both a wood surface cleaner and a polish that won’t damage the wood in any way.
For this, apply a layer of mayonnaise on a cloth or paper towel, rub it onto the wood with watermarks, let it sit for 1 or 2 hours, and wipe the floor until it is clean and lustrous.
But in case not all watermarks are removed, put more mayonnaise on the affected area, leave for 1 or 2 hours again, and rewipe the wood.
2) Toothpaste takes out hard water stains
Containing baking soda, toothpaste is an abrasive cleaning agent that removes stains on wood just as well on teeth. But don’t use a whitening or gel toothpaste, as this can worsen the water stains.
Using toothpaste to remove water stains on wood furnishings is quite simple.
You just need to take a small amount of it, apply it onto the wood in the direction of its grain, leave it there for 30 seconds to 1 minute, and clean the toothpaste with a dry cloth.
And then buff the wood with good-quality polish to make it shiny.
3) Baking soda gets rid of unsightly water patches
Baking soda paste is effective in getting rid of unsightly water patches on wood.
Because it is a mild basic compound, baking soda can take out dirt, oil, and stains when it is mixed with water.
To use it as a wood cleaner, mix 2 parts baking soda with 1 part water to form a baking soda paste.
Now take ample paste with a microfiber cloth or use a spatula to spread it onto the cloth.
Gently rub the cloth with baking soda paste on the water-stained wood until the stains fade. Let it sit for several hours at least, and wipe down the baking soda paste.
Lastly, polish the wood to make it shimmer and to protect it from future spill and stain marks.
4) Vinegar is a powerful water stain remover
Vinegar is one of the most powerful and reliable cleaners at home thanks to its acetic acid content.
The solution can dissolve all traces of stains, grime, oil, and mineral deposits, especially on wood.
To eliminate watermarks on the wood, pour a bit of vinegar into a small bowl or plastic container.
Then dip the cloth in it and rub it on the water stains on the wood until they disappear, taking care to follow the grain’s direction to avoid damaging the wood layer.
However, this won’t provide the floor or surface with a shine. You would have to use olive oil or commercial polish to do that.
Will vinegar damage a wood surface?
Vinegar or diluted vinegar can damage or dull a wood surface if it is used often and in considerable amounts because vinegar is acidic.
Also, you can’t use vinegar to achieve a shine on your hardwood floors or wood surfaces.
Not only will the wooden surfaces have less shine over time, but they can also be prone to corrosion or damage.
5) Lemon oil cleans and refreshes water-stained wood
Similar to vinegar, lemon oil is acidic albeit a bit less. Given this, it can also be used to clean water-stained wood with lower intensity.
It would be ideal to pair lemon oil with steel wool. Mind you, however, choose the finest-grade steel wool you can find so as not to scratch the wood or its finish.
This abrasive implement will help get the water stains out of the wood. But remember to use it carefully and on the stains only.
Simply rub the steel wool with lemon oil on the stained wood in the same direction as the grain. Doing so should remove the water stains completely afterward.
6) Salt effectively cleans and disinfects wood
Salt can remove the toughest water stains on wood while disinfecting it to kill the bacteria and germs present.
It first needs to be made into a paste solution. To do this, mix 1 teaspoon salt and a small amount of water in a plastic container.
Soak the cloth in the solution and rub it against the cloudy water marks and grime of the wood table or furniture until they vanish entirely.
And then buff the wood surface with olive oil or decent-quality commercial wood polish.
Can I mix natural cleaners to clean wood stains?
You can mix vinegar and olive oil or mayonnaise and vinegar for an effective homemade cleaner for water stains on wood.
The first requires you to combine equal parts of vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl and wipe this solution on the stained area with a cloth until the stains disappear.
The vinegar will tackle tough water stains and dirt, and the olive oil will provide a shiny coating to the wood.
For the second, mix 2 parts mayonnaise to 1 part vinegar, blot the water stains with it using a cloth, leave the cloth on the stains for several hours, and wipe the floor clean.
Mayonnaise will deep-clean the wood and get rid of its stains, and vinegar will boost its cleaning effects.
*Note that other than the two cleaning mixes described above, don’t mix other cleaning ingredients because the resulting solution may be ineffective or unsafe to use.
Can I use Vaseline to remove water stains on wood?
Vaseline or petroleum jelly can be used to remove water stains on wood. In fact, it is one of the most common mixtures that homeowners use for this need.
This product is made up of mineral oil and waxes, giving it its distinct jelly-like nature. It will gently penetrate the wood where the dried-up stains are to remove them.
To use this, first dab the stain with a dry towel, apply the Vaseline onto the water rings with a cloth, leave it there overnight, and wipe down the remaining gel.
Will Vaseline damage wood tables or floors?
Vaseline won’t damage wood tables or floors at all, unlike the frequent use of a vinegar solution.
It works very gently to prevent moisture from staining the wood, which is why many people prefer it as a cleaner for watermarks on wood surfaces.
Can I use car wax to remove water stains on wood?
Much like furniture polish, car wax can remove wet marks on wooden surfaces and furniture.
Besides protecting the wood from water spots, it will also give it a fresh-looking shine.
To apply it, get a fair amount on your finger, trace the water ring with it, and dry and polish the wood with a soft microfiber cloth.
Can I use store-bought cleaners for water stains on wood?
Store-bought cleaners can also be used in place of natural household cleaners to rid the wood of water stains or marks.
They are formulated with specific ingredients to clean and prevent the wood from being scuffed or damaged.
However, different products differ in their intensity, so you must check their details well to protect your wood furniture.
We suggest avoiding harsh wood stain cleaning solutions altogether.
Two good water-stained wood cleaner brands you can get are Guardsman and Homax. They even come with a free cloth so that you can start working over the water spots promptly.
Another is the Jubilee Kitchen Wax which protects wood from spills and moisture while making it shiny.
Can I use iron to remove water stains on wood?
Iron can be used to remove light water stains on wood by releasing the trapped moisture underneath it.
For this, you would need to first place a cloth over the watermark, set the iron to the lowest temperature, and make a few passes over the cloth in the same direction.
Afterward, check whether the moisture stains have gone. If they’re still there, repeat the process discussed.
Can you use a hair dryer to remove water stains on wood?
A hairdryer may also make water stains on wood go away through heat.
For this, you have to adjust the hairdryer to the lowest setting, turn it on, and aim it at the water or coaster mark.
Bear in mind that you should not direct the hairdryer to the same spot, as the wood can be damaged. Rather, move the blowing hairdryer around the water stains until they disappear.
Does rubbing alcohol damage wood?
Rubbing alcohol does great damage to wood by leaving noticeable white spots and ruining the wood or its finish.
So completely avoid this solution if you need to remove water stains on your wood furniture or floor.
Are wood water stains permanent?
Wood water stains aren’t permanent so long as you know what cleaners to use and how to remove them properly.
Some stains, though, can be harder to remove than others, so a more powerful or different cleaner has to be used.
In addition, the wood surface’s age and condition also dictate how difficult removing the stains will be, let alone restoring it to its original state.
How long does it take to clean water-stained wood?
From start to finish, cleaning water-stained wood usually takes from half an hour to overnight, depending on the depth of the stain and the wood item or floor’s condition.
It takes that long because you’d need to let the cleaner soak the stain enough to consume it. However, you can certainly quickly wipe down the wood if the stain is very small.
How often should I maintain my wood floors and furniture?
Wooden furniture needs to be dusted every other day or once a week to keep small particles at bay and from possibly scratching it. Also, polish it once a month to bring out its shine and camouflage small scratches.
For wooden floors, you need to vacuum them weekly and deep-clean them every 1 to 2 months. If the area receives a lot of foot traffic, food crumbs, and/or liquid spills, more frequent cleaning must be done.
How do I prevent water stains on wood?
To prevent water stains, use a table mat or coaster whenever you have a snack or beverage or place a moist container on a wooden table.
If you don’t have them, you can at least lay the wet food container or cold glass on a paper towel.
Furthermore, don’t spill or splash rubbing alcohol on wooden tables, as it will result in white streaks.
When do I call a pro to remove water stains on wood?
You should get a cleaning pro if the water stains on the wood are severe and you don’t have the time to remove them yourself.
All the more so if there are fungal spots, rotten wood, or pest infestation, all of which can harm your family and pets at home.
The cleaning crew can be efficient and thorough with the work, helping to save you valuable time and effort and making your wooden furniture and floors look new again.