Getting Rid of Pesky Water Stains from Wood

Hosting a party might be fun, but dealing with the aftermath rarely is. If hangovers weren’t bad enough, you can guarantee at least one guest will have forgotten their manners (and a coaster) and left a lovely water stain on your beautiful wooden table as a little reminder. Fortunately, their “gift” may not be quite so hard to dispose of as you thought. With a few tricks of the trade, even the most stubborn water stains can be easily whisked away.


It sounds strange, but a quick blast with a hairdryer can work wonders on water stains. Apply it on the lowest setting and keep it moving to avoid scorching the wood. Finish with a quick rub of olive oil to restore any lost moisture and give a gorgeous silky sheen.

Olive Oil and Vinegar

It may make a great salad dressing, but the combination of olive oil and vinegar is actually a great solution to those pesky water stains as well. Simply add equal parts vinegar and olive oil to a container, shake to blend, then apply to the water stain with a soft cloth. Rub gently in the direction of the grain to lift the stain. Finish off with a quick polish with a clean cloth.


Rather than dollop your mayonnaise on a salad, try working it into a water stain using a soft cloth and gentle, circular motions. If the stain’s new, it should lift away effortlessly. If it’s been hanging around for a while, leave the mayonnaise to sink into the wood for a few hours (or even overnight) before removing. Finish with a quick rub of vinegar, and voila!


Don’t you just lose a multi-purpose product? Toothpaste doesn’t just work to rid your gnashers of stains, it can also do a mighty fine job of working the same magic on wood. Choose a paste that’s non- gel and non-whitening, then buff a generous amount into the stain in the direction of the grain. Leave for a couple of minutes for it to penetrate, then remove. Once all traces have been wiped away, give the wood a quick polish to restore the luster.

Petroleum Jelly

Is there anything petroleum jelly can’t do? Soften cracked heels, soothe chapped lips, moisturize cuticles… the list goes on, and, as it turns out, includes ridding wood of pesky water stains. Gently rub a dollop into the stain, leave for a few minutes, then gently remove with a soft cloth. If it’s a particularly stubborn stain, repeat the process but this time around, leave the jelly to stand for 2-3 hours (or even longer) before removing.

Steel Wood

Don’t be tempted to scrub away at your polished wood with any old steel wool. To avoid scratches, pick up a piece of the finest grade steel wool you can find, then use it to very gently buff lemon oil into the wood. Be careful to rub in the direction of the grain and to limit your scrubbing to the stain only: venture past its perimeters, and you risk making a bad situation worse.


Ironing away stains may sound unusual, but it’s actually remarkably effective on fresh stains that are still a little damp (older stains may need a slightly stronger treatment). Start by cleaning the table thoroughly to avoid accidentally melting any crumbs or debris into the wood. Next, lay a clean cloth over the stained area. For the best results, choose a plain, white cotton cloth to avoid transferring colors or patterns to the table. Preheat the iron to a low heat, then place the iron over the cloth. Leave it to stand for a few seconds before lifting the iron. Keep repeating the process until the stain has vanished.

Baking Soda

If water has penetrated through the outer surface of the table, baking soda’s a great way of removing the trapped moisture inside, as well as getting rid of any stains. Begin by mixing a small amount of baking soda with enough water to form a paste. Smear some of the paste onto a microfiber cloth, then rub into the stain using small, circular motions. Keep reapplying the paste until the stain has been lifted. Remove any remaining baking soda with a clean cloth before applying furniture wax or sealant to close the grain of the wood and add a protective barrier.

How To Avoid Water Marks

Prevention, as any good doctor will tell you, is always better than cure. Once you’ve gotten rid of all those existing watermarks from your furniture, take Maid Sailors advice and take a few preventative measures to avoid ever having to do the same again.

  • Protective Finish – Not all wooden furniture comes pre-sealed. If any of your furniture is made of raw, untreated wood, do your future self a favor by protecting it with wax, varnish, or sealant before anyone gets the chance to add their mark.
  • Coasters – Unless you keep a beady eye on your guests at all times, you can’t guarantee they’ll always use a coaster. That said, lay enough out and they’ll probably eventually get the hint that you’d like them to use one.
  • Tablecloths – If you’ve spent a fortune on a beautiful raw wood table, the last thing you’ll want to do is cover it with a tablecloth. But then again, would you really prefer to spend the next lord knows how many years scrubbing away at some nasty water spot? These days, table clothes come in pretty much every variety, style, pattern and color you can dream of, giving you every opportunity to find something to suit. If you can, opt for one with a waterproof bottom layer as an extra safeguard. Remember, you don’t have to keep it down at all times: if you can trust yourself not to leave watermarks but are in two minds about your guests, simply whip it on and off as the occasion calls.

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