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Hardwood furniture ownership can be a joy, but it can also be a challenge. From ornate wooden tables and cabinets to pristine hardwood floors, there’s always something out to damage their flawless finish. Even just the odd splash of water can take its toll, if not tended to immediately. Hence, learning how to remove water stains from wood like the pros is really the first thing you should be doing.

The odd water spot on wood might not be the end of the world, but larger more unsightly water marks on wood are a different story entirely. There’s nothing quite like a prominent water ring on a wood table to really take away from its luster, for example. Still, it may come as some relief to learn that it’s not actually too difficult to get water marks off wood with a few household basics.

You can call in the pros if you like, but chances are it won’t be necessary.

wooden surface with water stains

Negative Effects of Water Stains on Wood

Keeping your floors and surfaces clean and pristine in the first place is (of course) the best way to go. Pair the best robot vacuum for hardwood floor with daily mopping and you’re good to go. But from time to time, it’s pretty much guaranteed that something will escape your attention and make its mark.

The good news being that generally speaking, water stains on wood don’t actually pose any direct threat to the material itself. They’re unsightly, but aren’t what you’d call dangerous or hazardous. They won’t compromise the structural integrity of the material, but they also won’t simply go away on their own.  Instead, it’s up to you to grab what you need from around the home and get to work with a little elbow grease.

With this in mind, here’s how to remove water stains from wood quickly, effectively and permanently:

Removing Water Stains From Wood with a Clothing Iron

One of the best ways of getting rid of water stains is to simply grab a normal household iron and get to work with some carefully applied heat. This is only effective if the stain is relatively fresh, as it works by heating the surface and eliminating the moisture causing the stain through evaporation.

The basic process looks a little like this:

  1. Ensure there is absolutely no water left inside be iron, which could otherwise make the problem worse than it already is.
  2. Set the iron on its lowest setting and while it is heating up, lay a cotton t-shirt, towel or thick cloth over the area to be worked on.
  3. Gently run the iron over the piece of fabric in a circular motion for a couple of seconds, before taking it away, lifting the cloth and seeing if it has worked.
  4. Repeat the process a few times, checking after each run to see whether the stain is fading or has disappeared.

If it’s clear that this method isn’t working, it’s most likely because the stain has been there for a while and has already dried. In which case, the evaporation technique isn’t going to work, so you can move on to one of the other methods in this list.

Removing Water Stains From Wood with a Hairdryer

The hairdryer method uses the exact same principle as the clothes iron method.  Potentially effective if the stain is relatively fresh, though isn’t going to help if it’s been there for a while and the liquid has totally dried.

Here’s how it works with a hairdryer:

  1. Grab any normal household hairdryer, plug it in and switch it to a medium setting.
  2. Switch it on, hold it around 4 inches from the stain and heat it for a few seconds.
  3. Repeat the process a few times, noting whether or not the stain is fading.

Once the stain has fully faded (or you’re happy with how it’s looking), you can give the surface a good polish with some quality furniture oil, which will help restore its former luster.

Other Ingredients you can use to Remove Water Stains

There are plenty of specialist cleaning products available for removing water stains from wood, but most of the time they’re not necessary. Chances are, you’ve already got everything you need to get the job done lying around at home – some of the following DIY methods being surprisingly effective:

Mayonnaise and toothpaste


Perhaps the weirdest entry to the list, you’d be amazed just how often mayonnaise can get the job done as well as any specialist product. It’s simply a case of taking a generous quantity of the stuff, smearing it all over the affected area and leaving it overnight. Wipe it away the following morning with a soft cloth and the stain should be gone.


It’s more or less exactly the same case with toothpaste, only with a slightly more pleasant fragrance than its condiment counterpart. It needs to be a non-gel white toothpaste to work, and also must be left for no more than a few minutes before wiping away with a damp cloth. When wiping toothpaste away from the surface, do so slowly and gently to avoid causing any further damage.

Baking soda

The best way to use baking soda to remove water stains from wood is to create a paste, using two parts water for every one part baking soda. Apply a moderate amount of the paste to the surface, before rubbing it gently in a circular motion with a soft rag. Again, be as gentle as possible so as not to risk any further damage to the surface of the wood.


A tried and tested wood cleaning method that’s been used for generations, it’s often possible to remove minor water marks with nothing more than a teaspoon of salt and a few drops of water. Again, it’s a case of mixing the two together to make a paste, before rubbing it gently over the surface for a short time, until the stain fades sufficiently.


This is a DIY preparation that more or less mimics the properties of a specialist wood polish without the common mistakes. You take equal parts olive oil and vinegar, mix them in a bowl and apply a little to the affected area. You then wipe it over several times (in the direction of the grain) with a soft cloth, which should remove the stain and polish the surface of the wood at the same time.

a person applying solution on the wooden chair

Petroleum Jelly

This applies to any generic petroleum jelly you can lay your hands on (like Vaseline), though it’s advisable to avoid anything that’s fragranced or colored. In this case, you’ll want to smear a generous quantity over the affected area, leave it overnight and give it a good wipe the next day with a soft cloth. If it works, you’ll also benefit from an extremely smooth and shiny surface, as a bonus.

Car Wax

Again, car wax can work wonders, but not the colored stuff. Apply a small amount to the affected area, allow it to dry to a haze and polish it away with a soft cloth. Repeat the process if necessary, but it’s unlikely you’ll have to – unless the stain is particularly severe.


Truth is, far too many people simply accept water marks on wood as both inevitable and permanent. When in fact, it isn’t the case in either instance.  Permanently protecting wooden surfaces from water marks can be tricky, but removing stains that appear along the way is surprisingly easy.

As mentioned, the key to getting the job done quickly and effectively lies in tackling water marks as quickly as possible. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes – don’t put off ‘til tomorrow what you could be doing today!

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