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If you have wooden table tops, you probably also have water rings. Even with care, maintenance, and regular coaster use, it’s legendarily difficult to keep a wood surface looking blemish-free for the long life of the furniture itself. Luckily, if you, your kids, or a guest slips up at some point, you can probably repair the water damage on your own. Our team has seen a lot of table tops that looked beyond repair restored to their former glory. You can do it too by following this simple guide.

Step One – Identify the Type of Stain

Removing water stains from wood depends on the kind of stain. Water stains come in two forms: light and dark. Light stains are the most common and also the most treatable. Light stains happen when water damages the finish on top of the table top. Damage can happen because of condensation running down the outside of a cold water glass or hot pot lid. If there’s more water sitting on top of the table or it sits there for longer, it may produce dark-colored stains. The color indicates damage to the wood beneath the finish, which, unfortunately, takes more effort to fix. Before you do anything else, examine the water damage you hope to fix to assess how deep it goes.

Step Two – Round-Up Tools and Materials

For light-colored water stains, you will need a cotton cloth (a t-shirt works great) and a hairdryer. For tougher stains, you will need a clean rag and some mayonnaise. If you know the stains are particularly deep and old, get some white toothpaste (it must be the non-gel kind) and a clean rag. You may be tempted to use a product marketed for refinishing wood, but it’s best to try a DIY remedy first. At this point, you won’t need to consider refinishing until all other methods fail.

Step Three – Deal With the Damage

If you’re not sure what technique to use to remove water rings from wood, we recommend starting with the first method listed below and working down the list. With a little caution, you don’t risk doing any more damage to the table top, and you also do everything possible to remove visible traces of the water damage.

  • Iron – Start by emptying all water out of the iron because moisture is the enemy in this situation. Set the iron to the lowest heat setting and lay a t-shirt or any other cotton cloth over the damaged area. Now, take the iron and run it over cloth, taking care to move in the same direction with each swipe. Check your progress after every five swipes. If the stain appears to be getting lighter, keep going, but if you don’t notice any change after 20 swipes or so, move on to the next option.
  • Mayonnaise – The iron evaporates water from under the finish. With mayonnaise, the high oil content works to steep the moisture out. Put a small dab on a rag and dab it onto the smallest or lightest stain on the table, that way you can test whether it works before smearing mayo all over your whole table. Let the mayo sit on the surface for at least an hour or as long as overnight, then wipe away with a clean cloth. Mixing the mayo with a small number of ashes from a fireplace or fire pit can help the oil penetrate deeper into the water stain.
  • Toothpaste – The previous two methods only work if there’s still moisture under the finish, which isn’t likely if the stain is more than a few weeks old. The best solution for removing old water rings from wood furniture is to apply a dab of all-white toothpaste to a clean rag before gently rubbing it into the stain. Stop if you don’t notice any difference after about a minute. Be sure to limit your efforts to only the stained areas since toothpaste can wear away the finish on the unstained area.

Addressing Water Stains Throughout the Kitchen

The question of how to remove water rings from wood doesn’t just apply to table tops. Your cabinets, especially the cabinet doors, are also at risk. The reason why is because your kitchen often fills up with steam while you’re washing dishes or boiling water, which can cause wood cabinet doors to warp over time. Common problems like drips, leaks, and spills can do the same thing. As a result, many kitchens have cabinets that look shabby or function improperly due to water damage. You can try one of the methods above, but if the damage is too extensive or the doors simply look old, outdated, or unexciting, consider replacing them instead.

The Door Stop custom-builds cabinet doors in a wide range of classic and popular styles. We cut each one to the exact dimensions you specify so that it fits your existing cabinets perfectly and spares you the cost of replacing anything except the doors. Consider exploring our selection at your leisure, or finding a wealth of other resources on our website – the Internet’s leading source for custom-built replacement cabinet doors.

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