Richard asked: How do I remove white watermarks from wood furniture? A glass with water was on the table without a coaster, resulting in a white mark that is on the furniture.
You set down your drink or place the hot pizza box directly on the table and before you know it, you’re left with a white reminder mark. White marks on the finish of a wooden piece of furniture can be created from both heat and moisture. However, removing them uses the same process. Some of the methods below work better on fresh marks, but it is usually possible to remove marks that have been there for years and restore the beautiful finish on your wooden table. If one method doesn’t work at first, try another. Several people have left comments below that one method didn’t work so they tried another and had success.
Mayo and Ash Method
You Will Need:
- Mayonnaise (not Miracle Whip)
- Ashes (baking soda will work if ashes are not available)
- Hair dryer
- Soft cloths
Steps to Remove the Watermark:
- Gather all of your supplies and get ready to scrub!
- Put a small amount of mayonnaise and ashes onto the whitened area. The ashes can either be from a cigarette or from the fireplace, however cigarette ashes would be better because they are finer; ashes in the fireplace could have chunks of less burned material in them that could scratch the surface so use caution if using fireplace ashes.
- Rub the two products onto the white area with a soft cloth, following the grain of the wood.
- As you are rubbing the area, use a hairdryer to add heat.
- When the mark is removed, wipe away any remaining mayo and ashes with a clean cloth.
Wax Paper Method
You Will Need:
- Wax paper
- Soft cloth or towel
Steps to Remove the Watermark:
- Preheat the iron to a low heat/warming setting with NO steam.
- Place wax paper over the are with the white mark
- Cover the wax paper with a towel.
- Place the iron over the area for a few seconds a time. Keep the iron moving to avoid creating a new heat mark.
- Repeat with a fresh piece of waxed paper until the mark is removed.
You Will Need:
- Cotton cloth (a white t-shirt works well)
Steps to Remove the Watermark:
- Preheat the iron to a warm setting (start lower and work your way up as starting with too much heat can lead to additional damage).
- Place the cotton cloth over the marked area.
- Move the iron over the cotton cloth WITH steam. Keep the iron moving at all times to avoid applying too much heat in one spot.
- Repeat until the mark is removed.
Additional Tips and Ideas
- There are also commercial removers such as Jasco White Ring Remover available to remove marks safely from most finishes. Other white ring removers can be found at hardware and home improvement stores.
- If the watermark is fresh, simply dry the area quickly with a hairdryer to avoid leaving a mark.
- When heating the area with the hairdryer, keep it moving to avoid overheating the varnish.
- A site user wrote in to say they have had success using plain white (non-gel non-whitening) toothpaste.
For some unknown reason, a plant we had on an antique table left a huge water mark on the table. We used the mayo/baking soda/air dryer method and the water mark is gone and the 100+ year old table; restored to its original beauty!!!
The iron method was I all need to remove my water mark from the dining table. Thanks for the wonderful advice.
I did the iron method and it worked perfectly on an old mug stain on a coffee table. Excellent advice.
Please tell me the amount of each supply that you used. I have some seriously bad marks on a table that I picked up at a yard sale.
Thank You, Eula
Debbie in Ohio says
The iron and wax paper trick was amazing! It took a few minutes, but the large rings on my dining table disappeared!
The mayo did not work for me, but the iron with steam and a towel did a great job.
I had great results using lemon oil instead of mayonnaise and ashes. It took a lot of heat, rubbing and time but restored a perfect finish. I cleaned the excess oil off with a cloth and Cabinet Magic spray.
I just started drinking hot tea; while the saucer was on top of the cup (tea steeping), the condensation made a white ring on my wood table. I immediately looked at this website and used the hair dryer method, and it did not remove the ring. I used the iron method and it magically disappeared! Thank you for the wonderful tip!
I left a cloth that was damp with spray furniture polish over the back of a timber dining chair while I had lunch. Oops. When I read to get rid of it with a hairdryer before it dried, it made so much sense! And yes, it worked. Thank you!
Thank you! Thank you! You saved me! I cannot believe the iron method worked! Like magic! You saved one of our very best pieces of furniture!!! Scary to do, but it worked. Thanks! Joel
I have tried every trick listed with NO results!! Am I doing something wrong??
I bought a secondhand solid pine unit. It’s a great piece of solid, well-made furniture, but the top was literally covered in white rings from hot drinks. I used the iron and cloth method, not believing for a SECOND that it would work…I am GOBSMACKED; not a single mark remains, so the unit looks brand new. FANTASTIC!!!!
I was skeptical at first. I was left a beautiful mahogany William Lawrence coffee table in my Mum’s will, but it had a significant heat stain on it. Reading about the iron trick I had a go. T-shirt with the iron on a low setting; it took about three applications of 10 to 15 seconds each, moving the iron over the T-shirt, which was over the heat mark. It disappeared!!
There was an old white mark on our oak dining room table. I used the steam iron on it with an old T-shirt. It took a bit of time, but it definitely worked! So happy about that! Thanks for the tip!
We left our electric kettle running under our cupboard this morning for about one minute. It left large patches of blotchy white areas up the cupboard. The iron method worked like a charm!!! THANK YOU for the tip! 🙂
Yes, use LOW temp with steam to get the rings out. I had to go over new damage when the iron was too hot. It’s a great tip. Now, if only my family would use the coasters provided…
I used the baking soda and mayo…with the hair dryer!!! Yea…like magic. I had to do the process three times…the white ring/mark lightened each time. After the third time…gone. However, I also used quadruple ought steel wool…and lightly rubbed with grain. Plain cloth might have worked as well…but have often used very fine steel wool to refurbish wood. My chest is probably 150 to 175 years old. How did we all live without the internet!!!
The iron and T-shirt worked like magic. Thank you so much.
I actually ironed on my dining room table and left a huge white mark……so I went back and tried the steps above with the iron….it is not working. HELP!!!!
Brilliant! I thought my coffee table was ruined, but the mayo/ash/hairdryer trick worked beautifully. Thank you.
The steam iron on low and the T-shirt did the trick. I must admit I was doubtful, but I decided to give it a try. Pure magic. My hubby’s grandmother’s table is saved. Thank you!
Wow, mayonnaise and ash worked perfectly. I have just been saved from a serious argument with my mum for ruining her unit! 🙂
I tried the iron method and it worked beautifully. I was ready to give the table away and get a new one. It’s like new now. Thank you
Wow! Getting an old table ready to sell, took before and after pictures! Wow, could do a commercial. Iron has to be hot enough. Circular motion!
The iron and towel or T-shirt made my area bigger!!
I have some maple chairs that on the seat have large areas that the wax/varnish is damaged and looks yellowish. Believe or not, a cat I had slept on them and her body heat damaged them. Which tip would you recommend?
The yellowing of the wax/varnish is more likely oxidation than a heat stain. The heat from your cat’s body likely sped up the natural oxidation process of the wax, which is what leads to yellowing. (There are other factors that can cause it to oxidize/yellow as well, such as UV rays, but in this case you’re probably right that it was the heat from your cat.) To remedy this, the above methods probably won’t work. Instead, the wax will need to be removed (refinished). You can try rubbing the area with some mineral spirits on a cloth to see if that can remove the yellowed wax and solve the problem, but otherwise, refinishing the chair is the ultimate solution to removing the yellowing. Good luck!
Source: Woodshop News – Finishing: Exposure to light alters any wood or finish (pdf)
Source: American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers – Wax Handling Instructions
Source: SF Gate – How to Fix Yellowing on a Furniture Finish
Mayo and ashes worked for me. It was a large, terrible mark left by an oat bag that had just been heated in the microwave. Thanks!
Yep, mayo and baking soda did the trick for me.
My wooden top sewing machine actually got damaged using a cloth and iron to iron other clothing. I can’t imagine that the iron method will undo the damage now???
I tried the iron and wax paper method on a wooden coffee table. It did absolutely nothing. I started out low, increased the heat a few times, still nothing. Thumbs down!
Tried an iron on the next-to-top setting with steam and T-shirt. There were two layers of fabric on top of the table. Just a few passes of the iron removed the rings. Amazing. This is an old Duncan Phyfe table in cherry. Restored the beautiful finish in minutes.