It’s not uncommon to find water stains on wood surfaces that lack a protective wax coating or furniture polish. This is especially true for coffee and dining room table tops. The stains can be dark or light or sometimes in the form of rings.

Fortunately, water stains easily disappear if you apply the right removal technique. This guide explains several ways how to remove water stains from lacquered wood furniture.

How to Remove Water Stains from Lacquered Wood

To remove water stains from lacquered wood, mix distilled water and vinegar. Use a dry cloth to rub the mixture over the affected area gently. Repeat until the water stain disappears.

Why Does Water Leave a Mark on Wood Furniture?

Water often leaves a mark on wooden surfaces if the liquid stays on the wood too long that it seeps beneath the finish and sometimes into the wood underneath. You’ll know the age of the stain by its color.

Light Stains

Generally, light stains are the result of recent water issues. Often ring-shaped, the light or white marks are caused by the bottom of cold glasses, hot plates, and mugs resting on the surface.

These items (hot or cold) can cause condensation within the wood finish, causing an otherwise clear coat to turn white or milky gray.

The light color indicates the water hasn’t reached the wood surface under the finish. Therefore, you only need to restore the finish to remove the marks. Fortunately, this is a quick process, and the damage is 100% reversible.

Dark Stains

On the other hand, dark stains signify that the water has reached the wood below. You’ll often see a dark brown or black spot; the darker the mark, the older the stain. A darker mark often also means deeper water penetration.

Unfortunately, removing dark stains isn’t as easy as light stains. Indeed, it often takes several trials over a few days to completely remove the mark.

7 Ways to Remove Water Stains from Lacquered Wood Finish

The following are seven ways to remove light and dark water stain marks from your coffee table, dining furniture, and other wood surfaces.

Method 1: Heat Removal with a Hot Iron

Heat easily dries up trapped water or moisture, leaving wood surfaces dry while eliminating the stains. However, it best works on light water stains that have only been in place for a few days.

Your best bet is a hot iron, as you can control the heat level depending on the gravity of the issue. The following is a step-by-step guide to removing water stains using a hot iron.

  1. Empty the water from the iron tank: This is critical as you don’t want to introduce more moisture to the surface and worsen the problem.
  2. Lay a dry cloth over the stain: A dry cotton fabric is an excellent choice. However, avoid clothes with decals or prints because heating can transfer the prints to the wooden surface. Make sure to cover every corner of the stain.
  3. Plug the iron and turn it to the lowest setting: An extremely hot iron can burn the cloth. You only need medium heat anyway.
  4. Apply the hot iron over the fabric: You want to be very gentle. Pass the hot iron over the fabric severally, checking the results every few passes until the stain disappears. Meanwhile, stay away from the iron’s steam switch.

Method 2: Oil Displacement Using Mayonnaise

Oil displacement involves applying an oily substance over the wood surface. Ideally, you want an oil that easily penetrates wooden items.

The oil particles will displace the moisture, allowing the wood to dry up while simultaneously nourishing the wood grain.

Mayonnaise is our pick. It easily soaks into finished wood surfaces without altering the wood’s color. Moreover, it’s easy to find.

  1. Scoop some mayo oil and apply it to the surface: Use a spoon to scoop to avoid introducing dirt to the mayonnaise jar.
  2. Gently rub the mayonnaise over the stained area: Many experts recommend making a 1/8-inch thick layer of mayonnaise over the water stain. However, a slightly less thick layer is just as good.
  3. Allow the mayonnaise to sit overnight: It takes 12 to 24 hours for mayonnaise to displace water stains from wood surfaces completely.
  4. Clean the surface: In the morning, you’ll note that the stain marks are less visible. Use a damp rag to clean up the surface. Then touch up the area using furniture polish.

Method 3: Using Denatured Alcohol

Denatured alcohol is a degreaser. Degreasers are solvent-containing products often used to remove grease and other oily substances from fabrics and surfaces. They work by breaking down the bonds in the unwanted substance, rendering the substance vulnerable.

Denatured alcohol breaks the water bonds for water stain removal, reversing the staining effect. Then it evaporates, leaving behind a smooth, dry surface.

  1. Apply denatured alcohol to the stained area: Dab a dry rag into denatured alcohol. Then rub it generously over the stained area.
  2. Allow it to dry: You won’t need to wait long as the alcohol evaporates within minutes. However, you may need to wait a few hours for the stain to disappear.
  3. Finish up: Buff the area with a clean, dry cloth. Then repeat the steps for all other stained areas.

Method 4: Removing Water Stains from Wood with Mineral Oil

We all know mineral oil to be an excellent stain remover. It cuts stains, breaking them into tiny particles for easy removal.

Unfortunately, mineral spirits don’t work so well for water stains. But, there’s a way out – mix it with toothpaste and rub it over the stain with steel wool. Here’s a step-by-step guide to follow;

  1. Mix mineral oil with toothpaste: Pour a few drops of mineral oil into a container, add some toothpaste, and mix the two thoroughly. Only use non-gel, plain white toothpaste.
  2. Apply the mixture over the stained area: You can use a piece of dry cloth. Make sure to cover the entire stain with a thick paste layer. Then wait a few hours.
  3. Wash off the paste: After about an hour or two, wash out the paste using a wet cloth and let it dry.

Read also: Will mineral spirits remove wood stain?

Method 5: Removing White Rings with Vinegar

Vinegar, olive oil, and rubbing alcohol are almost similar. They belong to a class of tough cleaning agents often considered where regular soap or detergents fail. They break down the stain, forcing it out of the material.

All are good options. However, vinegar is a tougher stain remover. Regardless, the application process is similar.

  1. Pour a few drops of white vinegar on the stained area: You only need a little of it as vinegar’s acidic nature can cause surface bleaching. Alternatively, combine 1/2 a cup of vinegar and 1/2 a cup of lemon juice.
  2. Apply it over the affected area: Dip a soft cloth in the solution and lay it over the water stain. Then wait ten minutes.
  3. Remove the cloth and allow the wood to dry completely: The stain should be gone. However, if the solution damages the existing coat, you may need to refinish the surface.

Method 6: Removing a Water Ring with Baking Soda

Every kitchen has some baking soda somewhere. It’s an indispensable ingredient in baked goods. Additionally, many people appreciate baking soda’s stain removal qualities.

So it’s unsurprising that it’s another product you should consider for wood water stains. It works by soaking up liquid and pigment (color) as it dries, leaving behind a clean, smooth surface. It’s easy to use too!

  1. Make a basking soda paste: Baking soda manufacturer Arm and Hammer recommends mixing six teaspoonfuls of the powder with 1/3 cup of warm water for the perfect stain removal paste.
  2. Rub it into the stain: You can rub it by hand or using a soft cloth. Ensure the thick paste’s visible layer completely covers the water stain. Then leave it on the area for at least 15 minutes.
  3. Wash it off: Begin by wiping the paste with a paper towel. Then wipe the surface clean with a damp cloth.

Method 7: Removing Water Marks with Petroleum Jelly

Finally, you can remove water stains with petroleum jelly. This process is similar to the mayonnaise removal method. The idea is to replace the moisture trapped under the wood finish with petroleum jelly.

The best part is that petroleum jelly is moisture-free and doesn’t readily react with wood. So, you don’t have to worry about creating new stains.

  1. Apply petroleum jelly to the surface: Scoop some petroleum jelly and apply it over the affected area. Ensure to cover the whole area.
  2. Allow it to do its work: It takes considerable time for petroleum jelly to displace the moisture or water trapped below wood finishes. So, you may have to wait overnight.
  3. Wipe away the jelly and assess the results: Use paper towels to wipe the petroleum jelly. You’ll notice the stain has significantly reduced.

Other Methods

There are several other “natural” moisture stain removal methods besides the seven above. For instance, you can use a hair dryer instead of a hot iron. Similarly, you use lemon oil or olive oil.

However, for extremely tough stains, you need a more drastic solution. The best idea is a commercial stain remover or refinishing the wood.

Commercial stain removers offer a quick, cost-effective solution. For instance, Guardsman’s Deep Clean is a purifying wood cleaner that quickly removes stains and dried wood spills from wood furniture. It costs under $10.

If all else fails, refinishing the surface offers a permanent solution. First, sand down the furniture to bare wood, then refinish it with a new wood stain. Alternatively, you can paint it.

Finally, it’s important to note that the above methods are trial-and-error and DIY options. It’s best to consider professional solutions for premium furniture.

The finishing professional will diagnose the issue to determine whether it’s truly a water stain and then prescribe the best solution.

Ways to Prevent Water Stains from Damaging your Wood

Wood is the oldest and most popular building material worldwide, and it is used to make some of the most lovely furniture pieces.

The majority of wood, however, will deteriorate from exposure to moisture and excessive humidity without protection, leading to staining, swelling, or even rotting.

Thankfully, readily available treatments protect your wood while enhancing its attractive features.

For Best Protection, Use Sealants

The tested sealants with outstanding waterproofing capabilities include polyurethane, lacquer, and varnish. Before applying, the wooden piece is lightly re-sanded and re-coated. These sealants are brushed on or sprayed over clean, sanded wood and left to cure fully.

Use Costers

Coasters can also be a fun way to add personal style and protection. It is another step to prevent your wood furniture from getting stained. Even for your lacquered wood furniture, the greatest treatment is always prevention.

If the wood has had serious damage, here’s how to fix water-damaged swollen wood furniture.


How to remove water stains from fake wood?

To remove water stains from fake wood (better known as engineered or manufactured wood), use a solution of white vinegar. First, mix distilled water with vinegar. Then apply the solution over the affected area using a dry cotton cloth. You may need to repeat the process a few times to remove all the water stains completely.

How to remove water stains from laminate wood furniture?

Removing water stains from laminate wood furniture is easy. First, mix equal parts of vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Then apply the paste to the wooden furniture using a soft cloth and allow it to soak for 15 minutes. When the stain is gone, wipe off the paste in the grain direction.

How do you remove water stains from glossy wood?

To remove water stains from glossy wood, apply olive oil or an oil-based furniture polish directly over the stained surface and let it settle overnight. The stains will be gone. If the marks persist, vigorously rub white toothpaste over the area. Then wipe the surface with a paper towel and re-treat it if necessary.

Does water damage a lacquer finish?

Yes. Water can damage a lacquer finish by turning it whitish or hazy. Woodworkers call this milky appearance “blushing” if it occurs during the finishing process. Additionally, water can cause white rings produced by hot or wet glasses or if you leave a hot pot on the wood surface for too long.

Read also: How to strip lacquer from wood.

Does lacquer get water rings?

Yes, lacquer finishes can get water rings. This often happens when you brush lacquer or shellac on a humid day. The finish will turn milky white. It’s the same process that causes water marks. Fortunately, you can eliminate white rings from water the same way you do watermarks from blushing.


There are more than a dozen ways to remove water stains, white rings, and other water marks from wood surfaces.

For instance, the hot iron treatment removes light marks easily. Other options include oil displacement strategies and mild abrasives, such as vinegar, rubbing alcohol, baking soda, and toothpaste. If in case your wood has heat stains, here’s how to remove heat stains from wood effectively.

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