How to Remove Water Stains From Wood

by Kasey
30 Minutes
It happens.

You can put out dozens of coasters, tell your friends and family a thousand times to be mindful of where they set their drinks, but eventually you’ll find yourself face to face with one of these unsightly stains.
Water stains on wood are a common issue in any household, but usually, they are not a very serious one. How hard they can be to get rid of depends on how deeply the water has penetrated your wood, which you can tell by looking at the color of the stain. 

For example: white and lightly colored marks indicate a shallow stain that’s only settled in the wood’s finish and can be removed by following one of the tactics listed below, while darker water stains indicate more serious damage within the wood itself.

There are a few different homemade fixes you can use to get a light water stain out of wood, and the ones listed here can all be done by using basic household items, meaning you won’t even need to drop by the store first. 
Use Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum Jelly products, like Vaseline, contain oils than can displace the water in stained wood.

Simply rub the affected area with petroleum jelly and let it sit overnight so that it has time to draw the moisture out. In the morning, wipe it away with a clean cloth and the watermark should disappear with it. 
Use Mayonnaise

Don’t have any petroleum jelly lying around? Try using mayonnaise instead!

Basic mayonnaise contains acidic vinegar and lemon juice with fatty oil and eggs, allowing it to work as a makeshift furniture polish that remarkably removes water stains. 
Use Toothpaste and Baking Soda

Non-gel toothpaste is made with a mild abrasive that can potentially get the job done on its own when you put some toothpaste on a wet cloth and rub the stained area.

But when non-gel toothpaste is mixed with equal parts of baking soda (½ a teaspoon of each should be enough) the result is an even stronger abrasive that works even more effectively.

Use this mixture to rub the stained area with a little pressure and the mark should quickly begin to fade. 
Use Olive Oil and Table Salt

Mix a little table salt and olive oil together until it becomes a thick paste.
Once you have your mixture, take just enough to cover the stained areas of your wood and let it sit there for about 30 minutes. During this time, the salt of the mixture will pull moisture from the wood while the olive oil nourishes the damaged area.

After enough time has passed, wipe away the paste with a dry cloth and the stain should have vanished. 
Use a Cloth and a Clothing Iron

Aside from evaporating water stains, this method also works fantastically for removing the moisture that’s left in wood by heat marks. 

To do it, you first need to empty all the water from your iron and place a folded piece of cloth over the stained area of wood. The cloth can be anything from an old T-shirt, to a pillow case.

Next turn the iron to its lowest setting and let it heat on top of the cloth. Stay nearby to monitor, and check after a minute or so to see if any change has been made in the stain. If after a few tries there is no progress, then raise the heat of your iron by one setting at a time.

Repeat this process until the stain begins to fade. Once you notice that the stain is diminishing, keep your iron at this heat and continue until it has disappeared completely. 
Frequently asked questions
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  • Elizabeth Elizabeth on Nov 07, 2022

    I have a table on which water stains form just instantly! I think the problem is bad paint. I'll try to use the tips, I hope it helps!

  • San22071824 San22071824 on Jul 10, 2023

    My grandma taught me to use ashes and mayonnaise. We get them from our wood stove.