Remove White Rings from Wood Furniture | Repair Stains, Dents & Rings

Wondering how to remove white rings from wood furniture? Water marks? Dented tabletops? Follow these old-time hints to make your furniture look like new.

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Remove white rings from wood furniture, pesky water marks, stains on leather, and improve the look of a dented tabletop with these expert old-time hints.

Remove White Rings from Wood Furniture | Repair Stains, Dents & Rings

Remove White Rings from Wood Furniture | Repair Stains, Dents & Rings

Remove White Rings from Wood Furniture

  • It’s inevitable. Someone carelessly set a glass on a table in your living room, and the moisture has left a white ring in the wood finish. What doesn’t have to be inevitable is a time-consuming trip to the hardware store for a commercial concoction to repair the damage. Instead, remove white rings from wood furniture with a common household condiment. Moisten a paper towel with mayonnaise and rub it into the spot until the white ring disappears. Then wipe with a clean paper towel to blot up any excess oil.
  • You can also dip a piece of extra-fine-grade steel wool in mineral oil to remove water stains from wood. Rub the steel wool back and forth over the stain-always rubbing with the grain of the wood-to distribute the oil liberally. By doing this, you will actually remove the finish in the area that has whitened. The soft abrasion of the steel wool will polish the revealed surface while removing the spot, concealing the fact that the area is now unfinished. You may want to follow up by applying a paste wax and buffing the spot where the white ring or water stain was.
  • If a white ring is small and does not appear too deep in the wood finish, use your finger to gently rub a little toothpaste into it, then wipe the area clean. (Don’t use the gel type; you need the abrasive effect of the toothpaste.)
  • Another way to remove white rings from wood furniture is to apply baking soda to them with a damp cloth, then wipe off the soda.

Remove Water Marks from Oak Furniture

  • Paint remover and a bleach solution can do a good job of taking out the dark, gray-black stains that appear on oak furniture as a result of either direct exposure to water or prolonged exposure to water vapor (such as from a humidifier). First apply paint remover to lift off the finish. Then mix up a solution of equal parts household (5 percent) bleach and water. Apply the solution to the stain with a brush (if the stain is large) or a clean rag (if the stain is small). Use the bleach solution on the stained area only, being careful not to let it bleed onto the good wood.

Remove Stains from Leather

  • You’ve already spent a small fortune on that leather chair, so the last thing you want to do is pay dearly to have it cleaned. Lucky for you, there’s a shamelessly simple tool you can use to make minor spills and stains on leather upholstery disappear: an art gum eraser. (If you don’t have one, you can buy one anywhere stationery supplies are sold.) Just give smudges and stains a rub with the eraser, and they should vanish.

Remove Dents from Tabletop

  • You dropped a heavy object on a wooden tabletop, and it left a dent. You can fix it immediately by pouring a little water on the dent. The water will swell the wood fibers, which will make the dent less noticeable.
  • For a permanent fix, use an iron to remove the dent. Dampen a cotton towel and lay it on top of the dent. Then place a warm iron set to medium heat on top of the towel. Don’t allow the iron to touch the wood directly. The combination of heat and steam will act to pull up the dent. Apply the iron for only a few minutes at a time, as the moist heat will affect the undamaged wood as well. Let the surface of the wood cool between treatments and repeat as needed until the dent disappears.

Do you have any tips for how to remove white rings from wood, stains from leather, or repair a dented tabletop? Let us know!

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This post was first published in 2011 and has been updated. 

  • 0000 steel wool followed by matching stain may be good idea if you have a gloss finish. However if it’s a more satin finish I would suggest 000 steel wool or you’ll get a polished finish spot that will stand out against the satin overall finish. The steel wool will remove the top varnish/lacquer coat and possibly some of the stain. The new stain will not take to the spot very well if it was rubbed with 0000 steel wool. Probably it’s better to start with the 000 steel wool, stain, then wipe on a top coat with a satin clear varnish or gloss varnish depending on what it was originally stained with. It likely won’t be perfect and you may have to varnish over the entire surface if you want a really good job. The mayo thing did nothing for my water stain on a very dark finish.

  • jackie

    please help i have an oak table and my daughter decided to iron her top on the table. i have an white mark on my beautiful table!

  • Many years ago an excellent old cleaning lady told me to use mayonnaise plus a little cigarette ash to remove white rings. The ash is a mild abrasive. It works well. She also said Lysol would work but I haven’t tried it. So collect the ash from friends who are asked to kindly smoke outdoors and give it a try!

  • Just panicked because a slightly warm box created a huge white mark on my wood table. Baking soda with a damp cloth worked like a charm.

  • Nahla

    I have a wooden table that I polished it then wiped and left it Ito dry then I put vinyl cloth to protect it from my kids to my surprise the next day I found marks on the table from the vinyl table cloth, it seems that there was some moisture from the polish. What do you think I should use?

  • Mayonnaise, who knew!?

    I used it on white rings left by hot cups and bowls and it worked great! You can’t even tell there was anything there! Thank you!!!

  • Rosemary

    It worked great using the baking soda. Table had hand cleaner accidentally squirted on it.


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