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How To Remove White Water Rings and Steam Stains from Wood

We've all been there. You or a guest places something wet on your wood furniture. You wince as you notice it but don't move it in time to prevent water damage. 

If that's happened to you let me tell you how easy it is to remove water rings and white stains from almost any wood surface. These tips also work to get a steam stain, like from hot pizza boxes, out of a wood table.

4 methods for removing water marks and steam stains from wood in a collage for Pinterest

Not too long ago I was trying to get some cleaning done while prepping for guests and sprayed the mirror above my antique dresser with window cleaner. I put the bottle of cleaner down, wiped the mirror and walked away.

Top of antique oak dresser with white water mark

A few hours later one of my sons pointed out to me that the bottle was leaking and there was a puddle underneath it. When I lifted the bottle there was a large milky white stain from the excess moisture.

The first thing I did was to dry off the surface of the wood (blot, don't rub!) and then I waited.

Jump to:

⚙️ Quick Fix

Bottle of Holloway House Lemon Oil furniture polish next to a soft blue microfiber cloth on top of an oak dresser

My guests came and we all had a great time and then they left....and after they drove away I pulled out my secret weapon to remove water stains.

I grabbed a bottle of Lemon Oil {Holloway House} furniture polish and a clean cloth

Holloway House Lemon Oil Furniture polish bottle on top of stained oak furniture with a soft cloth and a dab of oil on the cloth
hand rubbing a blue cloth with lemon oil into a water mark stain on wood furniture

I placed a small amount of Lemon Oil on a soft cloth and rubbed the stained area on my wood furniture.

The oil was rubbed into the white rings in a circular motion.

Holloway House Wood Restorer, Lemon Oil, 16 Oz (2)
$20.99$19.95 ($0.62 / Ounce)
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10/06/2022 12:10 am GMT

After waiting a few minutes I then buffed the area gently. The good news is that was all it took and the water stain was all but gone.

oak dresser top close up of wood after treating with Holloway House Lemon Oil Furniture Polish to remove white water ring

There is a very slight trace of it but I doubt anyone but me will notice it.

I also went ahead and rubbed the Lemon Oil on to the entire top of the dresser so that it all had the same tone and I was thrilled at how much better it looked. Some of the smaller scratches and the overall dullness were also gone.

before and after comparison of oak wood after removing a white water stain using Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is the best option I've found to restore wooden furniture but below are some different methods all of which work well and yield good results.

🧂 Vegetable Oil and Salt

This method works on white heat stains from a hot dish or a hot cup of coffee as well as white marks from liquids.

Glass container of vegetable oil next to salt shaker
  • Make a thin paste of salt and oil - roughly ¼ teaspoon of salt per tablespoon of oil.
  • Wipe the paste on to the affected area with a soft cloth and buff lightly as you wipe it off.
  • *Olive oil can be substituted for vegetable oil

🫙 Mayonnaise or Miracle Whip

Small bowl filled with mayonnaise and a soft rag next to it on a wood table

Apply mayonnaise to white spots on the wooden surface and let sit for 1 hour. Wipe clean with a soft cloth or sponge.

🧲Iron Method

wooden surface with a towel on top of it and an iron

Lay a thick dry cloth or towel over the spot and press it with a warm iron until the white heat marks disappear.

🪥 Mayonnaise and White toothpaste

Rub heat rings with mayonnaise and white non-gel toothpaste. Wipe the area dry and polish the entire surface of your piece of furniture.

These are my top 4 picks for effective ways to remove unsightly heat stains and water marks from wood and they all work wonders.

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7 Comments

  1. Looks great!! Thanks for the tip. I've used the toothpaste trick... but wasn't exactly pleased with the results. Now I wonder if your method will work with leather. I thrifted a chest and mistakenly set a mason jar upside down on it and the humidity and heat evidently created some condensation which marked the leather top. 🙁

    1. Mary Beth says:

      I am so sorry about your chest 🙁 Hopefully, this will work. Please let me know if you get a chance. hugs, mb

  2. Denyse Paterniti says:

    I wonder if this would work on my hardwood floor? I'm going to try it. (I won't say what I did...lol)

    1. Mary Beth says:

      I hope it works! Let me know. 🙂 By the way, it's SO GOOD to see you! xo

  3. Will any brand of lemon oil work?? I do not see this one in my Google search. Thanks!!

    1. Mary Beth says:

      Hi Natalie,

      I found the product on the Holloway House/Quick Shine website: https://www.hollowayhouse.net/product-category/products/ You have to scroll down the page to find it and it is MUCH less expensive from them (Holloway House) than from Amazon. The site also has a location finder that may help you find it locally: https://www.hollowayhouse.net/store-locator/ As far as other products/lemon oil that will work, I haven't tried any others so I am not sure but the bottle I have stated there are No silicones, No linseed oil, No Synthetics, and No Wax in the product. It does not have a label that tells me exactly what's in it, so I couldn't dig any deeper to find a similar one. I hope this info helps.

      Fondly,
      Mary Beth

  4. Cindy@CountyRoad407 says:

    I've needed this! Thanks.