Remove Water Stains from Wood

wood floors

If you've ever had a beautiful piece of wood furniture damaged with a wet glass, you will be happy to learn some techniques that will remove water stain from wood. There are actually several ways accomplish this. What a relief to know that your wood furniture isn't ruined; it just needs a little elbow grease and know-how.

Black Water Stains

There are two types of water stains that you may find on your wood flooring or furnitureThe most difficult one to remove is the black stain which indicates that the water has seeped beyond the finish and into the wood.

Bleach Method

For this type of stain, you have to remove the wood finish before you can tackle the stain. If you're dealing with an antique, you probably won't want to do this because once the finish is removed, the value of the piece goes down. However, if this isn't a concern, here are the steps to follow:

  1. Sand off finish from the wood piece.
  2. Use an old toothbrush to rub regular household bleach into the stain.
  3. Allow bleach to evaporate for about two hours.
  4. Apply more bleach in the same manner.
  5. Allow it to sit overnight.

This process removes water stains from deep within the wood. Once the stains are gone, you can refinish the wood. However, if the stain persists, you may need to use another method.

Wood Bleach

For stubborn black water stains, you may need to use a commercial wood bleach. Here are the steps:

  1. After removing the wood finish, apply mixed wood bleach with a brush.
  2. Allow bleach to work for four hours.
  3. Neutralize the wood bleach by applying a 2:1 mixture of water and vinegar with a sponge.
  4. Dry the wood and refinish.

White Water Stains

White water stains indicate that the water is in the finish of the piece. There are many methods that effectively remove water stain from wood. You may have to try more than one method before you see results. Naturally, the quicker you catch the stain, the easier removal will be. Old stains can be removed as well. You just may need to work harder at it.

Methods to Remove Water Stain from Wood

Fresh Stains

If you've just had an accident you can quickly prevent the watermark from becoming a stain. The first step is to immediately buff the area with a soft, cotton cloth such as a cloth diaper. This will absorb the water without scratching the wood. Be careful to buff with the grain of the wood for best results.If you still see a mark, use a blow dryer to dry the excess moisture before it sets into the wood. Do this carefully on a low setting if possible or you may turn the watermark into a heat mark! Once the stain is removed you should buff the area with an oil-based furniture polish. This will remove any remaining stain and make your wood look nice and new.

Older Stains

There are many methods to remove older water stains. Here is a list:

  • Mayonnaise

Apply a thick layer of mayonnaise to the watermark and allow it to sit overnight. In the morning, wipe it away with a thick cotton cloth.

  • Toothpaste

Use a white toothpaste, not a gel, for this remedy. Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the stain and buff gently, with the wood grain, with a soft cotton cloth. Wipe off toothpaste and polish.

  • Baking Soda

Create a thick paste with baking soda and water and apply it to the stain. Let this paste sit overnight, then wipe it away with a cotton cloth in the morning.

  • Salt and Oil

You can also make a paste with salt and cooking oil. Gently rub it in and let is sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove with a cotton cloth and polish the wood.

  • Steel Wool

Steel wool that has been saturated with lemon oil can be used to gently buff stains out of wood. As always, you should buff in the direction of the wood grain. Be sure to use enough lemon oil to prevent scratches in the wood.

  • An Iron

Use a dry, hot iron to remove water stains and, oddly enough, heat stains! Put a thick cotton cloth over the stain and press the hot iron onto the cloth. Hold it there for only a few seconds at a time and check the stain. It may take a few minutes to completely remove the stain.

  • Ashes

Ashes from a cigarette or cigar can be buffed into the stain with a soft cloth.

  • Magic!

You can use a damp Magic Eraser to get rid of water or heat stains. Just buff gently, going with the grain of the wood. For deeper stains you may need to do this several times. Then polish the wood as normal.


Cleaning a spill when it happens is the best way to prevent water stains on wood surfaces.

Remove Water Stains from Wood