How to Remove Water Stains from a Wood Table Top

How to Remove Water Stains from a Wood Table Top

Even when coasters are available, it can often be the case that a wood table top will still end up with water stains.

These unsightly marks can make a wood table look old before its time and ruin the look of what should remain a classic piece of furniture.

Rather than just getting annoyed on discovering that coasters have been ignored or gone astray or you have forgot to use a dining table protector, use our guide to learn how to remove water stains from a wood table to keep it in tip-top shape.

You will find that it does not necessarily require the skills of an expert and can actually be achieved with the use of a few items that can be found around the house.

What You’ll Need

  • Iron
  • Hairdryer
  • Old toothbrush
  • Toothpaste (non-gel white variety)
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Cotton towel/bandana/t-shirt
  • Two cleaning cloths
  • Sheet of fine sandpaper


Be aware that there are several different methods that can be used to remove water stains, so you might have to trial several before you find the one that works best for you.

Accordingly, you are unlikely to need to use all of the tools listed above. Before you begin to apply your chosen method of removal, examine all the water stains on the table to determine whether they can be considered light or dark in colour, as they will need to be treated differently.

It is necessary to take into account whether the wood is varnished or not, which will dictate what method you use to remove the water stains. Avoid using abrasive methods of removal unless you have varnish/wax to re-finish the treated patch of the wood table.

Removing a Light Water Stain

For a light stain that has not been there long – such as only a few days – you should be able to remove it by applying heat.

  1. Clear the table
  2. Lay a cotton towel over the stain
  3. Apply heat to the stain: Use an iron on a low heat and the steam functioned turned off to press against the relevant area. Briefly apply pressure over the point where the stain is, making sure to move the iron in the same direction, before checking to see if it is diminishing. Repeat this process until the stain disappears completely.
  4. Alternatively use a hairdryer: use a low heat setting to evaporate the moisture that created the mark by moving it over the stain for a few minutes.
  5. If its stubborn apply petroleum jelly: If the above step does not work, gather a small amount of petroleum jelly onto a cloth and rub it over every part of the water stain. Leave it in place for half an hour before wiping away a small amount to see if the water stain has diminished. If not, leave the petroleum jelly in place for a further half and hour, otherwise, wipe it all away. In some cases, you may need to leave it in place overnight.

Removing a Darker Water Stain

  1. Follow step 1 as outlined for light stains.
  2. Use toothpaste: Apply a small amount of toothpaste to a cloth and rub it in to the stain in a circular motion with your finger sheathed in the toothpaste-tipped cloth. Continue with this action for around 30 seconds before checking the result by wiping away a small amount of toothpaste. If there is little or no difference, continue with the rubbing motion while periodically checking the result.
  3. Use a light brush: If the above step is not producing sufficient results, apply a little toothpaste to the toothbrush and gently scrub the stain out using a circular motion, checking the result every so often.
  4. Wipe away: Thoroughly wipe away the toothpaste after the stain has disappeared.
  5. A last resort: Where the water stain is too ingrained, it may be that the only way to remove it is to use sandpaper. This must be done lightly to avoid leaving a depression in the wood, so you must check on your progress often. Be aware that this will also remove any varnish that might have been applied.

Preventing Water Stains

Stains to tables are inevitable.

When you know your table will be in use – try using an easy wipe clean tablecloth from our stunning range of fabrics.

Not only do they make maintaining your table easier – but they add a beautiful touch to your dining area.