How to Remove Water Stains from Furniture

I left a wet glass on the top of my walnut coffee table. How do I remove the water stain? -Bob

Hi Bob,

Water stains on furniture fall into two categories:

  • White stains: Where water has become trapped in the finish or in the thin layer of wax on the surface.
  • Dark stains: Where the water has penetrated through the finish into the wood itself.

White stains in the finish will often disappear on their own after drying for a few days. If not, try placing a dry cotton cloth over the stain and going over it with a hot iron (without steam). Don’t heat the wood too much or it might damage the finish—just enough to cause the moisture to evaporate.

If the stain is still there, wipe the top down with a cloth dampened with mineral spirits to remove any wax that might have trapped the moisture. If the white mark is still there, try wiping the spot lightly with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol. Don’t overdo it, as alcohol can soften some finishes. It’s a good idea to test solvents on an inconspicuous spot on the furniture first, to be sure they won’t damage the finish.

Dark stains, where the water has penetrated all the way through the finish, are difficult to remove without resorting to stripping, sanding, and refinishing the piece.



  1. Your water damage fix hasn’t worked on my ceder T/G ceiling!The light brown color has very dark water lines from rain leaking around my sky lights , which have been replaced. I would like to salvage my ceder ceiling as its so pricey!!!!

    Jerry T


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