Removing Water Stains from Wood Furniture

We need to talk about a harsh reality, clean geeks. The reality of those awful white water stains on our wood furniture.

Sure, we can try to prevent them with coasters, trivets, tablecloths or placemats. But that doesn’t mean they’ll never happen. Even the most vigilant among us will have some coasters overflow with condensation on a summer day. You might also have a kid or two — or, let’s face it, an adult or two — who will put cups down without a coaster from time to time. (Full disclosure: my son Garrett is guilty of this far too often!)

So, what can you do when those ugly water stains show up? Well, first of all, if you’re dealing with a priceless antique with a shellac or varnish, you should probably hire a pro. But if you want to DIY, you don’t have to run out and buy furniture polish. Believe it or not, you probably have quite a few things on hand in your kitchen, your bathroom, or even your garage that can buff those spots right out.

Baking soda

Make a paste with 1 tablespoon baking soda and 1 teaspoon water, and use a circular motion to rub it into the spot until you see it disappear. If it doesn’t seem to be working, you might just have a little too much water in the mix, so adding a bit more baking soda should do the trick.

Is there anything baking soda can’t do?


A salt paste can also work wonders on water spots. Mix a teaspoon of table salt with just a few drops of water, then gently rub it in and wipe it away.


Apply some non-gel toothpaste to the spot and use a soft cloth and a soft touch to work it in, going in the direction of the wood grain. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe it all off. And for an extra-strength watermark remover, you can try mixing equal parts toothpaste and baking soda.

Toothpaste can make your table spotless … and minty fresh.


Sounds pretty weird, I know. But I’ve tried this, and it works! Put some full-fat mayonnaise on your water stains and let it sit and work its magic for at least an hour. Then wipe it clean and buff the surface with a soft cloth.

Car wax

Believe it or not, a dollop of car wax can be just the thing to make your wooden furniture look like new. Use your finger to rub some car wax into the water stain, give it some time to dry, and then buff with a soft cloth.

Olive oil & vinegar

Use a cloth to apply a solution of equal parts olive oil and vinegar. Then use a second clean cloth to wipe up and make your wood surface shine.


From oily to gorgeous.


Got a stubborn spot? Try putting petroleum jelly on it. Let it sit overnight, and then wipe it all away.
Now you know you have a whole lineup of options the next time you see a water spot in the dining room or on your coffee table. And here’s one last tip that can save you some trouble — try adding a layer of protection against water stains with some liquid furniture polish or paste wax.

So, did I miss any spot removers here? If you’ve got another suggestion, let me know in the comments!