We love wood furniture and hardwood floors for their natural beauty and durability, and we take pride in keeping them clean and maintained. But even regular wood care and cleaning can’t stop accidents that leave behind ugly stains.
Hardwood floors and furniture see a lot of traffic—and that means plenty of dirt, dust, grime, and spills. From pet accidents on our hardwood floors to glasses without coasters, knowing how to remove stains from wood can save the day.
Since you’re not always at the scene of the crime when an accident happens, knowing what different stains look like can help. Water stains usually have a faded look; in contrast, urine stains are typically dark, and heat stains are white. Before you jump in and begin removing water stains from wood, understand that DIY wood care comes with a risk.
If your hardwood floors are made from expensive woods or you have antique furniture, you may want to leave the stain removal to the pros. But if you’re ready to tackle those wood stains on your own, here are some field-tested tips from the pros for removing the most common stains on wood.
How to Remove Water Stains From Wood
Finished wood does not like to get wet. Wet clothes, spilled drinks, and other damp stuff can quickly stain wood, leaving behind telltale glass rings or faded, splotchy patches. The paleness of water stains on wood comes from the moisture mixing with the wax or other finish, creating a cloudy area. While water stains can look pretty serious, we can remove most of them using one of these methods.
Like most stains, water stains on wood are easier to remove if you catch them early. If you discover a water stain that happened within the last few days, heat may be able to evaporate the moisture.
Here’s how to remove stains from wood using heat:
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- Dump out any water in your iron.
- Plug the iron in and set it to the lowest heat setting.
- Lay a cotton cloth or T-shirt over the stain.
- “Iron” the cloth for a few seconds and check the stain.
- Repeat the process until the stain has disappeared.
If you’re hesitant to use a clothes iron, a hair dryer is a suitable substitute. Put the dryer on the lowest heat setting and move the hot air back and forth over the stain for 10 minutes. Keep the hot air on the stain, but don’t overdo it; you don’t want the wood to get too hot!
Mayonnaise may not be good for our waistlines, but it’s perfectly safe for most wood. The oil in mayonnaise can seep into the wood and displace the moisture, making a stain lighten or disappear. Because this stain removal method is gentle on wood, you’ll need some patience to get the full effect.
- Dip a small amount of mayonnaise onto a clean cloth./li>
- Spot test an out-of-the-way area to be sure it’s safe to proceed./li>
- Rub the mayonnaise into the water stain lightly and let it sit overnight./li>
- If the mayo dries up, reapply as needed./li>
- In the morning, wipe away the mayonnaise and your stain with a damp cloth.
If you are dealing with older water stains on wood, there might not be enough moisture remaining for the mayonnaise method to work. Dried water stains call for a little more firepower, so head to the bathroom and grab some toothpaste.
It cleans and shines teeth, so why not use toothpaste to get rid of ugly water stains on wood? You’ll get the best results if you use non-whitening, non-gel toothpaste.
- Dab some toothpaste onto a clean white cloth.
- Gently rub the toothpaste into the stain, going with the wood grain.
- After a minute, wipe away the toothpaste and check the stain.
- If the stain needs more work, repeat the process.
- Be careful not to scrub too hard.
If toothpaste didn’t eliminate the water stain, you may be looking at a refinishing job or other professional repair. If the wood you’re working on isn’t too valuable or unique, you can try one more step to get rid of the stain.
When you use the finest-grade steel wool, like #0000, you can remove blemishes and stains from wood without obvious scratching. Dab some lemon oil on your stain and lightly brush the steel wool back and forth with the grain. Keep the pressure light and check your stain frequently.
How to Remove Dark Stains From Wood
Oxidation, urine, and old water spots, among other issues, can create dark stains on wood furniture and hardwood floors. Once a stain has dried onto wood, it’s difficult to remove and may continue to darken over time. You can stain your furniture a darker color or throw a rug over dark stains on your floors—or you can use distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide.
Even though vinegar is a natural, safe cleaner and disinfectant, the acidic formula is also tough on stains and safe for wood.
- Soak some paper towels in white vinegar and layer them over the stain.
- Let the soaked towels sit for about 30 minutes to penetrate the stain.
- Use a clean damp cloth to wipe the stained area and let it dry for 30 minutes.
- If the stain is still visible, add a little baking soda to the mix for some scrubbing power and repeat the process.
- When you’re done, wipe the wood with a clean damp cloth to remove residue.
If the stain is still visible after a couple of tries with vinegar, it’s time to move up to something a little stronger.
Hydrogen peroxide is a mild antiseptic typically used for cuts and scrapes. But this safe, natural cleaner is also a whitener that works well on all kinds of stains, including dark stains on wood. Hydrogen peroxide can discolor some items if it sits too long or if the formula is too strong. Be sure to use only over-the-counter 3% hydrogen peroxide and pay attention to how the stain remover reacts with your wood.
- Dampen a clean cloth with hydrogen peroxide.
- Press the cloth onto the stain firmly so the hydrogen peroxide is absorbed into the wood.
- Leave the cloth on the stain overnight.
- In the morning, remove the cloth and wipe the wood with a clean, damp cloth.
If the stain isn’t completely gone, you can repeat the process once the wood is dry again. You may have to use this method several times before the stain is removed.
How to Remove Heat Stains From Wood
Water isn’t the only thing that can leave an unsightly mark when someone forgets to use a coaster. A hot cup of coffee can leave a heat stain on wood when the heat combines with the existing moisture in the wood—leaving you with a milky white stain once it dries. Here’s how to get rid of heat stains on wood furniture and hardwood floors using safe, effective products.
- Clean the stained area first with a damp cloth and let it dry.
- Grab some non-gel toothpaste and mix it with baking soda to make a paste.
- Gently rub your stain-removing paste onto the stain with a clean cloth.
- Let the paste work on the stain for 10 minutes.
- Wipe away the residue with a damp cloth.
If the stain is still visible once the wood dries, you can repeat the process above, but be aware baking soda is a mild abrasive, so go easy with the scrubbing. You can also try to remove heat stains on wood using olive oil and salt, white vinegar and olive oil, or petroleum jelly.
So there you have it. Now that you know how to remove stains from wood furniture and hardwood floors, why not check out our other pro stain removal guides? You’ll find many helpful tips for getting stains out of clothes, upholstery, carpet, and other things in your home.
Whether you use our DIY advice to keep your home clean or one of our popular housekeeping services, we want you and your family to enjoy a cleaner, healthier home. Learn more about what The Maids can do for your home when you get your free estimate online.