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Remove Water Stain Marks with Ashes: How To Get White Rings Off A Wood Table

Updated on December 22, 2010

Products from my local hardware store that promise to remove water stains

When bad water marks happen to good wood furniture

We've all been there: We've left a drink on a wood table without a coaster, and by the time we realize the glass is sweating, it's too late. An unsightly white ring has formed on the table, and no matter how much we try to wash or polish it away, it stubbornly remains and we can't get the ring off.

Turns out all is not lost, and you can easily restore your table to pristine condition, either with do-it-yourself home remedies or else with inexpensive products you can buy at any hardware store.

These techniques for getting the white rings off a wood surface actually work!

Do-it-yourself home remedies to remove white rings

It turns out that you can MacGyver out a white ring from a wood table with ash and spit.

No joke.

Just put some ashes in a bowl, and add saliva. Stir. Then apply the ashy paste to the water stains you want to remove from your furniture and gently rub with a cloth.

Any ash works here. You can use fireplace ashes, cigarette ashes, and it probably will even work if you burn a piece of paper and use the ashes from that.

Use a circular motion to rub in the ash. When you are done with the spot, and once it is dry, gently buff the area with a clean, dry, soft cloth.

Commercial solutions to your water stains problems

If you go to the wood care aisle of your hardware store, there among the varnishes and stains and wood fillers, you can find a bunch of products that say they remove those unsightly white rings and water marks from wood surfaces.

I know first hand that some of these stain removing cloths are life savers.

I "helped out" at a potluck dinner party by making a mac and cheese. I put the dish straight from the oven on a woven place mat on the highly polished, no doubt expensive, dining room table.

The mac & cheese was a hit, but when I helped clear the table, a white echo of the round, rattan place mat remained fixed to the table. I hadn't thought about how the heat and steam would have the same effect as an icy drink. The table was ruined.

Another guest had recently bought one of these white ring removing cloths from a TV infomercial.

Again, no joke. None of us had ever tried it, but I had nothing to lose if it didn't work. But if it did work, well, it saved me having to refinish these people's table. The next day we returned to our hosts' house, and we rubbed that place mat stain away. It took patience. The more we worked the spot, rubbing with the treated cloth, the fainter then white marks became until finally they were so faint as to be unnoticeable to anyone who wasn't looking for them.

The table was like new; the white rings were gone.

It was only after this experience that my mom told me the home remedy with ash. I have since used that approach, and it also works if you are pressed for time or money.


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    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 6 years ago from San Francisco

      waterring: I am so sorry to hear about your piano. How upsetting!

      I recommend that you incorporate a little spit into those ashes and gently rub them into the water mark with a circular motion. Don't press too hard and be patient. Hopefully you will be able to lighten the ring, if not remove it altogether.

    • profile image

      waterring 6 years ago

      I placed a big plant on my grandmother's piano, vintage 1928, for 3 weeks. The surface is crackled, and I am so very up set. My mother put wood ashes on it 3 days ago, and I have not taken them off. When I peek under the ash, there is still a white ring and filled with ashes. What should I do?

    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Ricki, I am so sorry to be responding so late! I have been offline for a while. I used the cloth. It wasn't the brands I mention here, but rather one that a fried had bought off an infomercial online, but it really worked. I recently used one of the brands I mention here for old water rings and it worked, though it worked better on the heat stain from all those years ago.

      I also went over the same place several times with the cloth for a few days. Every time it got a little better and now you really can't even tell there used to be white rings.

      Good luck, and I am sorry thatI did not respond in more timely fashion!

    • Ricki Landers profile image

      Ricki Landers 6 years ago from Gatlinburg, Tennessee

      Hello, I just found your article and I was wondering if you used the ash or the cloth on the white spot from the heat of the pad that was left after you placed the macaroni on the table? My cousin cooked dinner one night and I was upstairs when he did the exact same thing you did only in his case it was ribs, two full platters of them. Now my very expensive table has two huge white marks across it and I have no idea how to even search for this on google, as each search returns things that have nothing at all to do with the white marks from heat. I don't want to strip this table since it has very delicately carved pine cones all along the side of it. Do you think the ash trick will work and if so can you please give me some tips on how long it might take etc. so I will know if I am a total failure at it and need to rub more or if it just isn't working for me lol. Thanks in advance!

    • profile image

      Teak Shower Seat 7 years ago

      Well some cleansing agent will work good.

    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, lyjo! I had to use this remedy again after Thanksgiving...!

    • s.carver profile image

      s.carver 7 years ago from San Francisco

      Thanks, lyjo! I had to use this remedy again after Thanksgiving...!

    • lyjo profile image

      lyjo 7 years ago

      Wow! A great article...yes, we have all been there, thanks for the tips. Take good care!

    • profile image

      4mymermaids 7 years ago from Georgia

      I have this problem A lot as I have 3 daughters and I have found 2 things that really work wonderfully! First I put Mayonaise on it and let it sit for about an hour then wipe it off and use a "magic eraser" any brand will do then clean with my cleaner of choice (for that week) and polish with furniture polish.