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How to Remove Water Stains With Items You (Probably) Already Have

Wood background drops of water stains.

Even though water is known for its cleaning properties, it’s capable of leaving stains on quite a few difference surfaces, wood included. Whether someone forgot to use a coaster when they set a drink down on your coffee table or you accidentally spilled a glass of water on your hardwood flooring, it’s all too easy to wind up with water stains around the house and on your furniture. Mopping up water with a towel or wiping off the water doesn’t always prevent it from staining your belongings, either.

Not only do these water stains discolor and ruin the otherwise pristine appearance of your lustrous wooden furniture or floor or countertops, getting rid of them can be tricky. This doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live with permanent water stains, however. Nor do you have to run out to the store and buy an expensive, specialty cleaner to get rid of water stains. While this is certainly an option, there are plenty of common household items that can be used to remove water stains from wooden surfaces. Here are a few products you probably already have in your pantry, fridge, or cupboard that double as makeshift water stain removers.


Mayonnaise sauce over rustic wooden background.
Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock.com

Yes, you read that correctly– the globby blend of oil, vinegar, and eggs you spread on your sandwiches or mix into your tuna salad is an excellent water stain remover for wood.

You might think that a condiment known for its oily texture is an odd choice for a makeshift cleaning product. However, the oil in the mayonnaise is actually what makes it an effective water stain remover. That old adage about how water and oil don’t mix is also a scientific fact, and the oil in the mayo is what helps draw the moisture in the stain out of the wood.

All you have to do is squeeze a small amount of mayonnaise onto a microfiber towel or cloth and gently dab the mayo onto the water stain. Place a paper towel over top of the stain and let it sit for a couple of hours. If the stain is gone after a few hours, go ahead and clean away the mayonnaise. (You may also want to give the wood a little polish for good measure.) If the stain is still partially visible, re-apply fresh mayo and let it sit for longer.

USANOOKS Microfiber Cleaning Cloth

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Toothpaste squeezed out from a toothpaste tube.
Tasha Cherkasova/Shutterstock.com

Toothpaste isn’t only good for cleaning your teeth– it can remove those pesky stains from your wood furniture too. Just be sure that you stick to a plain white toothpaste to do so, as gel or whitening toothpastes won’t work.

Squeeze a large blob of your toothpaste onto a cleaning cloth and buff your water stain with it until the stain is completely gone. Once the water stain is no more, wipe the spot with a paper towel to get rid of any toothpaste residue left behind and then let it dry.

If toothpaste alone isn’t strong enough to get rid of a particularly stubborn water stain, mix the toothpaste with an equal amount of baking soda (i.e. if you use a tablespoon of toothpaste, be sure to blend it with a tablespoon of baking soda) and try buffing it with this new, stronger mixture.

Speaking of baking soda…

Burt's Bees Purely White Toothpaste

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Baking Soda

Sea salt, starch in the jar and wooden spoon for recipes of cosmetics at home on a white wooden background.

Baking soda is known for its cleaning and deodorizing properties along with its traditional use for making your favorite baked goods, so it’s no surprise that this versatile pantry item doubles as a water stain remover for wood as well.

Mix your baking soda with water to create a paste, making sure to use 2 parts baking soda for every 1 part water (i.e. 2 teaspoons of baking soda for every 1 teaspoon of water, etc.). Then pour the paste onto a microfiber cloth and gently rub it over the stain until it’s gone.

Once the water mark is completely removed, clean away any leftover baking soda and use a small amount of wood polish on the spot.

Nutricost Baking Soda (2 LBS)

If you plan to use baking soda for cleaning and deodorizing as well as baking, be sure to grab a large container of it.

Clothing Iron

Woman ironing cloth on board, closeup.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock.com

This method requires a bit more attentiveness than the others but is still a viable option if you don’t have any of the listed pantry items on hand. All you need is a traditional clothing iron (no clothes steamers) and a clean, iron-safe piece of cloth that’s big enough to cover the stain, preferably a non-patterned one.

Before you get started, be sure to completely empty your clothing iron’s water tank and set it to a low temperature– you don’t want to risk scorching or burning the stained wood surface, even with the cloth serving as a protective layer.

After you’ve emptied the water tank and set the temperature, go ahead and turn on the iron. As it’s heating up, take your piece of cloth and place it on top of the water stain. Once the iron is warm, lightly run it over the cloth. Wait a few seconds and then check to see if the stain is still there. If it’s still visible, put the cloth back in place and run the iron over it again. Repeat the process until the stain is gone.

Keep in mind that this trick is most effective on recent, still-damp water stains. You’re better off trying a different method for older stains.

PurSteam Professional Steam Iron

If you don't have an iron, you can't go wrong with this model and its optimal heat distribution and precision.

Hair Dryer

Fashion black hair dryer on wood background.
Atiwan Janprom/Shutterstock.com

Using a hair dryer to get rid of a water stain works in a very similar manner to a clothing iron, without the risk of scorching the wooden surface. This also means that, like with the iron and cloth method, you’re better off using a hair dryer on fresh water stains rather than older ones.

You’ll also need to use a classic hair dryer, not a blow dryer brush or another specialty type, if you want this trick to work.

Plug in your hair dryer (unless it’s a cordless model), remove any attached diffusers, and switch the temperature to the lowest possible setting. Point the nozzle at the water stain and turn on the hair dryer, continuously moving it around until the stain is gone; even at a lower heat, you’ll want to prevent the hot air from hitting the wood too directly.

L'ANGE HAIR Soleil Professional Hair Dryer

A cordless hair dryer will be especially useful if your stain is in a hard-to-reach spot or nowhere near an outlet.


Jar of Vaseline petroleum jelly over the wooden board.

Vaseline isn’t only good for dry skin or making your eyelashes look longer— like mayonnaise, it’s nice and oily, which makes it ideal for removing water stains from wooden surfaces. And unlike mayo, you won’t have to worry about it attracting bugs or your dog when you leave it on your wood flooring or furniture.

For this trick, you’ll need standard, pure petroleum jelly Vaseline rather than Vaseline lotion or anything other type.

All you have to do is spread a scoop of Vaseline onto the water stain, then grab a dust cloth and use it to buff the Vaseline into the stain. Rather than cleaning it off immediately or after a few hours, leave the Vaseline to sit overnight and wipe it off in the morning.

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly (Pack of 3)

Vaseline is one of those item you can't have to much of in your home.

Lemon Oil and Steel Wool

Bottle with lemon essential oil, fresh lemon on a blue background.

Lemons and lemon juice are useful for cleaning several different home appliances and tools, from coffee machines to cheese graters. Therefore it makes sense that lemon oil is equally useful for clearing away water stains from wood furniture, at least when paired with steel wool.

The steel wool itself is actually what does the stain removing, but only if it has an extremely fine texture. Stick to 0000-grade steel wool only, as it’s the finest possible grade. Anything coarser is far too likely to scratch or damage your wood surface.

Grab a clean piece of this super fine steel wool, and very, very gently rub it across the water stain until it’s gone; extreme gentility and delicacy is key, to avoid leaving scratches on your wood furniture or flooring.

The lemon oil comes in afterwards, to polish and condition the wood once the stain is gone. It’ll also make the wood smell good, draw out any leftover moisture you might’ve missed, and even help protect against future spills to a certain degree.

Red Devil 0310 Steel Wool

Not sure if your steel wool is a high enough grade for cleaning your wooden furniture? Grab this high quantity value pack of super fine steel wool,

Water stains can be huge pain to get rid of, but with the right items it can be done. While you should always mop up water spills right away and aim to clean stains when they’re as fresh as possible, many of these tips should work equally well on older water stains as well as newer ones. You’ll be amazed at how much better your wooden furniture or hardwood floors look after using one of these easy and inexpensive cleaning methods.

Meghan Herlihy Meghan Herlihy
Meghan Herlihy is a full-time writer for LifeSavvy and How-To Geek and has written across a wide variety of topics, genres, and formats, including radio talk shows, local sports journalism, and creative original fiction. She received her bachelor's degree in communications from Ithaca College and a master's in writing from Johns Hopkins University. When she's not writing, you're most likely to find her reading a book, petting every dog within eyesight, and indulging in her love of travel. Read Full Bio »
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