Removing Water Marks And Rings
by Sal Marino
Most white marks or rings on furniture are
usually left by water or moisture penetrating through the protective
finish and then getting trapped below
the finish. When this happens the finish in that area appears white and
looses its transparency. This usually appears in the shape of a ring and
happens on a surface like a tabletop. The ring shaped mark usually
appears after a wet drinking
glass or hot cup was placed
directly on the surface of a
finish. Moisture condenses
(builds up) on the surface
and then seeps through the
small cracks in the finish.
This usually happens on
older pieces where the
finish has started to crack
There are a few methods you
can use to remove water
marks. I will
list them one by one.
Use A Lubricant
This first method is the easiest and less likely to damage the finish.
Apply any type of lubricant such as petroleum jelly, furniture
wax, liquid furniture polish etc. Let it sit at least 8 hours.
If the water ring was not too pronounced, the water (moisture) under the
finish will have been replaced by the lubricant you applied.
Slightly dampen a clean cloth with some denatured alcohol and then pass
it lightly over the water mark. Make sure you keep the cloth moving and
just try to skim the surface. BE VERY CAREFUL. Too much alcohol will
dissolve a shellac finish and could damage a lacquer or water based
finish. Start with a very small amount of alcohol on the cloth and add
more if needed. Make sure you watch closely what is happening. You may
want to test this process on an unseen area of the piece first to make
sure it will not harm the finish.
After about 30 seconds to 1 minute you should start to see the ring
lighten up. Alcohol will remove most water rings, however there are
Rubbing Out The Marks
In the worst cases you will have to physically remove the mark by using
a lubricant and abrasive to rub it out. Apply some paraffin oil or
mineral oil over the mark and use 0000 steel wool to rub the mark out.
Be careful not to cut completely through the finish.
Once the mark has
been removed, the steel wool will have left the area dull. You will now
have to even out the sheen so it matches the rest of
the piece. To do this, once again use paraffin oil or mineral oil as a
lubricant along with finer abrasives like pumice powder, or even finer,
rottenstone. The finer the abrasive you use, the more gloss you will
Rubbing out the mark is the most likely to do damage to the finish and
is the most time consuming. It should only be a last resort if the other
methods have failed. For more information on using fine abrasives,
see my article "Rubbing
Out A Finish"