May 18, 2021   1:26am

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How to get rid of those moisture rings on your table

No one likes to be that hostess… You know, the one frantically running around the party with coasters in one hand while placing it under your drink with the other. Instead, consider these helpful tips from a snoety favorite, The New York Times’ “The Fix” which explains how to remove water rings from wooden furniture.

Read our condensed version below, or, check out the entire article, here.

First step: Determine if your stain is white or black: “‘With a white ring or white haze, what we’re seeing is moisture trapped in the top of the finish,’ said Bruce Johnson, the national spokesman for Minwax and the author of home-repair books like ‘The Wood Finisher’ and ’50 Simple Ways to Save Your House’ (both published by Ballantine Books). ‘If it’s a black ring or black stain, the water has penetrated through the finish and actually gone into the pores of the wood and caused a chemical reaction. That’s bad news.’

If your stain is white, you can try removing it with home remedies such as hairdryers, mayonnaise, lemon oil or toothpaste. No, we are not joking.  (NOTE from Harriett:  Suggest you don’t do what I did — put a match just above the stain to heat it.  Yes, it works — but it can also light your finish on fire leaving a burn mark!)

For fresh stains, the hairdryer trick works the best. Just put it on a low setting and move it across the stain. This will help evaporate trapped moisture.

If that doesn’t work, try wrapping your finger in a cloth, dipping it in mayonnaise and rubbing gently over the stained area. This will usually pick it right up, but for those that don’t disappear immediately, let the mayonnaise sit for about an hour before rubbing again.

For those pesky ones that still won’t budge, try rubbing it with lemon oil on a steel wool pad. Make sure you rub gently though, as you don’t want to further damage the surface. Or, you can try toothpaste (but the article warns that this often results in a change in sheen, so unless you want to coat the whole thing in toothpaste to make it even, be careful with this option).

To remove a black mark, the experts agreed that the damaged area needs to be stripped of its finish so it can be treated with oxalic acid, a wood bleaching agent. Mr. Triestman said that, unlike regular bleach, the acid restores the patina. A new finish then needs to be applied to the area.”

The article warns to leave matching finishes to the experts if you really care about the piece. Or you could try putting out more coasters before parties although human error (and carelessness) often overrides this foresight solution.


The New York Times, “The Fix: Removing the Rings,” by Tim McKeough, May 27, 2009

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