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There have been many a time that a coaster has failed, a trivet hasn’t done it’s job, or another accident has occurred, marring an otherwise perfect piece of furniture. We’ve all been there. So, it’s been only with time and our own experiences that we’ve narrowed down this list of helpful tricks and fixes for your wood furniture mishaps. If you’ve found yourself in a troublesome situation, and your solution has been a permanent tablecloth or similarly colored (but not perfect) magic marker, gird up your fabric, throw out those stain paint pens, and read on!

Water Stains
What may be viewed by some as the worst thing that can happen to wooden furniture. Especially to furniture that’s made it unscathed for 100+ years, and you’re the dolt who spilled water or had an overflow. No worries, there’s a few fixes for your water-logged woe!

If your water stain appears to be surface-only — that is, the stain is white or grey (like the ghost of your mistake) and not a dark discoloration — grab your toothpaste and get your elbows ready. Most toothpaste has just enough baking soda in it to be abrasive, but not to remove the stain or finish from your wood. Using a soft cloth, apply toothpaste to a small area (like your fingertip), and work in the direction of the wood grain. Do NOT move in circles, as this will make the abrasion much more obvious. Because the toothpaste is more gentle than a baking soda paste or steel wool, a light application of wood wax will finish the job.

If your water stain is dark, or hasn’t budged despite multiple applications of toothpaste, use a paste of baking soda and water, or a very fine steel wool (0000), in the same with the direction of the wood grain motion. This will get through the wood’s finish in lifting the stain, but will require a stain and wax or a tinted wax to return the spot to it’s original color. Test stain colors on an inconspicuous spot before you get started — the principle of the saying “measure twice, cut once” applies to stain repair, too.

Heat Stains
If your ghostly apparition isn’t due to water, but due to heat (or, a combo of heat and condensation), use a medium-hot iron and a white cloth (tshirt or towel) to solve the stain. For every thickness of the cloth (folded twice, folded again – so 4x thickness), use that many pumps of steam (4 pumps), then use the cloth to wipe the area on the table. Repetition will likely be necessary, but you’ll be surprised by how completely your stain is absolved. Apply a very thin layer of wood wax to ensure the spot isn’t detectable at all.

General Maintenance
Your skin won’t be nourished unless you apply lotion, especially to the dry spots, and your furniture won’t continue to glow unless you apply appropriate products to ensure the wood’s health. Sanding and restaining is a complex project — so maintaining wood health ensures you won’t lose a weekend. Keep your wood furniture as dust free, stain free, and damage free as possible by dusting with an anti-dust and polishing product, and spot-wax yearly (or as needed) to further the glow. Your consistency in caring for your furniture is the first line of defense in keeping it looking good.

I prefer Johnson’s wood wax — why mess with an original? It deep cleans the woods and should be one of the first things you do with a new furniture find.

Johnson's wood wax

For routine dust maintenance, I prefer Pledge anti-dust products, as they seem to preserve the wood’s natural sheen without adding too much of a waxy or slimy film (when used properly).


Old English Lemon Oil Furniture Polish is great on wood furniture (stained, not painted). Use an old t-shirt and rub it on your furniture.  It will condition the wood and help protect it from water spills. It leaves your furniture looking shiny and healthy.