Easy Steps To Remove Water Stains From Untreated Wood

Water is one of the natural enemies of wood, which can not only cause it to swell but also make it rot. Even if you end up cleaning the water right away and drying it off, there might still be water stains left behind. Which can ruin the aesthetic look of wood and its beautiful grain. But with these easy steps to remove water stains from untreated wood, you can retain its beauty.

You can remove water stains from untreated wood by using a clothing iron to remove the trapped moisture on its surface. You do this by gradually applying heat using a clothing iron on its lowest setting. By putting a clean white t-shirt between the iron and the surface you are using it as a buffer for the heat to transfer slowly. So it does not burn the wooden surface and also it can absorb the moisture that gets released in the form of steam.

Reasons Why You Can Get Water Stains on Untreated Wood

Water stains can mark your wooden furniture and projects through many means. The most common reason that water stains plague your furniture is that people often forget to put coasters under their drinks. 

Cold beverages can cause the condensation of water droplets on the vessel. Which drips down and seeps into the wooden furniture. Another common reason is hot beverages which trap moisture under the finish. If you dry the water right away, you might be able to avoid any stains or damage. Though, if you do end up with any water stains, there are many ways by which you can remove them. 

We will be discussing one of these methods step by step to guide you through it properly. Additionally, we will mention a few other surefire ways that people use to remove water stains from untreated wood.

Steps to Remove Water Stain from Untreated Wood

As we said before, treating water stains at the earliest stage possible is the best way to deal with them. With that in mind, this method usually works best on wood that has been recently affected. If there are water stains on a piece of wood for a long time, it might be harder to treat it.

Step 1 – Preparation

First, you need to prepare the items you will need for this process. You will need a clothing iron, microfiber clothing, and a clean white t-shirt. Since you will be trying to evaporate the moisture absorbed by the wood through an iron, make sure to use a white shirt without anything printer on it. Otherwise, the iron might transfer the colour of the shirt to the wood.

Step 2 – Cleaning

We need to make sure that the wooden furniture or anything else that you are going to remove the water stain from is clean. Take a microfiber cloth and remove any dust or residue from it. Working on a cleaner piece always provides the best results.

Step 3 – Setting Up the Iron

If you own a steam iron, remove any water from it beforehand and make sure it is dry. If any water is left behind in the iron it might cause steam from it to add more damage to the wooden piece instead of treating it of the water stain. Also, you will want the iron to be on its lowest setting.

Step 4 – Ironing out the Stain

Fold your clean white t-shirt and place it on the water stain and put the iron with its lowest setting on it. Slowly move the iron if possible, making sure not to keep it in one place for too long. 

After a while check the progress of the water stain, whether it has started to fade a bit. If possible change the sides of the shirt where it is not warm when placing the iron again after checking.

Slowly but steadily the water stain should be gone from the piece, if possible use a wax-based polish to buff it afterward.

This process usually takes water stains off right away and has been tried and tested by many woodworkers. But in some cases, you might just have to restore the piece if possible. Though not before trying out the other ways you can take off water stains from untreated wood that we will mention below.

Alternate Ways to Remove Water Stains from Untreated Wood

9 out of 10 times the above method works to remove water stains from untreated wood. But in case it did not, or if you don’t have any of the things required to pull it off, here are a few other ways that you can use instead.

1. Hair Dryer

Hairdryers are the best way to heat up a water stain off a piece of wood without damaging it. Since hair dryers produce mild to moderate heat levels, they can be used without the fear of burning wood. Plug it in a power source and crank its level to the lowest, keep it a few inches away from the wood.

Keep the hairdryer moving over the water stain on the wood in circular motions. After a few minutes, you should be able to visibly see the stain fading. Keep at it till it fully vanishes but make sure you keep moving it since you don’t want the wood to get any burn marks. 

2. Mayonnaise

One of the more unorthodox but promised methods of removing water stains from wood is to use mayonnaise. Don’t be surprised to find out that something you make egg sandwiches out of can remove a water stain from wood too. To use it, just take some fresh mayonnaise out of your bottle and apply a little over the affected area. Once you do, rub it a bit and leave it over the stain for an hour or so.

People often go as far as leaving the mayonnaise on the area overnight for best results. If it dries off, just add more mayonnaise and rub it in gently over the stain. Once the time you have decided to leave it on passes, whether a few hours or overnight, clean it off with a clean cloth. Hopefully, once you clean off any residue of the mayonnaise, the water stain will have vanished.

3. Lemon Oil

Lemon oil is one of the best ways to clean off grease, grime, and stains from wood. It is often used as a wood cleaner by instrument maintenance specialists. 

The cleansing qualities of lemon oil are not limited to grease and grime, it turns out you can remove water stains from wood using it as well. To use it, just apply a few drops of the lemon oil directly to the stain. Leave it on there for a few hours for it to take effect.

After some time has passed, just take a clean microfiber cloth and wipe the oil off. Remove any residue and then buff the piece to a shine, once you are done, you will be left with your furniture without the water stain and the fresh scent of lemons.

4. Toothpaste

Another unorthodox method of removing water stains from wood is to use toothpaste. The chemical composition of toothpaste (not gel) removes any marks and stains from wood with ease. For it to work, you have to apply some over the stain and rub it using a cloth. Leave it on for a few hours or for more effective results, overnight.

When a few hours or the night has passed, check to see if the stains are still there, if they are, keep the paste on for a few more hours. Once you see the stains have vanished, just wipe off the toothpaste and apply a compound polish on the wood, buff it properly to a shine. 

5. Baking Soda

Baking soda has been used for more than just cooking for a long time. It has been a remedy for cleaning teeth, metals, and removing stains from wooden objects. With the cleaning properties of baking soda in mind, we will be applying it to remove the water stains from the wood. 

To do so just mix some baking soda with enough water to make a paste out of it. Do not add too much water or it will dilute the effect and might even cause more stains to appear on the wood.

Apply the paste on the affected area and rub it in using circular motions with a cloth. Keep at it for a while until you start to see the stain fade and vanish. Once it does go away, wipe it off using another clean cloth and make sure no residual is left on it. Take some wax buff the piece for extra protection and to keep moisture out in the future.

What to do If None of the Methods Above Work?

If the water stain has been on the piece for very long and no remedies work on it, it is best to restore it from scratch. All you need is a restored polish that can bring life to the wooden piece again while removing the stain altogether. But this method requires more work than any of the other ones mentioned above. It requires you to sand the whole piece all over and then reapply a finish on it.

Take 180-grit sandpaper and start to remove the finish on the wooden surface. If the finish is not getting removed easily, you might have to go down to 80-grits and work your way up to 180s-grit again. 

Once the previous finish has been removed properly, take something like Howard’s Restor-a-finish and apply a coat of it all over. Make sure the water stain is not visible anymore after the Restor-a-Finish has cured.

You can then apply a sealer or wax depending on what kind of finish you require. A sealer is much better as it prevents moisture from penetrating wood, while wax can do the same, it is weaker and gets easily scratched off. But with a wax finish, you can buff the piece to a glossy shine with nothing but a microfiber cloth and elbow grease.

What is the Difference Between Treated and Untreated Wood?

Wood is treated with various chemicals which act as a preservative for them. Untreated wood is natural and does not have any chemicals applied to it. These chemicals can range from being mildly reactive to highly damaging to a person’s health. 

Some of these chemicals have even been banned for use on wood in the U.S. by law. When it comes to your health and those around you, it is better not to compromise by using treated wood instead of untreated.

Untreated wood is specifically recommended for use to make furniture for kids and their playgrounds. Whether it is a bed, a table, chairs, a bench for the playground, or any other thing related to children, untreated wood is used in most cases. 

So if you ever want to work on a project for your kids, try to get your hands on untreated natural wood. In fact, just get untreated wood for each and every one of your projects if possible.


Which setting to keep the clothing iron on when you use it to take off water stains from wood?

Keep your clothing iron at the minimum setting, warm is more than enough, you don’t have to switch it to hot. Also, make sure to keep the iron moving and not stationary over the t-shirt. One more recommendation is to fold the shirts a few times so that the heat travels to the wood slowly. Otherwise, there is a chance you might end up burning the wooden surface instead of taking off the water stain.

What kind of baking soda is good for removing water stains from untreated wood?

Using the household baking soda will do the job fine, you do not have to go out of your way to find any industrial grade product. All of the methods mentioned above require household items, and nothing specific.

Is it possible to sand the water stain off?

Yes, you can sand off the water stain from the wooden surface. But, this method only helps if the water stain is on the surface level and does not go any deeper. If you feel like it, you can use the clothing iron method first to dry the wooden surface properly, then you can sand it off if the method seems ineffective. Because, even if the iron does not remove the water stain, it will dry the moisture from the wood completely. After which, sanding it will do the job just fine.

Final Thoughts

Having any stains on your wooden furniture or decoration can cause it to lose its beautiful look. So we are sure that after using any of the methods above to remove the water stain from untreated wood, you will breathe a sigh of relief. If nothing else, restoring the piece will definitely do the job for you. In case you don’t have the tools to do so, always ask a professional to do the job for you.

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

Recent Posts