Remove Water Stains From Lacquered or Laminate Wood (Tutorial)

In this tutorial, we are going to look at how to remove water stains from lacquered or laminate wood. This is a common problem that affects lacquer or laminate wood and mostly affects the finishes that have aged or cracked. If it is not addressed in good time, it may lead to damage to the furniture and hence, you need to act on these water stains before it is too late.

To remove water stains from lacquered wood, you need to apply the oil displacement method or heat removal. In oil displacement, apply mayonnaise or petroleum jelly to form a 1/8-inch-thick layer on the stained area and allow it to sit for about 8 to 12 hours. Then, use a damp cloth to wipe excess oil and thereafter spray the lacquered area with furniture oil-based polish and wipe using a dry cloth.

For heat removal, use iron and a damp cloth to remove the stains on the lacquered wood by pressing down the iron on the damp cloth for about 3 to 5 minutes. You can repeat this until there are no stains that are left. We shall discuss this in detail later in this article.

Lacquer is used in most furniture since they provide an appealing and pleasant finish that is elegant and good for home décor. Lacquer finish also works to protect the wood from damage, but as it gets old, it may crack and become easy to get water stains.

Water stains are common in furniture and occur mostly on aged furniture where the finishes may have cracked. This is visible when a glass of water or a mug sits on top of the furniture, hence causing moisture to form around the area. It happens mostly when the utensils placed on top of the finish are still wet and hence can cause rings of water stains to form.

Nature of water stains

These water stains can be light or dark. The nature of the water stains is dependent on many factors including the amount of time the water stains sit on the furniture and the age of the finish among other factors.

Light water stains

The light water stains, as the name sounds mean the stains are lighter and hence easier to remove. The light water stains form a milky-white stain on the finish but the good news is that you can easily remove the light water stains by applying by use of oil displacement or applying heat.

Dark water stains

These are stains that have overstayed on lacquer hence causing a dark substance to form on the surface of the finish. As we mentioned, the light stains are easy to remove and that means, the dark stains may be a bit difficult and may need more work than the light stains.

Since the dark stains are not easy to remove, as we mentioned, it affects mostly the aged finishes that may have cracked. Therefore, the option is to use wood bleach such as oxalic acid wood bleach by brushing the solution over the entire surface. After the bleach has dried, wash off the surface with a soaked cloth or sponge.

How to Remove water stains from Lacquered wood

At this point, you should have an idea of how to deal with the water stains that are affecting your lacquered wood, whether dark or light stains. To make it simple for you, you need to apply these methods:

Method 1 – Oil displacement method

This is the common way to remove light stains by applying oil-based substances such as petroleum jelly or mayonnaise. With this method, you need to scoop oil with a spoon then apply it on the stained surface to make a 1/8-inch thickness. After that, allow the oil to stay on the surface for up to 12 hours so that the oil can absorb into the finish and remove the water causing the stain.

After 12 hours, use a damp cloth to wipe off excess oil on the surface of the lacquer and then spray the surface with oil-based furniture polish. Lastly, clean the polish by wiping it with a dry cloth.

Method 2 – Heat removal

This is perhaps the easiest method. With this, you need to place a damp cloth on the area with the stains (ensure that the damp cloth is folded a number of times to form a thick towel), then with a hot iron, press it on the damp cloth for 3 to 5 minutes. Repeat the process as you check the stains until there are no more stains left.

Method 3 – Using denatured alcohol

Use a damp cloth with denatured alcohol and wipe the water-stained surface until the stain is gone. This method, however, may only work for light water stains. With this method, the alcohol will evaporate hence leaving a shiny smooth appearance that is free of stain. Repeat this with all the areas that have water stains until all the stains are removed.

Method 4 – Use mineral oil

Mineral oil is known to be more effective in cutting through stains. For water stains, you will need to apply a more abrasive substance like toothpaste, then mix it with mineral oil and rub it on the stain using steel wool. When using steel wool with this mixture, it is important to be careful not to leave noticeable marks on the lacquer surface. Of course, it is an effective method but you should only apply this if the stain is hard to remove with any other method above.

Since there are different methods as seen above, it is important to understand the nature of your stain, whether it is dark or light water stains, and to apply the right method that is effective for that particular stain. Of course, all the methods above are effective but suitable for different levels of water stains.

How to Remove water stains from Laminate wood

Water spots or stains in laminate wood can cause an unpleasant film of white areas similar to that of moisture stops. It is a common problem that is easy to deal with by following the right steps.

To remove water stains on laminate wood, you will need to mix distilled water with vinegar, then dip a soft cloth in the solution and wipe over the stains. Repeat the process until there are no more water stains on the laminate wood.

As we did mention, this is the simplest method of removing water stains on laminate wood, and this method also applies to laminate floors. To make it even simple, these are the steps and what you will need:

What you will need:

  • Distilled water
  • Vinegar
  • Soft cloth
  • Turtle wax
  • Elbow grease

Step 1 – Mix distilled water and vinegar

Mix about 3 liters of water with one cup of white vinegar in a bowl or bucket. Distilled water and vinegar are helpful when it comes to removing water films and minerals that may be in the water, in the case of hard water stains.

Step 2 – Wipe with a damp cloth

Dip the soft cloth in the solution of distilled water and vinegar and drip any excess liquid until the cloth is damp. This is to ensure that you do not add more water stains while cleaning. Therefore, the cloth should not be sopping wet but just damp with the solution.

Now apply a wipe on the areas of the laminate where there are water stains until there are no more water stains. If there are still more stains, you may want to apply a little elbow grease or turtle wax before wiping the surface clean.

Step 3 – Repeat the process

It is important to repeat the process until all the water stains in the laminate wood are removed. As we have mentioned, if the stains are resilient, you may apply some turtle wax or elbow grease then wipe the stains until all is gone.

Removing water stains from laminate wood is not as hard as in lacquer. It is an easy process as in the steps above. You can also apply this method if you want to remove water stains from your laminate floors but you should always be careful not to use sopping wet cloth or rag since that may add more water stains making your work more difficult.

Tips on removing any stain from Lacquered and Laminate wood

When it comes to removing stains from lacquered or laminate wood, it is important to understand that different methods work for different stains. Therefore, these tips can help you make the right stain removal choice on your wood:

Seek manufacturer’s advice

Whether you are using lacquered or laminate furniture, it is important to seek the advice of the manufacturer by explaining the nature of your stains. This may help you get the right method to apply and remove the stains without problems.

Use steel wool method as the last resort

As in one of the methods above, you can use steel wool with mineral oil but that should only be the last resort. This can work for stains that seem to have settled permanently and may not be removed by any other method. The reason to avoid this method is that it may leave some visible marks even after the stains have been removed.

Wear protective gear

Some chemicals that are used to remove stains from lacquer or laminate may be toxic. These chemicals such as oxalic acid solution as in one of the methods here may cause irritation of the skin or even respiratory problems. Therefore, it is important to always wear goggles and gloves when handling these solutions.

Consult professionals

If you have applied the recommended stain removal methods and have failed, perhaps your finish is damaged and needs replacement. Therefore, you need to consult a professional to fix the damaged finish. Of course, you may also do this by yourself as well by following the tips given by finish professionals.

Leave the vinegar smell to disappear

When using vinegar to remove the stains, you should not worry about the smell or try other methods to remove the smell. It is important to note that as the vinegar evaporates, the smell will eventually disappear within a short time.

NOTE: If you notice that your Laminate is severely damaged and peeling off, you should consider replacing it with a new Laminate. We have a detailed guide on removing and replacing Laminate to help you go through this process.

How to protect wood from stains

After you are done with removing water stains from lacquered wood or laminate, you need to also know how to protect the wood from stains. This is a protective mechanism, and as the saying goes, it is better to protect than to cure.

It is recommendable to apply the sealer coat on the wood to protect it from stains and make the wood waterproof. Sanding sealer or thinned shellac is an appropriate coat that you can apply. However, you should avoid water-based coats. Also, the sealer that you use if you are using a polyurethane finish should be compatible.

In a nutshell, the best way to protect the wood from stains is by adding a protective finish on the surface. Of course, there are so many types of finishes that you can add to the surface of the wood and these include lacquer, varnish, polyurethane, or shellac among other finishes.

Final thoughts

Removing water stains from lacquered or laminate wood is a process that requires you to understand the different options that you can use. As we have discussed, the older the finish, the more prone it is to water stains. Also, it is important to understand that what can work for light water stains may not necessarily work for dark water stains.

We hope that this article will help you tackle the issue of water stains, whether dark or light using any of the methods that we have discussed. Be sure to wear your safety gear as well when handling the different chemicals that we may have mentioned such as when handling oxalic acid solution.

And if the stains persist after trying the different methods, perhaps your finish needs to be repaired. In that case, you may need to consult professionals to help you fix the problem.

Martin Swizz

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

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