These white cloudy stains are caused by placing hot dishes directly on the table. The table has been damaged for years, I can’t even say how long it’s been.
A few are from chinese food takeout containers and another was caused by pizza boxes. It seems the heat from the containers scorches or somehow steams the finish.
There were also some white watermark rings caused by setting cups and glasses directly on the wood. You name it–this table was covered in it. Like I said–this table has been abused!
The bottom right picture is a snap of the finished table, all the stains are gone. The white spot at bottom center is just glare from the light. One of these days I’ll figure out the camera and learn how to take better pictures–the wood has a dark finish but you’d never know it from these pictures!
How did I fix the problem? While setting out the table, a relative gave me a tip: for the white scorch marks, just take an iron and apply heat to the cloudy stains, they’ll disappear! If that’s too aggressive for you, no worries, I have some other ideas listed here as well.
First, here are the steps I took to remove the marks…
- The first thing I did was wash the table top and dry it well.
- I took a clean, white cotton towel that wasn’t too thick and placed it over the scorch marks.
- Taking an old iron set to high dry heat, I placed it on top of the towel, directly over the stain. I let it sit for close to a minute, checked, and nothing happened. The stain was still there.
- I kept reapplying the hot iron with no results, but once I turned the steam on–that’s when the magic happened. The white marks literally disappeared from the table. I couldn’t believe it and it defied logic to me–wouldn’t the steam cause more damage? All I know is that it worked. I was quick to wipe away any moisture and water on the table after each stain was removed.
- Added: A few of the comments below mentioned finishing things off by wiping in a bit of olive oil after lifting the marks with the iron trick.
Caution: I have no idea if this damages the finish or the wood, I’m not an expert. It’s something I tried on an old table and worked very well in this case.
Added: Although many are finding this technique works on their tables and wood furniture pieces, some are reporting that this makes the stain worse (see the comments below). The reason for the discrepancy could be what type of finish the wood piece is in…varnish or shellac. I believe my table in this project is varnish, but I haven’t tested it to confirm.
Added: Glorious tips & suggestions have been contributed by many readers and those souls brave enough to test this on their problem stains…here’s the condensed version of the possible solutions if this technique fixes the original stain–but adds an outline of the iron or a bigger heat stain to the wood:
- Try a lower heat temperature and move the iron slowly around the area instead of letting the iron sit on the mark (thanks Matthew!).
- Others report success with hot temp & no steam (thanks Flora Monroe!)
- and another suggestion to fix this with just a hot iron hovering over the spots (not laying one down on cloth–but hovering–thanks mark harris, Tom, myf, Roxanne, Diana and Melanie!)–I believe they all used steam for the hover technique.
- Also scroll down for Dan’s helpful tip using rubbing or polishing compound instead of the “OMG I’m Desperate” hot iron tip if it’s too scary or aggressive for you.
More Items & Techniques To try*First published on a separate page and moved here for better organization
If the above steps for removing those pesky white water rings or steam marks is a bit too aggressive for you, try one of the tips below…
- Mix 50/50 toothpaste and baking soda, rub into mark. Do not use gel toothpaste for this.
- Rub in a paste of salt and olive oil, allow to sit for up to an hour. Wipe off.
- Rub in Miracle Whip (Mayonnaise) and wipe off after an hour.
- Mix 50/50 vinegar and olive oil and rub into the watermark.
- Try straight toothpaste (non-gel). Rub into the stain then wipe off.
- Make a paste with baking soda and a few drops of water. Rub into stain then wipe off. You can also try salt instead of baking soda.
- Rub some Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly) into the watermark and leave overnight. Wipe off in the morning.