Damaged Finish on a Mahogany Table

Mahogany is a tropical hardwood favoured for its red-brown colour and its flame-patterned grain. When properly finished, mahogany's grain shimmers in the light in alternating bands of amber and gold. Mahogany's beauty, especially on tabletops, can be marred by scratches, dents and water rings. Damage to a mahogany tabletop is not usually difficult to fix.


Clean the table surface with a mild solution of dish detergent or oil soap to remove dirt, wax and oil. Use a terrycloth rag or sponge that is damp, but not dripping, to avoid water damage. Spots that are thick with wax or dirt can be gently scrubbed with a nylon kitchen scrubber or the abrasive back of a well-worn kitchen sponge. Wipe all surfaces dry with a clean, dry cloth.

Fill Gouges and Chips

Use a wax wood filler stick to fill gouges and chips. Choose a stick that is the same colour as your mahogany surface. Scrape off excess wax with the edge of a credit card, and smooth the surface with your thumb. If the wax sticks to your thumb, a small amount of white spirit will smooth the process. If you use white spirit, let the wax cure overnight.

Colour Match

Cover scratches with a liquid oil scratch cover in a mahogany colour according to product directions. Alternately, scratches can be masked with an oil-based wood stain thinned with white spirit. Either product should be applied liberally and wiped off of excess solution after about five minutes. Repeat until you achieve the colour you want.

Water Rings

White stains are the result of water being trapped under the finish. Rub the stains gently with a cloth slightly dampened with denatured alcohol. Wring the cloth out thoroughly to prevent damaging the finish with excess solution. Black stains indicate water damage to wood fibres beneath the finish and cannot be removed by this method. In this case, the entire finish needs to be removed, the wood sanded clean and a new finish applied.


Use a petroleum- or beeswax-based paste wax to even the surface and restore the shine. Apply the wax with a soft cloth, first in a circular motion and then with the wood grain. Let the wax harden for about 30 minutes, and then buff the surface to a shine with a clean, soft cloth. Repeat the process for a brighter, more durable shine.

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About the Author

Robert Lewis has been writing do-it-yourself and garden-related articles since 2000. He holds a B.A. in history from the University of Maryland and has training experience in finance, garden center retailing and teaching English as a second language. Lewis is an antiques dealer specializing in Chinese and Japanese export porcelain.