Water Stain Removal from Knotty Pine

Updated April 17, 2017

The average wooden table comes in contact with a myriad of wet glasses in its lifetime. And when you're having a party or watching Monday night football, people rarely think to use a coaster for their glass, which leads to the dreaded water rings on your wood. Removing the stains from your wooden table is almost as easy as putting the stains on it. There's no sanding or refinishing in your future---just a bit of rubbing with white spirit or baking soda, or some heat from your iron.

Apply Heat

The first method involves using the heat from your household iron to remove the water stain. To remove a stain using an iron, grab a clean cotton cloth that is free of lint. Use a white cloth to avoid possible issues with bleeding dyes. Make sure the cloth is also free of any obvious textures. A white cotton T-shirt is perfect for this procedure. Place the cotton cloth on the water stain. Press a hot, dry iron (no steam) on top of the cloth-covered stain for about five seconds, and remove immediately. Continue to do this until the stain is gone, which may take up to two minutes. Make sure the iron does not emit any steam. Moisture created the stain, so more moisture from the steam will not help the problem.

White Spirit and Alcohol

You might want to handle this next solution outdoors because it involves white spirit and/or denatured (rubbing) alcohol. You can usually find white spirit at a hardware or paint store. Both liquids have very strong odours, so be sure to have proper ventilation when using these products. Place a small amount of white spirit on a clean cotton rag---just enough to make the spot on the rag damp and not dripping wet. Rub the stain with the wet cloth for about a minute and wait another two minutes for the spirits to work on the stain. This will remove surface stains that have only stained the wax and haven't seeped into the wood's finish. It may remove the wax and leave the spot looking a bit dull. If this is the case, wipe down the entire surface with white spirit, and apply a spray-on wax such as Minwax polyurethane wax. If white spirit don't take care of the entire job, you'll need to break out the denatured alcohol. The alcohol works by soaking up the excess moisture in the wood caused by the wet glass. Apply a little bit of the alcohol to a clean cloth and rub at the stain. Leave the stain for three to five minutes to give the alcohol time to soak up the moisture and remove the stain. Before using white spirit or alcohol, test a hidden spot on your wood surface to make sure neither liquid damages the finish.


This next method involves using a mixture of a lubricant and a light abrasive to remove the stain from the wood. There are a number of combinations that can work to remove the stain. These combinations include mayonnaise/cigarette ash, non-gel toothpaste/baking soda and salad oil/pumice stone. Apply one of these mixtures to the stain and work it in with a clean, dry cloth. Work the mixture in the same direction as the grain of the wood. You can also use a superfine steel wool pad dipped in paste wax to remove the stain. When the stain has been removed, clean the surface with your favourite wood cleaner or polish and a clean cloth.

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About the Author

Darren White is a third-year student studying photography and art history at Haverford College. Raised in the Philadelphia area, he has followed its art scene for some time, which has influenced his column, The Fashion File, that he writes for the "Bi-Co News." He also writes, edits and photographs for Haverford's fashion magazine, "Feathers & Fur."