Best Ways to Fix Scratches on Wood Tables

updated Sep 8, 2022
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Scratching is a natural (albeit, mildly annoying) part of owning wood furniture. The good news is that you don’t have to live with these marks. There are actually a bunch of ways to repair a scratch, fill it in, or help to camouflage it. Here are a few of the most effective ways to revamp your wood furniture.

Iodine 

If your table is a dark wood finish , reach for the iodine, an antiseptic solution you can find at most pharmacies. Take a cotton swab and apply a few drops of iodine into the scratch, then immediately wipe away the excess so it doesn’t stain the surrounding wood. That way, you can maintain a wooden dining table.

Mineral oil and Pumice

To rub out scratches on the surface of a wood table, make a paste with mineral oil and pumice (in powder form, which you can grab from a hardware store). Take some steel wool (ideally, extra-fine-grade so you don’t damage your furniture) and rub the paste on the scratched area. Wipe it off with a damp paper towel, then buff with a dry one. 

Car Polish 

If you have a french-polished table, try to remove the scratch with a bit of car polish. Just be gentle so you don’t remove the shine along with the scratch.

Crayon

A more temporary solution: Grab a wax crayon that closely matches the color of your table, color in the scratched area in the direction of the scratch, and then blend with your finger. The scratch won’t actually disappear altogether, but it should be covered up. (The same trick will work with an appropriately colored eyebrow or eyeliner pencil.)

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Walnut

Same idea! Just with a walnut instead of a crayon.

Tea

This is probably the solution that comes up first if you’re doing an internet search. A spent tea bag can be used to stain a scratch. Just don’t let it (or any water) sit on the table for too long, as the water can seep into the scratch and cause more stains or, worse, warp the wood!

Craft Paint

Oil-based craft or artist’s paint can also cover up wood scratches. Find a color that’s a tad darker than the finish of your wood (because it’ll dry lighter), then rub a bit of paint into the scratch. Just don’t use this trick with polyurethane-finished furniture.

Instant Coffee

Another one for darker-stained wood finishes: Try making a thick paste with instant coffee granules and a little bit of hot water, then cover the scratch with it. Remove unwanted, excess grounds from the wood surface and dry it with a towel.

Vaseline 

Smear petroleum jelly over a scratch and leave it overnight. It might help the surrounding wood to plump up and fill in the scratch. Wipe away in the morning and polish the surface.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

Lemon Juice

Minor scratches often respond well to citrus (ever wonder why furniture polish smells like orange or lemon?). For a minor scratch on the finish rather than the wood itself, make a solution of lemon juice and olive oil, and cover the scratch with it. Rub in the direction of the scratch until it fades or disappears.

Shoe Polish

Shoe polish is also said to work, either the paste or liquid kind. Simply use a cotton swab to fill in the scratch with a polish of similar color. 

Vinegar and Oil

Similarly, you can mix 1/2 cup of vinegar (apple cider or white seem to work best) with 1/2 cup of cooking oil (bloggers seem to like canola) to polish wood scratches and cracks. Dip a microfiber cloth in the solution, and then rub firmly on the wood surface until the scratch goes away. The oil will swell the cracks and fill them in, while the vinegar will gently stain the wood. 

Peanut Butter 

Because walnuts are known to work wonders on damaged wood, it’s no surprise peanuts apparently do too. To give your wood furniture a little rehab, rub a little peanut butter on, leave on for about an hour, wipe with a wet rag, then buff. Good as new!

Do you have a method you swear by when it comes to fixing scratches on wood furniture?