5 Ways to Fix Water Stains on Wood Tables (And 1 Method You Should Probably Skip!)

published Aug 16, 2019
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn

What did we do before we could find the answers to all of life’s problems online? Or, at least, to all household questions one may have? It’s rare to have an issue with something at home that you can’t find an expert solution to with a quick search. But, friendly reminder here, just because you read it on the internet doesn’t mean it’s the right solution for you.

Today I give you the case of the mayo water ring fix. 

Don’t you hate water rings/stains on your wood tables? No matter how many coasters you have in your house, it seems like that one condensating glass of water is still going to end up sitting squat on a wooden table — completely free of a coaster or other barrier. I’m not a mom, but I feel like one when I go around after other people, sliding coasters under glasses or moving them to non-wood surfaces. 

But despite my best efforts, sometimes it happens. So naturally I turned to Google to find out what to do. And what did I find but the kind of bizarre fix that practically writes its own headline. You know: The Weird Pantry Item That Fixes Wood Ring Stains. Would you believe it? Mayonnaise. 

And this wasn’t buried deep in the annals of Reddit. No, the advice comes from MOST of the internet. Including home improvement guru Bob Vila. The site says the oil in the mayonnaise “displaces the  moisture” in a water ring. Who am I to argue?

So, I slathered some Trader Joe’s mayo onto a water ring on my dining room table and waited for the magic.

Except, it wasn’t so much magic that appeared when I wiped away the mayo, but a big blob of grease stain (and insult upon injury, the water ring was still visible!). 

Strike one for internet advice. I followed still more online suggestions for removing the grease (dish soap and water) with limited success before swearing off testing any more offbeat solutions without seeing photo proof. 

Still, the question remains. What’s the best way to remove a water stain from a wood table? There are several other commonly appearing answers. Before attempting any of them, though, I would strongly urge you to test the method on an inconspicuous area of the wood. If I’d tried the mayo under the table runner first, I wouldn’t be looking at the spot every day from here on out now. 

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn


Using an iron (emptied of all water) or a hair dryer,  either briefly iron over a cotton T-shirt on low over the ring, or move the hair dryer back and forth over the stain for several minutes until (hopefully!) the marks disappear. 


This one’s as weird as mayo, but word is that a white, non-gel toothpaste can lighten the ring. Using a cleaning rag with a dab of toothpaste, massage it onto the stain, then scrub it lightly for a few seconds up to under a minute. (Be careful to limit your scrubbing to just the ring itself or you’ll risk damaging the finish elsewhere). 

Baking soda and furniture wax

This one takes a little more elbow grease. You’ll make a paste with baking soda and water, and apply it to a microfiber cloth, then rub the affected area for — count it — five to 10 minutes, following the wood grain and keeping to only the stained areas. Then wipe up residue or any remaining moisture with a dry cloth, and reseal with furniture wax. This apparently also works with salt instead of baking soda, as well.

Vinegar and oil

It’s not just for salad dressing! Mix up equal parts vinegar and olive oil and use a soft cloth to apply it to the ring, moving with the wood grain. Follow that up with another clean, soft cloth.

Sand it

And the nuclear option: if none of these tricks work, and you just can’t live with the stain, sand the wood down and refinish it. (This may take a pro). 

Or you could always just put a tablecloth over it! Have you tried any of these methods? We’d love to know which ones have worked for you!