How to remove water stains from wood and walls

Glasses of water on table with water stains
Glasses of water on table with water stains (Image credit: Shutterstock)

You’ll need to know how to remove water stains from wood and walls without damaging them if, for example, a chilled glass has left a ring on your dining table or you have splashes on the wall.

While it might seem counterintuitive that water can leave stains, it isn’t always pure, and the impurities within can cause staining. In addition, you’ll find some materials or fibres just don’t respond well to getting wet. Essentially, water stains are faint, white marks from mineral deposits formed where water evaporates. White water stains often appear when moisture is trapped in the wood's finish. Not only do water stains look unsightly, they can be tricky to remove without ruining surfaces too.

Luckily, there are ways to remove water stains from wood and walls without damaging them. Just like knowing how to remove candle wax from wood, all you’ll need are some household items found in your kitchen, and careful application. So, before you tackle those unsightly marks, follow these top tips on how to remove water stains from your home, and keep it spotless.  

How to remove water stains from wood

Firstly, we'll cover how to remove water stains from wood. Perhaps you left a cold drink on your beautiful wooden table and forgot the coaster, or kept a glass of water on your nightstand. Either way, you should be able to fix the damage using the following methods.  

1. Make a DIY wood-stain remover 

White vinegar and spray bottle

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. First, create a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and olive oil in a small bowl. Then, dab a clean cloth in the solution to apply directly to the stain. 

2. Next, gently wipe in the same direction of the wood grain until the stain is gone. Finish off by wiping clean with a dry cloth. White vinegar is a great stain remover and DIY cleaning product, while the olive oil acts as a natural, furniture polish.  

2. Use baking soda or salt 

Baking soda and water in glass

Baking soda and water in glass (Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. First, make a paste of one tablespoon of baking soda and one teaspoon of water. Then, dip a clean cloth in the paste and gently rub the stain in a circular motion until it disappears. Try not to use too much water or else you'll make the stain worse. 

2. Alternatively, if you don’t have baking soda, you can use one tablespoon of salt instead. Then, after the stain is removed, restore the shine with wood polish.

3. Brush it away with a toothpaste solution

White toothpaste

White toothpaste (Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Using a standard non-gel toothpaste, apply a drop of toothpaste onto a clean cloth before gently buffing the stain. 

2. Gently rub the stain until it is completely removed, before wiping any residue away with a clean cloth or paper towel. Then use a wood polish to give the surface a shine.

Avoid using a gel toothpaste, as this may stain or discolor the surface, causing further damage. 

4. Use mayonnaise or petroleum jelly 

Petroleum jelly on wooden table

Petroleum jelly on wooden table (Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. Apply a dab of either mayonnaise or petroleum jelly onto a soft cloth and gently rub the stain in a circular motion. Continue this until the stain is removed. Alternatively, you can let it sit for a few hours or overnight with a paper towel on top, to allow it to get to work on the stain. 

2. Once the stain is removed, wipe away the residue with a clean cloth and finish by polishing. The oil in mayonnaise works well to remove any cloudy residue in the wood finish.

How to remove water stains from walls

It's quite common to find walls and wallpaper stained with water, especially in areas where running water is often used, such as the kitchen or bathroom. Thankfully, you can remove these stains too.

Water stain on wall

Water stain on wall (Image credit: Shutterstock)

1. First, add one teaspoon of dish soap to a quart of warm water in a bucket. Then, add plain water in another bucket to rinse off with. It’s best to lay down floor protection to prevent water from soaking the floor or carpet. 

2. Next, dip a clean sponge in the soapy water and squeeze out the excess until it’s damp. Then, start at the top of the stain to gently run in a circular motion until it’s removed. Rinse the sponge a few times in the water when necessary. 

3. Once the stain is completely removed, dip another sponge into the clean water and ‘rinse’ the stain until the soapy residue is all gone. Use a lint-free cloth to wipe the area and then leave to air-dry. If you have other marks on your wall, you might have to check out how to clean painted walls to remove stains. 

How can I prevent water stains on wood?

Drinks coasters on wood table

Drinks coasters on wood table (Image credit: Shutterstock)
  • Always use coasters, pads or mats to rest your glasses or cups on. This will protect the wood surface from any moisture
  • Use a quality wood sealer to act as a protective barrier against stains. You can find one in your local hardware store or if you prefer natural products, we recommend HOPE'S 100% Pure Tung Oil, Waterproof Natural Wood Finish and Sealer ($19, Amazon), which is free from toxic solvents

If you do need to repaint, check out our guides on how to paint a room like a pro, how to paint a ceiling and how to paint kitchen cabinets to transform them on a budget. If you're stripping walls, you'll need to know how to remove wallpaper before painting.

Cynthia Lawrence
Content Editor, Homes

As the Homes Content Editor, Cynthia Lawrence covers all things homes, interior decorating, and garden-related. She has a wealth of editorial experience testing the latest, ‘must-have’ home appliances, writing buying guides and the handy ‘how to’ features. 

Her work has been published in various titles including, T3, Top Ten Reviews, Ideal Home, Real Homes, Livingetc. and House Beautiful, amongst many.

With a rather unhealthy obsession for all things homes and interiors, she also has an interior design blog for style inspiration and savvy storage solutions (get rid of that clutter!). When she’s not testing cool products, she’ll be searching online for more decor ideas to spruce up her family home or looking for a great bargain!