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How to remove stains from wooden furniture

Posted by Mark Godsell-Fletcher on

Ink Staned woodFinding a mark on your wooden furniture can seem like the end of the world but quite often it can be easily fixed and the marks can be removed with something as simple as a little elbow grease. There are a huge number of substances that can cause a mark or stain to appear on wooden surfaces and here are just a few of the ways you can get rid of them. Water: A water stain, heat mark or a patch of sloshed coffee can quite often leave a white or light coloured mark if left. There are a number of techniques that you can use to remove these kinds of stains so if one doesn’t work then just move on to the next. The first thing you need to do with any type of water mark is to determine how deeply it has penetrated. A lightly coloured or white stain indicates that it hasn’t gone any deeper than the layer of wax or polish on the surface of the wood and should therefore be pretty easy to remove. A darker stain suggests that it has penetrated the protective layer completely and therefore may have gone through to the wood itself in which case it might require a professional to remove it. Light stains:
  • Try rubbing the area with an oily solution like furniture polish, mayonnaise or a petroleum jelly substance such as Vaseline. The oil should help to displace the stain left by the water – because water molecules don’t like molecules of oil – and your piece of furniture should look like new. If this has done the trick the re-wax your table to make sure the finish is as strong as ever. If this trick hasn’t worked then try the next one.
  • Quite often toothpaste contains a mild abrasive that helps to remove stains from your teeth and should therefore help to remove the stain from your wooden surface without damaging the wood itself. Put a small amount of toothpaste onto a wet cloth and rub it into the stain, this should help lift the stain pretty quickly. If it doesn’t then try adding some baking soda – in equal parts with the toothpaste – and mix them together as this will make the solution stronger.
  • Once the stain has been lifted make sure you thoroughly clean the area and then apply a wax finish so that you can be sure your wood is once again protected.
Water stains – although common – are by no means the only marks that find their way onto wooden surfaces. Another popular one is ink and no matter how long it’s been there you can get it out. The way you go about removing an ink stain ultimately depends on the type of wood it is on: Ink: Untreated wood:
  • Add baking soda to half a cup of water, mix enough to create a paste, and then spread it over the stain and rub it in with your fingers.
  • Use a damp cloth to get rid of the paste and to check whether the stain has gone; if it hasn’t then continue the process until you can no longer see it.
Polished or waxed wood:
  • If it’s a fresh stain then something as simple as washing-up liquid and water will remove it. Use half a teaspoon of washing-up liquid and 1/3 of a cup of hot water to create a solution that can be rubbed on the stain.
  • Use a cloth to collect some of the soap suds – be careful not to cover the cloth in the solution, you only need the suds – and wipe the ink stain away.
  • Make sure you clean the solution off the area with another damp cloth.
For an old ink stain:
  • Use a clean cloth and dip it into a denatured alcohol solution like nail varnish remover and then wipe over the stain. This process will help to remove any dirt that has built up over the stain over time.
  • Next you need to sand the stained area so that the finish of the wood is removed – a small piece of sandpaper will easily do the job – then remove the shavings from the surface.
  • Use a clean cloth that’s been dipped in white spirits to wipe away and grease or oil from the area.
  • With another clean cloth, apply bleach to the stain – undiluted will have a better effect – and leave it to soak in for ten minutes. By this time the stain should have disappeared but if it is still visible then repeat the process until the stain has been removed.
  • Once the stain is no longer visible use clean water to wipe the surface and then dry it with a towel. You should then wait at least twenty four hours before adding a finish to the wood.
Wood stains are common but they’re not the end of the world so before going through an expensive restoration try a few of these tips to see if you can get rid of the stains at home.  

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