How to Fix Discolored Wood Table? Best DIY Ways

Wood tables are susceptible to various damages including discolorations caused by everyday use. Discolorations on wood tables can be caused by dirt buildup, water, ink, wax, paint, and burns. However, you can readily fix these discolorations using easy DIY techniques and natural or chemical products.

The type of discoloration will determine the solution but here are some ways to fix discolored wood tables:

  • Using dish cleaner
  • Using wood polish
  • Using denatured alcohol
  • Using mayonnaise or petroleum jelly
  • Using vinegar and olive oil
  • Using homemade gentle abrasive
  • Using heat
  • Using commercial stain removal
  • Sanding and refinishing
  • Using mineral spirits
  • Freezing and scraping

In the rest of this article, we will talk about the typical discolorations that plague wood tables, and how to get rid of them.

Getting rid of dirt discolorations on wood table

Tables easily accumulate dirt, dust, and residues from years of usage. These dirt buildups can change the natural color of your previously pristine wood tables and prevent them from looking their best. Dirt discolorations affect the topmost layer of the furniture hence, it is quite easy to remove.

To do this, you need water, mild soap, and a soft cloth or sponge. With the soapy damp sponge or cloth, go back and forth along the wood grain until the table is clean. Be careful not to use too much water on the wood.

Once the table is clean, wipe the surface with a clean dry cloth and let the table air-dry completely before proceeding to waxing and polishing.

Getting rid of water stains on wood table

Tables with old lacquer and shellac finishes are susceptible to discolorations caused by water. These discolorations can come in the form of:

  • White stains
  • Dark stains

White stains

These are stains caused by liquid spills and splashes that are left to linger as well as condensation from cups of hot or cold liquid placed on the table without a coaster. Therefore, making the wood finish absorb moisture which leaves white rings, spots, or haze in its wake. Thankfully, white stains are easier to remove because they affect the wood finish and not the wood itself.

However, getting white stains on your wood table are symptoms that the protective layer is getting thinner. Hence, after fixing the white stains, it is best to reinforce the wood finish by applying a fresh coat.

Now, here are some ways to get rid of white stains:

  • Using wood polish
  • Using denatured alcohol
  • Using mayonnaise or petroleum jelly
  • Using vinegar and olive oil
  • Using homemade gentle abrasive
  • Using heat
  • Using commercial white stain removal

1) Removing white stains using wood polish

To remove white stains from wood furniture, put some wood polish on a lint-free soft cloth and buff the surface lightly until the white spot is removed. Then, apply wood wax and polish the surface to shine.

2) Removing white stains using denatured alcohol 

Another way to get rid of white stains is by using denatured alcohol. Add some denatured alcohol to a lint-free soft cloth and buff the surface lightly in the direction of the wood grain until the white stain is gone.

Do not use too much alcohol in order not to damage the wood finish. And after the white stains are gone, wax and polish the surface of the table.

3) Removing white stains using mayonnaise or petroleum jelly

Mayonnaise and petroleum jelly can seem unusual in this context, but trust me they can help you get rid of those pesky white stains that are making your table unsightly. This method requires applying a small quantity of mayonnaise or petroleum jelly to a soft pad or cloth and using it to buff out the white stains. For stubborn stains, you can leave the mayonnaise or petroleum jelly on the area for some hours before returning to buff it.

4) Removing white stains using vinegar and olive oil

A mixture of vinegar and olive oil is efficient at getting rid of white stains on wood furniture. Make this mixture with equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Then, apply it to the stained areas using a brush.

Leave the mixture to sit for ten minutes before using a damp cloth to clean the surface. Dry it with a clean cloth and also leave it to air-dry. Finally, wax and polish the table.

5) Removing white stains using homemade gentle abrasives

If the above methods do not give you a satisfactory result, you can also use a gentle abrasive to remove white stains from wood furniture. Thankfully, you can make these abrasives using readily available household supplies like baking soda, and non-gel white toothpaste or mineral oils like coconut, linseed, or vegetable oils.

To make a homemade gentle abrasive, mix one part baking soda with one part toothpaste or your choice of mineral oil. Gently apply the mixture on the white stains with a sponge or cloth using a circular motion until they disappear. Afterward, wipe the table surface with a clean damp cloth before buffing it with a dry cloth.

6) Removing white stains using heat

Since white stains are caused by moisture trapped in the wood finish, a clever way to get rid of the moisture and the resultant stain is to dry it with heat. To remove white stains using heat, you will need a hair dryer or an iron.

When using a hairdryer, set its control to low heat. Then, direct its nozzle to areas with white stains and leave it there for 10 minutes.

For removing white stains using an iron, place a heat-friendly cloth on the stained areas. Then, make the iron moderately hot and place it over the cloth to absorb the moisture and remove the stain.

7) Using commercial white stain remover

If homemade methods are not your forte or you are short on the required household supplies, you can easily get a commercial white stain remover from furniture stores. Then, apply the product to the affected areas following the instructions by the manufacturer.

Dark stains

Dark stains are caused by moisture that has been absorbed beyond the finish and into the wood. As a result, these stains require more effort to get rid of them.

Getting rid of dark stains requires removing the wood finish by sanding and refinishing. This can be time-consuming if the dark stains are on several areas of the table requiring you to work on the entire furniture.

To get rid of dark stains, use fine-grit sandpaper to sand the stained areas, removing the finish and the stained wood layers. For deep stains, you can use gentle bleach on the areas or use a chisel to carve out the stained areas. Then, fill the gouged areas with an appropriate filler that matches the wood color.

Once the entire stain has been removed and the sanded surface is leveled, use a dry cloth to clean the wood dust. Then, proceed to refinish the table with the right choice of finish.

Getting rid of ink stains on wood table

Children are naturally babyish. You will often find them dedicated to scribbling on wood tables or other unseemly surfaces rather than books. But even adults are not completely immune to staining tables with ink when writing.

Thankfully, recent ink stains can be easily cleaned by damping a sponge with mineral spirit and rubbing it on the stained area. When it’s completely clean, buff the area lightly with a clean damp cloth. Then, dry it with a clean dry cloth and leave it to air-dry. Finally, wax and polish the table.

Meanwhile, long-term ink requires removing the finish by sanding and refinishing. Do this by using fine-grit sandpaper to remove the finish and proceed to sand the ink stains as well.

When the entire ink stain is removed, sand the surface to make it level. Then, clean it with a dry cloth and refinish the surface.

Getting rid of wax stains on wood table

Wax stains affect only the surface of the wood which makes them easy to remove. However, you still have to be cautious.

Wiping a candle wax stain from a wood table while it’s still warm, will smear the wax deeper into the wood and make it more difficult to clean. Also, using a sharp object to scrape off the wax when it’s solid might damage the surface of the table.

To get rid of wax stains on a wood table, what you will do instead is place some ice over the wax and freeze it. Then, use a plastic scraper to push the frozen wax, it should come off easily.

Afterward, moisten a soft cloth with mineral spirit and use it to buff the area. Finally, apply wax and polish the table surface to shine.

Getting rid of paint stains on wood table

Paint stain does not penetrate deep into the wood hence, it is easy to fix. It is even easier to clean a fresh paint stain rather than dry ones. To clean paint stains, you need to get the appropriate solvent for the type of paint you are trying to remove.

For instance, getting rid of gel paints requires acetone as the solvent. Meanwhile, for latex paints, you need water, and for oil-based paint, you need mineral spirits. To get rid of wet paint stains, clean the affected area with a cloth dampened with the appropriate solvent.

When it comes to dried stains, remove them by gently lifting the paint with a sharp object like a putty knife. Be careful not to damage the table surface while lifting the paint and do not scrape at the surface. When the stain has been lifted, clean the area with a cloth moistened with the solvent.

Getting rid of burn discolorations on wood table

Tables get discolored from burns caused by placing cigarettes or hot objects directly on the table. Fixing burn discolorations requires sanding out the charred areas to reveal an unburnt surface.

For deep burns, you will need to remove the charred areas with a putty knife. Then, fill the resulting groove with a color-matching wood filler making sure the entire surface is leveled. Afterward, clean the surface with a dry cloth and refinish the surface.