How to Remove White Rings & Haze From Finishes and Furniture (2024)

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Learn how to make those annoying white rings and water hazes disappear from your fine furniture.

Joshua explains that the white haze is actually moisture that is trapped in the finish. He demonstrates on an old board that has finish that has deteriorated.

The finish is soluble in ethanol, which can be determined with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol, which indicates that is likely shellac.

To repair the white ring, we have to re-saturate the finish with alcohol. This will allow the moisture to escape and repair the damaged finish.

The trick is to not over saturate the surface with alcohol. This is best achieved through alcohol vapor. Joshua demonstrates several ways to introduce alcohol vapor to the damaged area.

Joshua Klein is a furniture conservator/maker and is the founder of Mortise & Tenon Magazine.

For more from Josh, check out


Light rings in an old Finnish are some of the nastiest looking problems.

But sometimes some of the easiest to repair there are a lot of different things that people have used recommended to try to remedy this everything from mayonnaise to cigarette ashes and all these oil blends.

And all these mystery solutions to try to wipe on the surface.

Many of them are pretty damaging.

And most of them are not very effective I'm going to show you the way that I've been taught that's a very effective and safe way to handle it pretty quickly and pretty easily.

So before we can treat this, we need to understand what is actually going on in the surface.

If you look here, you'll see all the white that's coming through, and how on the edges, it's, pretty milky looking what you're actually looking at is moisture trapped in this finish to help you understand how this works.

I can I'll tell you how I created this sample board.

This old finish was pretty deteriorated, pretty old and I took a cup of boiling water and poured it on the surface and then set the cup right on there after a few minutes.

This is what you're seeing many of us experienced this by just putting a warm cup of tea on an old table to start to see that bloom that blush sometimes it'll disappear after a few minutes.

But in extreme cases like this it remains.

So to understand how to remove the moisture that's trapped in the finish, we need to understand a little bit about the makeup.

These finishes.

This finish is soluble and ethanol I determine this by taking a cotton swab and testing with alcohol.

And just in an inconspicuous place giving a little wipe if it gets tacky, I know, I'm dealing with something that's alcohol.

Soluble shellac is a very common finish.

But other finishes also would be soluble in alcohol.

If this is the kind of finish you're dealing with an old alcohol soluble, finish you can easily deal with this by introducing alcohol to the surface, your research rating, the finish to allow the moisture to come back out.

If we think back to the big principles applying alcohol to the surface of an old Finnish sounds, pretty intrusive.

And it is.

So we want to start back at the beginning.

What is the least intrusive way? We can introduce alcohol to the surface without actually touching the surface.

If we didn't have to touch the surface that would be ideal.

So my mentor Don Williams came up with this method for a long time.

This is what he used Don taught me that if we can introduce alcohol vapors to the surface, then we wouldn't need the solvent to actually touch.

So for a long time, he advocated for using something just as simple as a yogurt tub, taking some cloth and wadding it up, maybe using fishing line or something to tie it up in there, just to make sure it doesn't fall.

And you could get it a little bit wet with alcohol.

And then set it over the surface, what you're doing then is you're, creating a micro chamber, where you're you're creating a vapor chamber.

So that the moisture can come out the risk with this is that alcohol can drip out of the rag or this could fall on the surface, which would be really detrimental that would be a bad day when that happens.

So this could only be undertaken with a lot of care and experience and I wouldn't generally recommend this for people to try out.

So another way to introduce vapors into this scenario, without actually touching is to use hand.

Sanitizer hand, sanitizer is basically nothing more than gelled alcohol, that's.

What we want to do the gel suspends the solvent so that it doesn't evaporate as readily, and so that it doesn't seep.

So you could get fancy and go to conservation supplies and suppliers and try to get these different gelling agents to add in two different solvents.

But this is something that's available all over the place and is really cheap and easy.

So I'll show you how this works.

You'll notice down here, we'll do this one in the middle to start you see, this is milky area and I.

Take this shop towel.

And for for this for these shop towels, the thickness, they are I've determined that four folds is good.

You could do more you could fold it again or six.

You would want to test this on a piece, that's, not special to you first.

So what we're going to do is we're going to use these towels as a barrier so they're going to prevent any solvent from touching the surface.

And the gel is going to keep it up above the towels before I apply this I have a timer here, I don't, allow myself to do this treatment unless I have a timer because it's so easy to walk away and forget or be doing something else.

And then if you leave this sit for a few hours, you've just you've just dissolved that finish into this.

And you have a real mess on your hands.

So every time I do this I have a digital timer right next to it.

So the first thing I do is I applied the hand, sanitizer onto a towel away from the object and I'm just going to do a little tiny little tiny section so that you see where it's effective and where it's not so I'll, put it right off to the side.

So you can see here's what it looks like before and I'm going to set that there and I'm going to set the timer for one minute.

I'll do one minute at a time after a minute I'll check, if it means more I'll, put it back and allow it for another minute, there's sort of a plateau where it hits four or five times.

And you start realizing maybe this isn't going to be any more effective.


So that was our first minute.

Let's, see? What happened you see that right in the center? So this is the area I had the alcohol it wet to finish the Reda's all to finish just ever so slightly it's, not sticky right now, it's totally dry.

But it was just enough to allow the moisture to come back out.

And then when I pulled it back off, it was totally fine.

So when I do treatments like this I would just make a puddle bigger bigger than the area.

If you if you work it too long, it can get you can possibly change a little bit of gloss.

So anytime you're doing anything like this.

It may be a little bit gloss here.

And in that case, you would have to deal with do with the surface with steel wool and wax and I'll show you that when we go to the next level, okay, so that works.

Pretty good and I'm.

Pretty happy with that.

I think we'd be able to deal with that ring at least with that method, that's great.

If it doesn't work, if it's not quite up to what you need, if it's not quite effective, you still see a little bit of milky left.

The next level you'd want to go to is by actually applying the solvent to the surface.

So we would take a cloth with alcohol and ever-so-slightly I, just want to touch this on the back of my glove and I kind of want it to be wet, maybe a little less than like a dog's nose.

So a little bit drier than that not much at all.

We'd really don't want to apply a lot of wet, liquid we're just trying to introduce it ever so slightly.

So I would airplane down and up like this.

So I come down, just barely touch it and back up and because shellac.

And these kinds of resins drive very very quickly because of the alcohol you don't want to stop and let it smear around it'll, get stuck really quick.

So this is a very quick wipe.

And you can see how it's introducing gloss back in it's almost as if you applied this finish for brand new.

So this, if that's the case and you wanted it to look back like this real, matte finish, you would have to rub it out with steel wool and wax.

So you can see that was very effective as well.

Sometimes, in extreme cases, I in my experience I've seen, you can apply that solvent right to the surface, and it looks like it may work a little bit.

But as soon as it evaporates, still subtly under the surface, in that case, I have found sometimes applying fresh shellac to the surface will sort of it'll, hold that'll lock that in for whatever reason that holds it really well.

This would be the the most intrusive way to work, besides actually stripping the piece because you're adding material to the piece.

So if you can do it without even touching it, that's, great, you can touch it with solvent that's, a little more intrusive.

And then actually adding finish to be the next level.

And if that doesn't work you're looking at potentially refinishing it.

So this is, this is very very similar to applying the alcohol.

But this is this is a related technique to French polishing.

This is more French padding it's, just applying it very gently.

And so I just apply this into the pad here.

And you don't want it very wet.

But you want it to be again, like like a dog's nose.

You know, so it's, not dripping.

And so you can see it.

The shellac is remaining here.

And so I would in that case then just come back and pad, and you can see how it changes to do a little more few more drops.

So that works pretty well.

I will give one word of caution about this though, if this is a historically important finish or something you want to preserve adding new shellac into an old shellac, finish is really not a reversible treatment.

So if it is an important piece that would be a relatively intrusive treatment, but you may want to consult a conservator before doing.

So this is a very straightforward way to deal with it.

It gives you four options and how to deal with it and everything up to refinishing, but I always recommend starting with the least intrusive and easiest.


How to Remove White Rings & Haze From Finishes and Furniture (2024)


How to Remove White Rings & Haze From Finishes and Furniture? ›

Buff the surface lightly and evenly with No. 0000 steel wool dipped in linseed oil. Work with the grain of the wood, rubbing evenly on the entire surface, until the white haze disappears. Then wipe the wood clean with a soft cloth, apply two coats of hard furniture wax, and buff the surface to a shine.

How do you get white circles out of wood furniture? ›

To remove white rings left by wet glasses on wood furniture, mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil and apply it with a soft cloth while moving with the wood grain. Use another clean, soft cloth to shine it up. To get white water rings off leather furniture, dab them with a sponge soaked in full-strength white vinegar.

What causes white rings on furniture? ›

White rings and marks on furniture are caused by water or water vapor coming into prolonged contact with the finish. Dark (brown or black) marks are the result of water penetrating the finish and staining the wood below.

How do you remove haze from wood finish? ›

After soaking a clean cloth in water and wringing it out, dip it in turpentine or a 50-50 solution of ammonia and water. Rub the wood vigorously, going with the grain, until the haziness is gone. If some spots are more hazy than others, you may need the extra cleaning power of lemon oil, cigarette ash or a walnut meat.

What causes white haze on wood furniture? ›

hazy white stains are caused by moisture trapped between the finish on your table, and the wood itself. They are caused by water or condensation sitting directly on the wood. For example, condensation dripping off ice-cold water glasses, or hot food plates resting on the table.

How do you remove moisture rings from furniture? ›

Removing Water Rings with a Mild Abrasive

Make a paste of white, non-gel toothpaste and baking soda. Apply the mixture using either a soft cloth or an old toothbrush. Gently rub the spot in a circular motion until it disappears.

How do you get rid of white fungus on furniture permanently? ›

Use baking soda. Mixing baking soda with water and applying it to the white mold is another effective removal method. Pour baking soda and water into a spray bottle and let the powder dissolve. Spray the solution onto the moldy surface, then scrub with a soft brush or soft cloth.

How do you remove haze residue? ›

To get rid of grout haze on porcelain or ceramic tiles, use a vinegar solution. In a big spray bottle or bucket, combine one part white vinegar with four parts water. For enhanced strength, more vinegar can be used. Use a mop or a soft nylon pad depending on the surface you need to clean.

Will hydrogen peroxide remove wood finish? ›

Hydrogen Peroxide also has a bleaching effect on wood. However, you don't need to worry because unless you apply an unnecessarily powerful hydrogen-peroxide formula or you have really dark hardwood floor, hydrogen peroxide won't affect the color of your floor.

Does isopropyl alcohol remove wood finish? ›

Yes. And this is because of how alcohol interacts with wood and wood finishes. While you might expect it to do nothing or just leave a small stain, rubbing alcohol acts as a solvent when it comes into contact with wood and wood finishes.

What are the white circles on wood furniture? ›

Basically, it's moisture. Whether you have water rings or heat marks, those white stains are the result of moisture penetrating a wood's protective finish. This happens with both cold and hot items, but the process of dealing with them are the same.

How do you get water rings out of wood? ›

In a small bowl, mix equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Apply the mixture to the water stain using a cloth. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain until the stain is gone. The vinegar will help remove the stain while the olive oil acts as a furniture polish.

What is the white film on my wood furniture? ›

Blushing, a white haze over a large surface or an entire piece of furniture, is a common problem with old shellac and lacquer finishes. The discoloration is caused by moisture, and it can sometimes be removed the same way white spots are removed.

What are the white marks on varnished wood? ›

What causes White Stains or White Rings? Water and heat are the main causes of white stains or rings on your wood furniture. These stains are caused by moisture trapped underneath the finish, whether wax or varnish, and this affects the actual finish.

Why do cups leave rings on wood? ›

White stains in the shape of rings are typically caused by the bottoms of hot plates or cold glasses and mugs resting directly in the wood surface. Condensed water or steam pushes into the wood's finish causing the clear layer to become whitish. This can typically be reversed by a quick fix.

How do you restore wood furniture with vinegar? ›

Mix baking soda (half a cup) with vinegar (one cup) Spray the bubbling mixture on your wooden surface. Relax for the solution on the wooden surface to stop bubbling before you clean it with a wet cotton rag. Clean the surface with a new cloth.

Will vinegar water ruin wood? ›

While household vinegar has countless applications in home cleaning, using this versatile substance is not appropriate in many different situations. Because vinegar is acidic, it can corrode wood and stone, it can destroy wax, kill plants, and cause other damage.

How long do you leave mayonnaise on wood? ›

Wipe out water stains on wood surfaces.

Apply 2-3 tablespoons of mayo on a paper towel and lay the towel over the stain, pressing lightly. Leave on for 15 minutes or longer if necessary.

How do you clean white haze? ›

  1. Wait for Grout to Cure. Wait for the grout to dry before using grout haze remover. ...
  2. Clean the Surface. Sweep or vacuum the tile thoroughly, and then wet-mop the tile to dampen it. ...
  3. Mix the Grout Haze Remover. Put on nitrile (chemical-resistant) or latex gloves. ...
  4. Scrub the Tiles. ...
  5. Rinse and Repeat.
Jul 15, 2022

Does mayonnaise restore wood? ›


Fill scratches in wood furniture: If your furniture has any scratches or cracks, you can fix them by applying mayonnaise in and around the affected area. Let it sit for a few days if you want to get the best results before wiping off and buffing with a cloth.

Does mayonnaise remove heat stains from wood? ›

Method Three: Mayonnaise or Petroleum Jelly

Another useful tool in removing white heat stains from wood furniture is oil. The dense ingredient is able to penetrate the surface of the wood, freeing up trapped moisture that is causing the stain. The most common way to achieve this effect is by using mayonnaise.

Can you sand water rings out of wood? ›

Removing water stains from unfinished wooden floors and furniture is the easiest scenario. All you need to do is take some sandpaper and gently sand the stained area. You can also apply some gentle dish cleaning soap and water with a cloth to the stain.

Does Vaseline remove water stains from wood? ›

Vaseline (Petroleum Jelly)

Petroleum jelly can gently penetrate the wood's surface without damaging it, much like it does your skin. Blot the stain, then use a dry sponge or towel to apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly. Let it stand overnight and wipe away in the morning.

What kills white fuzzy mold? ›

So, what kills white mold? To start, you can try just mixing dishwasher detergent and warm water then scrubbing with a scrub brush. If that doesn't work, another option is to use vinegar. Just spray some undistilled white vinegar on the mold and let it sit for at least an hour.

What kills white fungus? ›

Effective organic fungicides for treating powdery mildew include sulfur, lime-sulfur, neem oil, and potassium bicarbonate. These are most effective when used before infection or when you first see signs of the disease. Baking soda has been proven by many gardeners to be effective in treating powdery mildew.

What kills fungus on furniture? ›

Use Vinegar: Mix one part vinegar and one part water. Use the solution to sponge down the molded area and kill mildew, mold, and toxic bacteria at 80%. Use Bleach: For white fabrics and non-porous furniture, create a solution with a ratio of 1:10:20 with detergent, bleach, and warm water.

What is a haze remover? ›

An acidic treatment designed to remove cementitious grout haze. Also effective for the removal of most hard water stains, rust stains,efflorescence and lime deposits. Contains no phosphates. Removes cured grout haze and mortar smears.

Does haze leave residue? ›

In certain environments, fog/haze fluid-based machines may leave a slippery residue on floors and surfaces. If the fluid sensor falsely detects an empty fluid tank and the tank does contain fluid, then there may be an air bubble in the fluid line.

Does wax remove haze? ›

To remove haze or old grime, you'll get better results if you use the paste wax. Although it requires more work, the pressure you apply to remove the wax will also remove the haze. Apply the wax in small sections using small, circular motions.

How do you get water rings out of polyurethane? ›

Seeing a white stain means the water has only seeped into the wood's wax or polyurethane finish. This type of stain is easily fixed using mineral or vegetable oil and a soft cloth. Toothpaste is another common tool for white stains.

What is the best cleaner for finished wood? ›

Best Wood Furniture Cleaners
  • Murphy Original Formula Oil Soap. ...
  • Old English Wood Polish and Restorer. ...
  • Orange Glo Wood Furniture 2-in-1 Clean and Polish Spray. ...
  • Pledge Multi-Surface Furniture Polish Spray. ...
  • Scott's Liquid Gold Wood Furniture Cleaner and Polish.

How long to leave hydrogen peroxide on wood? ›

It's easy to spill oil, butter or other greasy properties on your hardwood floors without noticing. If this has happened to you, soak a cotton rag in hydrogen peroxide and allow it to sit on top of the stain for 5-10 minutes. Repeat until the stain has been removed.

Is rubbing alcohol bad for wood furniture? ›

Rubbing alcohol and finished wood don't mix well. A rubbing alcohol spill on your wood furniture can be disastrous, as they are often permanent stains. That's why taking care of the stain promptly and properly is critical.

Will rubbing alcohol damage furniture? ›

Finished surfaces: Since the ethanol in it is a solvent, rubbing alcohol can liquify varnishes or finishes, doing major damage to your furniture or other surfaces in your home. Avoid rubbing alcohol on painted, shellacked, lacquered, or varnished surfaces, including treated wood.

Is Goo Gone safe on wood? ›

Goo Gone is great for removing crayon marks, glue, and adhesive, all of which can end up on any kind of surface. While Goo Gone is safe for use on most surfaces, including wood, carpet, glass, fabric, and sealed stone, the manufacturer itself says it should not be used on the following surfaces: Silk. Leather.

What causes circles in wood? ›

You're probably familiar with the 'normal' configuration of tree rings within a trunk. These concentric growth rings are formed as the tree grows by creating a new layer of cells. During each season a tree grows vertically at the root and shoot tips (primary growth), and also laterally.

What are the white things coming out of wood? ›

White bloom resulting from fats, oils and waxes in wooden materials may be referred to in literature as 'fatty bloom,' 'fat bloom,' or 'fatty spew (or spue). These terms all refer to the formation of crystals on the surface that form from fats or oils either applied to the surface or left as residues from use.

Can baking soda remove water stains from wood? ›

The most common method for getting water stains out of quality wooden furniture is by using baking soda. This is most effective with stains that have just occurred, so old water rings may not budge, but a new one will disappear. All you'll need is a box of baking soda, water, soft cloths, and furniture wax.

What are the white marks on lacquered tables? ›

The lacquer causes a cooling effect as it dries and if it cools the surface down below the dew point you get condensation which will create this white discoloration in your finish.

What are the white spots on my furniture? ›

White water marks on wooden furniture can be caused by both heat and moisture. Usually shaped like the circumference of a warm cup of tea mistakenly placed on a wooden surface without a coaster. The heat of the mug opens up the pores of the wood and moisture enters the wooden surface.

How do you remove white water stains from wood veneer? ›

Removing white water spots

A liquid furniture polish is usually enough to remove the white spots from the veneer. Alternatively, you can dip a cloth into denatured alcohol and carefully rub away the spots, making sure the existing polish isn't also removed.

What are the circles on wood called? ›

They are called wood knots and look like this: The knot is formed when a branch has fallen off the tree. This branch may have died and fallen off, or it could have fallen due to natural causes, such as strong winds.

How do you prevent wood oxidation? ›

Keep the wood out of direct sunlight, and try to avoid placing it in areas of high light. (UV light tends to shift the color of certain woods.)

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