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DIY – How To Remove White Heat Stains On Wood Table

We have an old wood table that has been used and abused for years. I brought it out over the holidays for card playing and commented how badly stained it was–while quickly covering with a cloth.

ExampleThese white cloudy marks are caused by placing hot dishes directly on the surface. It’s been damaged like this for several years.

A few are from chinese food takeout containers and another was caused by pizza boxes. It seems the heat from the containers scorches or somehow steams the finish.

There were also some watermark rings caused by setting cups and glasses directly on the surface. You name it–this table was covered in it. Like I said–it’s been abused!

The bottom right picture is a snap of the finished table, all the stains are gone. The spot at bottom center is just glare from the light. One of these days I’ll figure out the camera and take better pictures–the wood has a dark finish but you’d never know it from these pictures!

What did I do to fix the problem? While setting out the table, a relative gave me a tip: for the scorch marks, just take an iron and apply heat to the cloudy stains, they’ll disappear! If that’s too aggressive for you, no worries, I have some other ideas listed here as well.

First, here are the steps I took to remove them…

A few days later and the surface is still great. The cloudy discolorations haven’t returned. I keep running my hand across the top and I can’t feel any damage to the finish. I’m amazed at how easily this cleaned up–it’s a totally different piece of furniture now.

Caution: I have no idea if this damages the finish, I’m not an expert. It’s something I tried and worked very well in this case.

Added: Although many are finding this technique works on their furniture pieces, some are reporting that this makes the problem worse (see the comments below). The reason for the discrepancy could be what the type of finish is…varnish or shellac. I believe my table in this project is varnish, but I haven’t tested it to confirm.

Added: Glorious tips & suggestions have been contributed by many readers and those souls brave enough to test this…here’s the condensed version of the possible solutions if this technique fixes the original stain–but adds an outline of the iron:

  1. Try a lower temperature and move the iron slowly around the area instead of letting it sit (thanks Matthew!).
  2. Others report success with hot temp & no steam (thanks Flora Monroe!)
  3. and another suggestion to fix this with just a hot iron hovering over the spots (not laying one down on cloth–but hovering–thanks mark harris, Tom, myf, Roxanne, Diana and Melanie!)–I believe they all used steam for the hover technique.
  4. Also scroll down for Dan’s helpful tip using rubbing or polishing compound instead of the above technique if it’s too scary or aggressive for you.

Read the comments below for all the feedback I’ve received and how this has worked out for others. I’m thrilled this tip is working for so many–believe me, I know the state of panic you’re in! Also continuing to try finding a method that works for those that aren’t experiencing success yet, please drop a note if this worked (or didn’t work) for you :).

More Items & Techniques To try

*First published on a separate page and moved here for better organization

If the above steps above are a bit too aggressive for you, try one of the tips below…