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…

  • The first thing I did was wash the surface and dry it well.
  • I took a clean, white cotton towel that wasn’t too thick and placed it over the scorch marks.
  • Taking an old iron set to high dry heat, I placed it on top of the towel, directly over the stain. I let it sit for close to a minute, checked, and nothing happened. The damage was still there.
  • I kept reapplying the hot iron with no results, but once I turned the steam on–that’s when the magic happened. The marks literally disappeared. I couldn’t believe it and it defied logic to me–wouldn’t the steam cause more damage? All I know is that it worked. I was quick to wipe away any moisture and water on the surface after each treatment.
  • Added: A few of the comments below mentioned finishing things off by wiping in a bit of olive oil after successfully using this trick.

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…

  • Mix 50/50 toothpaste and baking soda, rub in. Do not use gel toothpaste for this.
  • Rub in a paste of salt and olive oil, allow to sit for up to an hour. Wipe off.
  • Rub in Miracle Whip (Mayonnaise) and wipe off after an hour.
  • Mix 50/50 vinegar and olive oil and rub into the watermark.
  • Try straight toothpaste (non-gel). Rub in with the grain then wipe off.
  • Make a paste with baking soda and a few drops of water. Rub in then wipe off. You can also try salt instead of baking soda.
  • Rub some Vaseline (or other petroleum jelly) into the watermark and leave overnight. Wipe off in the morning.

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Comments

    • Peter Linsey
    Reply

    Tried on Laura Ashley coffee table. Birch wood stained dark chestnut, lacquer finish. Had several large white “blush” patches and two ring marks from cups. I used a face flannel with Iron on hot. Warmed flannel in direct contact, then several burst of steam and then a few seconds of dry heat, removed flannel and wiped any moisture off with a soft cloth. WORKED PERFECTLY. Even the ring marks have gone. Didn’t get a dull finish. Perfect results, as good as new. Many Thanks.

    • Ray Duffy
    Reply

    Thank you for the tip on how to remove a heat stain from my expensive table ! It worked a treat. Fantastic – thank you again !!

    • Ryan
    Reply

    Thank you so much. Works like a charm.

    • Meg
    Reply

    Seriously – this works!The table is the mango wood table from Crate and Barrel. Don’t know exact finish but I guess you could look it up. Comes with either chairs or picnic benches. Thank you so much for this AMAZING tip. I use a 100% cotton white undershirt and placed it over the stain. I “hovered” a very HOT iron on steam setting. I did this for a minute and then “peeked” to see any change. You could see the steam coming off the table – but you could also see the white heat stain leaving… I put the t shirt back and continued for 2 -3 more minutes trying to hover and not touch the table – but getting really close. It is GONE. The stain is GONE. I am so incredibly grateful.

    • Jen
    Reply

    BEWARE, PLEASE. I tried this on a very old antique table (family heirloom) that recently started showing these spots. I’ve tried a lot of other things, and the marks wouldn’t budge. This worked, but at a price. I now have a “halo” effect of white cloud marks around the perimeter of where I’ve used the iron (I used steam and a towel, and the hover method didn’t work for me). Also, and more distressing, is the heat seems to have stripped the shine off the finish. The area that’s been heated is now a dull island. I don’t know if the wood is unprotected, but I think I’ll be bringing it to a professional for restoration rather than trying to fix it on my own.

      • Sue
      Reply

      Try to use a finish restorer after the iron to get the sheen back. A good one made by Howard is ‘Feed n Wax Wood Restorer’. That’s what I used and it’s perfect.

      • Kieran
      Reply

      Ah, I did the exact same thing, but if you rub a bit of olive or vegitable oil into the wood, it helps reduce th cloud alot. Its still there, it just looks like the original stain, if not a little better

    • Lori
    Reply

    Okay, I give up! Beautiful mahogany dining tabel(it does not appear to have any type of varnish or coating on it – just stained wood with maybe a waxed finish and not glossy at all) with six big rings from hot plates. I have tried the steam iron method (medium heat and hight heat – ironing directly on the towel with steam and hovering above with steam and now I have a large cloudy area in addition to the rings. I have tried it with no steam, on the towel, not on the towel, I have rubbed off any condensation from the steam, etc., etc. and I am having no luck! I have not tried any of the other options with baking soda, salt, etc., as these are my next to the last resort before I call the furniture refinisher. Any help or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    • Glenn
    Reply

    Before learning of the iron technique, I tried rubbing the spot with a damp cloth. It reduced the size of the spot but left the rubbed area dull. I’m thinking I partly rubbed off the finish? Afterwards, I used the iron technique and it further reduced the spot but there is still discoloration deeper down? Also, residue has a yellowish hue. No idea what the original finish is but as it is an antique, I doubt its polyurethane. Is ability to rub off finish with damp cloth and the yellowish hue a clue as to the original finish?

    • Francisco
    Reply

    ok… the despair got too high after failing with other liquids and combinations (I even tried salt, recommend in another forum) so I tried to manage the iron with no steam.
    At first, it was getting better. I think it spreads the stain more than removing it, but it’s actually acceptable.
    When i was about to give my work as finished I found it “not perfect” so I thought that using steam would make it the last step. It was a HUGE mistake. it got extremely bad. It provoked a stain with the shape of the iron in plain white color as this website background.

    I was sweating…. so i changed the cotton towel (to make sure no humidity was left) and I tried with the first method (no steam). After battling a lot it got ok.

    It just lost some of the glossy effect it had on those areas.

    Thanks a lot. I will recommend this website a lot….

    • Francisco
    Reply

    ok… it just happened. I got alone in my place and left carelessly the pizza box too much time over the table while my ultraconservative parents that love old forniture left me were way.
    I started with water, then alcohol (gave some result) and then a spray that my mom uses to clean hovens and other kitchen machines from grease stains (little result). Until now, I never considered the cause for that would be heat but stain.
    Anyway, If the cause is heat howcome is a steam going to help? in fact, i never used one and that idea is making me afraid.

    This is a dead or alive situation. In few days there will be a tragedy If i can’t do nothing about it. . .

    Thanks

    • Carol Rutherford
    Reply

    Thank you so much its worked!!!
    I have a wood veneer table, which had a burn stain from a hot plate, and I just used the iron with the steam, hovering over stain and it just vanished, so thank you so much

    • Laurie
    Reply

    Thank you – I thought we had permanently ruined my grandmother’s dining room table. Now it looks just as good as it did when I was a little girl. I used the steam/hover technique.

    Many thanks!

    • Lisa Woolridge
    Reply

    It’s all been said before but absolutely incredible!! Thank you so much

    • Barbara E
    Reply

    Holy Cow, does this work! I suggest reading MATTHEW’S comments above, as I had much the same issue. I could see the original “heat blush” gone but could see marks from the towel. Another suggestion would be to try a white pillowcase instead of a terrycloth towel. That seemed to work better for me!

    • Melanie
    Reply

    Wow! I just bought a second-hand coffee table made from NZ rimu timber off ebay which to my disappointment had several white marks which were not visible on the internet photos. At first I used a towel with the iron on steam and had some success, but it also created some white blotcy patches. I then used the “hover” technique and pressed the steam button a few times over the marks and it all disappeared! Thank you!

    • barbara jacques
    Reply

    please let me know how to remove white heat spots off a oak wood table

    thank you,
    Barbara

    • Leanne
    Reply

    I have a new dining table made from Recycled timber and placed a cake from the oven on a cooling rack over a folded teatowel on the table. Once the cake was cooled I was horrified to find a white mark left where it had been. I have just followed your instructions and placed a white towel over the mark and put the steaming iron on it for just a few seconds and the mark is almost completely gone. THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!!

    • David & Ros
    Reply

    Today we decided to dust and polish our dining table and discovered a large white mark under a table runner. No idea from what or when; we assume it’s a heat mark. Tried briwax but little or no change. Arms aching, we dug out the home DIY books, called parents for advice etc – special removers, stripping varnish etc. Eek! Did an online search and found this page and frankly we didn’t believe it: feared it might even be a spoof, but found similar reports elsewhere (thiftyfun.com and tipking.com) and even a youtube video demonstrating.

    So, with white towel and steam iron, rubbed the mark through the doubled towel for a few seconds so that the towel got damp and hot. Lifted the towel to check progress, ie it wasn’t getting any worse, and quickly flipped it over while it was still hot. After 3 flips the middle of the mark had obviously faded and after 3 more the mark had completely gone. Whole process took about 1 minute. Amazed.
    Thanks!

    • Jason
    Reply

    A true skeptic here….but no more. Used the iron (with steam) and a white dish towel on a 20+ yr old table and the white stains disappeared after only a few seconds. I’m pretty sure the finish is varnish if that helps anyone out. Cheers – J

    • Fran
    Reply

    This tip is amazing, thank you! I (pretty stupidly) left a mug of tea on our dining room table, creating a really obvious white ring, but a quick steam and wipe with a tea towel got rid of it completely! I’m incredibly happy.

    • NJ
    Reply

    Thank you so much for posting this tip. It got rid of the stain that had been on my table for the last 8 years. I don’t know what prompted me to Google for a solution this morning but I’m glad I did.

    • Louis
    Reply

    Worked like magic…I was quite discouraged with those withe stains on our beautiful dining table… thanks!

    • Anna
    Reply

    I tried the steam iron with a towel trick and it made things 100 times worse than before I started. I resorted to using a scrourer pad and some olive oil and gently rubbing into the wood going with the grain and this has improved things dramatically. Might be time for me to just strip back the whole table and reseal it from scratch I think….

    • Diana
    Reply

    Wow, worked for me! I was sceptical that this would work and not make it worse, but all the marks are gone. We have a mahogany dinner table – I don’t know what the finish is but it’s probably varnish – very very smooth and the marks almost seemed to be underneath the finish. I put the iron on mid-high heat and held it with the steam on full about 1 inch above the table, over a dishtowel. The first mark came out in about 5 seconds – none of the marks took more than two, 5 second steams to remove. Brilliant tip, thanks.

    • PJ
    Reply

    Holy Hanna! Unbelievable! Those white heat marks have been on my beautiful coffee table for 10 years, covered with a stupid doily type thing! It took less than 5 minutes for me to remove them with the steam from an iron! Unreal! Thank you so much! I’m stunned!!!

    • Clorinda
    Reply

    OMG!!!! thankyou!thankyou!thankyou!the iron/cloth method worked instanlly…..on my woodtop bathroom vanity….someone had left the hair straightners on but we always have a towel to protect the wood…but this time it had left a big white stain on the dark mahogany wood…. “I FREAKED OUT!” when i saw it…and thought it was ruined forever…in my desperation I GOOGLED IT….and you came up..so thankyou again…your a life saver….x

    • Vern
    Reply

    WOW!!!! I was so happy when your iron idea worked on my table! My Mother is going to be sick when she learns this. She spent good money on having her table redone because she could not get the white stain out from her table a few years back. Thanks Again!

    • Toni
    Reply

    Thank you so much. I gave $500.00 for this coffee table and it worked. My husband felt bad and I do not think he will set a hot plate on the coffee table again.

    • Kimberly
    Reply

    OMG! With 3 ironing boards in the house, one would think I could use one. NOPE- I used our coffee table that was a gift from my husband. The steam from ironing left white marks that I could not remove. I tried mineral oil, and professional cleaners, ashes etc. Your tip saved my table! I cant wait to show my husband! I used a white t-shirt, no steam and held the iron on the table for approx 15 seconds making sure to wipe the moisture each time. I cant thank you enough!

    • Sarah
    Reply

    With much trepidation I tried this trick – I have a table we are selling as we have bought a replacement. I had three large ring stains again caused by hot items being put on the table. They have been there for a couple of years and were really unsightly – I CAN’T BELIEVE how simple this solution is. It worked immediately and now my table looks like new. It is the BEST thing I have seen – absolutely amazing just like magic. Thank you so much !!

    • Erica
    Reply

    Thank you so much for sharing this tip. I screamed at my husband for putting something hot on our cherry table and leaving the white mark.
    Now I feel like a real jerk because it was so easy to remove.
    I had to steam a couple of times, but it all came out.
    I even got out an old white stain from last year! ! !
    Thanks again! ! ! !

    • Matthew
    Reply

    Just a comment on how some say this technique hasn’t worked for them – Having read many of the comments here, and having a white cup ring on my table, I used the iron technique. I was shocked to see the ring dissappear but a worse, larger white cloudy mark appear where the iron had been (in the outline of an iron no less). As you can imagine it was panic stations.

    HOWEVER, I used the iron again, and rather than leaving it in one place I moved it slowly round the area on a lower heat. That drew out all the stains and my table is good as new!

    So, I think some here may be having trouble, as I did, by using too much heat and not moving the iron enough – I don’t think it’s a varnish vs Shellec issue.

    Just a thought.

    • Roxanne
    Reply

    Thank you so much for your tip!!..My boyfriends mother had given my a beautiful coffee table set a few months ago..My roommate ordered pizza 3 nights ago and set the hot box on top of the coffee table…Nothing underneath it…In the morning we discovered a huge, cloudy white mark on top of it! as big as a medium pizza box! I was so pissed!!..I Googled “steam mark on table” and found this..Before I tried it, read every post on this wall and was a little reluctant on trying it myself..but figured, what the hell?…I got out my Iron and tipped the table up on its side…put the Iron on “Steam”, no towel under it. Held the Iron about half an inch away from the table and steamed the spot every 3 seconds or so for about 3 minutes…At first it didn’t seem as if it was working, but as I noticed the bottom corner disappearing, I kept on. Before I knew it the stain was diminishing before my eyes! Completely gone!!
    Thank you so much!!

    • Judy
    Reply

    And I thought my table was ruined! I can’t thank you enough. It didn’t even take twenty seconds for my white spots to vanish like magic! Judy

    • Nikki
    Reply

    I purchased an awesome pub table set second hand for Mothers Day. Keep in mind the reason I purchase my furniture used is because the miscreant grown children in my home DESTROY every piece I own and I figure… less investment nice stuff for a while. I was devastated when only 2 weeks later my son ironed his shirt on my table and left a white heat mark where he set down the iron. I googled and found this magical place and within minutes the stain was gone!! I too had a minor outline of the iron on the first spot, but rubbed it with the towel immediately after lifting it and voila! it vanished. Thanks so much for the great tip!!!!

    • Barbara
    Reply

    I tried this on a cherry veneer dining room table and now have the mark of the iron showing. Do you have any idea what I can do to make this better?

      • Susanne
      Reply

      Yes, that happened to me also. What did you do?

      • Carianne
      Reply

      We ordered in pizza at work while the president was away and was horrified to find out that it had left white marks on our huge boardroom table. I quickly googled for a quick answer and found this site, I wanted to leave the iron as the last resort so i kept looking and found… MAKE A PASTE WITH SALT AND SALAD OIL! I rubbed it over the affected areas with my hands and then buffed it with a dry cloth. Not only were the marks gone, but my hands were soft too!

    • Jacqui T
    Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this tip! I had a beautiful old welsh dresser given to me by a friend. He was going to burn it as it was marred by loads of white rings from putting coffee cups down on it over the years. I used a teatowl and my iron with loads of steam and they dissapeared in seconds! I have no idea how many years those rings were there but he told me it’s been a long time, so this works on very old stains aswell! Great tip, thanks so much! I now have a lovely stain free piece of furniture! If it helps others, I’m pretty sure it’s varnished but I’m not sure.

    • Dolores S.
    Reply

    I was absolutely sick about a big white mark on my beautiful pine dining room table. I tried the steam iron and it worked on the first try. I’m shocked and thrilled!
    Thanks!
    Dolores

    • Cliff Gibson
    Reply

    We had a coffee table and a dinner table with white stains from spilt champagne and water, left overnight. Both are mahogany, one recent and one 12 months ago. I did the simple web search and found you. Steamed it and jet of steamed also on spots. We have 100% results. We are wrapt, thank you from South Australia. Cliff

    • Bryan Del Rizzo
    Reply

    Wow.. I can’t believe this worked.

    But it did!

    I was dubious, but I’m going to tell all of my friends about this.

    Thanks a bunch! No need to buy a new table now!

    • colin wakefield
    Reply

    tried it this morning the wife was nervous,worked straight away she was so pleased we went back to bed.!!! …. enough said.!thankyou

    • Fred
    Reply

    This worked unbelievably fast and easy. We thought we were going to have to give up, we had tried many other methods with no luck.
    We used our steamer instead of an iron. Worked great. Many thanks!

    • m-kay
    Reply

    THHHHAAAANNNKK YOUUU!!!
    YOU SAVE MEEEE!!
    I HAD A TACO TODAY AND I LEFT THE HOT BAG ON THE TABLE.. NEXT TO THE PLACE MAT!
    AND WHEN I TOOK IT UP THERE WAS THIS HUGE HEAT STAIN.. MY MOM CAME HOME AND SHE WAS FURIOUS..
    UP UNTIL NOW =]
    I JUST GOOGLED THIS– YOU SAVED MY BUTT! THANNNXXX SO MUCH!

    • Nancy
    Reply

    After reading all the positive responses on this page, I could hardly wait to try it on my oak dining room table which had 4 large white spots due to hot items. I used a white pillowcase and within 1 min, the first spot “disappeared”. Five minutes later, my table looked like new!! Thank-you so much for the valuable tip!!

    • Dana
    Reply

    AWESOME!!! Water mark on antique dining room table from plant. Used hot dry iron over white T-Shirt and it didn’t even take 30 seconds and the white water stain is gone! THANKS SO MUCH.

      • Abby
      Reply

      I am one of the many in total disbelief this worked. I thought I’d totally ruined our nicest piece of wood furniture by ironing on a wool mat (quilting) and left a HUGE white spot. After days of stressing over it I finally tried this after reading others’ comments and it worked like magic. Iron over a desk that was ruined from ironing? Who would’ve ever thought. I used the steak and it just floated right out of there.

    • Tom
    Reply

    this is AMAZING!! i was at my girlfriends house eating hot chinese food and unknowingly burning their veneer oak table and only the enxt day did white marks appear and I was in the doghouse! In desperation I came across this website, put the iron on it and I got out of jail- you saved me haha!

    • Johnny H
    Reply

    Thank you for sharing this wonderfull tip as it has just prevented a serious argument!!!! New Dining table with a abstract art feature of a plate mark was not what we wanted, after only a short while in the dining room. Thank you again for a wonderful tip. A very greatfull husband, thinking he was doing great job with organising the evenings dinner, until, as he now knows, NOT to put the extreamly hot plate of spuds in the middle of the table without having a plate mat underneeth!
    The BETTER HALF has just found out that I got the tip of the internet! She’s just happy the table is sorted. Who’s a lucky fellow! Could have been a very silent forthcoming few days ahead.

    • TipNut
    Reply

    Dan you’ve provided some good tips and info, thank you! Your theory of the wax discoloring rather than the finish could be right in some cases. The table I used for the project (above pictures) wasn’t waxed at all, as far as I know. At least for as long as I’ve had it (I think about 10 years or so?).

    • Dan
    Reply

    I’ve removed similar small stains from fine furniture without refinishing. Use rubbing or polishing compound (it is polish with very, very fine abrasives) and rub rub rub. If you have a buffing machine, so much the better. It takes time and elbow grease, but they will come out and you won’t risk making the problem worse.

    After polishing out the stains, then apply a fresh coat of wax. By the way, my theory is that it is the old furniture wax that is discoloring, not the finish itself. The older and bigger the wax buildup, the bigger the problem.

    Rubbing/polishing compound is normally used to remove oxidation buildup from car paint before waxing. It is usually found in the store alongside car wax.

    • Amy
    Reply

    I googled “hot stain wood table” this morning and found your tip. I few moments later, the white stain on my new teak dining table is gone! Thanks for taking the time to share your helpful advice!

    • Myf
    Reply

    Thanks for your fabulous tip.We are house sitting for friends and a hot tea cup marked through a folded serviette onto their lovely timber table. Tried all the other tips eg. toothpaste and mayonnaise but nothing worked.Having read your tip, I just held the iron about 6cms above the mark and steamed and it was gone. Polished up with a soft cloth and furniture polish perfectly!!

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