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3 Ways to Remove Pesky Heat Stains from Wood Furniture

Food52 logo Food52 12/3/2021 Alyssa Longobucco
© Provided by Food52

Hosting season is upon us, and as fun as it can be to have your house act as the hub of all holiday commotion and gathering, it does come with a few perils, too—mainly for your furniture and decor. From Aunt Jean spilling her wine on your brand new rug (ugh!) to your favorite platter meeting an untimely death at the hands of a “helpful” kiddo, it’s not uncommon to head into January with a few bumps and bruises around your house from all the entertaining you’ve done.

One of the most annoying? Heat stains on your wood furniture. Here’s how it happens: As sides are passed around at dinner, they’re often set down on the bare wood of your table without a second thought—even if you had good intentions and paired them with a stylish trivet at the start. Tablecloths are great, but most are thin and can’t protect your beloved mahogany dining table from the damage caused by a steaming ceramic dish filled with green bean casserole. The next thing you know, you’re cleaning up post-party only to spot numerous crop circle-like stains on the surface of your wood. The culprit? Heat.

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Basically, what happens is this: When a hot object is placed on the surface of the wood, its pores expand (yes, even if it’s sealed!), allowing the moisture created by heat and steam to steep into the surface and settle in the wood, leaving behind discoloration and white heat marks.

Luckily, there are a few tried-and-true tricks you can try when it comes to removing a heat stain from wood—before you break out the sandpaper (or worse, the credit card for a new table). Check out some of our favorite methods below—you can try more than one until you find a method that works for removing heat stains from your wood furniture. And remember—don’t panic! At the end of the day, a table is just a “thing,” and if you can’t remove the stain, it will act as a beautiful reminder of holidays past for years to come.

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Method One: More Heat (Really!)


Video: How to Stain Wood Furniture (House Beautiful)

It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to remove heat stains from wood is to add more heat to the equation. This works by reopening the pores of the wood (yep, the same issue that got you into trouble in the first place), allowing the trapped moisture to escape, and reversing the stain in the process.

The easiest way to do so is by breaking out your hairdryer. To start, place it on the lowest heat setting (but not the “cool” setting) and aim it directly at the stain, making sure to stay a few inches away from the wood’s surface. Using a side-to-side motion, continue to blow warm air at the stain until it disappears.

If your mark is proving pesky, you can level up to using an iron for the heat method instead. To do so, place a clean towel atop the stain and set your iron to the lowest heat setting. Run the iron back and forth atop the stain and towel for several minutes, checking periodically to see if the stain has lifted. A word of caution: Avoid using steam at all during this method, as it can make the issue more pronounced.

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Method Two: Toothpaste

It sounds wacky, but toothpaste can also be a great way to eliminate heat stains on wood furniture. The trick lies in its alkaline properties, which react with the heat stain, gently lifting it from the wood. For this method, you’ll want to get the most bare-bones traditional toothpaste you can find—the plain white kind, nothing with gel in it (it won’t work otherwise!). In a bowl, combine one part toothpaste with two parts baking soda to create a thick paste. Apply some of the mixture to the white heat mark on your wood table and allow it to sit for a minute or two before wiping it from the surface. You may need to do this a few times in order for the stain to fully disappear. Do your best to avoid getting the baking soda and toothpaste mixture onto any area of the table that’s not stained, as it can remove the finish in those spots.

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. Yes, we mean the condiment you put on your sandwich. Weird, but it works! For the best results, apply the mayo to the white heat marks using a clean rag—don’t slop it on, but don’t be stingy either. Allow the mayo to sit on the surface of the table for several hours in order to work—it can even be left on overnight if the stain is particularly large or stubborn. Once you’re ready, wipe off the mayo with a clean clean cloth to buff out the remainder of the stain.

Alternatively, you can use petroleum jelly for this method, too.

Do you know of any other methods for removing heat stains from wood? Tell us below!

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