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How to Remove Heat Stains From Wood

A white heat stain can ruin the appearance of your wooden table or desk. Covering up the stain is a potential solution, but wouldn’t it be better to remove it? You’re in luck, as we’ve got 7 ways to remove heat stains from your wood furniture – and it can be surprisingly easy to improve the look of your wood tables or other wooden furniture.

Methods to remove white heat stains from your wood furniture include the use of common household products such as a steam iron, mayonnaise, white toothpaste, and even oil and salt. Read on to find out how and why these products work, as well as a few other methods for removing your heat stain.

p.s. if you decide you need to replace your wood furniture you might want to check out our sustainable furniture guide, which is full of eco-friendly and stylish options for your home.

What Causes Heat Marks on Wood?

When you put a hot cup of coffee or a hot pizza box onto your wood table or any kind of wood furniture, the heat from the object causes pores in the wood to open and take in moisture. As the wood cools, the pores close, and the moisture becomes trapped inside the wood surface, creating those unsightly white stains.

If you have black marks on wood, these are unlikely to be caused through everyday heat. The most likely explanations are charring, oxidation, and rotting. This article concerns white marks and the tips included will not help remove black stains. If you do have a black stain caused by water damage we recommend you check out this article on removing black stains from hardwood floors.

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How to Remove Heat Marks on Wood (7 Strategies)

Here are the best ways we've found to remove white marks from your furniture. Please note that your results may vary according to the type of wood your furniture is made from, or if it has a varnish or finish. We strongly recommend you that you first test the method on a part of your furniture that is not visible to check that it works for you. If your wood is varnished, these methods may not work (especially if the varnish was applied after the stain was introduced) and may damage the varnish - you have been warned! If you want to minimize risk, speak to a wood restoration expert rather than going the DIY route.

Once you have removed the stain we recommend you apply a varnish to help protect the wood from future damage.

Total Time Needed: 1 hour

7 Strategies for Removing Heat Marks From Wood

Using a Steam Iron
The iron method is the one users have reported the most success with. It seems paradoxical that to remove heat stains you need to apply more heat, but that is how this method works. The idea is that the iron will re-open the pores in the wood and allow the trapped moisture to be released.

First, clean the wooden table or other affected surface with a slightly damp cloth to ensure there is no dust. Then, place a cotton towel over the stained spots and put your iron on a low heat setting and place it onto the towel. Let it rest for a short time, then check. Alternatively, you can just iron the area. This should help in removing the heat stain quickly and efficiently. Don't make it too hot or you may burn your furniture!

If this doesn't work, use steam and repeat the process. If you don't have a steam iron, spray some water on the towel. Just make sure not to hold it on the wood for too long. You can also hover the iron above the stain without using the towel.
White Toothpaste
White non-gel toothpaste contains baking soda which is an alkaline substance that can react with a heat stain to remove it completely. For best effect, mix the toothpaste with pure baking soda to create a paste. Mix toothpaste and baking soda together in a bowl, add a few drops of water if necessary, but it is better to try and create a paste without adding water. If you don't have any, toothpaste can work by itself. Remember: the toothpaste method works with regular toothpaste but not gel toothpaste.

The surface needs to be completely clean and dry before attempting this method. Rub this mixture into the heat stain present on your wood surface. Wait about 10 minutes, then wipe away the toothpaste and baking soda mixture with a clean cloth.
Mayonnaise or Petroleum Jelly
Another effective way to remove white marks from wood and that makes use of items you probably have at home is the mayo method. Mayonnaise and other oily substances, like petroleum jelly, can release the trapped moisture in your wood furniture.

With a cloth, rub the mixture over the white stain. Let it set for at least one hour before cleaning it off.
Oil and Salt
Did you know oil and salt can help remove stains from wood? Apply a paste mixture of salt and olive oil into the affected area. Wait one hour then wipe off with a clean cloth
Vinegar and Oil
Mix equal amounts of olive oil and vinegar, then use the mixture to clean the heat stain. Wipe with a clean cloth, making sure you remove all the liquid.
Steel Wool
A ball of super fine steel wool (#0000) with lemon oil or olive oil can be used to clean the heat marks gently. Test first as the wrong steel wool could damage the surface of your wooden table; scratches will probably look worse than a heat stain or white mark, so be careful not to overdo it!
Sanding Your Furniture
It's harder to remove white heat marks on older tables or furniture because the moisture is deep inside the wood. In this scenario, your only choice may be to sand the area affected by the heat stain. This involves using sandpaper to rub down the wooden table and remove the heat stain.

Once the white mark is gone you may need to repaint the table to cover the mark left by your sanding and/or clean the surface and apply a finish to protect it. If you are not confident in your DIY skills you may wish to leave this to a professional.

How to Prevent Heat Marks on Wood

It’s better to prevent heat marks than to remove them. Investing in coasters for cups and dish mats or heat mats for your meals will ensure your wood table is protected from hot items. You may also want to invest in a varnish or wax for your wood surface. These can protect against heat, water, and other common causes of white marks and stains.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can remove heat stains off your wooden table using tools and substances found in your home, including an iron, toothpaste, baking soda, or even mayonnaise. 

A baking soda and toothpaste mixture is one of the most popular ways to remove steam stains from wood furniture.

Heat stains rarely go away or fade over time without intervention. 

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