How To Remove Heat Stains From Wood

Last Updated on April 13, 2023 by Ernest Godia

Have you ever accidentally placed a hot cup of coffee or a warm dish on your wooden furniture and later discovered an unsightly white mark on the surface? That’s a case of a heat stain on the wood. 

While it might be an eyesore, learning how to remove heat stains from wood can help you reverse its effects.

Whether you’re dealing with furniture, floors, or other wooden objects, you can use several DIY and home remedies to tackle heat stains and make your wood look as good as new.

In this article, we’ll go over different methods for removing heat stains from wood, so you don’t have to replace your furniture just yet!

How to remove heat stains from wood

To remove heat stains from wood, try using a hairdryer on low heat, an iron with a cloth barrier, or oil-based products like petroleum jelly, mayonnaise, or a mixture of vinegar and olive oil. Gentle abrasion methods like toothpaste and baking soda should also help eliminate heat stains.

What are heat stains?

Heat stains, or watermarks, are marks on wood surfaces caused by heat and moisture. The heat causes the wood’s finish to soften, and when combined with moisture, it creates a stain that is difficult to remove.

What causes heat stains on wood furniture?

Heat stains occur when hot objects like hot drinks or appliances are placed directly on wood surfaces without proper insulation or protection. 

The heat from these objects causes a reaction between the wood’s finish and the moisture in the air. This reaction leads to the formation of white or light-colored, foggy, or cloudy marks, rings, or patches on the wooden surface. 

They are commonly seen on surfaces with lacquer, varnish, shellac, or polyurethane finish. 

The heat stain can be more or less severe depending on factors like the object’s temperature, its duration of exposure, and the type of wood and finish.

It’s important to remove heat stains as soon as they occur. Otherwise, they can become permanent, making your once-pristine furniture appear aged and worn.

How to remove heat stains from wood using heat

Heat is an effective method for removing heat stains from wood furniture. Applying dry heat to the affected area raises the temperature of the wood and opens the wood pores allowing the trapped moisture to evaporate gradually. 

Method 1: Hair dryer

A hairdryer is one of the most effective methods for removing heat stains from finished wood surfaces. In less than 10 minutes, you can repair your heat-damaged wood table.

  • Set the hairdryer to a low heat setting, not to be confused with the cool one. 
  • Aim the hairdryer at the stained area, keeping it a few inches away from the surface and constantly moving it to avoid overheating the wood.
  • Monitor the progress, and stop when the stain disappears completely.

 Be cautious not to overheat the area, as it may cause further damage to the finish.

Method 2: Iron box

This is another reliable method to quickly and efficiently remove heat stains from wood. You can use an iron box instead of a hair dryer because it works similarly.

  • Place a clean, white, lint-free cloth or tea towel over the stained area.
  • Set the iron to a low heat setting without steam.
  • Press the iron onto the cloth covering the stain and move it around for a few seconds. 
  • Lift the iron and check the progress. Repeat as needed until the white stain fades completely.

If the stain isn’t budging, try some steam. 

Set the iron to high heat, sprinkle some water on the stain, then place the cloth over it and iron away. Move the iron in circles and lift it occasionally to check on the progress. 

Stop when the white mark lifts off completely.

How to remove heat stains from wood tables using oil products

Oil products can also help to remove white heat stains from wood furniture. As the oil seeps into the wood, it helps to break the bond between the moisture and the finish, releasing the trapped moisture. This process gradually reduces the appearance of the heat stain.

If you’re looking for a quick fix, you might want to try one of the faster methods discussed here. Removing heat stains from wood tables with oil requires some patience.

Method 3: Petroleum jelly

Grab some Vaseline or another jelly and follow these steps.

  • Apply a generous amount of petroleum jelly to the heat stain.
  • Leave it on overnight to allow the jelly to penetrate the wood.
  • In the morning, gently wipe away the jelly with a clean cloth and buff the surface.

If Vaseline does not work, move on to the next treatment on this list.

Method 4: Removing white heat stains on wood using mayonnaise

The very Mayo gracing your sandwich and salads can help you deal with the annoying heat stain of a hot pizza box.

  • Apply a thick layer of mayonnaise to the stain and spread it evenly.
  • Let it sit for a few hours or overnight, allowing the oils to penetrate the wood.
  • Wipe away the mayonnaise with a clean cloth, and clean the rest of the surface as usual.

 Method 5: Vinegar and olive oil

Vinegar is a potent and efficient DIY cleaning product around the home. Mix that with olive oil, and you’ll be well on your way to restoring your once-pristine dining or coffee table.

  • Mix equal parts white vinegar and olive oil.
  • Apply the mixture to the stain using a soft cloth, rubbing gently in a circular motion.
  • Let it sit for several hours until the stain fades.
  • Wipe the mixture away with a clean cloth, then buff your table to shine.

Method 6: Salt and olive oil

Try a mixture of salt and olive oil to help get rid of heat stains from wood furniture. 

  • Mix equal parts salt and olive oil in a bowl to form a paste and apply the mixture to the stain. 
  • Let it sit for a few hours, then wipe away the mixture with a soft cloth. 
  • Repeat the treatment as necessary and clean the entire wood surface to remove any product residues. 

Removing Heat stains from wood through abrasion

Abrasion is another effective way to lift heat stains from the wood surface. If one of these methods doesn’t give you the results you hope for, move on to the next.

Method 7: Olive oil and fine-grade steel wool

When using this method, you want to test it on a small section first. That way, you can observe how long the stain takes to come off and how much the steel wool scars the surface. 

  • Apply a small amount of olive oil to the heat stain and rub it gently with fine-grade (#0000) steel wool. 
  • Rub the steel wool in the direction of the wood grain. 
  • Once the stain comes off, remove any excess oil with a soft cloth.

Method 8: White toothpaste and baking soda

These two are also common DIY cleaning agents. White toothpaste and baking soda contain alkaline properties that react with the white heat stain and fade it off the wood surface. 

Mix baking soda with water if you don’t have plain white toothpaste. By all means, avoid using gel or colored toothpaste, as they can cause further damage.

  • Mix one part of white toothpaste with two parts of baking soda to form a thick paste.
  • Apply the paste to the stain using a soft cloth, rubbing gently in a circular motion.
  • Let it sit on the surface for several hours or overnight.
  • Wipe off the residue with a damp cloth, and then follow up with a dry cloth. 

Method 9: Sand the stain and refinish the wood

If the heat stain is particularly stubborn, you may need to sand the stain off and refinish the wood. Only consider this option once you’ve exhausted all the other methods suggested in this article.

Here is how to stain unfinished wood if you wish to enhance the wood’s color with a coat of stain after sanding.

  1. Lightly sand the stained area with fine-grit sandpaper, following the direction of the wood grain.
  2. Remove any dust with a clean, dry cloth.
  3. Apply a matching wood stain to the sanded area, allowing it to dry according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  4. Finish by applying a clear protective coat such as polyurethane or varnish to seal and protect the wood.

Here’s a video summary of the methods of removing heat marks on wood:

Bonus: Consult an expert.

If you’re unsure about the best method to remove heat stains from your wood furniture, consider consulting a professional furniture restorer or woodworker. 

They’ll be able to provide personalized advice and recommend the most effective technique for your specific type of wood and finish.

Using commercial products to remove heat stains from wood

If you’d like to explore industrial products designed to remove heat stains from wood, here are some of the highly-rated products you can try.

1. Guardsman Water Mark Remover Cloth

How to remove heat stains with watermark remover cloth

This product is ideal for those looking for an easy-to-use, reusable solution. 

This cloth removes heat stains, watermarks, and rings from wooden surfaces without requiring additional chemicals. Simply rub the cloth gently over the stained area until the mark disappears.

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2. Miracle Wipes for Wood Surfaces

Removing heat stains from wood using Miracle wipes

Pre-moistened and disposable, these wipes are convenient for quickly and easily removing heat stains, dirt, and grime from various types of wood. Wipe the stained area with a sheet of Miracle Wipe, then follow up with a clean, dry cloth to remove any residue.

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3. Howard Restor-A-Finish

How to remove heat stains from wood using Howard Restore-A-Shine

This liquid solution restores wooden surfaces’ original color and luster by blending out heat stains, scratches, and blemishes. 

Apply Restor-A-Finish with a soft cloth, working in the direction of the wood grain. Wipe off any excess and buff the surface to shine. 

Note that this product may darken some wood finishes, so test it on an inconspicuous area before applying.

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4. Trade Secret Dark Wood Scratch Remover

Removing heat stains from wood using Trade Secret

This product, designed explicitly for dark wood finishes, effectively removes heat stains, scratches, and blemishes. Apply a small amount to a soft cloth and gently rub the affected area. 

Remember that this product is unsuitable for light-colored woods and may darken the treated area.

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5. Liberon Ring Remover

Removing heat stains with Liberon Ring Remover

This liquid formula removes heat and water stains from wooden surfaces, including varnished and polished ones. Apply a small amount to a cloth and gently rub the stain until it disappears.

You may need to repeat the treatment multiple times if you have pesky stains.

Buy on Amazon

How to prevent heat stains from forming on wood

Prevention is always better than cure for heat stains on wood furniture. Here are four ways to prevent heat stains from forming on wood:

  • Use coasters for mugs to protect your wooden surfaces from hot beverages.
  • Place trivets under pots and pans to shield your wood countertops and tables from hot cookware.
  • Utilize heat mats or placemats to create a barrier between hot dishes and your wooden surfaces.
  • If you don’t have coasters or trivets, you can always improvise with a tea towel, pot holder, cutting board, or oven mitt to protect your wood furniture from heat damage.


Are heat stains on wood permanent?

No, heat stains on wood are not always permanent. In fact, there are many ways to remove heat stains from wood furniture. The method you choose will depend on the severity of the stain and the type of wood finish.

How to remove heat stains from wood

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What product removes heat marks from wood furniture?

You can use several products to remove heat marks from wood, starting with heat from an iron or a hair dryer. Next, try oily products like mayonnaise, Vaseline, or olive oil. Alternatively, try steel wool and olive oil, toothpaste and baking soda, or sandpaper.

How do you get white spots out of wood?

Use a hair dryer to get white spots out of the wood. Set the hair dryer on the lowest heat setting and hover over the white spots. The dry heat will help displace the trapped moisture. Keep moving the dryer on the area until all white spots fade.

Does Vaseline remove heat stains from wood?

Yes, Vaseline is one of the products that can remove heat stains from wood. To use it, apply a generous amount of Vaseline on the heat stain and let it sit overnight. The next day, wipe up the remaining Vaseline using a dry cloth and buff the surface.

How do you fix hot water stains on wood?

To fix hot water stains on wood, mix equal parts white vinegar and olive oil in a bowl. Next, apply the mixture to the stain using a soft cloth, rubbing gently in a circular motion. Let that sit for several hours until the stain fades. Clean the surface as usual.

How do you remove hot cup rings from wood?

To remove hot cup rings from wood, place a clean tea towel over the rings and place a hot iron on the towel. Move the iron in circular motions lifting it periodically to check if the rings are fading. Repeat the process until the hot cup rings lift off from the wood.

Removing heat stains from wood: Recap

Dealing with heat stains on wood doesn’t have to be a daunting task.  

Now that you know how to remove heat stains from wood and the products to use, you can restore your wooden furniture and surfaces to their former glory.

Remember to test any method on an inconspicuous area first and consult a professional if you need clarification on the best approach for your specific type of wood and finish. 

With a little patience and effort, you can say goodbye to those unsightly heat stains for good!

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