How Do I Clean Water Marks From My Kitchen Cabinets?

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Water stains on kitchen cabinets may be unsightly, but if they're white, that's good news because it means you probably won't have much trouble getting rid of them.
Image Credit: hikesterson/iStock/GettyImages

Water stains on kitchen cabinets may be unsightly, but if they're white, that's good news because it means you probably won't have much trouble getting rid of them. White marks and white haze on wood cabinets are caused when moisture seeps into the finish, although the wood itself is usually unaffected. It's a different story if the stains are brown or black.


Several easy solutions exist for removing white water marks, and the easiest is to treat the affected surface like a hamburger and slather it with mayonnaise. This works in a surprisingly large number of cases, so it's a good way to start. If it doesn't work, you can progress to other methods that require a little more effort.

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Using Mayonnaise to Remove Water Stains on Wood Cabinets

It's the olive oil in mayonnaise that does the work of removing white water stains. You could use olive oil straight out of the bottle, but it might flow elsewhere instead of remaining where you want it. The eggs and other ingredients in mayonnaise make a paste that holds the olive oil in place so it can seep into the finish and replace the moisture causing the spots.


To remove a water spot or a white ring caused by a hot cup of coffee or a pot, wipe the area free of crumbs and debris and spread a generous layer of mayonnaise. Leave it for a couple of hours or overnight, then wipe it off, and the marks should be gone. It's usually that easy.

If it doesn't work the first time, try again, but this time mix a little fireplace ash into the mayonnaise and rub the mixture into the finish with a soft cloth. The ash is abrasive enough to etch the surface so the olive oil can sink in, but it won't cause any damage.


You Can Also Remove Water Marks With Toothpaste

If you don't have any mayonnaise, or the mayonnaise treatment doesn't seem to be working, try toothpaste. For this purpose, you need white toothpaste, not the translucent gel-type, but the brand isn't important.

Squeeze a thin coating of toothpaste onto the water marks and scrub gently with a rag, sponge or paper towel. Don't apply too much pressure because the toothpaste can wear away the finish. You only need to scrub for about a minute to see results.


Other Ways to Remove Water Stains on Wood Cabinets

In lieu of toothpaste or mayonnaise, you can often rub out stains with petroleum-based paste wax, beeswax or any product that combines the two. Apply the wax as you normally would and rub it into the finish with a cloth until the water marks are gone.


For really stubborn water marks, you may need a solvent, such as denatured alcohol. Dampen a soft cloth with alcohol and dab the spots until they disappear. Don't rub alcohol into the finish or you might damage it, and don't use alcohol at all if the finish is shellac.

Removing Steam Stains from Wood Cabinets if They're Dark

If the water spots or rings aren't white, it means the water has soaked through the finish and into the wood, and none of these methods will remove them. The only way to get them out is to strip the finish or sand it to wear it off, then sand the wood. Because it can be difficult to match the existing stain, it's better to strip and sand the entire surface than it is to make spot repairs.



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