How to Remove Dark Water Stains from Wood

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how to remove dark water stains from wood

You try to be careful. You put coasters on all the wood tables and ban your kids from taking their drinks out of the kitchen.

But, the inevitable happens – despite your good intentions, someone has an accident. Now you’re wondering how to remove dark water stains from wood.

Fortunately, there are many different ways for you to make your wood look new again, whether you’re dealing with stains on furniture or your floors. Here’s what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

Always test patches in a conspicuous area before starting. You may also be able to blot out moisture and blow-dry to prevent settling.

Here are seven ways to remove dark water stains from wood:

  • Use a watermark remover cloth.
  • Rub white, non-gel toothpaste around the mark with a dry cloth, then use a wet cloth to lift off.
  • Apply mayonnaise for an hour and wipe.
  • Use hydrogen peroxide on a rag and dab onto stains. Air dry and repeat if you need to.
  • Sand out stains on unsealed wood and then restain.
  • Use hardwood floor cleaner on pet mess.
  • Rub petroleum jelly on the marks and leave for a few hours to sit. Then, wipe clean.

What’s the Best Way to Remove Dark Water Stains from Wood?

Popular home remedies for removing dark water stains from wood include using toothpaste, mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, or hydrogen peroxide. If you don’t like the idea of using home remedies, you can purchase watermark remover cloths or wood floor stain remover from your local home improvement store.

Pro Tip: As someone who has spent plenty of time dealing with pesky water stains, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of testing your method on an inconspicuous area first. Different woods react variably to cleaning solutions and you wouldn’t want to make the situation worse. Trust me on this, take that extra precautionary step–it’s worth it!

7 Ways to Remove Dark Water Stains from Wood

Let’s lay some ground rules before you use ANY of these methods. First, always do a test patch in an inconspicuous area to see how your wood reacts with the products you’re using. 

Secondly, if you catch a dark water spot while it’s still fresh, you may be able to prevent it from settling in.

To do this, you’ll need to blot out any moisture and then blow-dry the area with a hairdryer. If that doesn’t work, try one of these seven methods.

1. WaterMark Remover Cloth

Watermark remover cloths are formulated specifically for removing water rings from wood and can be found at most home improvement stores.

One popular choice is the Guardsman Water Mark Remover Cloth. This cloth can be reused and can remove hard water rings, latex paint, and more. This cloth claims to restore wood without stripping it.

2. White Toothpaste

White (non-gel) toothpaste can help lift dark water stains off of your furniture and wood floors. Simply rub the toothpaste all around the watermark with a dry cloth. After you’ve rubbed for a bit, use a wet cloth to remove the toothpaste.

3. Mayonnaise

An old wive’s tale to rid dark water stains off wood is mayonnaise. While this method might not smell the best, it can make your wood look better.

Here’s what to do:

Generously apply mayonnaise to the dark water spot on your wood. Allow to sit for one hour and then wipe up. 

The theory is that the oil in the mayonnaise will seep into the floors and displace the water, removing the stains.

4. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is one of the best tools for treating dark stains on hardwood floors. Here’s how to use it:

  • Wet a rag with hydrogen peroxide.
  • Dab onto all the dark water stains.
  • Allow to air dry.
  • Repeat if needed.

5. Sand and Stain (For Unsealed Wood)

For unsealed wood, you can sand the dark water stains out and then restain the area you sanded. I would try the other methods first, though, as they might be easier to implement.

6. Hardwood Floor Cleaner

If your stains result from pet urine or feces, using a hardwood floor cleaner specially formulated for pet messes may do the trick.

Two popular hardwood floor cleaners for removing urine stains are:

7. Petroleum Jelly

Petroleum jelly works on the same premise as mayonnaise – it displaces the moisture causing the stain. To use this method, rub petroleum jelly over the watermark and allow it to sit for a few hours up to overnight. Wipe away with a clean cloth the following day.

Pro Tip: Here’s something that didn’t get addressed but I’ve found quite helpful in my experience: after removing the stain, give the wood a good polish. This not only brings back the shine but also tends to unify the colour, making any minor residual discolouration less obvious. Using a high-quality wood polish can make a world of difference in the final result.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq how to remove dark water stains from wood

What causes black stains on wood?

An excess of moisture causes black stains on wood. This is why you see a ring when you leave a cold cup on a wooden table for too long.

The best way to avoid black stains on your wood furniture and flooring is to use coasters for drinks and clean up spills and pet messes promptly.

How do you remove black water stains from unfinished wood?

To remove black water stains from unfinished wood, all you need to do is give the dark spots a light sanding. You can do this with a piece of sandpaper or a sanding block. 

How do I remove dark water stains from wood floors?

The best way to remove dark water stains from wood floors is to dab hydrogen peroxide on the dark spots and let them dry overnight. You may have to do this several times to achieve your desired results.

You can also try the other methods on this list. Just be sure to spot test first.

If none of these methods remove the dark water stains, you may need to have your floors refinished to get the spots out.

Pro Tip: A trick I learned along the way is to mix a bit of baking soda with water to make a thick paste. Apply this mixture over the stain and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes before wiping it off. It’s a cheap and handy alternative to some of the commercial watermark removers, which I’ve found to be particularly effective for lighter water stains.

Final Thoughts on Removing Dark Water Stains from Wood

If you’ve got dark water spots in your wood, you’re in luck. There are plenty of remedies that will treat and remove the stains. Just be sure to do a quick spot test before treating any large areas. 

With some experimentation and a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll be able to restore your wood to new.

Photo of author


Katie Barton lives with her husband and three daughters in an 1800’s style log cabin in southern Ohio. She thinks cleaning is relaxing and is considered the organizing go-to person by her family and friends. She runs the blog Cabin Lane where she shares about cleaning, decluttering, and minimalism. See full biography here.

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