How to Remove Water Stains From Wood Furniture

All you need is petroleum jelly and some lemon juice.

water mark on antique wood furniture

There are so many ways to remove water stains from wood, but unfortunately, most of them don’t work very well. How do I know? Well, I love antique furniture, and I am also pretty clumsy. I’ve had my fair share of mistakes and learning lessons (i.e., don’t paint valuable antique furniture with chalk paint). As such, I’ve tried a ton of ways to undo the damage from water, wine, paint—you name it.

Recently, I took a damp sweater out of the dryer and placed it on one of my wood dining chairs to dry. Oops. Before I knew it, I had an unsightly white water stain on otherwise dark and well-conditioned wood. So, I thought back to everything I had tried in the past and came up with an effective method. Try it for yourself the next time you accidentally mark your wood furniture.

How To Get Rid of Water Marks, Rings, and Stains

You must know that I hate buying products that I won’t finish (and long, complex processes). The best part about this process is that it only requires two ingredients that most people will already have in their house. If not, they shouldn’t cost more than $5. In addition, you can use these ingredients for a lot of other things, so there is little waste here. Another thing I hate is unnecessary chemicals. Sometimes they are needed, but in this case, you can remove a water stain from wood without all that fuss.








– Lint-free cloth
– Stainless steel scrubber
– Small bowl
– Protective gloves


– Petroleum jelly
– Lemon juice


1. Apply petroleum jelly with a lint-free cloth.
removing water stains on wood furniture using petroleum jelly

Apply a thick layer of jelly to the wood furniture and buff it into the water stain. Let the layer sit on the wood for a few hours, then remove any excess jelly from the wood using a clean, lint-free cloth. Repeat this process to lift the water mark slowly.

2. Squeeze lemon juice into a small bowl.

mixture to remove water marks from wood furniture

I cut a lemon and squeezed one half into a bowl. (I did not add anything else other than the lemon.) You may need more lemon juice, depending on the size of your water stain.

3. Apply lemon juice to the water stain using a stainless steel scrubber.

The biggest disclaimer here is that you absolutely must use a light hand. Stainless steel scrubbers are naturally abrasive, and this abrasiveness will lift the water mark. However, if you buff in the lemon juice with a heavy hand, you could remove the finish, stain, or the actual wood. Buff gently and keep checking your progress. You should see the stain slowly lifting. The lemon juice and stainless steel scrubber finish what the petroleum jelly started.

4. Buff on a thin layer of petroleum jelly.

apply lemon juice to watermark on wood furniture

Once the stain was pretty much lifted, I added some more petroleum jelly, but I used a thinner coat than I did in the first step. This step removes the lemon juice and the final part of the water stain. It can also help condition the wood. Once you buff in the jelly, let it sit for another few minutes, and then remove it with a clean, lint-free cloth. I like starting with the petroleum jelly step first because it’s less abrasive than lemon and stainless steel. In some cases, you might not even need to use lemon if the vaseline removes the entire stain in the first step.

removed watermark stain

Here’s the finished product! To the naked eye, the water stain is completely gone. However, the camera picked up a slight outline where the water mark used to be. To fix this, I could go in with some touch-up stain. But overall, I am extremely pleased with the final results.

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