Real Simpleanswers your questions.

Each product we feature has been independently selected and reviewed by our editorial team. If you make a purchase using the links included, we may earn commission.
Water ring on wood furniture
Try rubbing a bit of nongel toothpaste onto a water ring, then buff with a clean cloth. Or substitute full-fat mayonnaise for the toothpaste; leave it on for at least an hour before wiping clean and buffing.
| Credit: Alexander Rowley

Q. How can I get rid of white water rings on wood furniture?

Marie Reith

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

A. Before you do anything, determine if the piece of furniture is antique (and might have a shellac or varnish surface). If it is, hire a furniture-restoration specialist to do the job. You should also call a professional if the rings have turned from white to black.

White water rings on relatively new furniture (less than 50 years old) that has an oil or a lacquer finish can be remedied at home with a few simple steps. The key to erasing the rings is to rub a gentle abrasive cleaner over them until you have freed the trapped moisture. A tried-and-true tactic recommended by Charles Sutton, author of How to Care for Your Old & New Furniture ($20,, is to coat a soft, damp cloth with a creamy white appliance polish (a baking soda–and-water combination or a nonsoapy ammonia will also do the trick) and lightly rub the affected finish in the direction of the wood grain. Repeat the motion for 5 to 10 minutes, until you break through to the condensation that has seeped into the surface. Then dry and clean the area with a soft cloth and seal the finish with furniture or paste wax.

If you spot a water ring but don’t have any of the cleaners mentioned above, look to your bathroom or kitchen cabinets. Put a bit of nongel toothpaste on a soft cloth and rub the affected area, suggests Joey Green, author of Joey Green’s Fix-It Magic (Rodale Books, $18,, then buff the area with a clean cloth. Still have a stubborn spot? Substitute full-fat mayonnaise for the toothpaste and leave it on for at least an hour before wiping clean and buffing with a clean cloth. ―Camilla Moshayedi

Ask a Question

Got a practical dilemma? Submit your question.

Your submission to, including contact information, gives us the right to modify, use, distribute, reproduce, publish and display the submission indefinitely in all media, means, and forms without any payment to you. You hereby represent that you haven't copied the content from a book, magazine, newspaper, or other commercial source. Your submission to, and your use of the website are subject to Real Simple's Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

(For questions about your subscription, please visit the Customer Service Help Desk.)