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, furniturelibrary.com), 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, amazon.com), 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
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