Home » How to Remove White Water Stains on Wood Floors

How to Remove White Water Stains on Wood Floors

Water stains on wooden floors and furniture can make you think it’ll never be redeemable, and it is stuck like that forever.

But, there are some ways that you can redeem your wooden household items and flooring that can be easily done.

There are cleaning products, cleaning hacks, and simple fast-acting solutions as soon as you see the water hit that wood. 

PS. If you have ever asked yourself, "Can I lighten my hardwood without sanding?", click on the link, because we have a guide for you. 

How to Remove White Water Stains on Wood Floors

Cleaning up Water Stains

Before you jump the gun and get cleaning right away you will need to determine how long the stain has been there for.

The most common stain type is a ‘white water’ stain. This type of stain occurs when water hits the wood and penetrates the finish of the wooden item. 

There are plenty of ways to remedy this and remove the water stain from the wood.

The easiest way to fix these stains is to catch them quickly before it stinks in any further, so you only have to deal with surface issues. 

New Stain Removal

This tactic for removing stains is primarily considering what to do if you have just spilled the water onto the wood and are ready to act fast. 

  1. First of all, you want to immediately clean and wipe the area where the water spilled. Use a soft cloth to soak up the moisture, it has to be a soft item as not to scratch the wood and damage it any further. 
  1. When you buff and clean the area do so, going with the grain of the wood, this will provide you with the best overall results. 
  1. If you see that a watermark has already set in, or is starting to appear, you want to get out your blow dryer, to quickly dry up the excess moisture before it sets into the wood. Do this on a low setting if possible, otherwise, you can run the risk of turning the watermark into a heat mark.
  1. Once you have dried out the stain, buff the surface again, this time use a polish to remove any of the stains that remain. Since you are cleaning wood, you could use wooden furniture polish to do this if the area affected is not too great.

Tackling the Oldies

While there are many methods of removing older stains, do remember that you may have to use more than one method to fully remove the stain and return your hardwood floors to normal again.

These are our favorite methods of white water stain removal. 

Watermark removers

There are many products available out there that are made especially for this kind of predicament.

These are made to tackle old watermark stains but they are also capable of destroying stains caused by heat, cold, alcohol, and even magic markers- for those of you with extremely creative and messy kids.)

Make sure that you pay attention to the instructions provided by the manufacturers of these products, as some of these may require ventilation (which may not be so easy for hardwood floors), or protective clothing such as masks, gloves, and so on.

Magic Erasers

A unique and fantastic invention. All that needs to be done with a magic eraser is to gently buff a damp magic eraser, with the grain of the wood.

However, with very deep stains you may need to repeat this process more than once for the best results.

Once you have removed this stain you can polish the wood to get out any remaining marks and to add that ‘good-as-new’ look to it. 

Hardwood Floor Cleaners

A very target specific method is to use a hardwood floor cleaner to remove these types of aggravating stains.

If you are targeting a specific area of your floor, simply apply the product to the area and clean it with a damp cloth. Easy as breathing! 

Salt and Oil

Today the world is filled with cleaning hacks, all you need to do is turn on your phone or laptop and you will be inundated with them, you can’t escape from them, and with this one, neither can the stains.

Salt and oil can work very well, olive oil will work best for this. Gently rub it into your stain and leave it for 15-20 minutes. Then remove it with a cotton cloth.

This is also possible to do with a small amount of salt and some water if you are tackling ultra tiny stains. 


An unexpected hack but did you know that mayonnaise is a fantastic cleaner?

To use mayonnaise to clean your stain, all you need to do is place some mayo on a cloth, use a small amount only, you can add more later if you need to do so.

Then place the mayo and cloth over the stain. Let it sit for about an hour, check that it is not drying out, if it does dry then add some more to keep it moist.

Once you are done and the mayonnaise has done its job, simply wipe it away with a thick, and preferably cotton, cloth.

Tooth Paste

These days who hasn’t heard of the toothpaste cleaning hack, it is everywhere and it’s already like old news. But, did you know it can clean up your floors as well as your teeth?

For this stain relieving cleaning hack, all you need to do is use a nice white toothpaste- plain white, no gels.

Apply a small amount to the stain and buff the wooden floor with the grain, using a cotton cloth, once done wipe it off, and then polish it for that shiny, new look. 

Baking Soda

Finally, we finish with an infamous cleaning hack, up there with some of the most famous of all time. At this point baking soda is probably more used in cleaning hacks than anything else.

To do this, you guessed it, create a paste. It is recommended you use 1 tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of water and mix them until you have a thick, dense paste.

Then apply the paste to the stain and rub gently. If it doesn’t work apply more and let it sit overnight. In the morning, wipe it away with a cloth and you’ll see the amazing results that come with baking soda hacks. 

What Causes White Watermarks in Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood is a luxurious and wonderful flooring type, and it can make your home look amazing.

Especially great for warm homes that can’t stand the heat held in by carpeting or the painful heat and cold reactions you get from tiles. 

Hardwood flooring often comes with a glorious glossy polyurethane finish to it which makes it one of the most durable flooring types as well. But, it does have a foe.

Water and wood have never been the best of friends and they are a bit like age-old foes. So, when we clean our hardwood floors we have to be mindful of the relationship between the two. 

There can be many causes of white spots on hardwood flooring. Yet, it is safe to say that water is the primary culprit of these annoying and unsightly stains.

Any water stains on hardwood floors should therefore be cleaned up immediately and with haste to save more elbow grease and hard work to get out harder set stains. 

Although water is not the only culprit here, heat is also a common perpetrator of this problem as well, often due to tea, coffee, pizza boxes, and more. This was the reason that placemats and coasters were made, to save wooden tables and surfaces from heat marks. 

While many wooden floors are made with a polyurethane finish which makes them resistant to stain damage, this feature may not last forever and be as formidable as you may first think. 

Water can easily get trapped inside this seemingly unbeatable polyurethane finish when you are mopping, just the same as how perfumes, juice, alcohol, and more can spill and create mark marks too or slip under the finish.

Much in the same way that inappropriate cleaning techniques can damage your wood and your finish, easily creating areas for stains to grow, you can even create stains from cleaning, which makes the presence of stains all too common.

If your finish has been taken off by inappropriate cleaning methods then it is possible you have made the flooring more susceptible to staining, but it is easy to reapply a finish if you have the time, and determination to save the flooring. 

One more method

One more stain removal method we love is specialized for hardwood floors. This method is done using hydrogen peroxide. Do this method by applying a small around of hydrogen peroxide to a plastic cup.

Then using a cotton pad, place it into the hydrogen peroxide and apply it in place to the affected area of your flooring. Then, let it sit for 5-10 minutes to work its magic. 

Once it has worked it’s magic, remove the pad and dry the area, don’t forget to enjoy the cleanliness and stain-free look of your floor too! 

How Do You Fix Water Damaged Wood?

In some ways, the wood in our homes is not all that different from trees. Much like them just are similarly affected by mold and rot when faced with copious amounts of moisture.

Overdosing on moisture can make the wood swell, move, warp, and of course develop watermarks. 

Dark marks mean that the water has already penetrated the finish, whereas light, white marks mean that the stain is on the surface has not yet penetrated the finish.

Different woods will react differently to different amounts of water and certain stain removal methods. 

Dealing with swollen wood

If the wood has swollen up then your first step is to dry it out, if you can get the wood into direct sunlight this will be a great help and make this process easier, but obviously, this is a bit more difficult to do with a hardwood floor and is best reserved for hardwood furniture.

The other option you have is to get that blow drier out as you would with a new stain. You will need to dry out the whole area.

The wood needs to be completely dry, but not too fast as this can damage and warp the wood. So, take your time and be patient. 

Sanding can be useful after drying, to get the smooth surface back, tools for this can easily be bought at a hardware store. 

You can even get Marine-based polyurethane to add a new finish. This is especially good and is commonly used on boats to provide excellent protection against water.

Leave a Comment