Growing up in my parents' house, I learned an important rule: your drinking glass and your table should never directly meet. Otherwise, you'll mark the table forever with a dreaded water ring.
Thankfully, coasters have come a long way (so many design options now!), but that doesn't mean all the guests at your party -- or the members of your family -- will actually use them. So what do you do when your lovely wood table gets branded with a water ring? Don't worry - it's not really
ruined forever. In fact, the fix is pretty painless.
The white ring that develops on your table's surface is caused by moisture or heat has disturbed the finish. Basically, you need to re-wax the finish to erase the water ring. Head to the hardware store and pick up mineral spirits, steel wool, cheesecloth, and wax (see below), along with gloves and a mask -- you'll want to wear one while you work with mineral spirits.
Furniture restorers use this solution for antiques – it's safe for furniture with shellac, polyurethane, or lacquer finishes. Here's what to do.
1. Squirt a little of the mineral spirits directly onto the water ring on your furniture.
2. Lightly rub the steel wool over the ring in a circular motion to remove the white marking. Make sure the surface of the ring is wet when you use the steel wool. If your surface is dry, you'll scratch the wood's finish. Typically, the white ring disappears quickly.
3. Buff the ring with a wax called Regency Wax. Put a dime-size amount of wax on a cheesecloth and buff the spot, working the wax in the direction of the wood grain. The steel wool that you used will help the wax stick to the furniture. Let the wax dry, and then buff out any excess.
If your water ring is a darker color than the wood (rather than white), it means the moisture has permeated the finish. You'll need a professional furniture restoration service to deal with that fix -- or you can sand the entire table surface and refinish it yourself.
Whatever you do, do NOT follow the old wives' tale that you can fix a water ring with butter or mayonnaise; the grease could actually cause an additional stain on your furniture (and do nothing about the original one).