We set a hot meal on a paper plate on our oak table, and after we cleaned up, we discovered a white stain left from the paper plate. Is there anything I can do to restore this or remove the stain?
Kevin Hancock: If it is a mild case of trapped moisture, rub the finish with a mild abrasive and oil. I often use paraffin oil and fine steel wool. In a pinch, I’ve used white toothpaste and cooking oil. Often it is necessary to pull out the moisture with a solvent and requires a professional. Using a French polishing stroke, pad the area with a alcohol-soaked, golf ball-shaped cotton pad, being careful to “not” stop the stroke on the surface. (Again, this technique might be better left to a pro.)
Greg Williams: If the finish is a lacquer, and the stain is, as I expect, a reaction of the lacquer with moisture because of the heat of the plate, you can warm the surface to about 80 degrees and spray a “Blush Eraser” type product (available from woodworking supply dealers like Rockler) on the area, and allow it to dry. This will dissolve the lacquer and allow time for the moisture to escape.
Richard Jones: If the table surface is waxed or shellacked then a good first strategy is to try burnishing the white spot vigorously with a polishing cloth. This can warm up the surface enough to let the water escape, but there’s no absolute guarantee of success. There are tricks, especially with shellac polishes of using alcohol in cotton buds or cotton wool balls where you lightly pass the alcohol dampened wool over the surface of the polish. This slightly dissolves the polish, and if you get it right it allows the trapped water to evaporate out.
John Brock: If you read any of Michael Dresdner’s excellent finishing books, you will find out that the white stain is usually water trapped inside the finish. Get a clean, soft, rag and wet it with denatured alcohol. Slightly moisten the rag (it should be about as wet as a healthy dog’s nose) and swipe the rag over the white stain. It may take several quick swipes. The solvent will soften the finish and allow the water to quickly evaporate out of the finish like magic right before your eyes.
Steve Rosasco: I have had success putting a linen cloth on water marks and using a dry iron to gradually apply heat, checking constantly not to worsen the condition.