Expert-approved ways to get your wood pieces looking like new again.

By Maridel Reyes
May 13, 2019
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water rings on wood from glass
Credit: Tamara Staples/Getty images

Wooden furniture is beautiful and durable. And, with the right kind of TLC, it can look brand-new for many years. But as soon as you notice a water ring, scratch, scuff, or a gouge, you should spring into action and address it, says Beth Allen, a contractor and interior designer based in Pennsylvania. "Unless the piece is a fine antique or an heirloom, it's worth trying to DIY a fix before consulting a professional," she says. "Damage can set in and gets worse with time, so the faster you fix it, the better." Before you start, make sure that the furniture is clean. Wipe dust off with a cloth and use a non-waxy cleaner, like Murphy Oil Soap, then try the tips below.

The Problem: A Water Ring/Stain

When it comes to fixing water rings, you have a few options, says Allen. First, take a clean, white cotton cloth and place it over the affected area. Then, take a medium to hot iron and set it over the cloth (make sure there's no water in the steam chamber). The moisture will transfer from the wood to the cotton, drawing the water out and drying it up. Similarly, you can use a hair dryer on a medium to high setting; keep it close to the wood and move it back and forth across the area. To prevent moisture rings, always use coasters.

The Problem: A Shallow Chip in the Finish

If the clear coating has been nicked but the wood underneath is intact, apply a thin coat of polyurethane with a small brush on the spot. In a pinch, you can also use clear nail polish, but the finish might not quite match. In the future, make sure everything you place on the wood furniture is set on either a coaster or has a felt bumper underneath to prevent scuffs.

The Problem: A Large Scratch

If a scratch has gone through the top layer and into the wood, buy either a wood stain touch-up marker in a color close to the wood and use it to fill in the scratch, says Allen. You can also use a furniture wax crayon for a similar effect. "If you have a really dark wood-like an espresso stain-you can just use a black marker," she says. "I've even used a crayon out of my kid's play box."

The Problem: A Deep Gouge

There's really only one way to fix this problem: Buy a wood filler that contains natural wood pulp, and make sure that it clearly says it can be stained on the container. Then, treat the affected area like you would spackle a hole in the wall. Using a putty knife to patch the area, make sure you're smoothing in a 45-degree angle to fill in the gouge. Once the filler is set, use a stain to try to match the original color of the wood. If the wood has an obvious grain, you can scrape across the putty with a pen to create texture so the repair is less obvious, suggests Allen.

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