Prevent water ring stains from forming by immediately wiping moisture from the lacquered surface.

Repairing Ring Stains on a Lacquer Finish

by Jessica Westover

Lacquer not only adds a glossy, smooth surface to your wooden furniture, it also protects the wood from damage. Over time, the coat of lacquer finish may develop small cracks as it breaks down. These cracks will absorb any moisture they come in contact with, such as condensation from the bottom of glasses, and turn cloudy white. The resulting rings stain the surface, creating an eyesore. Before taking the piece into a restorer, try removing the ring yourself with a few straightforward methods.

Oil Displacement Method

Fold a paper towel in half crosswise twice to create a square. Scoop up a spoonful of petroleum jelly or mayonnaise with a plastic spoon. Wipe the substance onto the flat surface of the paper towel.

Rub the jelly or mayonnaise over the top of the water ring on the lacquer finish, coating the area thoroughly with a 1/8-inch-thick layer. Leave it to sit on the stain for eight to 12 hours, allowing the oil to soak into the finish and replace the water causing the stain.

Hold a cotton cloth under running water to moisten it thoroughly. Wring out the cloth until it stops dripping but remains damp. Wipe the excess jelly or mayonnaise off the lacquered surface with the damp cloth.

Spray the lacquered surface with an oil-based furniture polish. Wipe the polish over the surface with a clean, dry cotton cloth.

Heat Removal Method

Turn your iron on, adjusting its heat setting to medium. Turn off the iron's steam switch, if applicable, to ensure that the iron remains dry. Wait for 10 minutes to allow the iron to heat up completely.

Place a clean, dry cotton cloth over the water ring on the lacquered surface. Set the iron down on top of the cloth, centering it over the ring stain. Press the iron down for three to five seconds.

Remove the iron and lift the cloth from the surface. Check the surface to see if the ring remains visible. Replace the cloth and reapply the iron in the same manner as before. Repeat this process as needed until the stain disappears.

Denatured Alcohol Method

Fold a cotton cloth in half crosswise twice to create a square. Remove the lid from a container of denatured alcohol. Hold the cloth over the container's opening while tipping the container to the side to moisten the cloth lightly with alcohol.

Move the cloth back and forth over the ring on the lacquered surface in a pendulum-like motion. Push the cloth down briefly onto the surface as it passes over the top of the ring. Continue this process for 30 to 60 seconds.

Stop brushing the ring with the cloth and wait until the alcohol evaporates. Remoisten the cloth with alcohol and repeat the brushing process as needed until the ring disappears.

Items you will need

  • Paper towel
  • Plastic spoon
  • Petroleum jelly or mayonnaise
  • Cotton cloths
  • Oil-based furniture polish
  • Iron
  • Denatured alcohol


  • Never leave the iron sitting on the lacquered surface for more than five seconds at a time to prevent burning or melting the finish.
  • Never press a hot iron directly to a lacquered finish.
  • Do not scrub the lacquered finish with the alcohol-moistened cloth or you may remove the finish entirely from the surface.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images