Okay. Before you even start reading, take note that I am in no way, shape, form an expert on this.
Yes, I have removed steam stains from my coffee and end tables numerous times. No, I am not 100% positive that this will work on your tables.
But if you’re here reading this then I’m assuming you’re at wits end and willing to risk it all, right?
Let me just say that my coffee table has seen some rough times… real rough. And I don’t care who you are — if you have a well-used wooden table then there is a 90% chance that you can relate (a year ago I couldn’t… but I’m a big girl now with big girl furniture).
At one point there were numerous giant, splotchy, cloudy steam stains from the bottom of plates, along with about 6 perfectly round and perfectly white steam stains from a plate of baked zucchini.
Luckily, my boyfriend and I have learned our lesson and only use heavy duty plates if they’re going to be placed on the wood (paper plates are now the ENEMY).
I’ve also gotten to the point where I am absolutely crazy about coaster use. Currently, the end table has not one… but TWO round, white, steam stains from the bottom rim of mugs being too hot on the wood.
Those are the before and after pictures that are shown in this post to show you that YES, there is hope for all your wooden tables. Don’t give up on them yet! Don’t toss them out and don’t think that the only solution is to refinish them.
Because the solution is SO simple and takes LESS than 5 minutes.
But first, understanding why this happens is important so that you can prevent it in the future.
Steam stains. When I saw the first one appear on my coffee table I was SO confused. I’d never even seen a mark like that appear on wood furniture. I had no idea what it was. So what did I do? I googled for hours like any psycho, research obsessed person does until I felt satisfied with my findings… and then ended up on Pinterest pinning pictures of well dressed women on these grand European vacations. Anyone else? Just me? Okay.
Anyways. So the reason these white stains happen is because the bottom of plates, take out boxes, and cups all create steam when they are hot that gets trapped underneath them. Think: opening up a takeout box to find water droplets on the top of the lid, or opening up a travel coffee mug to find water droplets filling the lid and lining the edges of the cup.
Hot objects placed onto wood act the same way.
Since the steam is trapped up against the wood it gets absorbed into the finish. Really, the stain is just very tiny water droplets sitting under the top layer (or finish) of your table.
How do you dry up water? Heat. There you go.
An iron is the easiest solution to get rid of the noticeable tabletop steam stains.
What didn’t work:
Now, Google didn’t really give me the solution that I used to fix my tables. It gave me a solution that I tried to use… which failed. It said to lay a small towel down over the stains and run an iron on the dry settings (not the highest steam settings as to avoid more moisture) over the towel (checking every few seconds) until the stains were gone.
When I tried this on my table, I immediately noticed that more steam was being created despite using the dry settings on my iron.
Since that didn’t work my next instinct was to just run the entire iron over the stains, with no barrier.
Which prompted me to text my boyfriend warning him that he was probably going to come home to a table that looked even worse than when he left and that I was sorry. Oops.
BUT to my surprise… one quick swipe of the iron and the stain was disappearing.
What did work:
On the larger steam spots, I kept my iron completely flat and very quickly ran it over the entire stain multiple times. After about 5 swipes of the iron, wipe off the surface with a hand towel. Then give the wood (and it’s finish) a chance to cool.
Then resume your ironing! You may have to repeat this process a few times depending on how bad the steam stain is. But the stain should be getting visibly lighter after every swipe of the iron.
On the smaller steam spots (the cup rings), I used the tip of my iron held at somewhat of an angle. This was just to avoid any unnecessary heat on the undamaged parts of the table.
HOWEVER, you do have to be VERY careful when holding the iron at an angle. You must lightly swipe the iron over the stain, and do not press down. If you press down too hard, the edge of the iron may start to dig into the wood’s finish and cause scratches (which isn’t noticeable to the naked eye, but if you’re as detail-oriented as I am… you will know it’s there).
Holding the iron at an angle gives a VERY visible result immediately. By using the tip of the iron on the stains, you create a small line through the stain where it has removed the steam. And let’s be real — it’s just more fun to see the drastic contrast from the results.
Seriously though, either way will work. Either way you need to be careful. Either way you need to give the finish a chance to cool every few seconds.
The results speak for themselves.
I’m telling you, the before and after photos are telling you, my brand new looking tables are telling you… use the iron. Overall, this process takes less than 5 minutes to complete — which includes iron heat up time! Seriously, the stains may look intimidating but the removal process is easier than easy.
So remember, there’s almost always a solution to fixing furniture up once it starts to show some wear. I’ve actually gotten very good at furniture refinishing, fixing, and painting. If you have any questions about how to fix up your furniture just reach out! I’ll do my best to give you some advice and direction.
My Pinterest is full of other hacks so be sure to check it out.
Want more tips? Check out this stain remover that you can use on literally anything.