Quick and Easy Fixes for Wood Surfaces

Blueberries on the breakfast table
photography by Kate Hiscock/Moment/Getty Images

It is easy for wood surfaces to get marred by scratches and stains. It is just as easy to recover the beauty of wood through quick fixes, at least in most cases. Deeper gouges will require more thorough methods, but if the damage is only skin deep you have recourse to several quick ways to make it less apparent and maybe even fix it.

Fix Surface Scratches

It is usually the tops that suffer the most from heavy usage. Dragging objects across the surface or throwing things down on it often contributes to the wear and tear. It is not possible to prevent these from happening in a normal household. But you can take care of these unsightly scratches.

  • It is easy to find wood polishes that blend in surface scratches and damaged stain. These polishes are available in different shades to match most commonly found wood finishes. Select a shade that closely matches your piece’s finish and apply the wood polish to blend in any surface damage. The polish will come with instructions. Some polishes that do the job well:
  •  A light coat of wax can also fix superficial scratches. If you need to apply wax more thoroughly, find the instructions here.

Some homemade recipes can work in a pinch. These materials are easy to find, and can also be used to treat light scratches and discolorations with some success:

  • Crayons are one of the easiest ways to fill in scratches. Find the color that matches your finish most closely. You may have to mix two colors to get the desired effect. Rub into the scratch, then smooth with a soft cloth. Crayons are also great on painted finishes.
  • Brazil nuts are not only delicious and nutritious but can be used to fill in scratches in light wood. Be sure to cut them first to release the oil. Rub into the scratch and smooth.
  • Iodine from your medicine cabinet can hide surface scratches on darker wood, though you may have to apply more than one coat to get the right shade. Use Q-tips to gently rub into the scratch and then let it dry. I have tried this method with success.

Erase Water Ring Stains

Another problem that besets table tops, especially those with varnished finishes is water ring stains. They can look very unsightly and using coasters is an easy way to prevent them from happening in the first place. Here are some ways to get rid of them if they do happen:

  • This method works best if the stains are fresh and haven't had time to sink into the surface deeply. Place a thick piece of cloth over the water ring and press it with a warm iron. Make sure to drain all water from the iron before you do this. You don't want more moisture. Rub the warm iron over the cloth-covered water ring until it disappears. Take care not to go beyond the cloth or you’ll end up with a singed surface.
  • Use lemon oil or orange oil for stubborn water rings. Let the oil set on the water ring overnight, or at least a few hours. Wipe off excess oil. Even if it doesn’t disappear completely the stain will be less apparent.
  • An equal mixture of white toothpaste (not gel, but good old fashioned white toothpaste) and mayonnaise is also effective. Apply, then wipe off with a soft cloth. You may have to rub it for a little while for the ring to lighten considerably. Afterward, rub the area with orange oil or lemon oil to make it go away completely.
  • If you don't want to try out home remedies, look for water ring stain removers in the market.

You may have to try out several remedies, and possibly try one out several times before it goes away completely.