How to Remove White Heat Marks on Furniture

During the holidays we had some friends over for a dinner party. We served an extra hot meal that night and after everyone left and the dishes were cleared and the table linens removed, I discovered foggy white marks all over my beautiful new table. This one was the smallest, though brightest mark.

Before I had a chance to freak out too much, my husband did some googling and we discovered that on some pieces of furniture if moisture (usually from the steam condensation on a hot dish) gets under the finish, white splotches called heat marks will appear and will stick around until treated.

You’ll be surprised to learn, as I was, that to remedy heat marks, you apply… more heat and moisture! Weird, right? I just used two folded over clean white linen napkins and sprayed them down a little with water. You want there to be several layers of cloth between your iron and the table surface. Then I ironed over the napkins on top of the heat marks for about 15 seconds with the iron on a medium heat/steam setting. Don’t just set the iron down though – keep it moving.


I have no clue why my table looks so dark here. Must have messed up the camera settings.

It was like magic and the heat marks disappeared (though in these photos I can see I missed a spot that doesn’t show in person).

Anyway, random post today, but I thought maybe some of you might have had a similar issue with your wood furniture. Or if in the future you see these heat marks on a thrift store table, don’t pass on it – it’s an easy 15 second fix. I can remember one gorgeous coffee table that I didn’t buy because of it’s heat marks. I thought I would need to strip and refinish the whole thing! Who knew?

**A little disclaimer: this trick worked for me, but I guess a few other readers have not had success. It might be wise for you to try a less conspicuous area on your table first. Be sure you’re using damp cloths with your iron on a medium setting with steam. And be sure to keep your iron moving!**
  1. Anonymous

    this works I have tried it, however I also use wet magic eraser. Not sure how great it is on the finish, but I didnt see any damage done to my coffee table :)

  2. This is completely unbelievable!! I had a place on my kitchen cabinets where steam from the coffee maker had made a white stain that I could not remove, and this trick took care of it in seconds!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  3. Anonymous

    Please be careful if you use this on sixties Italian furniture! I tried it, did everything right (medium warm, folded linnen cloth, 15 seconds ironing) and my dressoir is completely ruined. It looks awful, and i wish I had never tried it :( Could be the finish or the material, I don't know…

    • Paul LeporΓ©

      Most European furniture had a French polish finish called (shellac) unlike cellulose laquer or polymer varnishes it is easily damaged by water but also easily fixed. Steam ironing would be damaging. You can buy ready made shellac at hardware stores to resurface the damaged area. Shellac is tricky to apply as it dries in minutes and you must not drag your brush back and forth too much if any,as it will streak,but sanding between coats with fine sand paper will give you a fine finish.Apply several layers and be sure to lightly sand between coats. You may then buff it up by rubbing cream polish vigorously over the finish then buff with clean dry cloth, or simply give it a final thin coat after having sanded.

    • Lisa

      For older furniture with oil based finish this won’t work. Instead do the same thing with dry heat–dry empty iron and dry cloth, low heat. Takes much longer–maybe more than an hour. The dry heat draws the moisture out of the wood and into the cloth.

  4. Anonymous

    Thank you!
    I did some canning last week and put the jars on the wooden table to cool (with 3 layers of towels so I thought it would be protected) and was disappointed to see that I had made a lovely polka-dot pattern on our table!
    I tried your ironing trick – although I was skeptical – and it worked. Now my 2 year old cannot continue to tell everyone that, "Mama wrecked the table". Thank you

  5. This is genious! I litereally pinned this yesterday morning and last night I made dinner and put the hot glass dish on a dish towel (instead of a trivet) and low and behold it left a HUGE white spot on my brand new kitchen table!! I was so upset since it looked terrible and was hoping this technique would do the trick. I was skeptical, but I tried it and IT WORKED LIKE A CHARM!!!!! NO MORE WHITE SPOT!! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing this idea!!

  6. Anonymous

    Thank you for posting this…I just tried it on our vintage pine dining table with a clean white dish cloth and it worked…key is to keep the iron moving, I used a circular motion and did it in 10 second intervals, removing the dish cloth in between and wiping dry the area.
    You are a genus!

  7. Anonymous

    I just tried your tip for getting white steam marks out of my dining room table and it worked wonderfully. Thanks so much for posting this. I had no idea what to do and this was very helpful!

  8. thanks to you and the internet! ordered take out food last night, ate on the coffee table and went to bed with the decision to clean up in the morning. You can imagine the horror when I saw the white marks left under the to-go containers. Thanks again for the tip. Followed your instructions exactly and voila, stain is gone!

  9. Louise

    THIS WORKS!!!!!!

    My housemate put a boiling hot casserole dish on a dark mahogany coloured table – like the table above even with the detail – with a thin dish cloth underneath and left a huge white mark and you could even see the cloth texture as well!

    I got a cotton pillow case and folded it into thirds, spritzed it with water from a plant sprayer and ironed on low/ medium heat, I kept the iron moving taking it off every 5-10 seconds then checking and going again, I added a bit more water half way through and ITS GONE!!!!

  10. my hubby left some heat marks on a new week-old dining table when i was out of town. wood polish did not help. the mayo trick did not work. the iron trick just worked!!!! yay!

  11. I just tried it on my kitchen table and IT WORKED! I had tried the may trick and was paicked when it didn't work. I googled "white marks on furniture" and your site came up.
    THANK YOU!

  12. Texie

    I’ve also used a similar trick on my carpet for dried candle wax that I had spilt. In my case I used paper towels to absorb the wax. Moved the iron over the paper towels, remelted the wax, and the paper towels absorbed it.

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  14. Rosalinda Coronado

    I tried and it did not work!!! I did everything to the T. my table spots r wirth. Help anything else i can try. thank you

  15. Linda

    I have a beautiful desk with a painted green finish and semigloss top coat. (I bought it this way) I put something hot on it a got a white blotch. Can I use your technique to repair it?

  16. mary

    Does it have to be recent? Mine is a week old.

  17. mary

    My big mistake was a hot pick up pizza still in the box. But, that was a week ago. Does it have to be a recent stain?

    • Diane

      All I know is that my white marks were there for probably at least 6 years, and this worked for me.

  18. I would like to offer a correction to the answers here. The root cause of the “cloudy” white stain on wood tables caused by hot plates is the moisture that is trapped within the varnish on the table.
    This is specially for really hard old reclaimed wood tables (teak, casuani, etc). These tables are typically finished with “oil” varnish or polish and not water. Now I tried everything from hot iron to baking soda and everything else in between. The one thing that made is worse was using a steam iron. That’s because with steam it caused the oil polish on the table trap more moisture and it made it worse (like others have also seen if you google). The trick is to get the moisture out. So with a water based finish using a simple iron on low heat works great. However after 4 hours I realized that for oil based polish you need a very hot iron and a kitchen towel. This is very important because unlike water polish with oil polish I realized I need to get the table extremely hot and then it “pushes” the water out of the table (yes you can see beads of it) and the towel should soak it up right away otherwise it goes back.
    So to summarize for oil based finishes you need a dry iron at max temp out on a kitchen towel on the table and left there for about 20-30 seconds on each spot and then wipe off the water beads right away. Repeat until no more water comes out. This is different from water based finish. Do NOT use a steam iron on a oil based finish. Hope this helps. Thanks.

    • Diana

      A hair dryer can be very effective if heat is required and one would have greater control with heat. Use a cloth as you would with an iron

    • Sharon

      THANK YOU!! I tried the wet cloth method and it did not work. I kept reading form more ideas until I read your method. It worked! Huge relief. I thought my beautiful table was ruined but thanks to your helpful instructions the marks are gone.

  19. Diane

    I have a matching coffee table, two end tables and a three-piece wall unit that is almost 30 years old and was so upset when I saw that I had a few white marks on my coffee table. I saw this tip and tried it and it worked beautifully. I am very grateful that you posted this.

  20. Jim

    That is a cool and easy way to get rid of moisture stains from wooden furniture. Until now I used to apply rubbing alcohol or automotive oils to clear stains from wood. Have to try this iron technique.

  21. Kurt

    On an older table with a varnish/shellac finish, I used denatured alcohol and rubbed with a cloth. The water stain was released and the finish on the table is cleaner and more consistent now after rubbing it out with the denatured alcohol. If you have an older table, you may want to give this a try before applying more heat and steam. Guests in the house had used a clothing steamer – with the antique table as an ironing board.
    Thanks for the site and the comments!

  22. Doug

    This works but I moved the damp towel WITH the iron. When I ironed on the stationary towel, it left a perfect towel print – the same process as the hot ears of corn on a napkin used in the first place. Duhh! The good news is it all comes off.

  23. jeana

    This worked!! I’m amazed. I ordered pizza for dinner, set the box on the table and 1/3 of it was ruined with a white hazy stain on the cherry table top. I tried cleaners, polish, magic erasers and wood stain pens. In absolute tears I googled and found this. Thank you!!!

  24. Sonia

    Omg I was baking cakes and cupcakes for my kids high school fall festival. I placed one of the cakes after what I thought was cooled down and when I picked it up to decorate there was a very apparent white spot!! It was very noticeable. My dining table table is dark colored , I wanted to cry. After panicking I googled this problem and I tried this method and it worked !! I had to do it three times but after the third time it completely disappeared. Thank you soon much!

  25. John Kowalski

    I engaged a professional Furniture Polisher to treat white stains on our mahogany table. He poured a small amount of methylated spirit on the stains and set light to it!! He let it burn for a few seconds before immediately applying wax/polish to seal the surface. It worked a treat.

    I don’t suggest you try this yourself, as I did on a side table… I ended up with a burn mark to the wood where I left it burn too long. On another small spot the white mark initially disappeared but then came back larger and even worse after a few hours. This was because I hadn’t immediately sealed the surface with new polish. Took a few attempts to get the timings right – there’s sometime a good reason to employ a professional!

  26. Melanie

    Hello. Has anyone tried this technique on bamboo counter tops in kitchens (white foggy patches where hot items were placed) with any success (the counters are sealed/polished)?

  27. Shirley Ann

    I went to Pinterest a few days ago and asked this queastion. I thought my dining table was ruined for sure. I got a linen tea towel and my steam iron and tried this method. I did not pre wet towel, just steamed through it.
    My table is now back to perfection.! thank you all at Pinterest!
    Shirley Ann
    satees@sympatico.ca

  28. Lisa McCollum

    OMG – This worked like MAGIC on an expensive coffee table that I thought was ruined!

  29. Allison

    It worked for me!!!! Thank you, Random Internet Person!

  30. L clements

    OMG thank you a little steam a white cloth an iron white mark gone …..table back to normal ….brilliant

  31. Francesc

    Great tip. It worked for me in Barcelona on a Swedish type modern dining room table.

  32. Leslie

    Now I have what appears to be dry spots where the iron was on the table. Spots are gone, but the finish seems altered. Suggestions?

  33. Jenn

    A use for Cigarette Ashes…and a miracle whip paste…spread on spot let sit for a few mins and wipe away…it should do it! :)

  34. Hope Morrow

    Tried this on a Coaster “cherry wood like” dining table I bought used. Had some white heat marks when I bought it. Just recently created one myself at Christmas dinner that was worse than the ones that were there before. Found this tip and I could not believe my eyes when all of them disappeared! Rubbed a little olive oil over the table and it looks beautiful. Thank you so much!

  35. JWJorgensen

    this ironing method did not work on my table I ironed it and white marks did not disappear
    should I try for longer or should I try denatured alcohol toothpaste etc
    It looks to me like my table is scarred
    thank you
    JW Jorgensen

  36. JWJorgensen

    tried iron out white spots they look like scars
    caused it with hot sausages
    table looks like it has coat of varnish went right through
    should I try ironing again or use denatured alcohol method or non gel toothpaste
    please help

  37. melanie

    thank you for posting this! Nothing else worked, yours is the only resource that helped.

  38. Lois Corbett

    I just tried the moistened white table napkins and the medium – heat iron on old ( pizza box ) white heat marks and this absolutely worked! I was leery of doing it on our Vilas Maple coffee table as it had been handed down as part of my in-laws estate….but, VOILA……….back to perfect condition! Thankyou so much!

  39. Jean Tessier

    OMG, this really works!! Used this method (dry white cloth, medium heat on iron and no steam) on our beautiful coffee table, and it came out as good as new. Thank you and hope this helps others.

  40. Mary Lyn Wilson

    I have used colgate tooth paste rubbed directly on the surface with a white soft cloth and some elbow grease and it removed the stain. However I do not know what the finish was on the wood. I have tried it on several different furniture and have had success. just a different option from what I have read here.

  41. David

    At Christmas my wife ironed out some creases on a linen tablecloth in situ on our oak, polyurethane coated dining table with a steam iron. This left lots of large and small white foggy areas that defaced it greatly. There were horrible white patches showing the shape of the iron and other odd shapes. I was going to sand and revarnish but after reading the tip on here today we agreed to try using a medium dry hot iron, steam off, on top of a white tea towel. I worked the table over in patches moving the iron constantly, a few minutes for each, repeating the worst affected. It worked brilliantly much to our amazement. Great advice saving me a lot of work , dust and hassle. The table looks virtually free of marks and nobody would know that they had been there. Brilliant and thanks for the great tip.

  42. Terrie

    It worked ! It worked better for me when I pressed hard and moved my iron in small circles. Thanks !

  43. ANONYMOUS

    using a medium-high dry hot iron, steam off, on top of a old white hotel towel worked the table over in patches moving the iron constantly, a few minutes for each, repeating the worst affected. It worked so very much to our afraid amazement!!! So appreciative of this magical advice. The table looks virtually free of all marks!!!!

  44. Sue

    I bought a dark pine coffee table at a consignment store. It was in great condition with just a minor scratch on top, until a hot pizza box was placed on it. I did just as the instruction said and it worked great. The white marks are gone!!

  45. Anon

    Is there a possible remedy for a lack of an iron?

    • Liz

      Yes. Go get a Magic Eraser. Wet it and rub away. Lightly though. It works like Magic !!! Lol.

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  48. Toby Winter

    This is so weird because that’s how I actually got the heat spots. I have an oak roll top desk that I moved and it left big dents in the carpet where it had sat before. I got my steam iron because that’s how I get rid of furniture leg dents in carpet. The dents were very close to the wood so I placed a thin metal sheet between the heat of the steam iron and the wood and when I removed the piece of metal…..it had made white spots on the wood at the base of the desk. But, I am going to give this a try.

  49. Liz

    I just took the advice of the person who used the Magic Eraser. It worked fantastic. You need to rub it for quite awhile. I must have used about 400 strokes back and forth. But it worked. Who would have known

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