How remove marks from wood

While restoring an antique is usually a job for a professional, it's possible to tackle wear and tear on everyday items yourself, with repair and restoration techniques that will cope with some of the more common problems. So, here's our guide how to remove wood stains

How remove marks from wood

Read our guide How to remove wood stains

Top tips

  • Don't tackle any items that you think may have an 'antique value' before having them checked by an antique restorer.
  • It's important to work carefully! Frequently stand back to judge the results as it's very easy to cause further damage through enthusiasm.

Removing encrusted wax from wooden furniture
An easy way to remove wax, is to gently heat the wax with a hair dryer on a low heat until it softens - and then wipe away with paper towel. Ensure the heat setting is not too high or close to the surface to avoid burning the wood or over heating your appliance. If that doesn’t work, wipe over the area with a gentle surface cleaner, or make your own wood reviver from one part linseed oil to four parts white spirit. This will remove old grime without damaging the surface patina. Wipe on with one cloth and take off the old wax with another. You may need to use fine grade (0000) wire wool as well, but don't rub too hard. After repairing any defects, rub the surface with a coat of clear or coloured beeswax polish. Always leave on overnight to allow the solvents to evaporate before buffing with a soft clean cloth.

How to remove scratches from wood
If you only have a few minor scratches to conceal, try rubbing a matching shoe polish over the marks and then buffing with a soft cloth, you can also buy furniture makers crayons, which are used by pros to disguise scratches. Fine hairline scratches can also be concealed with a wood dye touching-in pen for light, medium or dark woods. You may need to go over a scratch several times to build up the colour.

How to remove small dents from wood
To raise a dent in a tabletop, lay a damp cloth over it and apply the tip of a hot iron to the cloth. The steam swells the wood fibres to their original shape. Then repair the damaged finish. This fix only works if the dent is not too deep. If the wood's fibres are broken, then it is not as successful.

How to get rid of ring marks from wooden furniture
Car paint reviver contains very fine abrasives. Use a cloth to rub some of the cream around the white ring mark. Most rings have only damaged the wax layer or surface polish and can be rubbed out with plenty of elbow grease. Finally, wax and buff the surface.

Woodworm holes
Filler sticks of coloured wax are ideal for filling small cracks and woodworm holes (see Rot and Woodworm for more advice). Rub the wax across the opening firmly to fill the holes and buff off the excess with a cloth. Wax filler sticks are available from craft shops and wood-finishing suppliers.

How to disguide cigarette burns
Cigarette burns are one of the worst marks to remove from wood. Carefully scrape away the charred area with the tip of a craft knife and build up the hole with either wood filler or coloured wax.

Loose joints
Joints that have not completely broken, but are slightly loose, can often be repaired by forcing more glue into the joint, and then use a clamp to hold the pieces together as the glue sets. Alternatively, soak the opening with a wood-swelling liquid to tighten the joint. For joints that have broken apart, clean all the surfaces with a chisel or craft knife, scraping away old glue and dirt to expose bare wood for the new adhesive. Brush on the PVA glue and push the joint together. To give the joint more strength you may be able to drill two holes through the joint at right angles to the meeting pieces. Coat beech dowels with wood glue and tap these through the drilled holes to peg the parts together. Make sure the pegs pass through to the other side of the timber. Use cramps to hold the joint firmly together for at least six hours.

If you are interested in furniture repair, you might also like to read our guides How to repair leather and upholstery, and How to paint furniture.