The bag in the photo below stained my wood table (see the photos).

The bag had held some heavy books an was laid face-down on the table. I don't know if this happened through basic time and pressure, or if my cleaning lady applied cleaned the table with some Lemon Pledge, then placed the bag face-down on the newly cleaned tabletop. The table is from Rooms to Go (R2G). Officially per R2G's manufacturer catalog, it is a "cherry" wood with a "clear cherry" finish.

How can I remove this stain without having to refinish the table?

Update 1

Applying Minwax paste finishing wax removed a much smaller spot, but using it on this large an area requires a lot of elbow grease. Applying pressure from a plastic stick pushing waxed paper towel is working, albeit slowly. I wonder if Murphy's Oil Soap will help, but I don't want to add something new to the mix in case it sets the stain.

An online forum elsewhere recommended a paste of mayonnaise and cigarette ashes for a similar problem, but I don't smoke and therefore have no ashes available.

Update 2

I contacted a local furniture restoration company and showed them this post. The lovely lady on the phone explained that R2G usually uses a spray-on finish with a name that starts with 'f'. Her recommendation was to

  1. proceed cautiously
  2. tape over one grain direction
  3. get some 4 0 steel wool
  4. unfold it to a cloth shape
  5. get some appropriately-colored Minwax
  6. gently rub the Minwax using the wool in the direction of the grain
  7. if it fails to fade, apply slightly more pressure

The actual solution she suggested was slightly more complicated than what I've typed out. As 4 0 steel wool would definitely scratch the finish, this seems like a last resort; I'll stick with paper towels for now.

I wonder if a Magic Eraser is the same consistency as 4-zero / 4 0 steel wool, but having witnessed how a Magic Eraser can eradicate polish off a car, I am not going to start using one.

Update 3

Continuing to use the paper towel, Minwax, and elbow grease; based on the prior advice, I am also wiping with the grain. Wiping with the grain seems to fade the stain faster than when wiping randomly. This task is more complex due to the two grain directions, but I will persist and update on noticeable changes. At this rate, I plan to purchase 4-0 steel wool on my next outing.

THE BAG, DAMN YOU collectorsnet.com

The stain (originally):

the original stain

The (upside-down shot of the) stain (post-minwax + elbow grease):

stain post-work

Progress after applying more Minwax and pressure. Doesn't look like much progress, but maybe that's just the lighting.

elbow grease again

  • 2
    ashes are a fine powder that my grandfather swore by for polishing wood and getting marks out. There's nothing magic about tobacco ashes - any kind you can get hold of might work as a gentle abrasive. They were recommended because they were easy to get. Mar 2, 2013 at 14:22
  • Maybe I'll go the ashes and mayo route, then.
    – JoshDM
    Mar 2, 2013 at 14:43

6 Answers 6


Per the question, I used Minwax until it faded, but it was still quite obvious and visible (close to the last pic in the question post).

Then, taking a page from the "mayo and ashes" tip, I mixed 1-part mayonnaise (Hellman's) to 1-part baking soda (not baking powder; I used Arm & Hammer brand) as a cigarette ashes replacement. I rubbed the mixture along the grain directions using a paper towel and some pressure.

The stain faded, then vanished. The resulting wood is smooth, and considering the baking soda is abrasive, appears unscratched. After wiping off the mayo mix, my table may smell like a turkey sandwich, but it's beautiful again.

Now all I have to do is polish off all the Minwax buildup from my earlier cleaning attempts.

I would never have thought of going with the grain had I not spoken to the lady from Restore and Adore, and had the baking soda idea fell through, I would have gone with the "last resort" 4 0 steel wool with a lot of Minwax applied.

Pic of the repair:

repaired table

  • 2
    As an aside, I did let Collectorsnet.com know by e-mail what one of their bags did, but they didn't respond.
    – JoshDM
    Mar 6, 2013 at 16:12

I was eating a Wendy's burger on our wooden dining table. When I picked up the wrapper, Wendy's face was staring up at me from the tabletop! I immediately Googled and found this article. I tried a gentle surface cleaner with no luck. I read the approaches listed in this article, but was bummed as I have no mayo, no ashes, etc.

My wife is an Essential Oils member and she brought in a small bottle of Lemon Essential Oil and placed several drops on the stain. It wiped completely away, dissolving the red ink from the wrapper effortlessly. The stain from the moisture remained for a few minutes but disappeared as the moisture evaporated (like from a typical water ring). I'm sitting here 10 minutes later, and there is no detectable ink or water stain remaining. Hooray!

We used Lemon Essential Oil from Young Living primarily because it is what we had on hand. Not sure if any other type of lemon oil will have the same result.

  • Nice alternative. Pledge did not work for us.
    – JoshDM
    Sep 11, 2015 at 18:18

I had exactly the same problem on a varnished wood table and yesterday came up with my own solution, washing up liquid mixed to a paste with washing powder applied with a sponge in a circular motion, it removed an 8 inch stain in15 minutes without any damage at all to the finish on the gloss varnish


I got a huge stain on my hardwood floors from a plastic shopping bag. I sprayed Green Works all purpose cleaner on the stain then read this post. I was about to make the mayo and baking soda mixture so I decided to wipe up the all purpose cleaner and the stain came right off. The cleaner sat on the stain for 3-4 minutes. My wood looks perfectly fine and there was no elbow grease involved! I hope this helps.


Just used GooGone to remove stains caused by a plastic shopping bag. If you use a little elbow grease and a cloth like a facecloth should take it right off and no damage to the table top in my case.


I had a similar stain on a counter top with a gloss acrylic type finish that appeared to absorb the printing from a plastic shopping bag. I knew from past experience that any kind of strong base solvent (acetone) will quickly dissolve and strip it, and harsh abrasives scratch. Several ordinary household cleaners did nothing. I tried a simple mix of olive oil and baking soda rubbing lightly. It was slow going but eventually the stain faded completely without any apparent damage to the finish.

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