I have a wooden table, which I accidentally spilled water onto yesterday. I thought it would simply dry, but a couple of hours later I noticed that the water had pooled on the wood and the surface under the pool appeared discolored.

I dried it off and noticed that the gray discoloration was coming off, so I scrubbed all of the gray off, and afterward the color looked consistent. Unfortunately, a few hours later I found that the area under the pools now looks completely different from the rest of the table.

My guess is that I accidentally removed the stain from the wood. I know nothing about this topic though, so I wanted to ask the experts:

What do you think happened here? How can I fix it? A picture of the current state of the table is attached. enter image description here


2 Answers 2


Definitely looks like you pulled a surface finish off the wood. Either the original stain was a surface-stain, or the water and cleaning may have pulled the color out of a shallow penetrating stain.

You're best option for a quality finish is going to be stripping back the whole table and starting fresh.

Assuming that's not an option, you could try finding a similar color finish at the hardware/home store. If you know what kind of finish was used originally, you should match it. Wood finishing is as much an Art as a Science, so the usual warning apply, but in this case, an imperfect patch may be better than the bare wood.

Sand away the affected area and an inch or so around it, so you can feather in the patch. This kind of patch will never look perfect, but may be "good enough". Apply your stain with a brush or a clean rag, following the instructions on the container. The longer you leave the stain on the surface, the darker it will be. Once you feel it's matching, wipe away the excess stain. Stain is for color only, and won't provide any long term protection. You can apply stain in multiple passes.

After patching you can blend the patch a little by using one of the antique furniture restorers (Restor-a-Finish), which will also help the look of the rest of the table. Just make sure to wait several days, or you'll pull the new patch out of the wood.

As a note. You can try an all-in-one stain+finish, but these products don't always work, and controlling the color can be difficult. In this case, you may want to skip the actual protective finish coat, and just try to stain it to match.

As always, try out any finishing on a less noticeable area first, like the inside of a face frame or drawer.


I think it's likely that you removed some or all of the finish by scrubbing, but I would recommend waiting a few days before doing anything else. Some finishes get a white or cloudy color when they've been wet and it may take a week or so to really dry. So if you can stand it, I would say just see what happens.

If the discoloration remains after a week then you will need to find a way to repair it. Depending on how conspicuous it is you may be able to get away with patching the area with a similar finish... usually that involves blending the area with steel wool and then carefully applying thin layers of finish.

A last resort would be to sand the entire piece and start over, although depending on the construction and quality of wood that may be impossible.

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