Dear Home-Ec 101,
I’m having some dining room table woes. The wood is super sensitive to heat. When it was given to me it had a couple of small white marks, but I just put a table cloth over it and called it good. Even with out the cloth they weren’t that bad. Well, at Thanksgiving I was being so careful not to put anything down with out a trivet but then I did it- I knocked over one of my candles and spilled wax all over it. There’s now a huge white mark from the heat of the wax. Is the finish of my table completely ruined? Is there anything I can do?
Splotchy in Spartanburg
The white you see is caused by moisture trapped in the finish of the table. This is why water rings and heat marks often look the same. However the moisture from heat damage is usually a little more difficult to fix than moisture from a simple condensation ring.
Be extremely cautious with the advice I give, if you are a bit too enthusiastic with the application of heat you can melt the finish and exacerbate situation.
Find a clean, lint free, white t-shirt -no, not one with screen printing- and an iron. Fold the t-shirt several times, creating a pad several layers thick. Carefully iron the t-shirt over the white heat mark. You’ll want to make quick passes with the iron and never hold it still over the mark. The goal is to heat the finish just enough to allow the moisture to escape, but not so much that you create more steam that gets trapped in the finish.
Another technique is to use a hair dryer, this will take a bit more patience, but the technique should be similarly effective.
Be aware that sometimes the damage left by heat is pretty severe and you may only be able to reduce the appearance of the mark, not eliminate it completely.
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