Now let's dive into water marks Jim reports mixed results with commercial white-ring removers. The Jasco ring-remover cloth shown left (from Restoration Hardware, 800/816-0901) renders most rings less visible. An almond stick works in many cases, too. With either, the rings may reappear after time.
Go for the grease An easy fix to try is to smear mayonnaise, petroleum jelly, or shortening on the mark. (Jim likes mayo on his furniture because it's easier to clean up.) Slather it on generously, and leave it overnight. The idea is to let oil seep in to clear the mark.
"If that didn't quite do the trick, try again," Jim counsels. "If another application doesn't get it all, you need to try something else."
Beyond sandwich spread That something else would be wiping gently with denatured alcohol. "But be careful," Jim cautions. "Alcohol will dissolve shellac, mess up a lacquer finish, and damage some water-base finishes."
For this procedure, fold cheesecloth or cotton fabric into a pad, and dampen it with alcohol. It should be thoroughly damp, but not wet.
"Then," Jim explains, "gently, gently, gently wipe the pad over the ring area. Swing your arm, brushing the pad across the mark much like an airplane landing and taking off, with the landing being very soft. Don't rub," he says. "A slight haze should appear; this is the alcohol evaporating and, we hope, taking the subsurface moisture with it."
If that doesn't happen, you could try the same tactic again, but using lacquer thinner. "This technique, which is best left to pros, could totally destroy the finish," Jim warns. But by this point, you may have become resigned to refinishing, anyhow.
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