How to Restore Finish to a Water Stained Cedar Wood

When water soaks into cedar wood, it causes unattractive dark stains that ruin the wood’s finished look. This is particularly true if stains are from hard water. Depending on the water stain’s nature, whether they are superficial or have seeped into the wood, getting rid of them is simple or may require you to completely strip and refinish the wood. When refinishing the wood, use a waterproof wood sealer preventing future stains.

Things You'll Need

  • Lint-free cloths
  • Iron
  • 100-grit sandpaper
  • Orbital sander
  • Sanding block
  • Sanding sponge
  • Oxalic acid crystals
  • Scrub brush
  • Wood stain
  • Wood sealer


  1. Superficial Water Stains

    • 1

      Place a clean, dry, lint-free cloth over the water stains. This prevents the wood from scorching or getting heat marks.

    • 2

      Preheat your iron to its highest setting. Place the iron on the cloth and let it sit for about five seconds. Don't leave it on any longer, or you may further damage the wood finish.

    • 3

      Check the water stain. It should have lightened from the heat. Repeat the process until the water stain is gone. If the stains have soaked into the wood beyond the finish, refinish the wood.

    Deep-Seated Water Stains

    • 4

      Sand down the old finish with 100-grit sandpaper. If the wood’s surface is broad and flat, use a handheld orbital sander. Otherwise, use a sanding block or sanding sponge. The latter is especially good for getting into small areas or intricate designs. If the wood is not stained or sealed, skip this step.

    • 5

      Wipe away the dust. Mix 4 ounces, about one-half cup, of oxalic acid crystals into 1 gallon of hot water. Stir it until the crystals dissolve completely. Dip a scrub brush into the solution and use this to scrub the wood. This bleaches the wood and removes remaining water stains.

    • 6

      Restain the cedar wood with a stain of your choice. Dip a cloth into the wood stain and rub the stain into the wood, working with the grain. Let the stain dry.

    • 7

      Seal the stained cedar wood with a wood sealer, such as polyurethane, varnish or shellac. Each type of sealer has different application instructions, which also vary by manufacturer. See the product label for detailed information and directions.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear gloves and goggles when handling oxalic acid.
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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/ Images

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