A friend of ours says that they used their living room table to do some ironing and after they were done they found the finish on the table was white. They ask how do they repair this and will it be easy?
This is a common problem with real wood or veneer wood tables with a lacquer finish. This can also happen with a polyurethane finish that is degraded. The problem that is seen is what is called Blushing. It is when moisture gets under the top coat of finish and makes it look white.
In this case the use of an iron included hot steam that penetrated the finish pretty good. This is really a good example of what blushing is. In your case you might have left a drink on a table that resulted in a white ring mark.
There is no guarantee that trying to repair the finish that is on the table will work but there are a few things you can try before you end up refinishing the entire table down to bare wood.
The first thing you might want to try is using a hot hair dryer on the surface just to see if any of the moisture can be removed. I wouldn’t have high hopes of this working but it may. Leaving the furniture in the hot sun may also do the same thing. If this works you want to treat the surface with furniture polish to protect it from moisture reentering the finish.
The next thing that you can try is using actual wood polish instead of clear furniture polish that can be used on any surface. Furniture polish is a dark color and it is meant to repair surfaces by hiding scratches and by adding a shine to the surface. You can try this in a small area and if it works do the rest of the table.
The final step before refinishing is what a professional would do. You have to know what the material of the table is. Is it solid or veneer hardwood? Using chemicals and liquids on veneer wood can be dangerous because you risk lifting the glue however you won’t be using much liquid. If the surface was coated with Lacquer as a top coat it is possible to use a cheese cloth that is dipped in lacquer thinner and rung out until it is almost dry to buff the top finish. You must test your table with the rag in a area that has finish but is not normally exposed to your visitors. Under a rail or lip of a surface is probably better than the center of the table.
First clean the test area with soap and water to remove all dirt and dust then dry it. Now lightly rub the surface with the lacquer thinner on the rag and see if any of the lacquer transfers to the white rag. You should be able to see it if you look close. If it does that means that it is lacquer and you can continue.
With the cheese cloth balled up and no corners or folds across the face of it lightly buff the table in an arc motion where the center of the arc is when you are coming into contact with the surface.. So its kinda like you are doing a half circle motion with your hand and the bottom part of the circle is touching the table.. Don’t just rub straight across the table.
You should see the lacquer begin to melt a bit and then return to its normal color.
It is important that before you do this you have removed all dirt, dust and oils from the table with soap and water and have dried the surface completely bone dry. Waiting a few hours or even until the next day to make sure it is not most is best if you can’t be sure its dry.
With other finishes it is not as easy to buff out blushing imperfections however polyurethane normally does not blush as easy as lacquer. If you find no finish came off when you did your test then you probably have polyurethane as the top clear coat.
The only thing I can suggest is that you can try moistening the surface with acetone which should melt the polyurethane. Its not very safe to do and you are likely to have problems if you do but if you place one drop of acetone on the surface and let it evaporate and the white blush mark goes away you might be able to use it.
Buffing with polyurethane is not advised as the surface will melt and gum up. How you will fix this is up to you but I would use a very light hand like you are rubbing sandpaper on a balloon.
Protecting your wood furniture is always easier than fixing it. Making repairs like this often takes the skill of a professional or it won’t come out right. The best you can do is probably use some dark furniture polish and hope it works.. if not you know you are headed to refinishing the whole table top. You can try some of these tricks of the trade but don’t be surprised if your skill level or the damage requires a sanding and refinishing.