How do I fix water stains?

Water stain removal methods differ depending on the location, but the first step in the process is always the same: locate and eliminate the source of the water (e.g., a leaky roof or pipe) that caused the stain. Just like other stains, removal is often most successful if you fix a water stain soon after it forms.

Removing water stains on drywall

Water stains on drywall surfaces like ceilings and walls are relatively simple to remove. Spray or sponge a solution of one part chlorine bleach and one part water onto the dried stain. This step prevents mold growth, but it also may lighten the stain itself. Then, after the treated area has completely dried, apply a coat of a stain-blocking primer (such as Kilz), allow the primer to dry and repaint the area. If the new paint dries a bit lighter than the older coat, repaint the entire ceiling or wall to match.

Water-stained ceilings are often the result roof problems; the same is usually true of stained roof eaves. Faulty gutters can also be to blame. Unfortunately, though, repairing water damage on porous roof components like eaves, soffits and rafter boards is not as easy. It’s best to hire a professional to inspect and fully assess the cause of stained, warped or rotted sections under your roof and, if necessary, replace the woodwork to prevent further structural damage.

Removing water stains on furniture and flooring

Other common water stains, including those that occur on furniture and flooring, threaten only your home’s appearance. Fortunately, this cosmetic damage is typically reversible. It may seem counter intuitive, but more water is the best treatment for a water stain on leather furniture: rub the stain and surrounding area with a slightly dampened sponge to spread out and lighten the stain. The same method—or treatment with a garment steamer—often works on fabric upholstery.

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On wood furniture and floors, a white water stain is fairly superficial. There are several removal methods for these stains; however, the process may involve some trial and error. Gently rubbing a paste made of baking soda or salt and a little water onto the stain may do the trick, or try applying a small amount of denatured alcohol. As an alternative, lay a cotton cloth over the stain and gently rub the area for a few seconds with your clothes iron on the coolest setting.

A dark water stain on wood indicates the stain has penetrated beyond the finish into the wood itself. You may be able to remove the stain by rubbing it with a bleach or vinegar solution, followed by an application of wax to restore shine. In many cases, though, the only option is refinishing, a task often best handled by a professional.

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