Quick Fix Bleaching a Water Stain

Wednesday 11 July 2018

The trick with restoration is 'proportionate response'; don't do any more than you have to or you risk causing unnecessary work and damage! I was presented with a harlequin pair (an antique trade term for a non-matched set) of modern Mission style night tables imported from the USA. Both had water marks; one in particular had an intriguing lizard shape outline caused by a decorative object sitting in spilt water… oops! Here's how I went about putting things to rights.

1. The finish seemed non existent so rather than using stripper, I wiped on a furniture cleaning agent based on cellulose thinners, done, of course, in a well ventilated area and no naked flames!

2. Hopefully the phantom lizard and other watermarks would lift out using a two-part bleach. I wore nitrile safety gloves and enclosed goggles because this stuff can be dangerous if misused. Part 'A' is brushed on and left for 5-10 minutes. The surface gets very inflamed and uneven in colour which is a worrying time…

3. Part 'B' was next brushed on and bleaching began; the lizard was starting to disappear as were the other marks. Since this process can unnaturally lighten the surfaces, it needed to be checked now and then, and needs anything up to a couple of hours treatment, but much less in this case.

4. I used a scourer, foam side down with water to dilute the chemicals. Plenty of rag is needed to wipe up all the fluid. Note: careful disposal of rags is important to avoid accidental combustion. Vinegar was liberally applied to neutralise the chemicals and help clean the surface.

5. The tables were remarkably smooth being close-grained American cherry but a light de-nibbing ensured they were clear and ready for a finish. I chose to use Osmo Polyx Oil for refinishing. This is a pleasingly gooey substance which you may want latex gloves for. It gives a really full finish in just a few coats and hardens off nicely. I de-nibbed after each coat had dried with 320 grit abrasive.

6. Before waxing, the surfaces were lightly rubbed back with a fine grade scourer type abrasive without cutting into the finish. Finally, an antique pine coloured hardening wax was used to give some extra colour to help it match the rest of the night table.