How to Remove Scratches from a Wooden Table

by G. K. Bayne

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Scratches on wooden dining tables not only present an unsightly appearance; they leave the wood unprotected and open to staining and moisture. Scratches can be slight or deep, and removing each type requires a different method of repair. The finish of your wooden table also plays a part in how to remove the scratches, especially if the scratch is deep.

Fixing Scratches in Furniture:

  1. Fix minor scratches with a stain pen. If the scratch is not deep and the wood has not been covered with polyurethane, use a finish or stain pen to cover the scratch. These pens resemble a marker and come in a variety of colors to match almost any wood stain. Gently rub the scratched area with 00-gauge steel wool. This will remove the current finish from the wood. Apply the pen to the scratched area just as you would if you were tracing a line. Refinish the section with paste wax or oil.

  2. Cover slight scuffs with food. Slight scuffs can actually be covered up with a few surprising things that may already be in your kitchen. For wood tables with light or medium stain, use the meat of a walnut (not the shell) and simply rub the areas where the scuffs are. For tables with darker wood stains, rub the scuffed area with used, wet coffee grounds, allow it to sit for about an hour, and wipe it away.

  3. Refinish the surface to fix deep scratches. If the scratch is deep and the piece is coated with poly, plan on refinishing the entire surface.

    • Use 320-grit sandpaper to remove the existing finish.

    • Use a 400-grit sandpaper to smooth out the scratch. Wipe the surface with a cloth soaked in mineral spirits to remove the sanding dust.

    • Apply the new stain to the surface using a paintbrush or paint pad. Remove excess stain with a clean, soft cloth. Allow the stain to dry.

    • Coat the surface with polyurethane by applying the poly with a brush or pad in thin, even strokes. Allow to dry and apply a second coat, if desired.

  4. Fix dents with a steam iron. If the damage is a dent, and none of the wood is actually scratched away, you can sometimes lift the compressed wood with steam from a clothes iron. Set the iron to a high setting, and mist the dent with plain water. Place a damp cloth over the dent, and gently press the hot iron over the cloth in small circles, keeping the iron moving for about three minutes, checking every minute or so to see if the dent has been raised. Test this method in a hidden area first, as the steam may discolor the wood stain.

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