Removing White Water Marks When Refinishing Shellac Wood Finish
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Q: While I was remodeling my kitchen, someone placed a hot plate on a cherry coffee table and it left an ugly white mark. I recently purchased a wood refinisher, and, to my amazement, it removed the mark with minimal effort. It also worked on an old bed. I’m wondering if I should also try it on an old, alligatored bedroom set that I suspect is a shellac finish.

My game plan is to use mineral sprits to soften and remove the shellac, wash with TSP and then use the refinisher. Is this the proper approach?

A: Mineral spirits is great for cleaning finishes of all sorts, but it will not remove any finish, including shellac. Trisodium phosphate is also an excellent product to use on a finish you want to clean but not remove.

Most things labeled refinisher are, in fact, specialized paint removers designed to strip primarily lacquer and shellac finishes. They’re not generally used as water ring removers or finish rejuvenators because they actually remove the finish, which is not really your goal in this case.

Unless you’ve gotten one that is called refinisher but is actually something very different, you may be gleefully taking the finishes off your pieces. If that’s what you want, great, but it strikes me as a rather draconian solution to a simple cleaning or rejuvenating problem.

posted on April 1, 2009 by Michael Dresdner
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