Forgetting to use a coaster might have been a wood table’s condemnation in the past, but it turns out toothpaste’s stain-removing power extends beyond your pearly whites.

If you’re someone who can’t help but flinch when thinking about condensation inching its way down a glass onto a bare wooden tabletop, then this trick, as demonstrated by Joshua Clement of Lighty Contractors, is about to make your day. This water stain removal technique requires a common household product you probably already have in your bathroom and involves minimal elbow grease. 
Before employing this technique, it’s important to assess the damage. Milky or cloudy white water stains on wood indicate that moisture has seeped into the finish and has not yet fully dried. The Wood Works Inc. explains the phenomenon thusly: "the water causes minuscule fractures that prevent you from seeing through. It is much like solid ice that is transparent in relation to cracked ice that has voids and is opaque.” Once the moisture dries, the white stain may disappear. The Wood Works notes that the damage, however, can persist as "black marks, raised grain, peeled or lifted veneer, warpage, splits, joint or glue failure, and water logging” if the water has reached the wood itself. For those severe cases, professional intervention might be necessary.

The method of water stain removal featured below is designed to tackle those pesky white water marks. In the video, Clement squeezes a small amount of plain white toothpaste directly onto the stain, using his finger to gently pat it into a thin layer. From there, he simply waits about 30 seconds before wiping it away with a damp cloth. Clement urges viewers not to leave the paste on for more than a minute, as you might potentially run the risk of damaging the wood’s finish. It’s also worth noting that he does not scrub the toothpaste into the wood for that same reason. Once the toothpaste has been wiped away, Clement reveals a pristine area where the water stain had been.

According to the popular reference series For Dummies, the reason non-gel toothpaste works in this context lies in its active ingredients. Toothpaste often contains a “mild abrasive” that will help remove the water stain from wood. Since toothpaste already has abrasive ingredients, additional scrubbing may cause even more damage to the surface. For Dummies also mentions that if the aforementioned technique alone does not completely remove the water stain, you can mix equal parts toothpaste and baking soda and repeat the process. If the stain is proving to be stubborn, For Dummies suggests dipping a soft piece of cloth into "a mild solvent such as mineral spirits or paint thinner (odorless)" and gently massaging over the affected area. Of course, it's best to rub the solvent on a test patch that isn't visible, like the underside of the table, to make sure you aren't inflicting any additional damage to the wood.

Reader's Digest recommends using white toothpaste to remove water stains from wood, too. In a list of DIY water stain removal tricks, the publication includes white toothpaste along with petroleum jelly, salt, vinegar, and car wax as worthwhile products to try. WiseGEEK adds that dry heat, such as the hot air from a blow dryer, may help in removing moisture from the stain and even allow some of the smaller cracks in the wood to mend. Again, it's best to check on an unseen area of the piece of furniture before attempting the technique of your choice on the stain.