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White stains on table can be treated, but be wary

Gene Austin McClatchy-Tribune

Q. Hot pans or dishes left two white stains on the polished surface of a dining table. Is there a way to remove the stains?

A. A treatment that often removes white stains on furniture caused by heat or moisture is, oddly enough, more heat. However, the heat treatment must be applied carefully and the stained surface must be protected with a white fabric such as a T-shirt or pillow case.

A laundry iron, often a steam iron, is used to apply the heat; it should have a low setting and be kept moving over the fabric covering. Many people who have tried this remedy say the stains disappear in 30 seconds or less.

A couple of other treatments also have many advocates (and some critics).

One is to gently rub the stain with very fine (4-0) steel wool lubricated with light oil such as sewing-machine oil. This removes a thin film of finish that often contains the stain.

Another controversial treatment is to coat the stain with mayonnaise, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then rub off the mayonnaise with a soft cloth.

Be warned that any treatment might remove some of the gloss from the table’s finish. Gloss can sometimes be restored by waxing or polishing the treated area.

These treatments don’t always work, but the alternative is usually an expensive refinishing of the table surface. And in some cases of severe stains, that might be the only workable option.

Q. Our asphalt-shingle roof has developed a number of dark streaks on one side. We had installed screens on our rain gutters and wonder if that is the cause?

A. The gutter screens aren’t to blame; it’s important to keep gutters clean.

Black stains on roofs are generally caused by mildew and molds. The stains can be removed with special cleaners. Check your nearby home center for cleaners or visit for information.

A preventative treatment is to install zinc strips at the ridge of the roof; rain water washing over the zinc creates a chemical reaction that inhibits growth of molds. You can also find information on zinc strips at

Q. The previous owner of our house painted the bathroom tiles, and some of the paint is now peeling. Should we remove this paint, and if so, how? Or can we just paint over it?

A. This could be epoxy paint, which is often difficult to remove. It is best to use a paste-type paint remover, which will cling to the surface, and work on a small area at a time.

Apply the remover, let it work until it softens the paint, and then scrape it off. If only a few spots have peeled, you can try repainting.

Scrape off the loose paint and sandpaper the area to remove any gloss. If the remaining paint is glossy, it should also be sanded to dull the finish. Buy an epoxy tub-and-tile paint at a home center and follow directions on the container for additional cleaning and preparation of the surface.

A couple of simpler options: Contact a professional bathtub refinisher; some of them also do ceramic-tile refinishing. Better, cover the tiles with a fiberglass tub surround glued directly to the tiles.You can find these at some home centers.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.
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