Repairing a Water-Damaged Lacquer Finish

If it's nitrocellulose lacquer, you can use specialty sprays or denatured alcohol to remove the white water damage. May 24, 2006

A customer has asked me to repair some table leaves that were water damaged. Finish has turned white but it is still soundly adhered to the mahogany veneer. What would be the best way to eliminate the white in the lacquer finish?

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor A:
It sounds like a lacquer finish. There are several ways to deal with this; I'll give you two: 1) Get a spray can of blush eraser, no blush, or re-amalgamator. Spray the affected area with a very light, spritz coat and see what happens. Use more as needed to eliminate the defect. Don't monkey with it - just let the spray do its job. 2) Dampen a pad with denatured alcohol and gently swipe across the damage - one pass. Let the alcohol flash off and repeat until you eliminate the defect. The great thing about lacquer is that it can be re-melted to eliminate white ring water damage. Just take it easy or you'll wipe it away but you may have to adjust the sheen after it's dry.

From the original questioner:
Thank you, I will give them both a try.

From contributor C:
First protect your assets! Tell the customer this table needs to be stripped and refinished for $1500, but you will try to save it without stripping. If you fail or ruin the finish more you are not out anything. Most table finishes are precat finishes and the above advice is bad advice. If it is not a precat finish, then the advice may work. Don't forget about the wax and polish factor on finish contamination. If you don't have an air assist Kremlin type sprayer and a dual pad inline sander and know how to buff out the finish after spraying and most important how to pore fill the open grain and have a good understanding of dye and oil penetrating dye wiping stains - leave this job alone. Remember they have insurance on the table most likely and will cover a full service job.

From contributor B:
Most dining table tops and most furniture casegoods are still nitrocellulose lacquer, not precat. Furniture manufacturers love the 15 to 30 step layered finishes they can do with nitrocellulose. The rich finishes they end up with, matching from suite to suite, cutting to cutting, are what they go for. Customers love consistency and everyone loves predictability. The manufacturers also like the reparability of the solvent lacquer finishes. Some dining table tops are starting to have UV finishes on them.