How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture
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How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture: A Comprehensive Guide

Water damage can wreak havoc on wooden furniture, causing it to swell and become weak, delicate, and prone to further damage by microorganisms or weather.

Fixing water-damaged swollen wood furniture can be quite challenging, but it is not impossible.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various methods on how to fix water damaged swollen wood furniture, along with preventative measures and helpful tips.

Let’s dive right in!

How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

How to shrink swollen wood
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1. Causes of Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

Wood furniture can become water-damaged and swollen due to various reasons. Some common causes include:

  • Exposure to excessive humidity or moisture for an extended period, such as in a damp basement or during a flood
  • Accidental spills or leaks
  • Poorly sealed or finished wood that allows water to seep in
  • Improper storage or handling of wooden furniture

Understanding the cause of water damage is essential in determining the best approach for fixing the swollen wood furniture.

2. Signs of Water Damaged Wood Furniture

Identifying water-damaged swollen wood furniture early is crucial for successful restoration. Here are some common signs to look out for:

  • Swelling, warping, or buckling of the wood
  • Discoloration or staining
  • Musty or damp smell
  • Mold or mildew growth
  • Softening or weakening of the wood
  • Loose or displaced joints and fasteners

If you notice any of these signs, it’s time to take action and learn how to fix water damaged swollen wood furniture.

3. Methods to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Wood Furniture

There are several methods to fix water damaged swollen wood furniture, depending on the extent of the damage and the type of wood. Let’s explore these methods in detail.

3.1. Drying the Furniture

The first step in fixing water-damaged swollen wood furniture is to dry it thoroughly. There are several ways to do this:

  • Sun drying: Place the furniture in a sunny spot and allow the water in the wood to evaporate. Be sure to rotate the furniture occasionally to prevent uneven drying, which can lead to cracking or warping.
  • Electric fans and ventilation: Place the furniture in a well-ventilated room with electric fans blowing on it for at least 24 hours. This method helps promote air circulation and speed up the drying process.
  • Dehumidifiers: After the furniture has dried, you can use a dehumidifier to reduce humidity in the room further.

It’s essential to ensure that the wood is completely dry before moving on to other restoration methods.

3.2. Ironing the Furniture

Ironing is an effective way to remove water stains or watermarks from the wood furniture. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Wipe off any visible water on the wood with a dry rag
  2. Set the iron to a low temperature or level of heat
  3. Place a soft, clean cloth on the water stains on the wood
  4. Press the iron down motionless on the cloth for a few seconds, then lift and check the wood periodically to see if the watermark has disappeared
  5. Repeat the process until the swelling and water stains are gone

Be cautious not to press the iron down for too long, as this can burn the cloth or scorch the wood.

Also, ensure the iron is at a low and controlled temperature to avoid damaging the wood.

3.3. Using a Needle or Printer

If the water-damaged furniture has bubbles or has shrunk, you can use a needle or a printer to help fix it.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A needle or a printer
  • Wood glue
  • Wax paper

Follow these steps:

  1. Pierce a few holes into the sides of the bubble
  2. Suck the glue up into the needle and gently push it underneath the water-damaged furniture
  3. Press down on the wood, checking for the glue to come out of the cracks in the wood furniture
  4. Wipe off excess glue and lay a piece of plastic over the crack
  5. Place some books or weights on the plastic and let it dry

The glue should soften the veneer, allowing it to become flattened and repaired.

3.4. Sanding and Finishing

Sanding is an excellent way to restore the evenness and flatness of the wood after it has dried.

Here are the steps to sand and finish water-damaged wood furniture:

  1. Clean the wood surface with a microfiber cloth or scrub brush and a cleaning solution to remove any residue or debris
  2. Sand the wood firmly with even pressure, moving in the direction of the wood grain
  3. Wipe off all the wood dust and residue with a clean microfiber cloth
  4. Apply a few drops of furniture oil to the wood, rubbing it in for about 15 minutes to generate warmth and ensure oil absorption
  5. Clean off any excess oil residue with a rag

Remember to wear a dust mask, protective gear, and safety glasses when sanding.

3.5. Flattening the Wood

Flattening the wood is another method to fix swollen water-damaged furniture. Follow these steps:

  1. Moisten the entire surface of the wood evenly with a damp cloth or spray bottle
  2. Place the damp board or furniture on a workbench or countertop with the wet side facing down
  3. Add a little weight on the board or furniture to help flatten the wood
  4. Leave it to sit for 24 hours before rechecking it
  5. Repeat the process if necessary, allowing the wood time to stabilize

4. Preventing Water Damage in Wooden Furniture

Prevention is always better than cure, so it’s essential to protect your wooden furniture from water damage in the first place.

Here are some ways to do that:

4.1. Using Oil Finishes

Oil finishes not only improve the appearance of your wood but also protect it from water damage.

Linseed oil and tung oil are common examples of mineral oil finishes that can be used to treat wood furniture.

Apply an oil finish by dipping a clean, fiber-free cloth in the mineral oil and rubbing it on the wood.

You can oil your wooden furniture as often as needed, depending on the type of furniture.

4.2. Sealing Wooden Furniture

Sealing is an effective way to protect wood furniture from water damage.

Wood sealants like polyurethane, varnish, and lacquer provide excellent water-proofing abilities.

Before applying a wood sealant, clean and sand the wood furniture lightly, then clean it again.

Apply a coat of sealant with a clean paintbrush, and leave the wood to dry completely before re-sanding and cleaning it again.

Remember to wear a protective mask and safety glasses when sanding.

4.3. Using Stain-Sealant Products

Stain-sealants are combinations of wood sealants with added color pigments and binders.

They enhance the beauty of the wood and protect it from the sun’s harmful UV rays while also making the wood water-resistant.

Reapply stain-sealer products on outdoor wood every year to maintain its protection.

5. Dangers of Water Damaged Wood Furniture

Water-damaged wood furniture can pose several risks, including:

  • General weakness of the wood
  • Loss of physical properties
  • Discoloration, staining, and scratching
  • Unpleasant odors
  • Mold and mildew growth
  • Health risks, such as coughs, allergies, and asthma triggers

Timely intervention to fix water-damaged swollen wood furniture is essential for avoiding these dangers and preserving your furniture.

6. Why Does Wood Furniture Swell Up?

Wood is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture from the air.

When exposed to high levels of moisture and humidity, such as after rainfall or a flood, wood will begin to swell and warp.

Swelling and shrinking occur as the wood undergoes changes in its moisture content in response to daily and seasonal changes in the atmosphere’s relative humidity.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How do I shrink swollen wood?

A: To shrink swollen wood, let it dry completely by leaving it in the sun, placing it in a well-ventilated area with electric fans, or using a dehumidifier.

Q: How do I repair a water-damaged tabletop?

A: Depending on the extent of damage, clean the tabletop with baking soda, white distilled vinegar, toothpaste, or mayonnaise to remove water stains. For deep-set stains, let the wood dry completely and gently apply furniture oil to the sanded wood.

Q: What is a wood swelling liquid?

A: A wood swelling liquid is a product that penetrates the wood and causes the fibers to expand. It can be used to repair wood joints in furniture without disassembling it.

Q: How do I remove water bubbles from wood?

A: You can remove water bubbles from wood by ironing the affected area with a soft cloth or using a needle, wood glue, and wax paper to pierce bubbles and flatten the wood.

Q: Can you fix water-damaged wood?

A: Yes, fixing water-damaged wood is possible using various methods, such as drying, ironing, using a needle or printer, sanding, and finishing, and flattening the wood.

Q: Will swollen wood shrink?

A: Wood will shrink naturally in response to a loss in its moisture content. To make swollen wood furniture shrink, let it dry out in the sun, iron it, or remove moisture using a needle or a printer.

Q: Why does wood swell?

A: Wood swells because it is hygroscopic and absorbs moisture from the air. Keeping wood furniture in overly humid and moist environments will cause it to swell up, while it can lose some of its moisture and shrink in arid climates.


Fixing water damaged swollen wood furniture can be a challenging task, but with the right knowledge and techniques, it is achievable.

By understanding the causes of water damage and signs to look out for, you can take timely action to restore your furniture.

Through drying, ironing, using a needle or printer, sanding and finishing, and flattening the wood, you can successfully fix water damaged swollen wood furniture.

Additionally, taking preventative measures such as using oil finishes, sealing, and stain-sealant products will help protect your furniture from future water damage.

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