Wood is a hardy and long-lasting material that can be beautiful either for hardwood floors or sturdy furniture, but it’s not indestructible. One of the most common complaints about wood is denting. An unsightly dent can be caused by accidentally dropping something on a chair, table, or finished wood floor. The weight of a heavy piece of furniture and even spiky high heels can also leave dents on wood floors.
Sanding or refinishing might be more than you need to do to repair a few small dents, so we'll show you an easy fix to try before turning to a professional or using wood filler. Once you know how to get dents out of finished wood, you can sit back and enjoy your furniture and flooring.
Tools You Need to Get Dents Out of Wood
Whether you’re an experienced DIYer or just learning how to fix dents in wood furniture or flooring, it helps to have the right tools on hand. While every repair job is unique, the essential items for removing dents from wood include:
- 120-grit sandpaper (use a finer grit to remove dents from wood that is intricate or fragile)
- Damp towel, cloth, or strong paper towel
- Iron or steamer
- Varnish, wood stain, or paint to match the existing finish
Removing Dents from Wood: A Step-by-Step Process
You may be concerned that an ugly dent in your wood furniture or flooring has irreparably marred or even destroyed it. Thankfully, here’s an easy method for fixing dents in wood that relies on a mix of heat and moisture:
Step 1: Add Water
Drip a small amount of water over the dent, enough to fill the depression. Use an eyedropper or kitchen baster for more precision.
Quick tip: If there are severe cracks or chips surrounding the dent, you may want to call a professional to avoid making the damage worse.
Step 2: Protect the Area
Cover the dent with a moist cloth or sturdy paper towel, taking care to squeeze out any extra water before placing it on the dent. This will impart moisture while also acting as a buffer, preventing the wood from being harmed by the heat.
It’s a good idea to use an old cotton shirt, shop rag, cleaning cloth, or any piece of fabric you don’t mind potentially damaging. Don’t use nylon, polyester, or other fabrics that can melt and cause damage. If the dent is on the edge of a piece of furniture, you may need to use your free hand to hold the cloth in place while steaming.
Step 3: Wait...
Let the water sit for a minute or two in the dent so it can penetrate the wood and soften it to make it a bit more pliable.
Step 4: Use Iron
With a clothes iron at its highest setting, heat the moist fabric. Allow the iron to warm up for a few minutes—it has to be hot to effectively steam the water.
Step 5: Apply Steam
Pass the iron over the cloth and, pressing firmly, move it in slow circular motions in the area above the dent. Make many passes, progressively enlarging the area you’re ironing.
Continue to heat the area as the fabric dries, then raise a corner to inspect your work. The compressed wood fibers should be absorbing the steam and expanding back to their original state.
Quick tip: Leaving the iron in one spot for too long can burn the fabric or the wood beneath it, so work quickly and keep your iron constantly in motion. Keep checking until the depression looks like it’s lifted.
Step 6: Repeat Process as Needed
If the dent hasn’t completely disappeared, repeat the steaming process by adding more water and continuing to steam the dent until it becomes flush with the rest of the surrounding wood material.
Keep in mind that to remove dents from wood that are deeply gouged may be impossible, though steaming can help smooth them out and make them less visible.
Tips on Finishing and Protecting the Wood
Now that you know how to remove dents from wood furniture and floors, here are some extra tips to finish off your repair project and make sure it stays looking great:
Let it Dry Overnight
Avoid finishing the wood while it’s still soft from the steaming treatment, since that may make it susceptible to splitting or chipping. While most of the moisture will have evaporated from the heat of the iron, it may take several hours for the wood to regain its full stiffness.
Sand Out Imperfections
Occasionally, small defects in the wood may remain or the water may cause a slight discoloration. You can fix this by gently sanding the area to blend it with the surrounding wood. Always sand in the direction of the wood grain, and use smooth, light strokes to avoid scratching the surface, which may have been weakened by the dent.
Apply a Protective Coat
When you’re done buffing away any flaws on the wood surface, touch it up with a fresh coat of the original paint, sealant, stain, or varnish. Apply the protective finish using a small brush to hide any lingering sign of the dent. In most situations, a single coat will be sufficient to finish the repair and conceal the damage.
Now that you know how to get dents out of finished wood, take your newfound knowledge to another level when it comes to your wood floors. Learn top maintenance tips for your hardwood flooring that can help protect the beauty of your investment. Here are tips on how to::
Plus, if you are a determined DIYer and want to improve the overall finish of hardwood flooring, here are tips on how to refinish wood floors.
Protect Your Home Appliances and Systems
A home warranty won’t protect your wood furniture and floors from dents, but it will help protect your budget when covered home appliances and systems break down. For more than 35 years, we’ve helped homeowners avoid expensive repair and replacement costs on covered items, saving them time and money. Read more about our home warranty plans and available coverage, or get a personalized home warranty quote.