How to Fix Water Damaged Swollen Outdoor Wood Furniture

Last updated on October 12th, 2022

Water damage can be a real nuisance on wooden items, especially furniture. But knowing how to fix water damaged swollen outdoor wood furniture can ease things a little bit and keep you from throwing away an important piece.
To fix the furniture, start by drying it up and inspecting it for any water-related stains, molds, and mildew. Next, you will want to remove such stains, clean the surface, smoothen it, then treat it and refinish it to complete the restoration process.

Why does outdoor wood furniture swell?

Wood naturally shrinks or swells due to changes in its moisture content.
How to fix water damaged swollen outdoor wood furniture
 Outdoor wood furniture is exposed to unregulated amounts of atmospheric moisture and precipitation. Unless the wood surface is treated and completely sealed, it will absorb the moisture from the humid outdoor air and precipitate, causing it to swell.
Such swelling and warping can ruin the appearance of your outdoor furniture. Even a beautiful piece of furniture can look scuffed up and worn.
Fortunately, you can reverse that damage if you know how to repair water damaged wood furniture.

What are the effects of water damage on different types of wood furniture?

Water can have various effects on wood furniture depending on the type of wood. The damage can take the form of swelling, staining, warping, or cracking of the wood furniture. Often, it is a combination of all these.
Still, different wood types will be affected differently from water exposure. A lighter, softwood piece of furniture will be more vulnerable than a denser or heavier wooden one.
Denser wood types tend to have more resilience to water. And the lighter, softer types are generally more porous and absorb more water during exposure.
Regardless of the type, any wood can rot or mold in case of prolonged exposure to water or moisture. The water eventually soaks into the wood causing it to swell and become warped over time. This can happen even if it is dense and less porous.
This water damage can become irreparable if it continues for too long. As such, it is crucial to treat any wooden furniture to protect it from water damage.
Sealing the wood is ideal for outdoor furniture that stays outside in contact with the damaging weather elements.

Can you fix water damaged swollen wood furniture?

As already mentioned, prolonged water exposure can cause irreversible damage to wooden furniture. However, you should be able to fix and restore any swollen wooden furniture that has only slight or moderate damage.
This article provides you with a detailed guide on how to fix water damaged swollen outdoor wood furniture. Read along to learn up to four different methods that you can use.
How to fix water damaged swollen outdoor wood furniture

Why fix water damaged swollen wood furniture

Fixing water-damaged wood furniture can be a great way to save money. It can be too expensive to replace your outdoor furniture each time they appear warped or swollen.
By fixing the damage instead of throwing away the furniture, you save money you could have otherwise spent on the replacement.
You may also want to restore your furniture if it holds some sentimental value to you. Although buying a replacement can make sense in certain instances, you do not wish to get rid of a piece you are emotionally attached to.
It could be an antique rocker passed down your family from one generation to another. For such a piece, you will want to do all it takes to keep it serviceable, even if it would be easy to order another one from Amazon or get a replacement from a furniture store down the road.
The other reason you may want to fix water damaged swollen wood furniture is the relatively higher cost of buying a new one. If it were cheaper to repair the damaged seat than buy another one, it would be worth taking the time to do it.
Even if it takes a lot of effort to fix the piece of furniture, you will be happy you chose that option. This should all depend on the extent of damage your wood has sustained.

How to fix water damaged swollen wood furniture

The first step in fixing and restoring water damaged wood furniture is to get that water out.
After that, you will be able to assess the extent of damage to the item. The method you use to fix the water-damaged wood furniture will depend on the extent of damage it has sustained.
If it just got in contact with the water, drying alone will be enough. If the damage is severe, you may have to use one or a combination of the more intense methods to fix the furniture
Let us delve into these methods and when to use them.

Method 1: Dry the wood furniture under the sun or in a warm room

Warped or swollen wood often still has water inside it. Getting this water out can be enough to fix the wood and restore its shape and sheen.
Start by wiping any visible water from the wood surface using a dry microfiber cloth, then let the furniture air dry. Let it sit under the sun to facilitate quicker drying.
In bad weather or cloud cover, you can put the wood furniture in a well-ventilated room. If the room is toasty enough, the wood should dry without a problem. Otherwise, you can consider using an electric fan to speed up the drying process.

Method 2: Iron it

Another easy way to get water out of a piece of furniture is to iron it. Water damage can leave shadowy white patches on wood. Ironing is one effective way to fix this particular problem.
While air-drying your water damaged swollen wood furniture could take up to 24 hours, ironing should be a relatively quick alternative. Just take care not to burn yourself with the hot iron box.
To use this method, you will need a soft cloth along with a standard iron box. Plug the iron into a power source and set it to medium heat.
If there is any visible water on the wood surface, start by wiping it dry. Then place the clean, soft cloth over the wood furniture, and iron one swollen spot at a time. Ironing each area for about one minute or two should be enough to fix the water-related problem.
Notice that you will need to hold the iron down on the wood, motionless, for a few seconds to allow it to dry. Just don’t hold it in place for long; you may burn the cloth or scorch the wood itself.
After ironing for about a minute or two, remove the rag and inspect the ironed wood for any swelling left. If there is, you should return the rag on top of it and iron it a little more until you are satisfied with the dryness.

Method 3: Sand the wood

Now, once the wood is dry—either from ironing or air drying, you should be able to see whether the furniture is all right or if it requires more work.
Important: You should proceed directly to sanding the wood ONLY if it has an uneven surface but no stains on it.
In case of stains and molds, you would have to clean the furniture first before sanding.
The things you will need
  • A medium-grit sandpaper
  • Protective face mask
  • Safety goggles
  • A clean, dry rag
  • Painter’s brush or rag
  • Furniture oil
Once you have assembled everything you need, it is time to get to work.

Steps to follow

Step 1: Wear your safety face mask and protective glasses to keep you from inhaling the sanding dust.
Step 2: Rub the sander on the wood surface, working along the grain for the desired results.
Consider sanding if the wood appears uneven or still warped after drying, whether it has stains on it or not. Sanding should help you achieve a smooth, even wood surface. You can choose to use a sander or handheld sandpaper.
Either of these should help remove any inconsistencies that remain after the wood is dry. Rub the affected areas with the sanding tool of your choice until the surface is smooth to the touch.
Step 3: Then, wipe off the sanding dust using a clean, dry rag. Keep sanding and wiping the wood surface until you are happy with it.
Step 4: Treat the sanded surface by applying a coat of furniture oil. You can use a lint-free rag or soft-bristled painter’s brush to apply the oil by rubbing it along the wood grain.
Step 5: Wipe off any excess product or oil residue on the wood surface and let it dry.

Method 4: Remove molds and stains, then sand it

If your water-damaged wood furniture stayed in contact with water for long, the chances are that it will have stains or molds noticeable after drying it.
The extent of staining or molding on the wood will depend on how long it stayed in contact with the water and the amount of water involved.
There are various cleaning solutions you can use to remove stains and molds from a water-damaged wood furniture surface. You can choose to go with a homemade solution such as vinegar or a commercial wood furniture cleaner.
Where molds are involved, ensure you are working outside. Cleaning these fungi inside your house could wash them off the furniture and onto some other surfaces. They can spread around and become hard to eliminate.
This section will discuss the methods you can use to remove water stains, molds, and deep-set stains from your water-damaged wood furniture.

Removing water stains from the furniture

The furniture could have water stains if it was in contact with water for a relatively short time. Removing these stains should be easy. First, here are the things you will need.
  • Lemon oil
  • Wood furniture cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth, preferably white
  • Clean paintbrush
  • Furniture oil
Steps to follow
Step 1: Apply wood furniture cleaner to the wood surface using a microfiber cloth. A white cloth is recommended because it will allow you to monitor how the stain comes off.
Step 2: Add a few drops of the lemon oil and rub gently in circular motions until the stain is gone. This may take a while, so be patient.
Step 3: If the stain remains stubborn, you might add a bit of salad oil or mayonnaise. Then continue rubbing with the soft microfiber cloth until the surface is clean.
If you use salad oil or mayonnaise, be sure to remove the excess product using the wood cleaner.
If the stain remains persistent, you may sand it off with 220-grit sandpaper. If there’s no success, move to the method below for removing deep-set stains.
Bonus: Always remember to work in a well-ventilated area and wear a protective dust mask and safety glasses when using a sander. And sand in the direction of the grain, so you don’t damage the wood surface.
Step 4: Apply furniture oil using a soft-bristled paintbrush or lint-free rag to protect the wood surface. Wipe off any oil residue on the wood surface and let it dry.

Removing deep-set stains from the furniture

Deep-set stains sit in the nooks and crannies of the swollen wood table. These may need a little more effort to remove. First, here are the things you will need:
  • A chemical stripping agent
  • Clean, soft-bristle paint brushes
  • Sander and 100- to 150-grit sandpapers
  • A scraping tool
  • Furniture oil
Steps to follow
Step 1: Soak a clean paintbrush in the stripping agent and gently apply it to the wood surface in a smooth motion along the wood grain.
Step 2: Let it sit until you notice bubbles forming on the wood. This indicates oxidation as the chemical reacts with the stains.
Step 3: use a scraping tool to scrape the wood furniture surface slowly. Keep your scraping steady and continue until much of the stripping agent is gone with the stains.
Step 4: Switch to the sander and use it to remove the remaining stripping agent from the surface. Once done, use a paintbrush to wipe off the sanding dust.
Step 5: Finish off by applying a layer of furniture oil using a soft-bristled paintbrush or lint-free rag to protect the wood surface. Wipe off any remaining oil residue and let it dry.

Removing molds from the wood furniture

Your wood furniture would have molds on it if it stayed in contact with moisture or water for a prolonged amount of time.
These will appear as small white or black spots on the surface of the furniture. You can actually notice these even before drying the wood, in which case you can skip drying the table and proceed directly to removing the molds.
To deal with the mold problem, here are the things you will need.
  • A water bucket
  • Safety goggles and gloves
  • Bleaching agent
  • Dish soap or mild liquid detergent
  • Soft-bristled nylon brush
  • Garden hose
Steps to follow
Step 1: Wear your protective gear and garment.
Step 2: Fill the bucket halfway with warm water, add about two cups of bleach and two to three cups of soap, then stir well.
Step 3: Soak a scouring brush with the cleaning solution and use it to scrub the furniture until all the mold is gone.
Step 4: When done, use a garden hose to rinse the furniture thoroughly to remove all the soap residue and mold particles. Then, leave it out to dry.
If the surface looks ashen after removing the molds, you may want to apply furniture oil to protect it. Or you can proceed straight to using the finishing of your choice.

Refinish the Wood

The last part of fixing a water-damaged swollen outdoor wood furniture is to refinish it regardless of the method used. You want to seal off the surface to make it resistant to water, molds, and even the sun’s UV rays and help prevent the damage from recurring.
Here, you can apply a marine-based polyurethane, varnish, paint, linseed oil, or any protective coating of your choice.

Other care tips for outdoor wood furniture

After learning how to fix water-damaged swollen wood furniture, it’s important to know how to care for the wood to prevent such damage from occurring in the first place.
Read along to learn some of the essential care tips to practice.
  1. When placing a jar or glass of liquid on your table, always cover your furniture with mats to catch any spills and prevent staining.
  2. Check for any pipe leakages or plumbing problems around your home from time to time.
  3. Bring your outdoor furniture indoors during rain, or cover them to prevent contact with rainwater.
  4. Close any water faucets, and do not leave them running overnight.
  5. Cover your outdoor furniture in plastic wraps when going to stay away from home for some time.


You do not have to throw away your furniture simply because water has ruined it. As you can see, there are numerous ways to fix that problem, even without enlisting the help of a professional woodworker.
We hope these tips help you restore your wooden furniture and protect it from further water damage.

FAQs – Fixing Water Damaged Swollen Outdoor Furniture

Can hot water damage outdoor wood furniture?

Hot water can scald the surface of your outdoor wood furniture, damaging its finishing and color. The water can also leave unsightly marks or stains on the wood surface or soak into the wood grain and risk causing rot and swelling if not dried out soon.

Can you shrink swollen wood?

Yes. Shrink a swollen wood back to its original state by exposing the damaged part or the whole wood to heat, or leave it outside in the sun. This helps reduce the moisture content that makes the wood to swell.

Will warped wood furniture get back to normal?

Wood warping is a change of flatness or straightness in timber due to excess stress or uneven shrinkage. So, will warped wood furniture get back to normal? Yes, when exposed to heat, warped wood furniture will lose moisture and regain its original shape.

Can you sand water damaged wood?

Yes. While the main aim is to remove uneven grains from the swollen or damaged areas, it is important to sand the whole for a consistent even surface.

What happens when wood furniture swells?

When wood furniture swells, it loses its appearance and starts to look scuffed up and old