Fixing a Stained White Dresser

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Dear Home-Ec 101,
We have a lovely bedroom set of furniture from a big box baby store. In white. One sick child + one classic orange popsicle + one apparently cracked emesis basin + one day = one bright orange stain on the white dresser. I tried a diaper wipe thinking the mess was still wet. It wasn’t. Then I hit it with one clorox wipe. Haha. HELP!!!
Now I’m sick to my stomach

fix a stained white dresser

Heather says:


Before trying my suggestions below, call your furniture manufacturer’s customer service line. They may have specific advice for the finish on your piece.

You’re probably not going to like my response, but the acidic nature of your child’s vomit has likely etched (chemically scratched) the surface of your furniture. Since the surface is already damaged, I’m going to suggest a method that I would NEVER recommend under other circumstances. You can try using either oxygen bleach or chlorine bleach (diluted) on the stained area. There’s a very small chance that you may be able to lighten the stain enough that it’s no longer as noticeable. Apply either with a rag dampened with the solution and allow it to rest on the stained area for a few moments.

furniture care guide
Click the picture for more tips!

If the stained area is large, refinishing that surface is probably your best bet. I recently attended an event with Angela Statzer where she shared tips for painting wood furniture that you may find helpful.

Best of luck and I hope the kiddo is feeling better.

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6 thoughts on “Fixing a Stained White Dresser”

  1. My lazier suggestion, should that fail, would be to find a fun vinyl sticker that matches your theme for the room and call it part of the decor. :). (Incidentally, vinyl is key there. You want to be able to change it as time passes.)

  2. In order of least potentially damaging to riskiest:

    1. Make a paste of baking soda and put on the stain. Let sit for half an hour. Wipe away. If you see an effect, let dry (so you don’t cause the finish to separate from the furnishing) and repeat.

    2. Soak a rag in hydrogen peroxide and let sit for 20 minutes. Same drill as above, letting the finish dry between treatments.

    3. Soak a rag in LimeAway, CLR, or similar (don’t use one that has colorant, particularly purple dye, in it), and treat as in step 2. This is the most likely way to get the color out, but also will probably etch the surface and leave a dull spot. But you can always top with spray clearcoat, which probably is a good idea for furniture in a child’s room anyway.

    Mr. Clean Magic Eraser is very effective on white countertops with LimeAway to remove stains from receipts and food packaging that has transferred dye to the laminate. You can use it on the furniture, too, but work very gingerly, because it is abrasive and can wear through the paint.

    I would not recommend using chlorine bleach because the concentration necessary to remove chemically bonded dye is almost certain to YELLOW white finished pieces, so you’ll just be trading one stain for another one.

    • If you have a UV wand such as for sterilizing furniture and mattresses, you can try exposing the stain to UV to see if it will bleach. Check frequently to be sure the UV isn’t doing anything weird to the finish.

    • Gah! I almost forgot…Insert citric acid/lemon juice in as new Step 2. Rub the spot with a cut lemon, and there’s a chance the lemon oil with get in there and break the bonds so the citric acid can pull it out.

  3. Put a doily or a pretty place mat on it and save yourself the trouble. I’m serious. You know as soon as you go to the (considerable) trouble of refinishing this, it’s going to happen again. See Murphy’s law.


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