How to Remove Water Stains from Drywall & Other Walls

Author: Pat Freling | Updated: | Affiliate links may be present.

Water stains on walls can appear for a myriad of reasons. Whether you want to repair a stain on drywall or get your deposit back from your landlord, there are a few tried and true tips to get stubborn water stains out.

Water stains can appear on any wall surface, but they are most apparent on drywall, wood, and stone. Using a combination of specialty cleaners and household items, you can remove most water stains with a little patience and elbow grease.

Water stains are caused by trace minerals left behind on the surface after any water has evaporated.

Before You Begin Cleaning

First and foremost, if you notice a water stain on any wall, you need to determine the source of the stain to prevent it from happening again.

Leaky Pipe or Faucet

These are most common in two-story homes where the leak is from the second floor. Call a plumber to investigate any potential leaks and fix your pipes, or else you will find yourself removing another water stain in the near future.

Leaky Roof or Window

Not only are these fairly easy to spot, but a leaking window or roof can quickly spiral into a large (and expensive) problem. Check all the seals on your window and replace them if necessary. Call a professional roof repair company to check the integrity of your roof.

Sprinkler Direction

If there are hard water stains on the outside of your house on your stone wall, make sure you aren’t directing your sprinklers in that direction. The hard water from your hose contains trace minerals that can cause these stains.

Invest in some drip irrigation you can run along the ground.

High Humidity

Most often found in bathrooms and kitchens, walls that endure humid conditions for an extended period of time can often start to become discolored from water stains.

The fix for this is a combination of better ventilation and proper water-resistant paint to seal your walls and prevent further stains after you’ve removed them.

Removing Water Stains from Drywall

Drywall is notoriously sensitive to water spots. Before you try to replace it or paint over it, try a few simple methods to remove the stain.

Dry the Stain

Use a hair dryer on the low setting and thoroughly dry the area before you start working on the stain. You can also gently press and pat it with a newspaper or a microfiber towel.

Use Bleach or Vinegar

Mix a 10% solution of bleach and distilled water (from a bottle, not from your tap) and put the solution in a spray bottle. Spray the area well and allow it to sit for five to ten minutes, then dab the excess with a cloth soaked in water only.

Alternatively, you can mix a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and distilled water and apply it in the same way.

Dry and Repeat

Dry the area like you did the first time, and then reassess the stain. You can repeat the application of bleach or vinegar as many times as necessary until the stain is gone. Just be sure to completely dry the area between each application.

Removing Water Stains from Wood Walls

Wood can be a little tricky to remove water stains from, especially if it’s been finished with a specialty coating. Stains that appear white are surface-level stains that can be removed with simple methods.

If the stain is dark, that means it’s penetrated the wood and will most likely need to be refinished after removing it.

Using an Oil-based Product

Oil is a wonderful solution for displacing the water molecules in the stain and helping to lift it out of wood. The two most common products are mayonnaise and olive oil. Buffing these into the stain can begin removing it almost immediately.

You can also mix them with distilled white vinegar if you need a little extra cleaning power.

Using Toothpaste

This will most likely require you to refinish the wood after you’re done, but it’s a great mildly abrasive technique to buff the stain out. Opt for regular white toothpaste instead of gel and lightly apply it to the stain.

Using Petroleum Jelly

Vaseline or petroleum jelly works in much the same way as olive oil and mayonnaise. Rub it over the stain and allow it to sit for several hours or overnight, then gently wipe off.

Avoid Bleach

Even though the bleach method works for drywall, its color-removing properties can permanently damage the wood.

Removing Water Stains from Stone

Stone walls can get stained just from being exposed to the elements. Thankfully, these types of stains are extremely easy to get out because the “stain” is actually just an accumulation of minerals on top of the stone.

Power Wash

You can blast the stain away with a power washer fairly easily. These machines can be rented from most home improvement stores. Just be sure to get a lesson on how to use them as they can injure you if not used properly.

Vinegar & a Scrub Brush

If you don’t feel like shelling out the money to rent a power washer, mix a 50/50 solution of vinegar and distilled water, pour it over the stone wall, and scrub it with a scour or a scrub brush.

Always Dry the Area Afterwards

You don’t want to allow any more minerals to accumulate after you’ve worked hard to remove them, so no matter which method you use, dry the area immediately. A leaf blower actually works great in this scenario. Or you could purchase some industrial fans and blast them at the area.

Final Thoughts

Sometimes it’s impossible to avoid hard water stains in your house. Working quickly to fix them once you spot them is key to making sure they get completely removed. Bleach and vinegar work for drywall and stone, but avoid using them on your wood walls.

Afterwards, make sure you refinish or repaint as needed and fix any leaking fixtures so that nasty stain doesn’t return.

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About Pat Freling

Pat has been into DIY painting since he was 14 years old. He's painted interior walls, decks, patio, and even the first car that he'd purchased at 18.

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