The white spots are from using a cheap Latex (water and oil) finish. The problem is going to re-occur until you sand it off and use a proper varnish. The best is still good old-fashioned Spar Varnish, the stuff sailors have mopped onto wooden decks and spars for hundreds of years. Make sure you get the old-fashioned linseed oil /turpentine type, not a newfangled Latex imitation. For best results, sand it perfectly smooth beforehand, put it on in 3 - 4 thin layers with no or minimal very light sanding in between, so as not to expose high grain.
Tables that I have finished with Spar varnish over 30 years ago are still fine and have never shown any white spots. Sure, old fashioned Spar varnish stinks while you put it on, and may be getting difficult to find, because Latex is more profitable and doesn't last, but it is well worth the effort to find real Spar varnish and use it. If you absolutely can't get any in your area, use a two component epoxy. Have fun!
Wow, can't believe what I've just seen. I used the iron and white t-shirt and the white patch just disappeared. Thanks everyone, been trying everything for weeks! (02/18/2009)
I have had the same problem. Solution: I put Peanut Butter on it, smeared it in and left it for about 20 minutes. Came back and wiped it off, and it removed the ring entirely. This hint came from my husband who refinishes furniture. (02/19/2009)
First of all there must be a definition because good furniture with a varnish finish should never be polished, but just cleaned with a damp cloth, and with older furniture many have used polishes which leaves a waxed surface; never use any polish on new furniture with a varnish finish.
I goofed with a water stain on a good table top which has never been polished, and have tried most suggestions without success except using an iron thus far. The reason is because most of these suggestions are predicated upon a polished surface and you are simply removing the whiteness protected by the polish.
Nevertheless, have found a mixture of cigarette ash mixed with lemon juice on a medical cotton pad rubbing gently has a removal effect, and am going to work on this some more; perhaps try wax paper on the whiteness, covered by a cotton tee shirt with an iron set on medium. (03/01/2009)
I've had this happen to good maple chairs. It's moisture trapped under the finish. Try setting the furniture out in the sun for a day or so (taking it back inside at night before the dew falls). The gentle sun heat will dissipate the moisture. (03/19/2009)
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