Repair Wood Furniture: How to Steam Out Dents

Learn how you can level deep dents on flat surfaces of wood furniture with this steam method and have your furniture looking great no matter the age.

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by Unsplash/Tim Schmidbauer

Old furniture, whether a family heirloom or consignment shop find, is often better made than anything you can buy today. Transform your old or new-to-you furniture into beautiful, functional pieces with Refinishing Furniture Made Simple (The Taunton Press, 2012) by Jeff Jewitt. The following excerpt shows you how to remove dents that are too large or deep for sanding.


How to Steam Out a Dent

Dents that are too large and deep to sand out can usually be steamed level with the surface using a household iron and distilled water. My rule of thumb is that any dent larger than a pencil eraser should be steamed out.

drop of water on a dent in a wood table

1. Pour a little puddle of distilled water into the dent.

iron on a piece of cloth on a wet portion of a table

2. Put a piece of cotton cloth dampened with distilled water over the dent. Set a household iron to “cotton” (usually one or two steps below the highest setting). Place the iron over the rag and hold it for about 15 seconds.

iron on a piece of cotton on a wood table

3. Repeat Steps 2 and 3. Several (three to four) applications of heat should swell the dent close to the surface. It’s OK if you don’t make it perfect.

person sanding a table top

4. Sand the entire surface with 100-grit sandpaper to make the dent disappear completely.

More from Refinishing Furniture

Repair Wood Furniture: Dismantle and Reassemble Chairs
Repair Wood Furniture: Regluing a Tabletop


orange book cover with person painting clear tan liquid on to table top

Reprinted with permission from Refinishing Furniture Made Simple by Jeff Jewitt and published by The Taunton Press, 2012. Photographs by Gary Junken.

  • Updated on Nov 13, 2021
  • Originally Published on Jan 10, 2021
Tagged with: diy, furniture repair, steam, woodworking