Remove Dents from Wood with a Household Iron

Picture yourself nearing completion of your masterpiece, just about ready to put a finish on it, and then the unthinkable happens. You drop your tape measure on top of the table, or you get a bit too aggressive with a mallet as you are tapping pieces together during a glue-up. What do you do? Sanding may remove more material than you are willing to lose. Patching is tricky and time consuming. Ignoring it will haunt you forever.

Turn to your household clothing iron in this situation. Soak a rag with water and lay it on the affected area, still soaking wet with water. When the iron is fully heated to its highest setting (typically cotton; I haven’t seen one with a “walnut” setting yet!) work it back and forth for 30 – 60 seconds, until the rag begins to dry out a bit. The heat from the iron will force the water from the rag into the fibers of the wood, causing them to expand to their “pre-dented” shape. After ironing, sand the surface lightly with 100 grit sand paper, and the repair should be nearly invisible. It is like having an “undo command” for your woodworking shop!

Remove Dents from WoodIn the pictured example, we hit a piece of red birch four times with a 16-ounce hammer, leaving some pretty severe dents.

Remove Dents from WoodWe then ironed it for about a minute.

Remove Dents from WoodThe dents became nearly undetectable.

This trick works well on nearly any species of wood, prior to applying a finish. It works best on dents that do not tear the wood fibers, but merely stress or distort the fibers.

Paul Mayer lives in Lakeville, MN and is a hopelessly addicted hobbyist woodworker with over 13 years experience building custom furniture and other fun projects. He also assists his father, Vernon Mayer, in his woodworking business Vern’s Wood Goods where they build serving trays, cutting boards, kitchen utensils and other fine crafts, and are now considering adding spoons to their product offering.

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15 Responses to “Remove Dents from Wood with a Household Iron”

  1. John Hart

    I have multiple interior pine doors that have deep scratches on them from our dog. We are in the process of painting them. Will this work on these doors? Or what do you recommend to fill these.

  2. Zeke

    Irons are available at the thrift stores for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Usually used irons have been left on on some polyester cloth or something that ruins the finish for ironing clothes. Rough surface irons work just fine for this process.

  3. Muhammad Akram

    It's very good idea. ۔ . . .

  4. Robert Augeri

    What happens when you apply a finish, like Varnish and you accidently dent the finish, how do you treat this dent?

  5. Colin

    This tip will certainly go into the box of files that will be hopefully never need to be opened but there is always an accident waiting around the corner that will needed in an emergency.

  6. Brian

    I cannot view the videos that you send

  7. Reg

    How would you remove a dent from finished wood like a cabinet door?

  8. Marty

    Any options for a finished surface?

  9. Ernest

    hi, does this work on a hardwood floor that has a dent in it?

  10. Cmac

    I have used this technique but with a cloth that was only damp. Will have to try it with a soaking wet cloth next time I need to do it.