Troubleshooting "Prints" on a Waxed Table

      Sock-foot imprints on a waxed, factory-finished table turned out to be only in the wax on top. March 9, 2010

After a bit of searching, I realized that I can't really decide what to look for. Let's see if I can describe this. I have a potential client who has a coffee/cocktail table made by AA Laun. As best as I can tell by looking and by researching online, it is a lacquer finish. The customer would like for me to remove or spray over or something, this table's top which has, let's say, smudges.

What has occurred is whenever they have put their feet up (sock feet only), there appears to be a permanent mark left behind. This is only visible when viewing at the correct angle. You have to look for it. They've had this table and its accompanying pieces for about six years, I think they said. I don't believe they've done any "abrasive buffing," but the gentleman has treated the piece with Treewax, as he has other pieces in the house. He told me that the wax used to diminish the smudges considerably, but that the wax now doesn't seem to obscure or otherwise heal the wound.

I don't have a picture, I'm afraid. I'm not entirely sure I could get them captured for that matter. Imagine the weight of your foot, focused at the heel which is resting on the table. I think I can make out the sock's weave, as though an impression were left by some quirky combination of gravity, heat, moisture, and body oil! Ah, but it's so mild, yet they want them gone, and have asked if I can help. My initial thought is to remove all wax, sand and shoot with polyurethane or CV.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor S:
Try rubbing out the finish with a professional car detailing polish that doesn't have silicone in it. I just did a table top that had a plastic sheet put on it and was then put out in the sun which left 20-30 dulled spots. I use a $20 Ryobi electric polisher (go in a circular motion) from Home Depot and a detailing polish designed to take out scratches from 2000 grit. It should polish out really nice.

From contributor G:
Rubbing out will fix this round of sock impressions, but what about the next ones? Unless your customer is willing to change their TV watching position, it will happen again. I'd go with stripping and recoating.

From the original questioner:
I thought about the recurrence myself whilst riding alone in the vehicle today. Based on my description, is it conceivable, then, that merely scuff sanding and spraying a new topcoat would not yield the desired result? That is, could I expect the smudge to happen again?

Should a full strip be in order, does that entail just the lacquer? How easy is it to remove, but not take away any stain color? I don't mean I'm necessarily looking for something easy. I want to go about this in the proper way. I just want to make sure that client knows what they're going to get, and how much time it is going to involve. What may seem like a simple fix to them could amount to hundreds of dollars. I hope to present them with more than one option, explain all that would be involved, and then let them make the decision about proceeding with the work. Tough working on someone else's stuff, factory or otherwise, yes?

From contributor C:
You don't state if the finish was brand new or just delivered when this incident took place? If it was a newly applied finish less than a few days old I can see where this might happen, but if not - then you have a problem with the coating itself. You usually see this more with sealers than you do top coats - but there are still those out there that use multiple coats of seal (several or more) before the top coats. This will always give a soft finish capable of doing what has happened with your piece. If that's the case then following the advice to strip and re-coat with good hard top coats will alleviate this problem for good! Don't be in a hurry to re-deliver yourself! A rock hard finish takes 30 days to achieve.

From the original questioner:
Do you mean just strip the wax, or did you mean the existing lacquer as I previously thought?

From the original questioner:
The piece in question is an A.A. Laun piece that the couple purchased, I believe, six years ago. I don't know how quickly these sock prints were noticed. One would hope if early enough that they would have gone back to the furniture store. Whatever the case, they're seeking my advice/remedy now as a repairman.

From contributor G:
If the finish is soft enough to print after six years, I'd guess it will come off fairly easily. Did they say the marks had been there since new? In that case perhaps a polishing will work, or maybe not. You didn't mention stain before, so I don't know how your stripping technique will affect it. Yes, my suggestion is to remove the coating (in whichever method your professional experience suggests), deal with stain lightening issues, then recoat with whichever product you have familiarity with that will resist imprinting.

From the original questioner:
Something I failed to mention at the outset, which may have bearing here if we're thinking soft finish. Nothing else leaves a print, just the sock feet. Regarding moisture, I was assured that coasters have always been used for drinks. Should anything wet have ever, in fact, hit the table's surface, there is no sign of it.

When they first called me on the project, I was picturing a super cheapo table in our house that has blushed due to a hot pizza box before, and then gone away (both the blushing and the pizza). When I found the clients' prints to remain on their table, I questioned the moisture issue that I previously thought was relevant. Any ideas as to why no other prints are left? Is it as simple as broader weight dispersion when speaking of other items?

From contributor C:
Can't say for sure but one way to find out is to put a piece of burlap down on the coating and place something equal in weight to the feet/legs combo for a few hours and see if that's the case. I'd say about 40 lbs would do though i don't know for sure. Either way, it's definitely more than a pizza box or glass/pitcher full of liquid. Most finishes are tested with cloth to see about these types of factors before they are introduced onto the market, so usually this is not the case, but like I said I have seen it with over use of sanding sealer.

From the original questioner:
I'm fully confident and capable finishing my own work, but when it comes to someone else's - factory, antique, yardsale find, or otherwise - I am a little skittish. Capable, I'm sure, but not as confident (I don't purport to anyone to be a refinisher). I feel very fortunate to have this resource available to me. For this case in particular, it is certainly helping me sort things out, and I will be able to formulate some options for the client based on your recommendations.

From the original questioner:
Over a month since my last post, and here I am only now reporting how this job went. Sure, it's not earth-shattering, but who doesn't like closure? I removed the wax that the homeowner had applied to the top and voila! Back to factory finish and no smudge marks. Simple, yes? Once I finally realized what had happened, I thought, "Oh, yeah, I've had this same thing happen to me, say, when waxing my table saw."

As near as I could deduce, at some point the wax had softened significantly enough to leave the sock marks in the surface - due to heat/pressure of the resting feet. I am guessing that enough body oil remained that subsequent waxing would not take on the foot spots, but the wax under the spots had hardened sufficiently, and couldn't be buffed or removed by subsequent applications of wax. Does that make sense? Hope so. In any case, removing all the wax also removed the spots, and the factory finish remained. The husband and wife were happy.

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