Lacquer Turned White — Reasons + Ways to Fix

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White spots or cloudiness on lacquer surfaces can be a common issue, and this guide will help you understand the underlying causes and provide practical solutions to restore the original beauty of your lacquered items.

Why Your Lacquer Finish Turns White or Blush

Blushing, which causes a milky-white appearance on lacquer surfaces, is typically the result of trapped moisture. 

To address this issue, consider reducing humidity levels in the room, reapplying lacquer after the affected area has dried, or using a retarder to promote evaporation and prevent blushing.

It gives a fast cooling effect below the dew point to avoid high humidity and usually condensation.

Water Spots & Rings

Moisture-induced white marks on lacquered tables can also appear when you place drinking cups with hot beverages on the surface. This can be simply treated with mayonnaise. Its oil content displaces water in micro-cracks over time. 

4 Ways to Fix Blushing in Lacquer

1. Allow the Moisture to Evaporate

Evaporating trapped moisture within the thin layer can be achieved using heat, which eliminates white spots on the finish. Gather the necessary supplies to effectively employ heat for moisture evaporation and a restored clear lacquer appearance.

lacquer turned white

Supplies

Steps

  1. Place fabric over white marks. 
  2. Use iron on medium setting. 
  3. Move the iron in sweeping motions. 
  4. Reposition until spots fade. 
  5. Get rid of the fabric. 
  6. Use the hairdryer on low setting. 
  7. Target remaining spots, keeping 3-4 inches away.

Tips

2. Thin the Lacquer Finish

Lacquer thinner can fix white spots if moisture isn’t deep. It removes excess lacquer, letting moisture escape. Lightly spraying lacquer to avoid excessive application, and use horizontal strokes for optimal results.

mixing lacquer paint

3. Apply a Lacquer Retarder

Lacquer retarder proves to be the perfect remedy for blushing, particularly in environments with high humidity levels.

By prolonging the drying time, this product allows solvents to evaporate gradually, effectively preventing the formation of unsightly white spots that can occur due to rapid drying.

4. Consider Using a Dehumidifier

Dehumidifiers [1] lower air humidity, aiding moisture evaporation and removing white stains and spots. Keep the room and relative humidity below 50% or use a well-ventilated area. Reapply lacquer after removing spots for a proper seal.

Applying Lacquer to Prevent White Spots: Here’s How!

Supplies Needed

Step 1: Prepare the Area and Wood Surface

tools for painting

To prevent blushing on lacquer surfaces, it’s important to maintain humidity levels around 50% or use a well-ventilated workspace. Here are the ways to address blushing:

  • Wipe the affected wood surface with white spirits or alcohol.
  • Allow the lacquer to dry completely.
  • Sand the surface using 180-grit sandpaper, following the wood grain.
  • Wipe away any sawdust to achieve a smooth finish.

These steps should help you restore the lacquer’s original appearance and prevent further blushing.

Step 2: Prepare the Lacquer

To address blushing in lacquer, you can mix equal parts of lacquer and retarder. Follow these steps:

  • Mix equal parts of lacquer and retarder.
  • Load the mixture into a spray gun.
  • While working with the mixture, make sure to wear a facemask for safety.

The retarder in the mixture will slow down the drying process, helping to prevent white spots (blushing) from forming. In situations of low humidity, you can also consider using lacquer thinner as an alternative.

Step 3: Spray the Finish

Load the spray gun to apply lacquer, set it to 30 PSI, and practice on scrap wood. Then, apply a thin, even, and light coat to the wood surface, covering the entire area, as missed spots are hard to detect later. 

Step 4: Dry it Completely

Allow the first coat of lacquer to dry for around 30 minutes, avoiding touch-ups during this time. Lightly sand the entire surface with 320-grit sandpaper between two coats, using a clean rag to remove residue. 

Once the initial coat is dry, proceed to apply the second or next coat of lacquer.

Step 5: Apply Another Lacquer Coat (If Needed)

Apply more lacquer coats, covering missed spots, to achieve the desired appearance. Fully dry between 4-5 coats with a 24-hour cure time. Let the final coat cure overnight. Lacquer retarder extends drying, letting the moisture evaporate and preventing white spots.

spraying lacquer to dining table

How Many Lacquer Coats Should You Apply To Wood?

Apply at least three coats of lacquer on wood to achieve the desired finish, allowing for complete drying between each coat to prevent white discoloration spots. You may add more coats as needed to obtain the preferred result.

Is it Okay to Thin Lacquer Using Acetone?

Using acetone to thin a lacquer finish is not recommended for preventing lacquer blushing. Acetone evaporates rapidly, and this fast drying process can lead to issues by potentially trapping moisture within the lacquer, which can contribute to blushing. 

It’s advisable to use lacquer thinner instead of acetone for this application to maintain proper drying conditions and reduce the risk of blushing.

How Long Lacquer Lasts on Wood

Lacquer finish can last for decades on a wood surface when applied properly and protected from environmental factors such as temperature fluctuations, dust, and debris. 

Indoor lacquer finishes typically have a longer lifespan than outdoor finishes due to less exposure to external elements.

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Conclusion

Understanding the causes and employing the appropriate techniques can indeed help prevent or rectify the issue of white lacquer. 

With the right knowledge and skills, you can ensure that your woodworking projects maintain pristine and durable lacquer finishes, enhancing their overall quality and longevity.

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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