Teak has been used for making high-quality furniture for centuries, thanks to its amazing resilience, durability, resistance to the elements and natural beauty. Furniture made from teak has often been quoted as furniture that “lasts a lifetime” and many families can attest to this with teak furniture that has been passed down through generations. While teak requires very little in the way of regular care or maintenance, there are a number of steps that one can take that will prolong the ‘new’ look of their teak and help prevent any dirt or grime from accumulating and spoiling the look.
Below we’ll share some tips on how to properly clean your teak furniture, and how to tackle regular teak furniture maintenance so that your beautiful teak keeps its looks and durability for many years.
Things to Know Before Starting any Teak Furniture Maintenance
Before we explore how to clean and maintain teak furniture, there are a few quick points that are important to address to ensure that no damage is done to your teak when you maintain it.
Teak is different from many woods in that it naturally exudes a resin – or oil – and continues to do so over the life of your teak furniture. This oil provides teak with much of its natural resistance to weather, insects and moisture, and is beneficial to the health and longevity of your teak furniture. If you choose to stain or paint your teak furniture, you are almost certain to have issues with it down the road. Avoid staining or painting your teak if at all possible.
The reasons why are covered below, but teak oil and teak sealers are NOT recommended for use on any teak furniture that is intended for outdoor use. Teak has been used for boats and ocean-going vessels for hundreds of years; it’s incredibly tough in its natural state and will withstand the elements. Avoid using these unnecessary products on your teak furniture.
Finally – if you’re unsure about any of the steps below, call a professional. It’s a lot less expensive to have someone come in and spruce up your teak furniture than it will be to replace it entirely if things go wrong.
How to Clean Teak Furniture
Cleaning teak furniture is a simple process that should be undertaken annually to extend the health and life of your teak. While teak is incredibly resistant to rot, water damage and insects that like to eat wood, it can still get dirty and cleaning your teak furniture will prevent any surface materials from penetrating deeper into the wood.
To clean your teak furniture, start with clear, warm water and a clean cloth, and wipe down all areas. This will remove the loose dirt and grime, and will help expose other areas that need deeper cleaning. Once this step is complete, make a mixture of one gallon of clear, warm water along with ½ a cup of regular laundry detergent and ¼ cup of regular bleach. Using a soft bristled brush, gently scrub down the teak while focusing on dirtier areas that were uncovered during the initial rinse. Once you have finished this deep cleaning, rinse the teak again by repeating the first cleaning step.
These simple steps are all that are required to clean your teak furniture and keep it looking healthy. As the teak ages and weathers, it will start to change color and look a bit aged. By cleaning your teak furniture annually, you will help the teak maintain this look. Avoid using high-pressure cleaning tactics like hoses or pressure washers, as these can damage teak furniture and won’t change the look in any appreciable way.
A final note on cleaning: there are many teak ‘cleaners’ and other products that are marketed to be used solely for cleaning teak. While you can take the risk and try out one of these cleaning products if your teak furniture is severely dirty or is suffering from other forms of wear or rot, it’s best to use a small amount on an area that’s out of notice. This way, if the teak cleaner does damage or wear away your teak’s finish or shine it won’t be noticeable and you won’t ruin your investment in your beautiful teak furniture. Simply put – teak cleaners should be avoided.
Is Teak Oil Necessary for Teak Furniture Maintenance?
Many owners of teak furniture constantly ask the question “is teak oil necessary?” and the answer is not as straight forward as one might like. Teak oil is marketed as something that will prolong the life of teak furniture, and help it keep the ‘honey’ or ‘golden’ color that the furniture had when it was first purchased. This marketing is both false and misleading; first, teak is one of the most durable, long-lasting woods that is used to make furniture and applying oil will not extend its life in any measurable way. Also, teak oil will not penetrate deeply in to the wood so it’s likely to be washed away by exposure to the elements – much like pouring water on to your teak furniture and leaving it for a time.
In truth, oiling your teak furniture is an unnecessary maintenance step that adds more work for a short-lasting cosmetic effect. If you do choose to use teak oil on your furniture, there are a couple of tips to keep in mind to ensure that your oiling is done correctly and your teak furniture looks great.
First, ensure that you only use teak oil on furniture that is intended for indoor use. Not only will the oil simply wear off if it’s used on outdoor furniture, but before it does it may attract mildew or other fungi that can cause damage to your furniture.
Next, be sure to apply the oil before your teak starts to naturally change color. Once your teak furniture has begun to age, it will require sanding to restore it to the color that it was when it was first purchased; applying a light coat of oil will help keep the teak looking as you want it to. Ensure your teak furniture is completely clean and free of dirt and dust before you apply teak oil to ensure there is no dirt trapped under the oil layer, which will blacken and create dark spots or patches.
Finally, avoid over-oiling your teak furniture. Applying a light coat of teak oil once every year is completely sufficient for indoor teak furniture and will help keep that fresh look. Remember to clean your teak furniture following the above cleaning steps first before applying a fresh coat of teak oil.
Care and Maintenance for Unfinished Teak Furniture
Teak furniture that is purchased in its raw, unfinished state is one of the most durable types of wood furniture available. Over time, the teak will naturally age from the golden color it first arrived in to more of a silver-grey finish. This aging process is natural and purely cosmetic; the teak does not suffer any ill effects to its strength or resiliency due to age.
Caring for unfinished teak furniture simply means following the cleaning steps listed in the cleaning section above. If there are grease or other spots that are being particularly difficult, use a brush with medium bristles and a wood degreasing agent that can be found at a hardware store. Avoid using this degreaser except where absolutely necessary.
Teak Furniture Maintenance and Finished Teak
While cleaning finished or painted teak furniture can be accomplished using the same steps as unfinished teak, maintenance is another story entirely. It’s typically recommended to follow any instructions the manufacturer as provided in regards to maintaining finished teak furniture.
If your teak furniture is oiled, maintenance should come in the form of cleaning and re-oiling the furniture on a regular basis. As mentioned above, it’s not recommended to oil outdoor teak furniture but if you choose to do so, it should be re-oiled every two months or so; indoor teak furniture can be cleaned and re-oiled annually.
If your teak furniture is stained, it’s unlikely that additional staining will be required on a regular basis. What is more likely is that the teak will naturally age, and the stain will fade over time as the teak changes color and exudes its oils. The best way to handle maintenance of stained teak furniture is to wait until the look is bothersome and sand and re-stain the furniture. Do not attempt to apply a fresh coat of stain overtop of aged, un-sanded teak furniture as the result will be uneven and look terrible.
If your teak furniture is painted, it’s likely that the paint will chip, crack and flake due to the teak excreting its natural oils underneath the paint. Once this process starts, there is little that can be done to stop or prevent it. Applying a sealer or lacquer over top of the paint may make matters worse, and can only be done before the paint has started to wear away. If your teak furniture is suffering from paint issues, the best solution is to either sand and refinish the furniture (or have a professional take care of it), or sand your teak furniture and leave it in its raw form.
Preventing the Aged Look of Teak during Teak Furniture Maintenance
In the case of outdoor teak furniture, it’s only a matter of a few years before teak ages from the golden honey-brown of its initial appearance to a more greyish color. There are some individuals who prefer the look of freshly-made teak furniture, and while it’s not easy to maintain outdoor teak furniture in this manner, it is possible to breathe some new life into your teak with a little work.
As long as your teak furniture has not been stained, all that’s required to bring your teak back to its original color is to sand through the superficial layer of the wood. A few sheets of fine-grain sandpaper purchased from the local hardware store should be sufficient for rejuvenating a couple of teak chairs. It doesn’t take a lot of sanding to see the lighter grain underneath the outer aged layer of teak; avoid over-sanding to prevent uneven grooves or small hills in the wood. If your teak has been stained, it will need to be stained again to be brought back to the same color once the sanding process is complete.
After you have finished sanding your teak furniture, it can be wiped down again with warm water and a clean cloth and then left to dry. As mentioned above, it’s not recommended to oil outdoor teak furniture as it creates unnecessary maintenance. Once your teak furniture is sanded and brought back to its original condition, it will retain its look and age again over time, at which point the sanding process can be repeated. Steps like staining your teak are permanent, and should be avoided.
Before sanding your teak furniture, give some thought to whether or not you actually want to undertake this project. Furniture such as teak Adirondack chairs and teak patio tables are large, have a lot of small areas between pieces of wood, and can require disassembly to get to everything. If you are determined to sand all of your outdoor teak furniture, it may be worth consulting a professional furniture refinisher to have them tackle the job.
With Proper Teak Furniture Maintenance, Your Furniture Will Last a Lifetime
Teak is a beautiful, resilient wood that doesn’t require much in the way of maintenance. By following the tips and advice above, your teak furniture will retain its strength, resistance to the elements and fine finish for many years – possibly outlasting you! Take care of your teak furniture, and it will remain enjoyable by family and friends for decades.