Learn About Maintaining Teak Outdoor Furniture, The Easy Way


Now days, because of new design trends many buyers of teak outdoor furniture really do not want the golden look at all. In fact, they actually want to speed up the aging process to achieve a patina silvery gray look. Of course, others still desire the golden tone and this is where the restoration and proprietary product choices come in to play. Regardless of which way you decide to go and no matter how gray your teak becomes, it can always be restored to a golden look later. The natural silver patina color is just a very thin film layer of oxidation and can be easily cleaned and sanded off to expose the original teak color tone.


First of all, there is not much chance of you seriously damaging your teak furniture by applying teak oil or sealers on the surfaces. We try to describe below general means and methods to apply teak oil or sealers if desired, even though it is certainly not required. We strongly do not recommend applying stains or varnish for outdoor use unless applied by a very experienced professional varnish applicator. These varnish experts are commonly referred to as the “bright work” guys. It is hard for varnish to adhere to teakwood because of the natural oils that exists, hence the need for an expert bright worker.

If your furniture is to be used indoors and away from a lot of natural sunlight, over a period of time perhaps six months to a year the wood will gradually become a darker shade of golden brown. Plus, if you buff the wood aggressively with cloth the natural oils will migrate to the surface and provide a beautiful satin look.

If left outdoors, the effects of the sun’s rays will ‘bleach out’ the timber’s natural color, gradually turning it a soft silvery gray patina color. This silvery gray ‘patina’ which develops over time gives teak furniture a distinctive appearance. The silver gray color resulting from this natural aging process is considered by many to be very attractive and allows the furniture to blend in well with many outdoor environments. Teak furniture left in this state is easily maintained and needs no treatment whatsoever to give many years of service and this is about as easy as outdoor furniture maintenance can get!

If your teak furniture requires cleaning or if you want to remove the gray, this can be done with a normal household bristle brush and some warm mildly soapy (clear dish soap) water. Wash down afterwards with clean water. There are also many proprietary products on the market which can also be used to clean off various stubborn deposits and accumulated dirt and stains.

Do not use high pressure sprayers, steel wool or steel wire brushes to scrub the wood as any metal residue left in the grain will rust and discolor the wood. High pressure water sprayers will blast out the wood fines and raise the wood grains causing a weakened rough surface. If the furniture has some extreme stubborn and heavily ingrained stains or mold, these can be removed by first cleaning with the use of bleach and a water rinse. Then once fully dried (approx. two days) sanding with a 120C grit of sandpaper followed by a 220 grit sandpaper, being sure to work only with the direction of the wood grains. After sanding you may wish to touch up with teak sealer or teak oil (try to match with whatever was previously used). Or if it had previously been left natural, the fresh teak color exposed by sanding will soon mellow in with the existing silver gray patina.

TEAK OIL – Teak wood itself has natural oil within requiring no treatment to be used indoors or outdoors. The use of store bought teak oil or sealers won’t greatly increase the life of teak, but it does enhance the color somewhat and can also help a little to prevent stains from seeping into the wood grain. It will slow down the graying effect caused by ultra violet rays. Manufactured teak oil is actually either tung oil or linseed oil blended with resins and other proprietary additives to guard against UV, mold and mildew. Don’t mistake the natural teak oil actually found in the wood from store bought teak oil. The stuff in the bottle or can is called teak oil for marketing purposes. Teak oil can be purchased at most big box hardware stores.

APPLYING TEAK OIL – The furniture will need to be cleaned first as described above. Afterwards allow to dry for approximately 2 days before starting to apply teak oil. If there are any unsightly dings or scratches, we recommend some sanding (120 grit) sand paper and then follow with a light sanding (220 grit) over all viewable and touchable surfaces to give your furniture a smooth silky touch. You will find that sanding is very fast and easy, well worth your time. Don’t waste your time sanding or oiling the bottom of chairs or tables. If you don’t see it, don’t oil it.

SANDING TEAK – For large areas use an orbital rotating sanding machine (approx. $60.00 at Home Depot) to speed things up. Start with (120 grit) paper then follow up later with (220 grit). Wipe sanding dust off. Then apply sealers or oils.

OTHER ITEMS NEEDED – You will need some teak oil (about 2 pints for a 6 seat dining set), a clean 1″ and 3″ paint brush, some clean cotton rags, a 32 oz. squirt bottle, good lighting and plenty of space to work in. Working on a lawn area works pretty well. Be sure to wear some comfortable disposable work clothes. Wearing rubber gloves to keep the oil off your hands is a good idea as well. We recommend spreading some plastic drop cloth outdoors for your work station. Use mineral spirits (pick up 1 pint) for clean up of brushes and hands.

The oil can be applied with paint brushes or cotton cloth wipe, starting from the top and working downwards. Try to avoid applying too much oil all at once. Thick coatings are not good. If you have a large quantity of teak and want to seriously reduce the time, we would suggest using a plastic spray bottle to apply the oil. You will find the spraying method will oil between the slats very nicely and save you a lot of time. After about 5 – 15 minutes the oil will start to become ‘tacky’. At this point the surface of the furniture should be wiped down with a clean cotton cloth, carefully removing all surplus oil. One coat is usually sufficient, but while you are already set up it’s suggested to apply a second coat to the viewable surfaces after about one hour. Once you’ve completed the oiling and the surface is completely touch dry, a second clean cloth can be used to buff up the surface.

FIRE HAZARD – Please be sure to dispose of any used rags and cleaning cloth carefully and in accordance with the instructions from the oil manufacturer. Teak oil on rags left in the sun or high heat is very combustible.

APPLYING TEAK SEALERS – Teak oil can harbor mold in wet climates, especially if left in the shade. So in wet climates we recommend sealers on outdoor teak. We currently do not sell this, but you can buy it online from various sources. You would probably need just one gallon for several applications now and in the future. To speed things up, we recommend placing the teak over a painter’s cloth or plastic drop cloth, sand off any gray color, then spray the sealer on, then back brush or wipe with cloth. The spray technique squirts the sealer in between the slats well. Application once a year is normal, but not required. Use a 32 oz. squirt bottle to apply the sealer. For a very small amount of teak furniture, you may consider just dipping a rag in the sealer and then rub on the teak wood.

Items likely needed. (1) gallon of Color Tinted Sealer, (1) quart of Clear Sealer (use as third coat on the table tops to prevent food and drink stains), painters cloth or 2 mil plastic cloth (approx. 20’x 20′ area), use clean cotton cloth or various paint bushes to apply the sealers.

WAIT ON NEW TEAK – If the teak is new, let it set outside in the sun for about 2-4 weeks to acclimate, then apply teak sealers or oils. Letting the new teak acclimatize allows the sealer to adhere properly to the wood surfaces.

TRY TO ENJOY YOURSELF – You may find working with wood to be a joyous occasion. Boat people at marinas and yacht harbors often find themselves at peace when caring for their wood work. So turn on your favorite music and make this an enjoyable occasion. Others simply hire a neighborhood handyperson to handle the rejuvenation. Then again, others just let their teak age gracefully with no maintenance whatsoever. Regardless, teak outdoor furniture requires less costly maintenance than most other high end furniture types and offers a continuing rich natural look for many decades.