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A go-to both indoors and outdoors, teak furniture has been long-valued for its beauty and durability. Teak is not only a very dense hardwood but it contains natural oils that both repel water and make it unfavorable to pests and insects, including termites. For centuries, teak wood has been widely used for everything from shipbuilding to flooring, and it serves as a popular choice today for fixtures such as bathroom vanities, shower stools, mirrors, patio sets, and more.
A low-maintenance material, teak requires very little upkeep to make your furniture last decades. To ensure your pieces are properly cared for, we’ve answered your most frequently asked questions about teak.
Keeping Teak Natural - What to Expect
From accents like teak wood vanity mirrors to statement-making teak bathroom vanities, teak products are typically sold with a natural wood finish. This means that no stain or sealer is applied, and you are left with deciding on how you would like to protect it. great thing about teak is that you don’t have to stain or seal it at all as it produces its own natural oils that keep the wood in good condition, making teak maintenance quite minimal. When exposed to the elements or placed in direct sunlight, teak will slowly turn from its original golden honey color to a soft, silvery gray. This patina process is completely normal and serves as a natural way to protect the wood. Like all woods, teak expands and contracts in the heat and cold.
Caring for Teak Outdoor Furniture
If left outdoors, extreme weather changes can cause the wood to crack, so it is recommended to cover your teak wood furniture or bring it indoors when not in use. For cleaning your teak outdoor furniture, use a cleaner that is formulated specifically for teak. A hardwood protector can also be applied to protect from stains and mildew.
Many people choose to preserve the golden-honey pigment of their teak furniture by applying a teak sealer. Doing so will not affect the durability or longevity of the wood but will help to preserve its color by slowing down the patina process. A proper teak sealer will protect the wood from the sun’s UV rays and inhibits the growth of mildew. If you choose to seal your teak bathroom vanity or other teak pieces, be sure that you use a sealer that is environmentally friendly and designed specifically for teak. Before sealing, clean the surface with a teak cleaning agent. Apply the sealer with a soft cloth; using a brush or anything abrasive is not recommended.
Oiling teak is not a method that can be used to protect the wood and is generally not necessary. Since teak naturally produces its own oils, manufacturers typically do not recommend adding processed solvents into the mix. Applying a teak oil to your furniture will help to restore its original finish, however, it will quickly revert to its weathered look if the oil is not applied every couple of months. Over time, the teak will become reliant on the manual oil application and slow its own natural oiling process, which will weaken the wood’s durability if left unmaintained.
Caring for Sealed Teak Furniture
If you choose to seal your teak or purchase a product that is already coated with a clear or colored sealant, maintenance will be very similar to natural teak. You should never oil sealed teak—it's unnecessary since the sealant will already preserve the wood’s color. Applying teak oil could also reverse the sealant’s effect and promote the growth of fungus and mildew. Sealed teak should be cleaned with an environmentally friendly cleaner formulated specifically for teak products. Resealing will be needed once per year to remain effective, however if you choose to switch to the naturally weathered gray appearance, simply let the sealer fade.
Can I Paint Or Varnish My Teak Furniture?
Teak should not be painted or varnished. The oil that teak naturally produces rises to the surface of the wood, which will prevent paints and varnishes from properly adhering to the wood. After a relatively short period, the paint or varnish will chip and peel, which creates an unsightly appearance. Teak is best left to patina naturally, or to be protected using a few coats of sealant.
While teak is resistant to water and rot, mildew and dirt accumulation can occur, and teak care should be performed on your furniture as needed. It is very important that you use a cleaner made specifically for teak. For a homemade cleaning solution, mix 1 cup of vinegar with 1 gallon of warm water.
Before cleaning, dampen the surface with clean water. Any cleaning solution should be applied evenly using a soft cloth or sponge and allowed to soak into the wood for 10–15 minutes. Clean the surface using a sponge, scrubbing in-line with the grain of the wood. Avoid using any metal scrubbing pads, metal brushes, or rough sponges which can scratch or splinter the wood’s surface. When finished, lightly rinse the furniture with clean water. Pressure washers should never be used on teak, as it will damage the wood and cause discoloration.
To remove stains, a plastic-bristled brush can be used if needed. For tougher stains, adding a little bleach or oxalic acid to the mix may be necessary. If a stain cannot be removed with a cleaning mixture, you may resort to lightly sanding away the affected area with a fine-grit sandpaper. Keep in mind that sanding will remove any sealer or patina on the wood’s surface. If you plan to apply a sealer or a teak protectant, allow the teak to dry completely before applying.