After buying new teak furniture, one of the first questions you might be asking is “Should I use teak oil on outdoor teak furniture?”—and if not, which product should you be using instead of teak oil?
Teak patio furniture is a good investment, so you should protect it for the future. Most people love the golden honey color of new teak and want to do anything they can to prevent their furniture from fading. I can’t say I blame them. When you first buy a new teak wood patio set, it’s a glorious treasure to behold.
But does an application of teak oil really offer any significant protection? You may be surprised to find out that the protective properties of store-bought teak oils are quite limited, and in some cases it may even be contributing to the damage of your precious teak wood furniture.
How is this possible? Read on to find out the facts…
The Facts About Teak
Teak is almost legendary when it comes to hardwood varieties. It’s more durable than almost every other type of hardwood available. Teak wood is very heavy and dense, and it’s resistant to insects and moisture. This durability is mainly because of the natural oils that are found in the heartwood of mature teak trees.
But this naturally occurring oil—that is already in the wood—is not the same thing as the “teak oil” that is marketed and sold for outdoor furniture. That oil doesn’t actually come from the teak tree at all, rather it’s mostly derived from flax seed.
Flax (also known as linseed) is great for adding omega-3 to your diet, but it doesn’t do much to protect teak wood from the wind, rain, and sunlight.
Many people think they need to go out and buy teak oil to replenish their furniture’s natural oil as it dries out. But as you can see, it’s not actually the same type of oil at all.
If you also thought that teak oil was a necessity, you’re not alone. It’s a very common mistake, but it’s one that can actually harm your teak furniture, especially if not applied correctly.
You Don’t Need To Use Teak Oil On Outdoor Teak Furniture
From a structural standpoint, teak outdoor furniture does not need any additional oil to last for decades. Treating your furniture with teak oil will not help extend the life of the furniture. However, it could make the teak wood dependent on continuous reapplications of oil to prevent the wood from drying out.
This is because the “teak oil” you buy is really a mix of mostly linseed oil and solvents. When you apply it, the wood will have a nice color for a short time, but the solvents can actually act to degrade the wood’s natural oil faster. The lovely oil dries out and fades, and you’ll just have to reapply more oil in an endless cycle.
Teak furniture that gets oiled is also more likely to have mildew growth and may have problems of uneven coloring when it ages. This is particularly true if you’re not super careful to wipe up all the extra oil from the wood surface after applying each coat.
As stated earlier, the natural oil that exists within the wood is already sufficient to protect it from the elements. Still, your teak wood will look aged after some time if you do nothing to preserve the color. Don’t worry though, there are some things you can do to help preserve that warm golden glow you’ve come to love.
The Graying Process of Teak Wood
Teak furniture when left outdoors will naturally begin to slowly change color—from the golden honey tone of new wood to a silver gray. This process begins a few weeks after new wood is exposed to the environment. It’s caused by the evaporation and oxidization of the natural oil from the wood at the level of the exposed surface. During this weathering, some uneven coloring and slight cracks in the wood may show up.
This is a natural process that should even out over time, and is simply a result of expansion and contraction of the wood due to changes in the weather and environment. Eventually your teak furniture will become a silvery gray color, which some find stately and others consider tired and dull.
Does Teak Oil Preserve Teak Wood’s Color?
The process of teak turning gray is natural and merely cosmetic. It does not affect the longevity of your outdoor furniture. However, many people prefer the golden honey color of new teak. This is the main reason that teak oil is so popular. When you apply it to wood that has faded in color, the teak oil does in fact give it a nice golden glow, and it really does look fantastic for a short period of time.
One of teak oil’s biggest drawbacks is that the visual improvement to your furniture will diminish rapidly, often within a few weeks. And so you have to oil it again, and then it fades again, so you oil it again and so on…
How to Keep Teak Furniture Honey Colored
If your teak furniture has already faded in color, it is possible to restore this honey color by scrubbing the surface of the wood using a teak cleaner. If the color has faded greatly, or the wood has deep stains, then a light sanding will expose a fresh layer of golden wood just below the surface. After cleaning, you can apply a teak sealer to prevent the color from fading any further.
A highly recommended cleaning product that you can use is Golden Care Teak Cleaner. It is actually a two-in-one cleaner and brightener, so it will remove any dirt and residue from the surface of your furniture, while brightening the wood to bring out its natural color before applying a sealer.
The best rated sealer on the market is Semco Teak Sealer, which comes in both clear and tinted versions. Sealer will help protect the teak wood from UV rays and exposure to oxygen, so the warm golden tone of the wood remains for up to a year. It’s recommended that you clean your furniture again and re-seal it annually in order to get the best long-term results.
What to Do About Stains On Teak Furniture
Stubborn stains like coffee or red wine can be removed by a light sanding of the very top layer of your teak furniture. You can start with a medium grade sandpaper and then finish off with a fine grade to make the surface of the teak nice and smooth. Sanding is another way to bring out the golden color of teak wood because you are exposing a fresh layer of wood that is still saturated with natural oils.
The Final Word on Teak Oil
If you have just bought a new teak dining set or Adirondack chair for your patio, please don’t be in a rush to treat it with teak oil. Remember that the products sold as “teak oil” are actually mostly composed of linseed oil, and not oil from the teak tree.
It is true that applying teak oil will temporarily bring out a rich golden color in your teak furniture, but it can also deplete the wood of its natural oils. So you will need to continuously reapply oil every few months for the lifetime of your furniture.
Teak oil can also contribute to surface mildew growth due to the excessively humid environment it creates. This can lead to lots of small black spots appearing all over the surface of your precious teak dining set—something you absolutely want to avoid.
For these reasons, I discourage the use of teak oil. It is much better, in my opinion, to use a teak sealer to preserve color and maintain the beautiful look of new teak.