Teak Oil or Teak Sealer…Which is Better for Treating Outdoor Teak Furniture?

patio chairs treated with teak oilIf you’ve recently bought some new teak furniture for your patio or backyard, you may be wondering which product you should use to preserve the look of your beautiful teak wood. You might be considering treating the furniture with teak oil or teak sealer, but you’re not sure which would be the best way to go.

In order to answer this question, first it’s important to understand what makes teak wood special. Then you need to know exactly what teak oil and teak sealer are, along with the benefits and limitations of each. After this, you’ll be able to make an informed decision on how to care for your new teak patio furniture so that it lasts for a lifetime.

Real teak oil is already inside the wood

Teak is a really special tree. It’s a tropical hardwood that grows in South and Southeast Asian countries such as Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, and India. It has been a prized wood for centuries due to its special qualities. Grade A teak is a very dense wood that comes from the heartwood of mature teak trees.

Mature teak wood is full of its own natural oil which protects the wood from damage by water, fungus, rot, insects, and changes in temperature. This oil gives new teak furniture a lovely, rich golden color.

It’s this smooth caramel color of fresh teak wood that everyone falls in love with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just stay that way.

Why does teak wood turn gray?

The oil in the very outer layer of teak wood will begin to evaporate and oxidize after being exposed to the air and sunlight for a few weeks. You will notice that the rich honey-like color of new teak will begin to fade and become more a of a pale yellow.

Eventually, if left alone, the color of teak furniture kept outdoors will fade away even more to leave a light, silvery gray. Some people like the soft look of weathered gray teak. If you are one of those people, then you don’t need to use any teak oil or sealer on your furniture. Simply give your furniture a good thorough cleaning at least once a year with a teak cleaner, and you’re set.

Regular cleaning will help prevent dirt from building up or moss from growing on the exterior of your furniture. It will also help to make sure the teak fades to gray more evenly.

weathered gray teak table top
Silver gray color of aged teak

If you’d prefer to try to hold on to the golden color of new teak, then you’ll want to use either teak oil or teak sealer. But one will give you much better long term results. What is the difference between the two?

What is teak oil?

The first thing that you need to understand is that “teak oil” is not actually teak oil. What do we mean by that?

The “teak oil” sold in stores does not contain any oil from the teak tree. Instead, teak oil is actually made from either linseed oil or tung oil with some varnish and thinners mixed in. It is only marketed as “teak oil” because it is supposed to be used on teak.

When it is first applied, teak oil will give your teak furniture a lovely golden glow and shine. It will probably look spectacular for a couple weeks. However, after that the color will begin to fade again.

Why is that? It’s because the oil evaporates and leaves the wood dry again, sometimes even more dry than before. Teak oil does not help extend the lifetime of your furniture. The natural oil that is already found within the wood is good enough to protect it from pests and the weather.

What’s wrong with using teak oil?

Teak oil is only a temporary fix to beautify the wood. If you really want to, you can go ahead and use it, but you’ll find that you need to reapply it every few months. You may find this high maintenance routine getting old rather quickly.

Even worse, the solvents in teak oil can cause the natural oils found in teak wood to break down and deplete more rapidly than they would if you did nothing. The extent to which this occurs mostly depends on the particular formula of teak oil you bought—they’re all different.

Another problem with teak oil is that it gives some types of fungus an ideal environment to grow in. Many people complain that black spots appear on oiled teak furniture, and this is the reason why. This problem can be mitigated to a large extent, though, by being more careful with your application routine. You need to let a teak oil sit for about 20 minutes after applying and then completely wipe up any excess oil from the surface using a clean cloth.

Are there any good teak oils?

As mentioned above, every maker of teak oil uses their own formula, since it’s used as more of a marketing term that covers a range of available products. Most are not a good choice for long-term use on outdoor furniture, but a few are actually really good quality.

If you do want to use a teak oil, the one I recommend is Starbrite Premium Golden Teak Oil. Aside from the lovely color it imparts on the wood, it has the benefit of lasting longer than most competing teak oil brands.

starbrite_premium_golden_teak_oil

Why is teak sealer better?

Ok, so we’ve looked at the disadvantages to using teak oil, especially in regards to high maintenance and limited protective abilities.

Teak sealer, on the other hand, gives a layer of UV protection to teak wood furniture. It also contains ingredients to prevent mildew growth. It makes a barrier to prevent the oxidation of the outer layer of wood, so that your teak furniture won’t turn gray.

A teak sealer only needs to be reapplied about once a year, so this is one large advantage it has over teak oil. The best teak sealer I’ve found is Semco brand. It’s a highly recommended water-based sealer, and it comes in both clear and tinted varieties.

semco teak sealer one gallon
Semco Teak Sealer

amazon_button_long

Advantages of Teak Sealer vs Teak Oil

  • Longer lasting color protection—up to one year or more
  • Doesn’t affect teak’s natural wood oils
  • No risk of unwanted mildew or fungus growth
  • Leaves wood surface non-oily
  • Can be quicker to apply

If you’ve got a couple minutes to spare, take a look at the video below which shows just how easy Semco’s sealer is to apply on a teak table:

Clean teak furniture before sealing

Before applying teak sealer, you should thoroughly clean your teak furniture. Golden Care Teak Cleaner works really well at cleaning any residue from the wood and brightening it before applying a sealer.

After cleaning, allow your furniture to dry completely, then a thin coat of sealer can be applied using a cloth, sponge, or a hand-held pressure sprayer. After waiting for an hour, you can apply a second thin coat. This will dry in a couple of hours, and you’ll be able to use your teak furniture the next day.

golden-care-teak-cleaner-review
Golden Care Teak Cleaner

amazon_button_long

Colors

You don’t want to use sealer on brand spanking new teak furniture. Instead, let it weather for at least two weeks. Semco sealer comes in 5 color varieties, so you can choose the tint you’d like to impart on your wood:

Out of these options, the Honey Tone color is the most popular with furniture owners, giving their teak patio set a rich golden-brown honey hue like when it was new.

semco-honey-tone
Semco’s Honey Tone sealer applied to teak wood

Teak care recommendations

In summary, there are three main options for teak patio furniture care. The easiest route is to let your furniture go gray. Just make sure to give it a good cleaning with a teak cleaner on a regular basis so that the color fades evenly and dark patches don’t show up.

For those who really want their teak furniture to have a golden color, a teak sealer (such as Semco) is probably the best option. It provides long lasting protection from the UV damage and oxidation that affect the color of teak wood. And it doesn’t come with the possible drawbacks of an oil treatment.

The final option is to apply teak oil. This will look great at first, but if you’re the lazy type you’ll soon find yourself regretting the decision to use it since you’ll have to continually reapply oil every few months. Ultimately, oil won’t provide the best long-term protection either. It could lead to your furniture developing black spots if you’re not super careful.

A teak sealer, in my opinion, is the best choice for a simple once-a-year outdoor wood treatment. And out of all the teak sealers available in the market, I feel Semco gives superior results. Not only is it popular with homeowners, but a number of large outdoor furniture companies use it to treat their products before shipping them out to customers.

semco one gallon

 

Photo credit: milletre / Foter / CC BY-NC
Photo credit: Alicakes* / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND