How To Clean Teak Garden Furniture

How To Clean Teak Garden Furniture

Cleaning outdoor furniture is a relatively straightforward task. It can result in your furniture looking new again with no damage if done correctly. Although there are numerous ways of cleaning outdoor furniture, you must be aware of the wood used in it to not damage the furniture and ensure its longevity.

One of the most commonly used woods for outdoor furniture is teak. This hardwood, though expensive, is a favourite amongst garden furniture enthusiasts. Teak is sourced from a plant species known as Tectona grandis, commonly found in Southeast Asia and Asia. It is a straight and close-grained hardwood with small or minimum knots, making it one of the most robust types of wood used for furniture.

The colour of teak hardwood is often medium brown or honey gold, whereas teak softwood comes in shades of white. Although outdoor teak furniture may develop a silver patina over time in some cases, it can be easily restored to its natural warm gold and brown colour.

In addition, teak produces natural oils that protect the wood and make it resistant to damage from insects and from external elements. For this reason, teak is one of the most preferred choices for outdoor furniture.

If you have teak furniture and want to ensure you clean it the right way without causing any damage to the furniture itself, then you’re at the right place. We have a detailed guide on how to clean teak garden furniture and a supporting guide on treating teak garden furniture that contains everything you need to know about the process.

How To Clean Teak Wood Outdoor Furniture

Unless you have spillage and staining on teak outdoor furniture, thorough cleaning should ideally be carried out annually. First, however, you should regularly wipe down the furniture with a lint-free dust cloth. Since teak wood is absorbent, if you have any spillage, it should be cleaned away with a light cloth and kitchen sponge immediately so that the stain doesn’t set into the wood. However, even if there is a stain, it can easily be removed with a good wash and light sanding.

To begin the cleaning process, remove your teak furniture from direct sunlight and place it in a shaded area. This will ensure that the cleaning products used don’t dry out. While cleaning teak wood, the best method is to either use a homemade cleaning solution with water and laundry detergent and a splash of vinegar or bleach.

You can even use a commercially available teak cleaner of good quality. If you’re using teak cleaner, you may have to moisten the furniture with clean water before applying the product. However, homemade soap solutions can be applied directly. Here is a step by step guide on the process of cleaning outdoor teak furniture:

  • Use clean tap water to moisten the teak furniture.
  • Use the homemade cleaning solution to clean the furniture. Use a brush with a large head and bristles to gently scrub the furniture with the cleaning solution. Do not use metal wool as it can mar the top surface of teak furniture, and flecks of the metal can become lodged in the wood. You must ensure that you are scrubbing in the direction of the grain and not against it, as this can cause scratches in the wood and reduce its shine. Use light pressure to scrub away any stains.
    If you are using a commercial teak cleaner, apply it with a sponge or a soft cloth and allow it to soak into the furniture for at least 3 minutes before scrubbing it.
  • Once the furniture has been scrubbed thoroughly from all sides, you can rinse off the cleaning solutions with water. You can use a garden hose with normal pressure to easily rinse away the suds, cleaning solutions and any residue. However, it is best to avoid pressure washers on teak furniture.
  • After washing away all the cleaning solutions, the furniture can be left out to dry. Drying timings may differ according to temperature and humidity. However, allow the teak to dry for a full 24 hours minimum. Once the furniture is dry, you can apply a teak protector for colour preservation of the furniture.

    Note: If you want to protect the natural honey-gold or warm brown colour of the teak, you can apply a teak protector after washing the furniture. But, it is essential to ensure that the furniture is completely dry before you apply the protector.

Before applying any commercial teak protector, read the manufacturer's instructions carefully and check for any special instructions that may need to be followed. To apply a thin layer of teak protector, use a clean, soft, lint-free cloth. Allow the product to dry completely. Check for the manufacturer's instructions for the optimal frying time.

However, most teak protectors require about 4 hours to dry off. Once the first layer has dried, you can apply another thin layer of the product. Leave the furniture to dry, and ensure that the product has dried completely before using the furniture.

Pressure Washers and Teak Furniture

Using a powerful hose, pressure washer or jet washer to clean your teak furniture may cause undue damage to the outdoor furniture. Although garden hoses with normal water pressure can wash the furniture, jet pressures are highly discouraged. A jet pressure washer is likely to strip away the protective natural oils of the teak, causing it to lose its lustre and longevity.

Removing the natural oils with a pressure washer may also result in the wood becoming drier with time which would undermine the robustness and integrity of the wood. Furthermore, the outdoor teak furniture joints may become loose because of the high pressure of the jet washer, causing the furniture to break easily.

Removing Oil And Grease From Teak Furniture

Oil and grease can soak into teak furniture and leave stubborn stains that may be difficult to remove. However, you can remove all of the oil and grease stains from your outdoor teak furniture if done properly. Here is how:

1. As soon as you notice some oil or grease on your teak furniture, use absorbent materials to clean away as much of it from the surface as possible. You can use paper towels, absorbent cloths and even cat litter for this purpose. If done at the right time and in the correct manner, you may just be able to remove all of the oil.

2. Soak the teak with some water and a water solution and mild laundry detergent.

3. Use a brush with medium-stiff bristles to gently scrub away the stain. You can also use a teak cleaner for this purpose.

4. Allow the teak to dry completely and reexamine if the stain still remains. If it is still present, you can use fine-grit sandpaper to gently sand the stain away. Remember to sand in the direction of the grain.

5. Once the teak is dry, you can follow with the application of a teak protector. However, this step is optional.

6. Finally, if your teak furniture is prone to spillages, it is best to use a good quality teak shield to protect the wood from accidental spills and stains.

Cleaning Weathered Teak

Teak is a durable and tough hardwood that is naturally resistant to external elements such as the sun, rot, bad weather and fluctuating temperatures, thanks to its natural oils.

So, even if teak appears weathered and rough, this is most likely just a cosmetic surface issue, and the furniture itself is still as strong as before. All it needs is some maintenance to look brand new and shiny again.

To remove the roughness of the weathered teak and the silver patina that may develop on it:

  1. Use fine-grit to medium-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the furniture.
  2. Go over all areas of the furniture with the sandpaper to ensure an even finish. Here’s a tutorial on how to sand teak.
  3. Once the sanding is complete, use a dry cleaning sponge to remove excess sawdust and debris. You can follow the sanding by washing the furniture with either teak cleaner or the homemade cleaning solution mentioned above.
  4. Use a teak protector at the end to maintain the natural colour of the teak.

Using tools such as a power sander is not advisable as the heat generated from the tool can cause the wood to be damaged and leave dark marks on the furniture.

Removing Dark Spots And Mould From Teak Furniture

Dark black spots can be a sign of mildew or mould developing on the furniture. Although teak is usually resistant to external elements, lack of maintenance and high humidity may develop some mould on the furniture. Using oils on the furniture can also encourage mildew and mould growth.

However, getting rid of mould on teak is a relatively straightforward process, especially if you use the right products. You can either use a teak cleaner to clean the dark areas or small amounts of organic oxygen bleach mixed with soap and water. Then a teak protector can prevent mould from developing on the furniture again.

Suggested Products To Use For Cleaning Teak Garden Furniture

Teak Cleaners

Teak cleaners are specialised solutions with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) and sodium hydroxide (lye) as active ingredients. Such solutions are easily available commercially and are commonly used to remove dirt, buildup, old oils and stains from furniture. Teak cleaners help remove buildup from the furniture without stripping away teak’s natural protective oils or harming the hardwood.

Teak Protector

After washing the teak with a teak cleaner or a homemade cleaning solution, a teak protector is applied to the wood to help rejuvenate and maintain its colour. Then, using a thin double coat of teak protector, the furniture is given an extra layer of protection. Its colour is maintained for longer periods.

Teak Brightener

Teak Brightener that is either sold separately or comes with the teak cleaner is an excellent product to use for bringing out teak’s natural honey gold and brown tones. The teak brightener helps the lighter notes in teak wood to appear brighter and more vibrant. Giving the teak a brand new, lustrous appearance.

Teak Sealer Shield

A teak sealer shield is used to protect the teak furniture from mould, mildew and stains. Once the teak has been washed and dried, a Teal shield can be applied to the furniture. The teak shield makes the furniture more resistant to external elements. In addition, it prevents stains from being absorbed into the wood quickly.

Diluted Certified Organic Oxygen Bleach

Certified organic oxygen bleach can be mixed with soap and water to create an excellent cleaning and mould removal solution. The organic oxygen bleach helps to remove the dark spots and stains on the teak furniture without affecting its natural oils.

Mineral Spirits

Small amounts of mineral spirits can be used on the teak furniture to remove oil and stains. Use a soft cloth with a small amount of product to remove the oil spillage or stain from the wood. Mineral spirits are often considered safe for use on clear wood finishes. However, it is advisable to always do a patch test on the underside of the teak furniture before applying mineral spirit on top.

Products To Avoid For Cleaning Teak Furniture

Chlorine Bleach

Bleach is often used for the cleaning of teak wood furniture. However, the type of bleach used is of utmost importance. Chlorine bleach, in particular, has harsh chemicals that strip away the natural oils of the teak wood. This causes the wood to lose a natural protective barrier and makes the surface appear duller and lacklustre.

Harsh Detergents and Scrubs

Harsh detergents and scrubs can cause surface damage to outdoor teak furniture. The scrub may have small beads that cause the furniture's surface to become dull and appear scratched. Harsh detergents have a similar effect on the wood. The strong chemicals cause surface damage and remove the wood’s natural protective barriers. This leads to the wood appearing dull and dry.

Wood Oils

Wood oils are available in numerous different types. However, most wood oils should not be used for teak furniture. This is because wood oils can promote the growth of mould and mildew on the furniture. To give wood its classic sheen, it is recommended to use safe products such as teak protectors, teak Brighterneers and teak Shield.

Final Thoughts

Teak furniture is one of the most expensive and popular types of outdoor furniture. The hardy, robust wood is well suited for the outdoors. It has a wonderful honey gold and brown colour that compliments backyards well. Cleaning and maintaining teak hardwood is not a difficult task, but if it is done incorrectly, it could cause scratches and damage to the top surface of the furniture. Refer to our detailed guide on how to easily and safely remove teak furniture