Teak, highly valued for its durability, density and water resistance, is a popular choice for outdoor furniture. Native to rainforests, it is saturated with natural oils that lend it resistance to rot and insects. However, any wood will succumb in time to the elements without proper care, and your outdoor teak furniture is no exception. Protecting teak is easier than protecting other woods, but it does require a bit of maintenance.
The first line of defense for is preventative care. Do not let water pool around its legs or on table tops and seats. Simply wiping down your teak furniture after a rain and moving it to an area without pooled water is the first step toward protecting it. A better idea is to extend the life of your teak by moving it indoors when it is not being used, though this is not mandatory. Leaving your furniture outdoors will result in the inevitable accumulation of dirt, and your furniture will require more periodic maintenance as a result.
When your teak furniture is only slightly dirty, rinsing it with an outdoor hose is sufficient. If your furniture is very dirty, create a mild solution of soap and water and cleanse it with either a soft sponge or a very soft brush. Clean it only when it is very wet. After a night’s rain is the best time to clean teak furniture, while direct sunlight on a hot day is the worst. It is important to keep the furniture as wet as possible throughout the cleaning process.
One of the most appealing features of teak is the grey-silver color it turns with exposure to the sun. This greying process is caused by the sun’s breaking down of tannins in the wood (where the color is contained.) Left to its own devices, your teak furniture will take roughly 12 months to complete this process. Rotate your furniture, or move it around a bit, for a more even weathering process.
If you prefer the golden tone of new teak, a hard brush will remove the grey, but not evenly; so apply a sealer as soon as possible and continue to re-apply it once a year or so. If you must use oil, do so only occasionally, remembering that if you do plan to polish your furniture after cleaning it, be certain to allow it to fully dry first. Applying oil is only recommended for indoor teak furniture, as it does not extend the life of the wood, but does cause uneven greying and obligate you to an arduous routine of maintenance.
Dealing with stains
Stains on outdoor furniture are all but inevitable. If mild soap and water are not sufficient to remove your stain, the next best solution is to sand it out with a fine sandpaper. If you must sand, do so in the direction of the grain. I’ve you’ve chosen to apply teak oil immediately after sanding is a good time to do so.
Should I prevent stains with a cover?
While many people do use covers on their teak outdoor furniture, it is best not to. If you must; use only a breathable one and never a vinyl or plastic one. Moisture often becomes trapped beneath the covers of outdoor furniture, creating the optimum conditions for mould growth. Rather than using a cover, clean your furniture regularly. Otherwise, that foreign substances accumulate thereon will invite mould.
Teak furniture maintenance
As soon as you’ve bought your teak furniture, check its screws and tighten fittings. Do this twice a year or so. This prevents the frame from working loose, which can result in cracks in the timber. Pay special attention to extendable tables. Grime will accumulate on the runners, requiring regular removal with a brush.
After cleaning and after extended rainy periods, the swelling of the timber may make your extension leaves difficult to open. This is normal and as your table dries, they will move freely again. If you have the space, leave your extensions open when your table is not in use. This is especially important when your furniture is new. This will ensure an even weathering process.
Open and close your extensions every month or so, lubricating their hinges if they fail to move freely.
Teak outdoor furniture is popular because teak is a hardy and resilient wood. It is a bit more expensive than other popular choices such as cedar, oak or redwood, but it requires much less maintenance. This means that with only a minimum of care, your teak outdoor furniture will remain both functional and beautiful for generations.