Your Complete Guide to Caring for Teak Furniture
Despite its high-maintenance reputation, teak furniture is easy to preserve for generations.
Historically, teak furniture is rooted in luxury—often found in custom-made, glossy furniture on luxury yachts or on solid-carved doors and paneling in palatial homes. Thanks to these opulent applications, teak furniture has a high-maintenance reputation that simply isn’t true. Today, many consumers have come to appreciate this wood of the ages and its natural use in outdoor furniture.
Teak is a durable hardwood with dense grain and high natural oil content, so it requires little to no care. “It’s the material of choice for its sheer beauty and dependability,” explains Mal Haddad, Westminster Teak Corporate VP. “Teak’s high oil and silica content make it highly resistant to rotting, warping or splitting, allowing it to withstand the extremities of weather including sun, rain, and snow.”
These unique characteristics in strength and stability, Haddad says, have made teak a go-to material for centuries in shipbuilding and furniture making. Plus, its high natural oil content also means that teak has a comparatively low coefficient of thermal expansion. That means it won’t expand and contract, warp, split or crack in humid environments or even when submerged in water.
So why the high-maintenance reputation? “Left to age naturally outdoors in the sun and rain, the color of the teak wood will gradually change from its golden honey hues to a silvery patina as the pigments on the surface of the wood begin to fade away,” Haddad offers, noting that this aging process only adds to the wood’s beauty and character. “This surface change in color does not in any way affect the structural integrity of the wood nor the furniture.”
Below, Haddad busts common myths about teak maintenance, and answers all of your questions about keeping your outdoor furniture in top shape for generations.
Myth: Teak furniture requires a lot of maintenance.
In fact, when used outdoors, the best thing to do is to let your teak furniture to weather and age gracefully in its natural elements. About twice a year, clean furniture with a soft bristle brush and a mild soap solution, hosing it down with plenty of water will remove the accumulation of day-to-day grime and air-borne impurities over time. Over the years, your furniture will weather gracefully, the silvery gray blending beautifully with the landscape of its natural surroundings.
Do I need to hire a professional?
If you want your teak furniture to retain its original golden hues, you might consider having it professionally finished. Some of these finishes (such as using a teak protector to maintain its color) could be a weekend DIY project at home, but other finishes like the high gloss popular with boats and yachts or used indoors are more involved. In this case, having it done professionally is highly recommended. Having these types of finishes may require a more frequent regimen of cleaning and refinishing, depending on the environment.
Should I bring my teak furniture indoors for the winter?
Teak furniture can be left outdoors year-round in the freezing snow, summer sun or rain. If you’d like to store it during winter, it is recommended that you do not move your furniture from the outdoors directly into a heated space indoors. Store in a dry unheated garage or shed. The extreme difference in temperature and humidity may affect the dimensional stability of the wood and cause splitting or cracking. Most teak wood lumber is kiln-dried to a moisture content of 10–12%, allowing for the reabsorption of moisture to find its equilibrium with its new environment.
Teak furniture do’s and don’ts
- Do not use bleach to clean or to get the aged teak look.
- Do not use a power washer to clean teak furniture. It will remove the softer grains in the surface of the wood, making it rough to the touch.
- Do not use abrasive wire brushes or steel wool to clean teak furniture. Small flecks of steel will invariably get lodged into the wood fibers and rust over time or after the first rain, discoloring the furniture.
- Do not use teak oil when the teak furniture will be used outdoors. This may create a ready environment for mildew and mold which can only be removed with sanding.
- Do less! Westminster Teak recommends simply allowing your teak furniture to weather and age naturally.
- Use water and mild soap (dishwashing liquid or detergent) to clean about twice a year.
- Remove the cushions (especially light-colored covers) from the teak frames in the first few rainfalls or months of use to protect it from staining. Teak has naturally occurring oils that may rise to the surface and may “bleed” onto the upholstery or floor surfaces. This will naturally subside and cease completely over a course of 2–3 months of use.
With proper care, how long can homeowners expect their teak furniture to last?
Teak is the quintessential gold standard of wood, long prized for its weather resistance, durability, beautiful appearance and its relative ease to work with. Over the ages, it has been used in the shipbuilding and construction industry for bridges and homes, flooring and furniture, both indoor and outdoor.
When used outdoors, teak furniture can be enjoyed season after season, year after year, with little or no care. Given proper care, a piece of high-quality teak furniture from Westminster Teak can become the heirloom piece that is handed over from one generation to another.