Last updated on June 21st, 2021
Teak is a tropical hardwood widely used in outdoor furniture. It is incredibly durable, with a natural weather- and rot-resistant quality. Although it is naturally more resistant to fading and damage from exposure to weather elements than other types of wood, teak is still subject to staining and discoloration. Knowing how to clean teak outdoor furniture is essential to preserving your furniture’s original aesthetics.
Always start with the least aggressive solution when cleaning teak, and graduate to a more concentrated or aggressive option only if the former doesn’t get the job done. Use a solution of mild soap and water and scrub with a nylon brush for a quick wash. For deeper cleaning, use a DIY solution, store-bought teak cleaner, or oxygen bleach instead. Wet the entire furniture with the cleaning solution before scrubbing in each case, and hose it down thoroughly before allowing it to dry for a day or two.
You can mix 1 cup of vinegar with a gallon of warm water, or 1 cup of bleach and 1 cup of laundry detergent with a gallon of warm water to create your DIY solution.
If your teak is especially stained, it may require a more abrasive scrubber. In such a case, you can mix two teaspoons of tri-sodium phosphate cleaner in a gallon of warm water to prepare your cleaning solution.
Alternatively, you can buy commercial-grade teak cleaner, which gets your teak clean with no hard scrubbing.
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Why clean outdoor teak furniture
Teak, like any natural wood, can soak up spills and experience discoloration from stains. Cleaning is the surest way to prevent this discoloration from happening.
Teak is known for its rich golden honey color when it is new. When left exposed to weather elements, outdoor teak furniture will develop a silvery grey patina. Regular cleaning and maintenance will prevent mold buildup and ensure that your furniture maintains its beautiful golden honey color.
Cleaning and treating can also be a way to restore weathered teak to its original color. While some homeowners prefer the silvery look of weathered teak, you are likely to be among the majority who like their teak better in its warm, golden tint.
Cleaning is also a natural way to preserve and prolong the quality of any furniture. Even though teak wood does not rot, it can still deteriorate faster if it does not get proper care and maintenance. Regular cleaning and care will help minimize wear and ensure your teak furniture lasts for a long time.
How to clean teak outdoor furniture
Before getting started, consider the state that your teak furniture is in. Is it still in its golden blonde color, or has it sustained some staining and patina?
How you answer these questions will determine the methods you use for the cleaning. For new teak, a light cleaning with soap and water solution will be sufficient. For weathered teak, a thorough and more aggressive approach may be necessary.
Method 1: Light, routine cleaning
Start by removing any dust or loose dirt on the wood surface. You can vacuum the teak or wipe it down using a dry microfiber cloth. This is something you can do as frequently as once a day, depending on the weather condition in your home. A windy, dusty weather may necessitate more frequent dusting.
To remove more dirt from your brown teak furniture, wipe it down with soap and water once every few weeks. Simply apply some standard liquid soap to a sponge and wipe down the surface with it. Do this to keep your teak furniture clean and prevent it from greying.
Maintaining this kind of cleaning routine will prevent the buildup of grime and mildew on your teak furniture. It will also prevent discoloration from occasional spills that could stain the furniture.
If your furniture already has marks that require deeper cleaning, use either of the two DIY cleaning solutions we mentioned in the introduction. These are:
- A mixture of 1 cup vinegar and a gallon of warm water, or;
- A solution of 1 cup bleach and 1 cup of laundry detergent mixed with 1 gallon of warm water.
Use a soft nylon brush to apply generous amounts of the cleaning solution to your teak furniture, gently scrubbing in the direction of the grain to avoid scraping the wood surface.
Once the stains are out, hose down the teak thoroughly, rinsing off all the cleaning solution. The idea is to avoid leaving any soap residue on the furniture as this could cause a buildup of grime over time.
Method 2: Deep cleaning to remove mold, accumulated dirt, and grime
For weathered teak that has become silvery gray, you’ll need to choose a more aggressive cleaning solution for the task.
Step 1. Pick out your cleaning product. Your furniture may require a more abrasive scrubber, depending on how deeply stained it is. In this case, choose between the following options:
- A mixture of 2 teaspoons of tri-sodium phosphate cleaner with a gallon of warm water, or;
- A commercial-grade teak cleaner with oxalic acid formulated to remove stains with minimal scrubbing. You can purchase this cleaner online or at a local hardware store. Be sure to follow the guidelines for the application specified on the bottle.
Whichever cleaning product you select, use a large bucket to prepare it. Then apply generous amounts of the solution to your teak furniture with a coarse sponge or soft nylon brush. Gently scrub the solution into the teak wood and let it sit for approximately 15 minutes.
It is crucial that you soak the furniture with the solution to dislodge the stains as you gently scrub to remove them from the teak wood. After 15 minutes, give it a quick final scrub and rinse it off thoroughly with water.
If your teak furniture is deeply weathered, consider using a spray bottle or garden sprayer when applying the cleaning solution. A garden sprayer is particularly more effective because it works well and requires less effort on your hands. It also evenly distributes the solution well into the nooks and crannies of your furniture – making it easier for the patina to come out.
Step 2: Keep the furniture wet with the cleaning solution for 15 – 20 minutes, allowing it to soak in before you start scrubbing. Getting the teak wood completely wet before scrubbing will help make the process more effective. You also need a constant flow of water as you clean to help rinse away the dirt or grime more effectively.
Consider doing this washing in a well-ventilated area, preferably a shade so that the sun does not dry out your cleaning solution before the furniture is soaked enough.
Step 3: Scrub the furniture with a soft nylon brush or coarse sponge to remove the silvery gray coating. You can apply more pressure with a coarse sponge if the color is refusing to come off with gentle scrubbing.
Step 4. Once your teak is clean, hose it down with clean water and allow it to air dry for at least 24 hours. You can allow more drying time in case of mild weather.
Bonus tip: You can use 220 grit paper to do a light sanding if your teak feels rough to the touch after cleaning. This will remove any wood particulate or coarse fibers on the surface of your teak wood. Be sure to sand in line with the grain to avoid causing undesired scratches on the wood surface.
What is the best way to clean teak outdoor furniture?
The best way to clean teak outdoor furniture is to use standard homemade cleaning solutions such as vinegar and warm water or those suggested by the manufacturer.
Always use a soft nylon brush instead of power spraying to wash away all of the dirt and grime. While power washing can be effective, it may wash away the protective elements of your furniture and damage its aesthetics or joints.
A handheld scrubbing brush gives you more control over the amount of pressure you apply, which minimizes your chances of damaging the furniture.
Clean your furniture from the bottom up and not the other way round. Following this approach will help you avoid any irregularities or streaks that might be caused by the cleaning process.
Can I pressure wash teak wood furniture?
Pressure washing can be an effective way to clean teak wood furniture if done carefully. We do not recommend washing with high pressure because it can remove the softwood between the grain, making the surface furrowed and rough. Over time, the buildup of the debris may cause even worse discoloration on the teak wood.
Pressure washing can also remove any coating that might be protecting the teak wood, causing more damage in the long run.
How to restore outdoor teak furniture
Any wooden outdoor furniture will experience some surface mold and discoloration when left exposed to weather elements.
Teak is extremely weather-resistant, but it is not immune to the kind of discoloration that results from the elements.
Over time, this resilient wood is likely to grey, but you can restore it to its original golden blonde color. One trick is to use a pressure washer but taking care not to compromise the integrity of the teak with too much water pressure. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to go about it.
Step 1: Adjust the high-powered pressure washer to the lowest setting. Alternatively, select a pressure washer with a low PSI.
Step 2: Select the widest of the nozzles available with the pressure washer for this purpose. Ideally, this should be the safest to spray the teak furniture with.
Step 3: Pressure wash the teak using long, even strokes – keeping the nozzle at least 30 centimeters away from the surface. Pass the washer over the entire surface with every stroke to eliminate dirt in all areas.
Start by washing the underside of the furniture before graduating to the rest of it. This allows you to gauge the water pressure and find the best nozzle distance before you go all-in on the more exposed areas.
Step 4. Allow the furniture to air dry for at least 24 hours. Lightly sand the surface with 220 grit sandpaper in line with the grain, so you don’t scratch it.
Should you oil teak outdoor furniture?
While teak oil is often touted as an essential treatment for teak furniture because it keeps the wood surface looking fresh, we do not recommend it for your outdoor furniture. The oil will create a sticky film that can collect dirt and debris and provide a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
The issues associated with teak oil can be significantly worse in warm, humid climates. To treat your furniture, use water-based sealers instead. These will last longer and allow your teak wood to breathe better.
Can you clean teak with vinegar?
Yes! Vinegar is one of the most recommended stain-removing agents for teak furniture. As indicated earlier, you can use 1 cup vinegar and a gallon or 4 liters of warm water to create a cleaning solution for your stained teak wood.
The homemade vinegar-water solution is quite effective in removing mold, accumulated dirt, and grime from the furniture’s surface. You can use this mixture for routine cleaning and occasional deep cleaning.
Teak furniture maintenance tips
Even though it is pretty resilient, teak furniture must still be adequately cared for to help it last longer.
Clean your teak regularly
Generally, a quick scrubbing with soap and water is enough to clean your teak furniture. But, over time, you may need to consider staining or applying oils to protect the surface.
Teak wood naturally develops a silvery grey patina with time if left exposed to the weather elements outdoors. While this is an accepted natural process, you can keep it from happening by cleaning the furniture on a regular basis.
Consider applying a sealer, preferably every year
Coating the furniture with a protective sealing product is also a great way to preserve its original golden tint and keep it from greying. Go for a suitable water-based sealer, testing it on a small, concealed part of the furniture before applying it to the more visible parts.
Always shake the bottle thoroughly for a minute to mix before using the sealer. Using a soft paintbrush, apply two thin coats and wipe up any drips with a clean, dry cloth as you go.
For enhanced protection, look for a sealer with UV inhibitors that help keep the wood from weathering by locking in the original golden honey color.
Do not apply any sealer on dirty furniture. Start by cleaning the teak with a mixture of soap and water or one of the homemade cleaning solutions we have recommended. Allow the furniture to air dry for between 24 to 48 hours before applying the sealer.
Precautions while cleaning outdoor teak furniture
- Always wear a pair of protective gloves and eye protection when deep cleaning your teak with a commercial-grade cleaner or bleach.
- Always have some form of ground cover, such as a tarp, where you’re cleaning or sealing your teak furniture. Some of the cleaning agents or sealers can stain your deck or patio.
- Be sure to test any cleaning products you are using on a small, inconspicuous area on the underside of your furniture before using it on the rest of the furniture. Ideally, you want to see and confirm how the product interacts with the furniture before using it.
- Always wipe out any spills on your teak furniture as soon as they occur or once you become aware of them to prevent them from setting into the wood and potentially causing stains.
Even though teak is generally a low-maintenance type of furniture, regular maintenance can help keep it in a pristine condition for a long time.
If you clean and maintain your furniture like this, not only will it last longer, it will maintain its beauty for years to come.
Hopefully, this guide serves as your go-to resource for caring for your teak furniture and getting the most out of it.