Take Care of Your Teak

Teak is low maintenance.
Teak is low maintenance. Photo credit: hanusst/iStock/Thinkstock

Winter on the East End may not be the time you’re thinking about your outdoor furniture, but with an eye toward the outdoor living and entertaining that awaits next spring and summer, winter is actually the perfect time to be asking questions about how to prepare. We turned to Benjamin Smith of Mildew Busters for some answers.

The Question: We bought a teak furniture set because we’d heard it requires no maintenance, but is there anything at all we should be doing to care for it?   

The Answer from Mildew Busters: Because of the hard and yet forgiving nature of the timber, teak furniture will withstand a great deal of abuse and is an ideal choice for outdoor furniture in the harsh environment of the East End. But like everything else associated with home care, it is not maintenance-free and requires care, ideally on an annual basis, to keep it looking good but also to prolong its life.

Teak is a naturally oily wood and allowing it to dry out will initially give it the silver/gray look that so many people like, but unless it is cleaned and oiled periodically it will eventually turn black with mildew and mold and in extreme cases rot from drying out or from too much moisture, depending on its location and exposure to the sun.

When your teak furniture does turn black or green from mildew or mold it’s time to have it cleaned and oiled again so that it doesn’t start to rot.

What method do you recommend to clean it and protect it?

We recommend using a nontoxic, citrus- based solution that we developed some years ago. We first dip the piece of furniture in a vat or spray it if it’s too large. Then, using soft nylon brushes, we scrub it clean, reapplying the cleaner as needed until it looks almost as it did when purchased. Then it’s time to thoroughly rinse it with fresh water and to apply a nontoxic brightener that makes the teak lighten up and look like it was on the showroom floor of Hildreth’s.

But that isn’t the end of it. You still have to replenish the oils that teak naturally have so it doesn’t dry out and become brittle or cause dry rot. To do this we use two methods, depending on how the customer wants the teak to look when finished. The first is a mixture of a clear natural oil that we purchase from a teak furniture manufacturer, mixed with some Cabot’s Bleaching Oil. This does two things. First it replenishes the oil in the wood and second it causes the teak furniture to turn a very transparent, silver gray color, just like a piece of sun beaten driftwood that you’d find on the beach.

The second choice that people like is to wipe it down with just the natural teak oil and then with a clean cotton cloth wipe off any excess oil. This gives the teak the appearance of a brand new piece of furniture, and again replenishes the oil that the wood needs to insure a long life.

Either way, with proper care after cleaning and refinishing, teak can then be washed simply and top coated each year with your choice of finishes to keep it looking fresh and mildew/mold free. It will also insure that your investment lasts for many years. Plan ahead and have your teak cleaned and refinished during the winter months when you’re not using it. You’ll be glad you did when you set it out on your patio or deck in the spring.

Have more questions about caring for your teak—Mildew Busters cleans and refinishes more than 1,000 pieces of teak each year, mostly in the winter months when it isn’t being used—or other issues related to mold and mildew? You can contact Benjamin Smith and Mildew Busters at 631-495-6826 or online at mildewbusters.com.

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