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How to Refinish Teak Furniture

Teak is an exceptionally dense tropical hardwood that has a high oil content and low shrinkage ratio, both of which make it a favorite for outdoor furniture. However, that doesn’t mean the wood doesn’t suffer when exposed to the elements. As a result, teak furniture experiences a lot of weather-related damage, especially from sunlight as it can cause the wood to turn a silvery shade. Luckily, you can refinish teak furniture to make it look almost as good as new.

Why Should You Refinish Teak Furniture?

teak lawn furniture set with chairs and a table

Image via Flickr by Shai Aharony

One of the greatest aspects of teak furniture is that you don’t need to protect it from the rain. However, the downside of the wood is that the wood tends to fade, giving you a worn-out and weathered appearance. While some people might like this “new” look, you might be one of those people who wants to bring it back to its former glory.

When the wood is freshly cut, the oil content at its surface gives the teak a golden glow. It’s infused from the inside with a protective oil, but after time, this color fades and is replaced with a silver hue. This color is a result of the oil evaporating from the surface. To get this luster back, you must refinish the teak.

Materials Needed

  • Teakwood cleaner
  • Bucket (optional)
  • Stiff nylon brush
  • Garden hose or pressure washer
  • Tack cloth
  • Teakwood bleach cleaner (optional)
  • 120- and 220-grit sandpaper or foam sanding block
  • Handheld sander (optional)
  • Disposable gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Disposable respirator
  • Teak sealer or oil
  • Natural bristle brush
  • Soft buffing pad (optional)

Steps To Refinish Teak Furniture

1. Clean the Teak

Before you get started on refinishing the teak furniture, you need to clean it. You should complete this step outdoors either on a driveway or concrete patio since you will need to use a hose to spray down the furniture. Gather some teakwood cleaner along with a stiff nylon brush and spray the furniture directly with the cleaner. If the cleaner is in a larger container, you might need to pour some into a bucket, and then apply it.

Some cleaners also state to apply to dry wood, but you might find it works better when the wood is slightly damp. When the wood is damp, it doesn’t soak up the cleaner so quickly. Scrub away any surface stains, grease, or mold. Let the cleaner sit for about 15 minutes.

Spray the furniture with a garden hose or pressure washer to remove the cleaner, and let it air-dry. A power washer can help you determine where you’ve cleaned as it strips off the dirt and gives you a clear line. Make sure it’s on a low setting since you don’t want to damage the wood. Hold the washer about 3 to 4 inches from the wood, and move in a slow and steady motion. A garden hose usually doesn’t have that much power, but it works just as well in eliminating the dirt.

If the furniture has deep stains, spray a teakwood bleach product on the furniture and let it sit for the manufacturer’s recommended length of time. Wipe up the excess once time has passed. This step is only required if you want to sand the furniture or lighten its pigment. Otherwise, using sandpaper with different grits should remove even the most stubborn stains.

2. Sand the Teak

Before you get ready to sand the furniture, make sure it’s completely dry. Due to its dense grain, teak typically takes a long time to dry. To remove the gray-colored surface grain, use a 120-grit sandpaper or foam sanding block and work in the direction of the wood’s grain. For larger areas, use a handheld sander. With either option, make sure you’re wearing disposable gloves, safety goggles, and a disposable respirator since teakwood dust can cause skin irritations.

After going over the entire piece of furniture, switch to a 220-grit sandpaper or foam sanding block and continue to smooth down the rough grain. Avoid using a handheld sander for this step as it can be too abrasive. Use a tack cloth to remove any sanding dust that accumulates. If the furniture is small enough, relocate it to inside a garage or other sheltered area away from the wind.

3. Protect the Teak

Apply teak sealer or oil to the dry piece of furniture. Note that teak oil acts as a sealer, and you might find it in the store under the name teak sealer. However, not all teak sealers are the same as teak oil since some lack the oil needed to give the wood a luster.

Both the sealer and oil can penetrate the wood’s surface grain to give added protection from the weather. Use a natural bristle brush to coat a thin layer of the sealer or oil, and let it soak in. The product’s label might also suggest using a soft buffing pad to apply it. Start on the underside of each piece of furniture first, and then flip it over to work on the top. By working this way, it’s easier to put the wet furniture away so it can dry.

You might notice the furniture soaks up the product quickly, so plan to generously apply it. Expect to apply several coats unless you want to leave the furniture with a more unfinished look. Allow the sealer or oil to cure for about 48 hours before you put any cushions back on or use the furniture. This avoids getting stains on the fabric or yourself.

Also, keep in mind that certain types of teak oil have extra agents that provide ultraviolet protection and reduce the graying pigments that might form when teak is in the sun. This can be helpful if you don’t want to refinish the furniture every year.

Even with the most thorough of explanations, you might still feel apprehensive about tackling a project like this one. If you need assistance in refinishing your teak furniture, make sure you reach out to us at Teak Master. Headed by Tim Gilliam who has more than two decades of experience working in teak furniture care and restoration, Teak Master restores outdoor teak furniture, bringing it back to its original luster.

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