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How to Remove Stains from Teak Furniture

Teak wood provides decades of beauty, durability, and enjoyment, whether in the form of furniture, decking, doors, or siding. While you can maintain the look you like — natural or allow it to weather gray and oxidize — you’ll want to ensure your teak products have a consistent appearance. Teak wood, like any material, is susceptible to stains, spills, and discoloration.

Our Teak Master experts in Los Angeles have put together this guide on how to prevent damage and handle stains, spills, and other issues that can lead to an inconsistent look. Whether your teak wood is new or vintage, learn more about its benefits and how to keep it in top shape for years of enjoyment.

Please do not contact our team for advice on your at-home refinishing project.

What Is the Best Way To Remove Stains From Teak?

While it’s best to clean up spills right away, different types of teak should be treated differently for the best results. The remedy depends on how the furniture was manufactured, whether it’s been treated, how the owner wants to maintain its appearance, and what the spillage was. Water rings from a glass leave a lighter stain that’s easier to remove, while darker blemishes will be more challenging to erase.

Untreated Teak Surfaces

Teak wood not treated with oil or varnish develops a natural gray patina over time, but spills can create an inconsistent look. It’s best to clean them up immediately with a wet cloth and a small amount of diluted mild soap. Stains that sit for a day or longer may require a more thorough cleaning. Use soap and water along with a coarse sponge.

Heavy stains may require light sanding with fine 220-grit or rougher sandpaper before finishing with 220-grit. Since teak is durable and has plentiful natural oil, stains won’t penetrate far into the surface. Sanded areas will temporarily look lighter than surrounding surfaces until they’re exposed to the elements for a while.

Treated Teak Surfaces

Teak surfaces treated with oils or varnishes need a different cleaning approach. First, try warm soapy water and a cloth or sponge. If soapy water doesn’t help, you need to use fine sandpaper. Stains on furniture treated with oil may be sanded lightly and treated with oil, repeating if necessary for the desired look. Surfaces may be lighter for a while, and if stains are extensive, furniture with lacquer coatings may need to be partially or entirely refinished.

Moss or Algae Removal

Excessive moisture and shade may create optimal conditions for green algae and moss growth on teak surfaces, especially those in shaded areas. Soapy water with four to six tablespoons of baking soda provides a soaking treatment to remove the growth. After 10 minutes of soaking, remove the soapy mix with a sponge and rinse. Other ready-made treatments are available to treat green coating on wood.

How Are Watermarks Erased?

Drinking glasses can leave unsightly water stains that can be tackled using a slightly different approach, depending on if they are light or dark. Be mindful of your furniture’s finish since natural or oiled finishes are easier to clean, and varnished surfaces may need stripping and refinishing.

Light water marks are easier to remove if caught right away. Remnants of water should be soaked up with a dry cloth. If you’d like it to dry quickly, a hair dryer on a low setting can help the moisture evaporate. Add oils to the surface by lightly rubbing a small amount of mayonnaise on a cloth in a circular pattern. The mayonnaise can be left for a few hours for stubborn stains, then wiped away with a damp cloth and dried with a dry cloth.

Surfaces may also benefit from a mild abrasive, such as extra-fine steel wool and lemon oil, or even an automotive rubbing compound. Be careful when using abrasives, and wipe clean and pat dry. Darker stains require more specialized materials. Use an oxalic acid cleanser in a glass or ceramic container. Mix into a thick paste using warm water and apply with a disposable foam paintbrush using circular motions. Let the paste dry and lighten the stain. You may need to repeat this process. Remove excess cleanser with a damp cloth and pat dry with a towel.

How Do Oil Spills Affect Teak Wood?

Teak furniture and decking material create an excellent environment for entertaining, but cooking can lead to unsightly oil spills. Oil spots can soak into the teak’s surface, so it’s essential you deal with them before they become embedded. As with other types of stains, soak up as much of the spill as possible with a paper towel by pressing firmly on the spot. Mix a mild soap with warm water, rubbing it into the surface and letting it penetrate the wood. A soft brush may also help, but avoid abrasives.

Once you’ve cleaned the surface, rinse it with fresh water and wipe it down. Let the surface dry and repeat the cleaning process if needed. Stubborn oil spots may need further intervention with stronger chemicals.

Mineral spirits, such as paint thinner, will help dissolve persistent stains that have sunk into the surface of teak materials. Rub the stain with the corner of a towel moistened with mineral spirits and use in small areas. This process may need to be repeated, but you shouldn’t allow the spirit to saturate the surface. Once the stain has been cleared, use warm water and detergent to remove the solution. Rinse well and pat dry.

Alternatives to mineral spirits include oxygenated bleach, a powdered cleanser that mixes with warm water. Using protective gloves, apply a small amount of the solution to the stain using the corner of a clean towel. You can use soft-bristled brushes to apply the bleach, following the wood grain. Wipe clean and repeat the process until the stain is removed.

Ammonia, which you should use carefully since it may cause discoloration on some wood surfaces, can be used by mixing one part ammonia to four parts water. Another option is mixing two tablespoons of gum turpentine and four tablespoons of boiled linseed oil into a gallon of warm water.

Cleaning up oil spots may require repeating the cleaning techniques. If needed, surfaces can be brought back to their original look with wood polish. Be sure to dry surfaces thoroughly once the stain removal work is complete.

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