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Marine Teak Care FAQs


What Is Teak Oil?

The term teak oil refers to a solvent-and-oil blend used as a wiping varnish for teak wood surfaces. These applications include teak oil for boats and teak oil for outdoor furniture. Teak oil formulations vary from one manufacturer to the next.

Most products sold as teak oil contain linseed oil, mineral oil, tung oil, and solvents such as paint thinner (or petroleum distillate). These various formulations are intended to better penetrate teak and other dense woods. Marine grade teak oil helps to protect wood from the suns damaging ultraviolet rays.

Does Teak Oil Seal Wood?

Wood oils, including teak, only act as temporary dressings. The oils provide an attractive finish but do not function as a marine teak sealer or protect woods physical structure. This is especially true in exterior applications such as boat brightwork.

In contrast, several well-applied coats of varnish cure on top of the wood surface. Varnish provides superior wood protection by curbing damaging rot, prohibiting moisture absorption, and preventing ugly cracks.

What Is the Difference Between Teak Oil and Tung Oil?

Teak oil is generally composed of tung oil, linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits. The mineral spirits function as a thinner, while other additives make the teak oil finish dry faster.

Tung oil is a wood-penetrating, water-resistant oil made from tung tree seeds. Tung oil is easy to apply, and its flexibility helps to protect wood that expands and contracts. However, it does have a relatively long drying time.

When applying tung oil, you must sand the oil after each of 5-7 coats. Teak oil only requires a one-step application on a clean teak surface.

Do You Need to Clean Teak Before You Apply Oil?

Always clean teak wood before applying teak oil, as applying oil over a dirty or weathered surface will not give you the best results.

Methodically scrub the teak with a very mild teak cleaner and a stiff brush. However, do not rush the cleaning job as this risks damaging the wood grain, resulting in uneven penetration and ugly dark streaks or spots.

How Do Teak Cleaners Work?

A typical 2-part teak cleaner removes salt, dirt, stains, and mildew while restoring teaks natural golden color. Begin by applying Part A (the acidic compound) to the wet teak. Remove the contaminants by scrubbing lightly across the woods grain.

Next, rinse the acid away with freshwater. Then, apply Part B (the acid neutralizer), and repeat the scrubbing exercise. Wash away the Part B neutralizer, and you should see brighter-looking, gold-toned teak.

How Do You Clean Teak Wood?

There are basically two methods for cleaning your boats teak wood: Sanding and scrubbing. To remove the gray surface patina by sanding, use 120-grit sandpaper or a foam sanding block for small areas.

For large sections, choose a random orbital sander.

Smooth out the surface by repeating the process with more 120-grit sandpaper. Wipe the teak wood with a tack cloth to remove the sanding dust.

Or, use a quality teak cleaner and some old-fashioned elbow grease. For lightly soiled teak, its a straightforward process. You will apply a 1-part teak cleaner to wet teak, scrub across the grain with a polypropylene brush, and rinse with fresh water.

For heavily soiled teak, a more aggressive 2-part teak cleaner should do the job. These harsh cleaners contain acids, caustics, or bleach. You will first apply the Part A acidic compound to the wet teak, scrub across the grain, and rinse with fresh water. Next, apply the Part B neutralizer, scrub again, and repeat the fresh water rinse.

Note: Handle hazardous 2-part cleaners very carefully, and always wear personal protective equipment. Cover all bare skin, and wear eye guards such as glasses and goggles.

Why Does Teak Weather and Turn Splotchy, Gray, or Black?

Exterior teak receives constant UV light exposure, and is also negatively affected by dirt and perhaps salt. As a result, the wood gradually transforms from its original honey color to a soft silvery gray. This natural process helps to protect the wood.

Teak has natural oils which prevent the wood from rotting in the wet marine environment. However, these oils cause the teak to take on a black or gray color.

How Do You Restore Weathered Teak Wood?

Restoring weathered teak wood is a multi-step process. To begin, wet down the teak, and then scrub it with a powdered household cleaner and a bristle brush. Rinse with fresh water, and allow the teak to dry. If the dried wood is an even light-colored tan, it is ready for oil or other wood finish. If not, use a more powerful 2 part cleaning solution.

Wear personal protective equipment for this application, as 2-part teak cleaners have a strong, acid-based cleaning agent. After scrubbing and rinsing with fresh water, apply the neutralizer, scrub, and rinse again.

Rinse the teak thoroughly to remove the cleaner residue and let dry. It usually means letting teak dry to a light golden color for 24 to 48 hours. Do not seal or apply varnish before the teak is completely dry. While teak oils matte finish hides most imperfections, you may want to sand dry teak lightly as the cleaning process may raise the outer grains of the wood.

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