Teak withstands very wet conditions without deteriorating.

How to Protect Teak Outdoors

by Chris Deziel

Teak is an oily wood that comes from the teak tree (Tectona grandis), which grows in Southeast Asia. It has a honey-brown color, and the natural oils migrate to the surface to give the fresh wood a shiny appearance. Because these oils protect the wood, teak is a preferred material for boats and outdoor furniture. Although it turns gray with exposure to sunlight and weather, the wood doesn't deteriorate, and the only maintenance it requires is periodic washing with soap and water. If you want to preserve the original color, though, you need to seal the wood before discoloration happens.

Refrain from putting any kind of protective coating at all on teak -- that's the easiest approach. The protective oils remain in the wood even after the surface turns gray, and you can always restore the color, if desired, with a thorough cleaning and sanding.

Apply a coat of synthetic teak oil with a paintbrush before the wood discolors if you want to prevent discoloration. Unlike organic teak oil, synthetic oil won't promote the growth of mold that can cause black splotches to appear on the surface.

Maintain the color by recoating the furniture with synthetic oil every few months. Wash the wood thoroughly with all-purpose detergent and water and let it dry before you recoat it.

Restore the color on weathered teak by first scrubbing it with an abrasive pad and scouring powder and water. If you need a stronger detergent, use a wood cleaner that contains oxalic acid, which will bleach out dark splotches.

Sand the wood after you clean it, using a pad sander and 120-grit sandpaper. Sanding will finish the job of opening the grain and restoring the color. Maintain the color by applying synthetic teak oil.

Items you will need

  • Synthetic oil
  • Paintbrush
  • All-purpose detergent
  • Abrasive pad
  • Scouring powder
  • Wood cleaner with oxalic acid
  • Pad sander
  • 120-grit sandpaper


  • The traditional way to treat teak is with organic teak oil. If the teak is moldy, however, it's because the mold is feeding on organic oils already in the wood. Adding more simply gives the mold more food. Synthetic oil, on the other hand, should starve the mold and make it go away.
  • The sole purpose of sealing or finishing teak is to preserve its appearance. The wood won't rot or deteriorate, no matter how bad the weather.

About the Author

Chris Deziel has a bachelor's degree in physics and a master's degree in humanities. Besides having an abiding interest in popular science, Deziel has been active in the building and home design trades since 1975. As a landscape builder, he helped establish two gardening companies.

Photo Credits

  • Paolo_Toffanin/iStock/Getty Images