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Photos: James River Media

Caring for the Wood that Stands Up to Weather

Teak furniture was first made in England where hulls and decks of ships were salvaged to make garden benches. This durable wood, nearly impervious to weather, humidity and pests, will not rot and stays a pleasant temperature, even in the sun. When it comes to outdoor furniture, teak wood is often called the best investment you can make.

The allure of teak
Teak is a low-maintenance wood if you allow it to age naturally and turn to a silvery gray color. Teak requires no extra finishes or treatments to last for generations. The amount of time it takes to weather varies based on the amount of sun exposure and the environment in which the furniture resides. 

To remove moss, dirt and surface stains, an occasional wash using soapy water with a splash of white vinegar or bleach added and a soft nylon brush is all you need, plus a rinse-off with the hose. Pressure washing is not recommended as it removes natural oils and opens up the woodʼs grain. 

To seal or not?
If you have new teak furniture, you can decide whether to let it go natural or opt to use teak sealer/protector to keep the original honey color. Keeping the teak color by using a protector is more work and requires repeated cleaning (at least once a season), but this gives the wood a layer of UV protection, prevents mildew from forming and creates a barrier between the wood and the air, preventing oxidation that causes the wood to turn gray. Sealer also protects the teak from the oil stains that potato chips, ketchup and some drinks commonly cause on untreated teak. 

Before applying teak protector, let new furniture weather outside for one or two weeks. Then clean the teak with soap and water or teak cleaner, rinse and let dry completely. Apply a thin coat of protector with a cloth or sponge. Wait an hour and apply a second thin coat. Let it dry for five hours before using the furniture. 

Restoring its golden color
No matter how old your teak is, it can be restored to its original honey-golden look. Hereʼs how: 

  • Sand the teak, going with the grain of the wood, with 80-grit sandpaper to remove the top layer of dirt, debris and patina. An electric sander is fine for use on large areas like tabletops.
  • Wash the furniture with a garden hose. While furniture is still wet, apply teak cleaner (mild dish soap mixed with warm water will also work) using a soft bristled brush or a spray bottle. For tough stains, add a small amount of bleach to the solution and scrub the entire surface of the piece. Let the scrub solution sit 1 or 2 minutes, then brush along the grain. 
  • Rinse the furniture with a garden hose to wash off the cleaning solution and allow it to air dry. 
  • When surface is dry to the touch, sand again with 220-grit sandpaper. Be sure to sand in the direction of the wood grain. After sanding, use a dry rag, tack rag or blower to remove any remaining dust.
  • Apply a teak sealer or protector if you want the honey- golden look. A protector can be used once or twice a year, always following use of teak cleaner. Apply the protector to all surfaces with a soft-bristled brush. Then leave the furniture to air dry for 24 hours. 

Voila! All ready for summer!

How to Clean Sunbrella Fabrics
Nothing accents beautiful teak furniture more than clean cushions. Here are a few cleaning tips for Sunbrella fabrics. Note: Please read the manufacturer’s recommendations before proceeding.

• Soak in solution of ¼ cup mild soap and 1 gallon lukewarm water.
• Use a sponge or soft brush to lightly scrub stains.
• Rinse well to remove soap. Air dry.
• Clean the area from seam to seam, not just on the spot. This should avoid leaving a visible cleaning ring on the fabric.

• Consult the furniture manufacturer’s recommendations.
• Remove covers from cushions.
• Close all zippers on fabric. Machine wash on a cold, delicate cycle, using a mild detergent.
• For severe mold or mildew, add 1 cup of bleach. Air dry.

• Mix ¼ cup mild soap and 1 cup bleach in a gallon of water.
• Spray this mixture on entire fabric surface, and let it soak in for 15 minutes.
• Clean entire surface with soft brush, sponge or towel.
• Rinse to remove all soap residue. Air dry.

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