Why Teak Oil Can Be Harmful for Your Teak Furniture

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teak oil harmful for outdoor furniture

If you have recently bought a teak furniture set, you want to keep it looking brand-new for as long as possible. Cleaning the cushions and vacuuming the upholstery is one thing – but how do you preserve the wood for years to come?

The good news is that teak furniture requires little upkeep beyond regular cleaning. Still, some homeowners may feel tempted to go the extra mile and oil their teak patio furniture based on the recommendation of a friend or ill-advised salesman. 

While oiling does benefit other types of wood, most experts advise against using teak oil on outdoor furniture. Not only is it unnecessary, but it can also damage the wood and cause future problems. 

It’s easy to fall prey to products that promise to make teak maintenance a breeze and add an extra “shine.” Don’t do it – and we’re about to explain why.

1. What Is Teak Oil?

Outdoor teak wood furniture

A tropical hardwood tree native to South and Southeast Asia, teak is known for its unique aesthetic appeal. With its golden-brown tones and tight, straight-grain pattern, teak wood furniture instantly elevates any garden décor. 

Appearances aside, teak wood is strong and durable. It rarely bends or warps under extreme weather conditions, largely due to its high natural oil content. These natural oils shield the wood against weather damage, termites, and pests, allowing you to leave your precious teak pieces outside all year round without worrying.

Over time, as sunlight and UV radiation carbonize the oils, the wood changes color from a rich golden brown to a silver-gray patina. Although this process is completely natural, some people worry about losing their teak furniture’s original good looks. 

This is where teak oil for an outdoor furniture comes into play (or so some owners think). 

Interestingly, commercial teak oil has nothing to do with teak. In fact, it is usually a combination of linseed or tung oil, varnish, thinners, and several other additives. It is only called “teak oil” because it is intended for teak wood. In other words, you are not using the wood’s natural oils but rather an artificial product.

Teak oil “feeds” the wood, accentuating its grain and color. It can help revive the teak wood’s seemingly lost beauty and restore its gorgeous golden-brown state – for a short while.

As beneficial as this may sound, teak oil is bad news for outdoor teak furniture. It might give your furniture beautiful color and shine for a while, but it won’t last. Let us explain why.

2. Why Oiling Outdoor Teak Furniture Can Be Harmful?

Why oiling outdoor teak furniture harmful

There are many reasons to avoid using teak oil for outdoor furniture. For starters, the manufactured oil will start evaporating in a few weeks, and it will likely take a little bit of the teak wood’s natural oils with it. This can leave the wood drier and more prone to damage than before. 

A few other nasty side effects of using teak oil for outdoor furniture include…

Increased Maintenance

Perhaps the best thing about teak is that it does not need a lot of tender love and care to survive. Unfortunately, oiling outdoor teak furniture can seriously undercut this advantage and tie you to an arduous maintenance routine.

Once you oil your outdoor teak furniture, you will have to repeat the process frequently and without fail – or your wood won’t look as good. It’s yet another chore added to your list, and ultimately, it’s unnecessary.

Unnecessary Labor

Many solvent-based teak oils serve as a “replacement” for the wood’s natural resins. However, it’s worth mentioning that when teak grays, it only loses oils from its surface. The oils deeper in the wood remain intact and help keep the wood sturdy, even if you can’t see them.

In short, you don’t need teak oil to retain the wood’s original honey-brown color. If you don’t enjoy the sight of graying, weathered teak, simply sand the wood surface with fine-grit sandpaper to remove the discolored outer layer.

Mold and Mildew Growth

If you have noticed ugly black spots all over your teak furniture, it could very well be mold growth. The good news is that teak’s natural oils and resins help it withstand mildew. The bad news is that oiling can interfere with the wood’s inherent mold-resistant properties. 

Don’t disrupt the teak’s natural defenses against mold, mildew, and moisture. If you do notice any signs of fungus growth, the best option is to contact a professional teak care team – not to apply a store-bought oil product.

Weakened Structure

Teak oil treatments can significantly shorten the wood’s lifespan. Once oiled teak dries, it becomes brittle and weak, often giving out way before its time. This is unfortunate, especially because untreated teak can easily stand the test of time.

Continued Graying

If you think oiling your teak furniture will reverse the weathering process, think again. Teak oil has virtually no effect on the wood’s chemistry, meaning the wood will continue to weather as it did before. Oiling will only interrupt the process for a couple of weeks, but in the long run, will actually increase the likelihood of color loss.

3. Why You Should Choose Teak Sealer Instead

Teak sealant better alternative

As you can see, using teak oil for outdoor furniture can lead to multiple problems. So, if you want to improve your teak care routine, consider investing in teak sealer instead.

Sealers are different from oils because they do not add any oils or resins to the wood. Instead, they lock in the wood’s natural oils and minimize weathering.

Furthermore, while teak oil only serves a cosmetic purpose, sealers offer a higher degree of protection. Most teak sealers safeguard the wood surface against…

  • Sunlight
  • UV radiation
  • Salt
  • Mold/mildew

Another important benefit of teak sealers is that they last much longer than teak oil. You should only need to reapply the sealer about once a year.

4. How to Apply Teak Sealer

How to apply teak sealant

To apply a teak sealer to outdoor teak furniture, start by washing the furniture with soap water or a teak cleaning agent. You can also scrub (or sand) away stains and uneven spots for a smoother finish.

Once the sanding is complete, hose down the furniture to get rid of woodchips, grain, and dust. Wipe it with a clean towel and allow the surface to dry completely before mixing up the teak sealer.

Always remember to apply the sealer evenly in the direction of the grain. Try to end at natural breakpoints on the surface and leave it to dry. Follow this up with a second coat.

Although you will need to reseal the teak annually for the best results, you can stop anytime you want to let the wood weather naturally. Discontinuing the sealing treatment will not tarnish or compromise the teak in any way.

In many cases, it’s best to leave teak sealing to the experts. At Teak & Deck Professionals, we’ve tested almost every brand of sealer out there and know exactly which product to use to match your particular teak tastes. 
While our natural-look sealer helps replicate the teak wood’s catalog luster, our proprietary Warm Honeytone color mutes the orangish tone that irks many homeowners. If you’ve set your heart on sealing your teak furniture, give us a call today.

5. Does This Mean All Furniture Oiling is Harmful?

Indoor teak wood furniture

We’re not talking about all furniture – only outdoor teak pieces. When it comes to indoor furniture, a moisturizing oil treatment can effectively prevent your pieces from cracking and splintering in dry weather. So, don’t swear off oiling completely. 

Most indoor furniture is made from porous wood types, such as pine. These woods lose their natural oils quickly and need regular polishing to stay supple. Also, because oil penetrates deep into the wood’s surface, it adds an attractive natural sheen to the furniture.

Remember: you can oil teak furniture, but only if it stays inside. Always use high-quality oil-based polishes instead of cheap aerosol variants sold by the can. Quality furniture polish will help preserve the furniture’s shine and keep it looking good for a long time.

6. Should You Polish Outdoor Teak Furniture?

Although this is a matter of personal preference, polish does not actually protect teak wood. Furthermore, teak’s high oil content often makes it difficult for the polish or varnish to stick to the wood’s surface. As a result, it will eventually flake and peel off. 

Polishing teak may work better if the furniture is meant for indoor use alone. For best results, ask our team of experts for guidance specific to your furniture and wood type.

The Bottom Line

Teak is resilient and naturally protects itself. You don’t have to use preservatives or treatments to keep your teak furniture in top shape. In fact, artificial treatments like teak oil can effectively destroy the longevity of your prized outdoor teak furniture.

However, in case you want to take your teak maintenance routine up a notch, we suggest investing in a high-quality teak sealer. Better still, turn to teak wood experts for help.

If you have any further questions about using teak oil for outdoor furniture, feel free to reach out to our Teak & Deck professionals. We use a host of effective products and services to preserve your teak furniture in the long haul. Our technicians clean, seal, and refinish teak assets to help them last longer!

Contact us today to learn more or request an exact quote for your services.

First Published on: Sep 23, 2019

Updated on: Apr 5, 2023

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