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 probably want to keep it looking brand-new for as long as possible. You know how to clean the cushions and vacuum the upholstery – but how do you preserve the wood?

The good news is that teak requires very little upkeep beyond regular cleaning. All you need to do is give it a gentle scrub every now and then, and you’re good to go!

Still, some homeowners may feel tempted to go the extra mile and oil their teak patio furniture.

While oiling does benefit other types of wood, most manufacturers advise against using teak oil for outdoor furniture. Not only is it completely unnecessary, but it can also damage the wood in the long run. 

It’s easy to fall prey to products that promise to make teak maintenance a breeze. To keep you from making a bad purchase, we’ll explain why oiling teak furniture is a strict no-no.

1. An Introduction to Teak Oil

Outdoor teak wood furniture

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

Appearances aside, teak wood is extremely strong and durable. It rarely bends or warps under extreme weather conditions, provided you treat it well.

The primary reason why teak makes for long-lasting outdoor furniture is 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.

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 resent losing their teak furniture’s original good looks. 

This is where teak oil comes in. 

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.  

Teak oil ‘feeds’ the wood, in a way, 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. Here’s why.

2. Why is Oiling Outdoor Teak Furniture Harmful?

Why oiling outdoor teak furniture harmful

You should note that using teak oil for outdoor furniture can cause more harm than good due to a number of different reasons. To begin with, the manufactured oil will start evaporating in a few weeks, often taking a little bit of the teak wood’s natural oils with it. This can leave the wood drier and even more prone to damage than before. 

A few other side-effects of using teak oil for outdoor furniture include:

A) Increased Maintenance

Perhaps the best thing about teak is that it does not need a lot of tender love and care to survive. However, 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. That is another chore added to your laundry list of cleaning duties!

B) Unnecessary Labor

Many solvent-based teak oils serve to replace 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.

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.

C) Mold and Mildew Growth

In case you notice ugly black spots all over your teak furniture, chances are that it is mold.

Teak’s natural oils and resins help it withstand mildew. However, oiling can interfere with the wood’s inherent mold-resistant properties. Teak oils actively encourage mold and mildew formation, which can leave unsightly patches on the wood’s surface. 

D) Weakened Structure

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

E) 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, devastating the wood for good. 

3. Why Teak Sealer is a Better Alternative

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, you should consider investing in a teak sealer.

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. Typically, teak sealers safeguard the wood surface against sunlight, UV radiation, salt, fungus, and mold.

One of the greatest benefits of teak sealers is that they last much longer than teak oil. As opposed to teak oil, you will only have 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 your 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, and you’re done!

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.

Since sealing teak is easier said than done, consider leaving it to experts like 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, be sure to give us a call. 

5. Does This Mean Oiling Furniture is Bad?

Indoor teak wood furniture

Absolutely not! When it comes to indoor furniture, a moisturizing oil treatment can effectively prevent your pieces from cracking and splintering in dry weather. 

Most indoor furniture is made from very 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.

You can also oil teak furniture, but only if it stays inside. Remember to 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, we can tell you that polish does not 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. 

The Bottom Line

Teak is resilient and can defend itself quite well. You don’t have to use preservatives or treatments of any kind 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 you invest in a high-quality teak sealer. Better still, you can turn to professionals for help.

If you have any further questions about using teak oil for outdoor furniture, feel free to reach out to the team and Teak & Deck Professionals. We use a host of effective products and services to preserve your teak furniture in the long haul. We can clean, seal, and refinish your teak assets to help them last longer! Contact us today to know more or get an exact quote.


First Published on: Sep 23, 2019

Updated on: Nov 30, 2021


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