Teak Mystique: Maintaining your outdoor furniture

Cold, wet, windy and miserable, it must be the great British winter. However, whilst you sit at home with a steaming hot cuppa and the heating on full blast, spare a thought for your outdoor furniture braving the elements on your (probably) unsheltered terrace. 

Quality garden furniture is a serious investment, reflecting the considerable craftsmanship and careful choice of the very best, responsibly-sourced material. It’s a premium item, yet so many fail to treat it with the respect it deserves. Inadequate maintenance, particularly of furniture made from wood and specifically teak, leads to an unavoidable accumulation of mosses and lichens.

Fundamentally, to achieve maximum, long-term value from your outdoor furniture, you must look after it, especially if it’s made from a natural substance like timber with metal joints and hinges. 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation around upkeep. The purpose of this article is to offer top tips and advice, while also dispelling the many myths about cleaning and preservation.

Hopefully, by the end, you will be fully equipped to ensure your outdoor furniture lasts for decades. 

Natural Performer
When approaching the maintenance of teak, resist the temptation to overthink things. Due to its naturally high oil content, it resists to rotting and warping, even when exposed to climatic extremes. This is why it’s so suited for decking, construction and outdoor furniture. Whilst caring for the material is refreshingly simple, it’s also highly specific.

Fade to Grey
It’s well known that teak acquires an attractive silver patina over time, due to the action of sunlight. It’s a reason many customers choose the material.  

However, if your furniture is new and you want to retain its original ‘honey’ colour, then you should use a ‘Colour Guard’ before it changes. Of course, there are proprietary products available from many manufacturers to undertake the treatment yourself, or you can approach a specialist to undertake the work for you. 

There are various different treatments and teak oils available on the market, which will inevitably stain your furniture. So, unless you want your furniture to turn a very dark and unattractive colour over time from multiple applications, avoid.  

Be Abrasive
The best way to remove dirt, moss and lichen is to use mild soapy water and plenty of elbow grease. Alternatively, a gentle sanding starting with an 80 then going down to a 120 grade is another method. Even old teak can be brought back to muster because the silver patina is only on the surface.

Resist any temptation to use strong chemicals as this will damage the finish of the wood, impacting on its visual appeal. 

Unwanted guests
Wasps abound during the summer months, and your expensive teak furniture offers a tantalising material which they will use to build their nests. Prolonged munching removes a fine layer from the surface of the furniture and creates unattractive lines in the timber.

However, the good news is several products use natural, non-toxic substances such as vanilla, menthol or verbena essence to keep these critters at bay.

Power down
You’ll find video after video on the internet of members of the public recommending the use of a jet washer to clean teak and other wooden furniture. We cannot stress enough that this is not recommended.

While power washing is very tempting to achieve quick results, aggressive spraying could destroy the cellulose fibres and structure of the wood, which, could irretrievably damage your furniture. However, should you choose to use a power washer, turn the power down and do not direct the jet into the joints.

Strong Performer
As teak can withstand the harshest elements, covers are not necessary. Ultimately, pure grade A teak can stay outside, uncovered, as long as it’s in an airy environment. However, breathable covers are useful for keeping your furniture clean and pristine. 

By Peter Tyrie, Managing Director at Barlow Tyrie