Gado Gado International

Caring for your teak furniture

Posted in Informational by gadogadointl on April 10, 2009

by David Sussman

All of Gado Gado’s teak furniture is made from recycled lumber or from sustainably farmed Grade A plantation teakwood. Teak furniture will withstand more abuse than many other types of wood because of its hard, forgiving nature. However, to keep your teak furniture looking good will require some attention and care.

Antique and Reproduction Furniture for Interior Use
Gado Gado sells antique furniture and reproduction furniture made from old plantation teak lumber salvaged from dismantled structures in Java, Indonesia. Each piece of furniture has been individually hand-finished using traditional methods. After sanding by hand, each piece receives 3 to 5 coats of shellac, which is made by mixing a natural material secreted by beetles in denatured alcohol. The solution is then applied so that the alcohol evaporates, producing a hard finish that brings out the rich natural color of the wood. Unless exposed to frequent direct UV sunlight or water, this finish will endure for many years. You may apply good quality furniture oil as needed to retain the luster of the wood and help prevent any water spots.

If your furniture’s finish has faded or has water or other stains, you may wish to refinish it. Start by sanding the surface lightly until smooth, and then apply good quality shellac with a paintbrush. When re-finishing with shellac, it is not necessary to sand down to the raw wood. Do not use lacquer or polyurethane over the existing shellac, unless the wood is sanded back to the raw wood. (Because of the oily nature of teak, permanent finishes like polyurethane will not last very long anyway.) For the best results, you may wish to thin commercial shellac with denatured alcohol, following the instructions for the product. Better results will be achieved if the work is done on a warm, dry day. Apply the shellac quickly and avoid over-brushing. Allow the finish to dry thoroughly before applying a second coat. To maintain the luster of the final finish, you may apply and buff a coat of natural beeswax on top of the final coat of shellac, or use good quality furniture oil over the shellac finish.

Teak serving tray, before and after an application of beeswax and orange oil

Teak serving tray, before and after an application of beeswax and orange oil

Garden & Outdoor Furniture
Garden furniture is generally made of new air- or kiln-dried teak, and is sold either fine sanded or coated with teak oil. Both are discussed below, as is an alternative method using a commercial teak-sealing product.

Fine Sanded
If you buy your furniture fine sanded it will have only the natural color of the wood coupled with the raw natural texture of the teak grain. The untreated timber is a lovely yellow-brown olive color when still fresh.

If your furniture is to be used indoors, and away from a lot of natural sunlight, over a period of time—perhaps six months to a year—the wood will gradually become a darker shade of brown.

If on the other hand the furniture is left outdoors, the effects of the sun’s rays and rain will ‘bleach out’ the wood’s natural color, gradually turning it a soft silvery gray. This silvery gray patina gives teak furniture a distinctive appearance, which many people consider to be very attractive, as it allows the furniture to blend in well with many outdoor environments. Teak furniture left in this state is easily maintained, and needs no treatment whatsoever to give many years of service.

Teak Oiled
If you buy your furniture already oiled with teak oil, it will have a darker brown color and a soft sheen. Teak wood is naturally oily and requires no treatment to be used indoors or outdoors, and the use of teak oil won’t increase the life of the wood. However, teak oil does change the color to a soft yellow-brown, and it can also help to prevent stains from seeping into the wood grain. It will also slow down the graying effect caused by ultraviolet rays.

To maintain its appearance, teak oiled furniture will need to be re-oiled periodically. If you decide to re-oil your furniture, select a good quality teak oil from your local supplier. A basic method for oiling is as follows:

The furniture should first be cleaned [see below]. Afterwards, ensure that the wood is completely dry before starting to oil. Lightly sand the wood until smooth before oiling. Tools needed include teak oil, a clean 1″ or 2″ paint brush, some clean cotton rags, good light and plenty of space to work in. The process can be a little messy so be sure to wear work clothes, and household gloves will keep the oil off your hands.

Apply the teak oil with a clean brush, starting from the top and working downwards. The surface should be left wet by the brush, but try to avoid leaving surplus oil on the wood. After a few minutes – between 5 and 15 depending on the ambient temperature and humidity, the oil will start to become ‘tacky’. At this point the surface of the furniture should be wiped down with a clean cotton rag, carefully removing all surplus oil.

One coat is usually sufficient, but you can apply a second coat if required, after a minimum of one hour for the first coat to dry. Once you’ve completed the oiling and the surface is dry to the touch, a second clean rag can be used to “buff up” the surface.

Please be sure to dispose of any used oily rags and cleaning cloths carefully (spontaneous combustion can occur), by placing them in water in a sealed metal container, or in accordance with the instructions from the oil manufacturer.

NOTE: Some companies that sell outdoor teak do not recommend using teak oil on outdoor furniture because it may cause mildew or irregular coloring of the wood. Gado Gado has not experienced this problem with our outdoor furniture.

Reclaimed teak plank, sanded halfway

Reclaimed teak plank, sanded halfway

Cleaning Teak Furniture
If you wish to remove the silver-gray appearance and dirt from your outdoor teak furniture, wash with warm soapy water using a normal medium household bristle brush [not too stiff] or a jet-wash. One company recommends using a cleaning solution consisting of four parts laundry detergent or dishwashing soap and one part bleach. Wash from the top downwards, and then rinse with clean water. There are also proprietary cleaners on the market that can be used to clean off various deposits and accumulated dirt and stains.

We do not recommend the use of steel wool or steel wire brushes to clean teak furniture, as any metal residue left in the wood grain may rust and discolor the wood.

If after washing your furniture still has some stubborn and heavily ingrained stains, these can be removed by sanding with a fine grade of sandpaper, being sure to work only with the direction of the timber grain. After sanding away the stains, if the furniture was previously teak oiled you may wish to re-oil, or if it had previously been left natural (unfinished), the fresh teak color exposed by sanding will soon mellow to a silver gray patina.

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2 Responses

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  1. Kitty said, on July 25, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    How can I remove water stains from my INDOOR TEAK Cabinett?

  2. gadogadointl said, on October 1, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Removing water stains from indoor furniture, or more accurately getting the finish to match that of the rest of the piece, can be a bit tricky.

    The repair will generally require sanding in order to get down below the damaged layer of wood and then reapplying whatever finish had been applied in the first place. Finishes typically used on teak furniture made in SE Asia can include shellac, polyurethane, lacquer, tung oil and teak oil–which is usually applied directly over sanded wood or over a stain. If you don’t know the finish type, it can be difficult to decide which of these to use in refinishing the piece.

    Some finishes are easier to work with than others, but if you are not experienced in such things you might consider having the repair done professionally. The process isn’t exactly complicated, but a patchy-looking finish will in most cases be more visually disappointing than the water stain you began with.


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