Restoring teak on boats and garden furniture.

Date posted: 24 June 2013


When boat teak is left untreated the wood will turn a silvery grey. Many people like to see this natural discolouration, but the colour is actually caused by mould and mildew that feed off the natural oil in the teak. Teak owners really should consider killing these spores as prolonged eating away of the wood will eventually lead to its ruination.
So regular cleaning is required. I have on numerous occasions been down on my hands and knees by the side of guard rails, using various natural products to clean off the boat teak. Getting hot, bothered and sore knees; lots of scrubbing with no great after effect.
What I did not realise was that I needed to kill off the mould and mildew, not just clean the teak and re-oil it. So in fact I was just feeding the mould on our boat teak!
Having read numerous bits of information on the web, I discovered that I should be looking out for cleaners with two active ingredients octaborate (a fungicide) and benzolkonium (an algaecide).
I have recently been using Oxalic Acid, which really appears to clean the boat teak; its chloride bleach and kills off the fungus. When you are looking at marine teak cleaners, if you look up the ingredients many of them list oxalic acid. It’s cheaper if you buy it direct from the internet, (
Please be very careful when mixing up a solution, pay attention to the warnings. Mix in a well ventilated room; wear protective clothing and appropriate footwear (not flip flops as I did). Spray the area you want to clean, (brings decks up wonderfully!) and lightly scrub the wood, the green algae will literally just wash away when you rinse off the oxalic acid.
So now your  boat teak is clean and Fungus/mould free, how do you preserve it. I have been reading numerous forum suggestions about which is ‘the best’, now if we believed everything we read we could literally go out and buy any one really.
But if you combine the forums with local know how…you’ve cracked it. I belong to the Westerly Boat Owners Association, where we meet regularly, discuss problems, look at new gadgets and more importantly admire each other’s boats. This now brings me to what’s been happening this year. Our boats are turning up with beautiful boat teak work, causing a fair amount of ‘boat teak envy’.
The nitty gritty of it is that boat owners are turning to a product called Semco natural teak sealer , which has also been very positively reviewed on the Sail Net and the YBW forums.
 If you want to go on the whole journey of teak cleaning as well as preserving with them, they have a two part cleaning kit available which can be used before the teak sealer.
 The sealer is not oil, it contains no silicone, but it repels the water. So you’ll know when it needs recovering as there won’t be droplets standing on your wood. The time between coats varies, but the average in the UK would be about five months. In warmer climes these time will reduce to three months. The good news is, once you have sealed the boat teak with this product there is no sanding down again, you can just keep it topped up.
 (It may be of interest to you but…if you look up a product called teak wonder, its considerably cheaper, but it would appear to be the same stuff.) In practice…. Its messy and time consuming, you will need a sponge applicator, I wouldn’t recommend using a brush as the product is very watery, and the sponge ‘holds it’.
 You will need to wear overalls, and good quality plastic gloves. I have taken some before, after and during photographs just to give you a better idea. If I was honest the whole process took much longer than I had anticipated; the initial scrubbing was hard work, and you had to keep the teak moist at all times.
We found it advisable to only clean about two metres at a time with the teak wonder cleaner, Sean would scrub and I would come behind with a wet sponge to clean the ‘gunk’ off and keep the wood moist. I would then apply the teak brighter, which had an immediate effect. This stayed on for ten minutes and then was rinsed off, by which time I was ready to start all over again behind Sean.
only clean manageable sections at a time

only clean manageable sections at a time

Meanwhile we couldn’t apply the teak sealer until the wood was thoroughly dried. The sealer tin needed stirring every time you dipped your sponge in. To get round this tedious task, I transferred some to a small hand soap container, and just gave it a shake before squeezing some onto the sponge. This is quite important because the mixture divides pretty swiftly and I would image if you didn’t be the time you get to three quarters of the way down the tin, you would have quite a thick consistence with a real variation in the colour.
 The sealer was easy and quick to apply and any sealer accidentally spilt onto the hull wiped away easily. Two coats is recommended, and its permissible to apply one coat straight on top of the last.
I have to say…it was worth the hard work!teakclean
cockpit table
You can also follow these instructions to restore your teak garden furniture, I used the rest of the can and protected my garden table, you can see the difference between the table which has been treated and the chairs, which I will do next year.
how to restore your teak furniture

It really pays to look after your teak furniture

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 I hope you found the information about cleaning your boat and garden teak helpful, if you have any other suggestions please add them to the comments box.

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