Teak is a workable wood with color tones that makes it an attractive material for outdoor furniture. It normally doesn’t need any other protection from the elements than its own natural oils, but continued exposure to sunlight turns its yellowish-brown color to gray in less than a year. This graying isn’t a defect — some even consider it a desirable characteristic — but you can wash and sand the wood to restore its natural color if desired.
Pressure Washing Teak
The force of a pressure washer can damage your teak furniture unless you take appropriate precautions, which include setting the pressure to no greater than 2000 psi and using a nozzle with a 15-degree or wider spray pattern. Hold the tip of the pressure washer about 6 inches from the wood and allow the spray to wash off the surface layer of gray wood. To avoid streaks, move the tip along the grain of the wood and maintain a uniform distance from the wood. If you don’t remove all the gray, any color that remains will come off when you sand.
After pressure washing, your teak furniture should remain in dry air for at least 48 hours before you sand it. While it’s drying, you may notice some problem stains, which you can take care of before you sand it. A solution of wood bleach containing oxalic acid and water removes tannin stains left by leaves and garden debris. Sponge it on and let it soak in until the stain is gone. Neutralize the bleach by thoroughly washing it off with clear water or a solution of 1/2-cup baking soda per gallon of water.
Sanding — the Final Touch
Once the wood is dry, use sandpaper to finish the job of restoring the original color of the wood. You can do most of the job by hand with 120-grit sandpaper, but if you prefer to use a machine, choose any standard palm-sized orbital sander. Keep in mind that sanding machines make small, circular scratch marks, and you’ll have to erase those by hand-sanding with the next finest sandpaper, 150-grit. Once the wood has been restored, it takes about eight or nine months for it to turn gray again, so a yearly power-washing and sanding treatment should keep it looking its best.
There are also products available on line that will help you keep your teak looking great for years to come. You can find cleaners, sealers, oils and more.