Dispelling the Myth of “Teak Oil”

New furniture is always a big purchase, and choosing the right pieces for your patio or living room is only half the battle. After getting your hands on the perfect lounge chairs or dining room set, there’s still the matter of keeping them looking good as new for as long as possible. Just like new car smell, the thrill of new furniture fades away with time, as can its fresh sheen and even the wood’s original color. To preserve teak furniture in its like-new state as long as possible, owners might be tempted to apply teak oil – but that would be a mistake.

It’s crucial to note that the “teak oil” sold for consumer use on furniture is distinct from the naturally occurring teak oil found in articles made from genuine teak wood. Commercial teak oil is actually a mixture of linseed or tung oils with some varnish and thinners, called “teak oil” because it’s intended for use on teak wood, not because it’s actually extracted from teak trees. So-called teak oil manufacturers each sell their own proprietary blend of oils and solvents, none of them actually extracted from the teak tree. This hybrid product is marketed to unsuspecting furniture owners who buy new teak and want to maintain its warm golden color. While teak oil will do that, it comes with some negative side effects that largely make its use a bad idea.

Applying teak oil to genuine teak furniture is a short-term solution that creates longer-term problems. It’s true that teak oil can prevent the oxidation process that will turn golden new teak into gray aged teak, but that’s not all teak oil will do. After soaking into the wood and giving it a beautiful finish, the manufactured oil will begin to evaporate after just a few weeks, taking some of the natural teak oil with it and leaving the surface of the wood dry and more prone to damage than it would have been before.

Reapplying teak oil to furniture every few months can prevent damage from occurring, but this traps the owner in an endless cycle of constantly applying oil to the wood, just to keep it in the same shape it was in before. It can also lead to an environment that encourages mildew, negating teak’s natural mold-resistant properties. Worse, even teak oil that is consistently reapplied will fail to provide adequate UV protection, leaving outdoor furniture vulnerable to fading from harsh sunlight. Overall, using teak oil on teak furniture leads to more problems than solutions.

This isn’t to say that there’s nothing that can be done to save teak’s original golden yellow hue. Rather than attempting to supplement the wood’s natural oil with artificial supplements and making the situation worse, the best method of caring for genuine teak is to apply a teak sealer. Unlike oil, a teak sealer does not penetrate the surface of the wood, instead forming a protective layer on top of it that adds UV protection. This same barrier also makes the wood resistant to any mold or mildew that might grow in moist conditions. Teak sealer only needs to be reapplied once a year, making it a lower maintenance and less destructive means of preserving the beautiful golden glow of new teak.

Of course, there’s an even simpler method of handling new teak furniture: let it age. While the wood’s original color is certainly beautiful, it will eventually change to an equally pleasing and distinctive shade of silvery gray. This is the color most associated with teak. Knowing to anticipate this color change when buying authentic teak furniture will make it less of an unpleasant surprise and more of a transformation to look forward to, and accepting the wood’s new hue will sidestep the issue of teak oils and sealers entirely.

Teak is an extremely resilient wood that generally cares for itself. This is what makes it so valuable and sought-after around the world. It’s also what makes teak such a smart investment for anyone looking to put their money in a reliable, high-value commodity. Investing in teak is a way of ensuring a strong return on investment, while promoting a form of sustainable forestry in Central America, free of any ethical conflicts. For more information on how you can get involved with teak plantations in Panama or Nicaragua, get in touch with us here and we’ll be happy to help.

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