A History of Teak – How Teak Patio Furniture Became the Standard of Luxury

We all know that teak patio furniture has become the pinnacle of those who want to live the high life on their decks all summer long. But what many have forgotten is how this miracle wood became the standard for those who want to live the good life. Teak is known for resisting the elements, and the natural beauty it retains for years to come because of oils that the wood retains. But how did it get converted from a nice tree to look at, to becoming the best choice for your outdoor furniture?

Teak patio furniture is made of (naturally) teak wood. The trees that produce this wood (also known by the same name, strangely enough) can be found growing indigenously throughout Southeast Asia. The weather, combined with continuous rainfall, makes for the perfect place to grow the wood that will eventually become deck chairs and tables. There are three kinds of the tree that grow in this region – two of them are considered endangered, due to their rarity. The materials that will someday be harvested to sit on your patio is known as “Common Teak,” and is the most popular (as well as the fastest growing) tree in the region.

Before people even considered building teak patio furniture, the wood was considered quite useful for hundreds of other uses. Teak is very malleable, yet retains natural strength. The first settlers in Southeast Asia used the wood to make tools and build shelter. And with the Common Teak trees able to grow over 200 feet high, cutting down one teak tree would give a high yield for their efforts.

While these settlers may have built simple teak furniture, the jump from the hut to the patio was not immediate. As early man became more advanced, they used teak to build more elaborate homes, and explore the world around them. The wood was a popular choice for shipbuilders, as boats made of this material could withstand the saltwater the best. Teak ships would last longer, and would hold up better in travels – making teak a natural choice for faring the seas.

As time moved on, and a demanding public cried out for luxury and style (now that necessities were being taken care of), teak outdoor furniture became more and more in style. And as the world became transformed into industrialized nations, people found themselves with more leisure time. And with the trials and tests that years of seafaring and history provided, it was a natural choice to recycle old wood into new furniture. Using teak for outdoor furniture became popular in the late 1800’s, as British traders from then colonial India would recycle old boat decks and turn them into outdoor furniture. From here, the benefits of using teak spread like wildfire. By the turn of the century, it was a sign of luxury and wealth to have teak outdoor furniture sitting on your patios and decks.

Today, teak is not just used for outdoor furniture. While using it for patio furnishings is the most popular use, teak has a versatile function, from flooring to construction material. And because of its rarity in the world (only being grown in Southeast Asia), the wood comes with a high cost as well. Considering the benefits and the tests history have thrown teak, it remains a quality investment for the cost. And as technology continues to grow, who knows where teak and its uses will go next.

How to Clean Teak Furniture Using Home Ingredients

Teak is a wood that can be allowed to weather naturally from the sun or sealed to keep the original golden color. Every few months, teak furniture should be cleaned of dirt build up especially in outdoor pieces.

When buying the furniture, it’s important to decide whether to keep the golden color or allow it to develop a soft gray patina due to sun exposure. Over time, the natural oils of the teak wood will rise to the surface and evaporate. This creates the silver color of the wood. If the golden color is preferable, the furniture should be sealed using a teak furniture sealant. It will need to be sealed repeatedly over the life of the furniture piece. Otherwise, the teak piece will age and weather to a soft silver.

How you clean the teak furniture depends on whether it’s been treated or not.

All Teak Furniture

Materials Needed

Laundry detergent
Soft-bristled brush

Whether treated or untreated, these first steps are the same. Fill a bucket with warm water adding in a drop of detergent with a splash of bleach. Use the soft brush to clean dirt from the furniture. Outdoor furniture can be caked with mud and dirt along the legs. Use careful strokes repeatedly instead of digging into the wood to remove dirt. Rinse soap suds from the furniture and allow it to dry.

If the furniture is to remain untreated to grow even more silvered with age and direct sunlight, the furniture can be set back outside. Some people like the silvered look so much, they will add sealant at this point to keep the wood protected and keep the soft gray look to the piece. After washing, the furniture can be set outside. If it needs sealant, there are more steps before the piece is finished.

Sealed Teak Furniture

Materials Needed
Soft cloth
Linseed oil
Teak Sealant
Mask or ventilated area
Sand paper

The next step involves teak oils and sealant. Silvered furniture can be brought back to its golden color using sand paper and teak oils specially designed to bring out the color of the wood. Sometimes, the gray color isn’t what the owner wants, and the teak oil will help to restore it.

Teak furniture that hasn’t been allowed to gray can be washed, oiled and resealed in the same way without the initial sanding step.

For a natural, do-it-yourself oil, linseed oil is a great choice, but it can darken the wood considerably. It’s important to note that the oil should be applied before any varnish or sealant since oil can dry and build up to a rubbery consistency. Allow the oil to dry completely before finishing with a sealant. Natural linseed oil with no chemicals added to it can take a long time to dry. It can take from 24 to 48 hours for the oil to dry.

Before depositing the furniture back outside, on the patio or back on the porch, take this opportunity to see if any screws need to be tightened. All screws should be snug against the wood. Don’t over-tighten the screws though. It can cause the furniture to crack.