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Simple Cleaning Steps To Protect Your Teak Deck and Any Unfinished Marine Wood Furniture

23 Apr 2013
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Any unfinished wood that is exposed to the elements is going to need some help to keep it looking its best. Marine wood often takes the worst of the worst: saltwater and sun can combine to discolor wood while a wet life at sea can cause even the strongest material to harbor mold or mildew.

Fortunately, keeping marine wood clean is easier than you might imagine. A few simple materials are all you need to keep your teak deck and unfinished wood furniture in great condition for years to come.

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Cleaning Unfinished Marine Wood

It’s important to note that these cleaning tips apply for unfinished wood only, such as your teak decks and unfinished furniture, and do not apply to the finished wood furniture aboard your vessel.

Teak is often used in marine furniture and on boats themselves. It is durable, lightweight, low-maintenance and contains natural oils that prevent rot from taking hold, making it perfect for marine applications. Despite its durability, teak can mold or mildew resulting in blackened or discolored wood. The mold and mildew spores actually feed on the naturally-occurring oils, which leads to the black discoloration. Once the spores have been killed through a good cleaning, the wood will return to its original golden color.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when cleaning unfinished wood yourself.

  • DO use a mild cleaner. Mild cleaners, such as laundry or dish detergent, are the most effective at cleaning wood without damaging it. Strong products can actually dissolve the wood. There are products marketed specifically at cleaning marine wood. One-part cleaners are generally gentler than two-part cleaners, which rely on an acid to speed up the process at the expense of the wood and its finish.
  • DO NOT use bleach or tri-sodium phosphate (TSP). Although these products are strong, they are also abrasive and can permanently damage your wood. It is not worth risking the damage to your furniture to use these products.
  • DO use a soft bristle brush and hand clean the wood. If you have chosen to use a mild cleaner for the wood, you’ll need to add some good old-fashioned elbow grease to really work the cleaner into the wood. A soft bristle brush can help dislodge mold and mildew spores and work the cleaner into the wood. Do this by hand along the grain to preserve the integrity of the wood.
  • DO NOT rush it. Don’t apply a cleaner and immediately wipe it off. Give it 10 or 15 minutes to soak into the wood and work its magic. If you don’t allow enough time for the cleaner to get into the wood, you’ll be repeating the cleaning project much sooner than you would like.
  • DO NOT use a powerwasher. Similar to bleach, powerwashers can cause more damage than help. Powerwashers do not "clean" the wood; they simply blast the dirt away and expose raw wood underneath. Again, you risk damaging your wood beyond repair with a powerwasher.
  • DO protect the wood once it’s been cleaned. In some instances, adding teak oil after you’ve cleaned the wood will replenish the natural oil in the wood and help protect it from future damage. A sealer can be added to coat the wood and provide a protective barrier from the elements. If you think of applying oil, sealer, or varnish yourself, consider giving Dynasty Restoration a call for some free and helpful tips. 

DO NOT ignore a shoddy job. Consult a professional if you’re unhappy with the results of your work. At Dynasty Restoration we have over 25 years of experience repairing and finishing high-end yacht wood.