How to Apply Teak Oil to Your Boat

If you are lucky enough to own a wooden boat it is probably made out of teak.

In clean air untreated teak weathers to an unattractive ash grey. However, this depends where the boats are kept, as modern day air pollutants will quickly turn bare teak nearly black.

Unfortunately, scrubbing the boat will not help as it tends to leave behind an unattractive mottled look which is neither golden nor grey.

Therefore, some form of treatment is the best solution.

The use of teak oil (product code) is a popular option which has been used for a long time by many boat owners.

The benefit of using teak oil is that it intensifies the colours and grain patterns of wood and gives it a rich, warm appearance. Since it simply enhances the inherent beauty of the wood it is arguably the most attractive of all the wood finishes. It also has the benefit that it actually restores some of the teak’s natural oils and resins.

Please note, however, that although the teak oil is very good at recovering and maintaining the golden glow of the teak wood it does not protect it.

Applying Teak Oil

First you will need to completely clean the wood. Since teak is literally dissolved by strong cleaner, always use the mildest cleaner which does the job (product number). Apply this mixture with a stiff brush, such as (product number), scrubbing lightly with the grain. Leave it on the wood for several minutes to give the detergent time to suspend the dirt and the bleach time to lighten the wood, then rinse the wood thoroughly, brushing it to clear the grain.

If the teak is still dark or stained when it dries, a cleaner with oxalic acid is required (you may wish to buy a teak cleaner for this process). Wet the teak and sprinkle on the cleaner. Spread it evenly with a Scotchbrite or bronze wool pad and give it a few minutes to work. While the wood is still wet, scrub it with the Scotchbrite pad or bronze wool. Rinse the scrubbed wood thoroughly and brush as necessary. Then let dry completely,

After this apply the teak oil with a paint brush. Immediately wipe up (using a spirits-dampened cloth) any drips or runs on fibreglass or painted surfaces, or the resins the oil contains will leave dark and almost impossible to remove stains.

Oiling requires multiple coats.  Initially, the wood will ‘drink’ the oil, and thinning the first coat about 20% with mineral spirits or turpentine encourages it to penetrate the wood more deeply. By the third coat the oil will start to stand in some areas. Wipe up excess oil with a cloth. Continue to brush on the oil and wipe away any excess until the wood is saturated. The wood should have a matte finish which does not have any shiny spots.

 

PLEASE NOTE: NEVER use steel wool on your boat as it will leave a trail of rust freckles which will be impossible to remove. Also, oxalic acid will dull paint and fibreglass and damage anodized aluminium, so wet down surrounding surfaces before you start and keep them free of the cleaner.

 

Sealer

Another approach is to apply a sealer (product number...). However, sealers do not restore the colour of the wood but simply seal out moisture and dirt and seal in natural oils and resins. Therefore, if the natural oils and resins have already been lost you will first need to restore the oil content by coating with Teak oil as detailed above. After applying the teak oil wait at least two weeks to let the resins properly dry before applying the sealer.

After two weeks, wash the wood and let it dry completely. Sealers need an oil free surface to attach to, so wipe the wood heavily with a rag soaked in acetone to remove all oil from the surface. Do not worry the oil which the wood has absorbed will be unaffected by this quick flashing solvent. Unless the can instructs otherwise apply the sealer in exactly the same way as the oil. Remember to wipe away all excess with a cloth. Apply additional coats until the surface shows a uniform matte finish.

To maintain the sealed wood wash it and apply a fresh coat of sealer every two to three months.