Cleaning and 'refinishing' Teak Indoor Table

brn3aMarch 23, 2009


I just purchased a used Danish-style indoor teak dining table. It is solid teak and probably about 20 years old. It has no obvious finish on it. It has many years of built up grime as well as scratches and some burns.

Here is the table. It actually looks better in the picture than it does in real life. The previous owner saturated in with Old English to make it shiny:

First off, I just want to get it clean. I used Murphy's Oil Soap on it and got a lot of dirt off (the water was pretty gross afterwards), but there is still a lot on there. I can feel it when I drag my fingernail across it. Is there anything else I can use to (stronger) to clean it? How about something like a Scotchbrite pad? Would that scratch it or raise the grain too much?

Once I get it clean, I am debating trying to sand out some of the scratches and burns. Anything special I should be aware of with regards to teak?

Finally, I will want to protect the wood. I read a lot about Tung oil and Teak oil and Danish oil, all of whcih sound like (for the most part) varying degrees of linseed oil, mineral spirits and varnish. Since we will be eating off this table, any suggestions for products that have low odor and fumes (or do they all dissipate quickly?)?



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Most "Danish" furniture is not oiled, but has a flat sheen lacquer on it. Sometimes, people will add "Teak Oil" (and you are right, it's a generally thinner, linseed oil, and varnish mixed (in that proportional order)). Too much just sits on the surface and becomes gummy. Additionally, chronic exposure to acidic body oils (or for that matter alkaline cleaning products) can irreversibly damage / soften lacquer. Age also degrades lacquer to a lesser degree.

All that said, there is a chance that a really deep cleaning will remove the goo that used to be finish. At that point, you may have areas of raw wood. It may be a good candidate for simply doing the inevitable and stripping and refinishing.

The various oil-varnish blends have less protection than many other finishes (and yes, they do cure in about the same time as most other finishes cure). They are prone to water spot and getting tired looking in a few years. On the positive side, they are easily renewed by simply adding more. Put on too thickly, though, and they become a soft, sticky mess. They are designed to be an "in-the-wood" (non film-forming finish).

For more protection, a varnish would be about the most protective thing you can apply. (see the link)

However, teak has natural oils that affect a lot of finishes in a couple of ways:
- Prevent complete curing
- Limit adhesion
Once stripped, a quick wipe with acetone immediately prior to first coat of finish is good insurance. So is a couple of light coats of dewaxed shellac before using anything else.

Be aware that you have a teak veneer table. Don't get very aggressive with abrasives or you'll sand through the veneer.

Properly done, you should have a beautiful table when you're done.

But if you want to check out an intermediate solution first, you have little to loose.

Here is a link that might be useful: table refinishing

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 8:09PM
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Thanks for the great post. Very helpful and informative. With regards to removing the old finish, would you suggested a chemical remover or sanding?

Also, I was just wondering what you noticed about the table that indicated it was a veneer?

Thanks again,


    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:10PM
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