There is a lot to love about teak.
Golden brown, long grain, fresh-cut teak bestows an unquestionable aesthetic elegance to any boat deck. But boat owners don’t just love teak for its looks.
TOUGHNESS AND DURABILITY
Teak is a naturally water-resistant wood from southeast Asia which has been hailed in its ability to beat many wood alternatives (like mahogany and pine) in terms of toughness and durability.
An abundance of silica in teak makes it so tough that it is known to quickly blunt the tools of expert craftsmen. Bad news for craftsmen, good news for boat owners.
Teak can withstand any weather it cruises through, and the same high silica content that dulls a tool’s edge bestows a non-skid surface that provides necessary traction on wet decks.
Teak’s high oil content also forestalls shrinking, expanding, and cracking, helping well-maintained teak decks last up to 40 years before replacement beckons.
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR TEAK
Here’s how to best maintain teak decking on your yacht, without too much extra effort:
Embrace Teak’s Color Changes
As teak is exposed to weather, it naturally takes on a silver-gray patina. But some boat owners prefer to luxuriate in the sun-kissed gold brown of fresh-cut teak.
Maintaining this hue long-term means using harsh brightening agents and committing to a regimen of extensive scrubbing, two things guaranteed to shorten the lifespan of your teak deck to fifteen years or less.
You can lengthen your deck’s lifespan by falling in love with the silver patina it prefers and updating accents on your boat to match.
Though teak’s grain is hard, the soft fibers between grains are easily damaged by hard scrubbing or too-strong cleaners.
To clean your teak deck, simply rinse regularly with fresh or saltwater. Use a mop or soft-bristle brush to wipe away tough dirt, but avoid high-pressure nozzles or washers that damage the wood’s top layer.
How often should I deep-clean my teak deck? Many boat owners will want to undertake a deeper clean one to four times a year (depending on location and wear).
- Most experts advise you to steer clear of two-step cleaning solutions and choose single-part wood cleansers and soaps to limit corrosion and maximize your teak deck’s longevity.
- If a single-part cleaner is not available, use a non abrasive, powdered dishwasher detergent (like Bon Ami or Calgon). Dilute 1/4 to 1/3rd cup of the detergent in 2.5 gallons of water before applying.
- With a mop or soft scrub brush, apply the single-part cleaner or powdered detergent solution to your deck. If using a scrub brush, use care to only scrub across the teak’s grain.
- For localized stains, put a drop or two of liquid dish detergent (like Joy) on a terry cloth and rub it into the stain gently. Give the area a thorough rinse before checking your fully clean teak.
When mildew inevitably appears on the grain of your teak, softly scrub the spot with a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water.
Resisting the urge to use bleach will benefit your deck in the long run. However, if the urge proves too strong, mix 1 cup of bleach in 1/2 bucket of water and apply it to the areas in need. Thoroughly rinse the solution away before the decks dry.
Boat owners striving to maintain the warm gold of fresh-cut teak will often reach for teak oils (usually tung or linseed) to bring out their wood’s young shine.
Teak oil “feeds” the wood, brightening its grain patterns and intensifying its rich colors. Unfortunately, oiling teak is more about aesthetics than maintenance.
Teak oils do not protect the wood, and only bring back that young color for a month or two at a time. Some experts even claim that these oils catch and hold dirt, leading to blotchy, stained wood over time.
Teak sealers are a popular method of care among boat owners looking to achieve their teak’s natural look while extending their deck’s durability.
Rather than “feeding” the wood, sealers block against moisture and dirt while sealing in its natural oils and resins.
A good teak sealer only requires reapplication once a year, making it a more practical option for most boat owners with teak decking.
UNDERTAKING (AND AVOIDING) A MAJOR REFRESH OF YOUR TEAK
When teak decking is properly cared for throughout the year, boat owners can avoid a major refresh or teak restoration project.
However, all boat owners should keep a careful eye on their deck’s caulking and be quick to repair loose strips or gaps that allow water to quickly and destructively penetrate the teak.
Do not trust what you see at first glance. To fully check your boat deck for needed repairs, wet the deck fully and make note of any area that stays wet longer than the surrounding teak. These lingering wet patches give clues to where caulk may need to be removed and reapplied.
In addition to proper cleaning, properly caring for your teak decks means sanding the deck every 12-18 months. (Regular cleaning will minimize the need for regular sanding, and sanding is not recommended for any boats less than a year old.)
Luckily, you can avoid a major restoration project and enjoy the timeless style of your teak decking for decades by putting a little time into cleaning and care now.