Because of its durability, teak furniture is nowadays a common sight at vintage shops and homes. When maintaining old furniture, good instructions and, if necessary, professional advice are invaluable. Furniture expert Sanna Laurila explains how to refurbish an old teak table and answers most frequently asked questions about proper teak maintenance.
ONE SUNNY AFTERNOON, we visited the workshop of furniture restorer Sanna Laurila in Porvoo, Finland. We got to watch while Sanna refurbished an old teak coffee table and ask her questions about maintaining teak furniture and having it maintained.
Next, Sanna tells how to refurbish a teak table at home, and if you want to know how she answers questions about maintaining teak furniture, read on until the end of the article!
The coffee table about to be refurbished was a second-hand find, made of chipboard with a teak veneer. The surface was originally treated with oil but had dried over time. The surface was no longer glossy, and it had also lost the beautiful, deep tone typical of teak. In addition to featuring scratches and signs of natural wear and tear, the surface was also in need of some repair.
How to maintain a teak table at home
- Protective gloves
- Steel wool, grade 0000
- Cleaning agent, e.g., Liberon Wax and Polish Remover
- Clean cotton cloths
- Liberon Wax Filler Stick
- Teak oil
- Liberon Touch-Up Pen
Remove the table legs and place the tabletop on the work surface. Put on protective gloves to protect your hands. Pour a generous amount of cleaning agent over the steel wool. If the steel wool is too dry, it will be too abrasive on the surface. Use the damp steel wool to clean the tabletop one area at a time and wipe each area clean with a cotton cloth right away before it has time to dry. Small amounts of stubborn dirt can be scraped off with a scalpel. If you do this, also remember to clean the areas with steel wool and dry them with a cotton cloth as described above.
Repeat the process for the table legs and let both the tabletop and legs dry properly before proceeding to the next step. Right after cleaning, the table will look much better, but as soon as it dries, the surface will turn white and uneven, so it must definitely be treated with conditioning oil.
Small dents can be filled with wax. Select a wax filler stick with the right color, or mix two colors, if necessary. Rub the wax filler stick over the damaged spot and allow the wax to set for a moment. Then, buff off any excess wax with a cotton cloth. Please note that wax can only be used for repairing small scratches, cracks or splits on veneer. If the spot to be repaired is too convex, the wax will not stay on it. Larger cracks and splits also usually require using a veneer patch.
In addition to caring for the surface and making it resistant to wear and tear, teak oil evens out the color of wood and reduces the appearance of small marks on its surface. Pour the teak oil directly from the bottle onto the surface of the table and apply it evenly with a clean cotton cloth in a circular motion. Treat the table legs in the same way. To keep excess oil from sitting on the surface, apply several thinner layers instead of one thicker one, if necessary. Let the surface dry.
Note: After applying the oil, do not leave any oily cotton cloths lying around, as they may catch fire. Wet the cloths thoroughly with water and put them in the mixed-waste bin or the outdoor trash container in a closed plastic bag. The cloths can also be burnt in the fireplace.
Once the table has dried properly after oiling, you can repair any minor discoloration and scratches with a touch-up pen matching the color of the wood.
The teak coffee table found in a second-hand store got a new life after it was refurbished. Maintaining a piece of furniture not only extends its life cycle and improves its appearance, but also significantly increases its resale value. In future, the table can be maintained or just oiled whenever necessary.
Sanna Laurila answers questions about teak maintenance
The table we maintained had originally been treated with oil, but could these instructions also be applied to lacquered teak furniture?
“Yeah, you can maintain lacquered furniture in the same way as long as the lacquered surface is not too worn. The teak oil we used evens out small scratches but cannot save a lacquered surface that is already peeling. There are also maintenance products for lacquered surfaces.”
Some old teak tables and countertops have round marks left by cups and glasses. What can be done about such marks and how can they be prevented?
“Round marks left on old, lacquered surfaces are usually caused by heat, humidity or alcohol. There are separate cleaning agents for such marks, and you can try carefully applying some at home. If the damage goes beyond the surface, the surface must usually be relacquered. These kinds of marks can be prevented by keeping in mind the properties of the surface treatment. For example, a table with a shellac finish, which is not moisture resistant, may not be the best choice for a dining table. It is also advisable to lift any plants on sideboards and chests of drawers off the furniture for watering, and it’s also good to use coasters under cups and glasses.”
I have an old teak dining table treated with oil. The table appears to be in good condition, and I have never maintained it in any way, except for wiping it daily with a cloth. How should I maintain it to keep it in good condition?
“An oiled teak surface needs to be maintained whenever necessary. There is no exact time when to do this, as place, ambient temperature and use have an impact on how quickly the oiled surface becomes too dry. The instructions given above can be used for maintaining such an item. If the furniture is dirty, it needs to be cleaned before oiling. However, surfaces subject to normal everyday wear and tear do not usually require this.”
Are there any other things that should be taken into account with teak furniture?
“With old furniture, it’s always advisable to carefully think about the best spot for it at home and not to place it too close to the fireplace or radiator, for example. Significant and rapid fluctuations in temperature may weaken adhesive joints and loosen veneers.”
In what situations should the maintenance of teak furniture be left to a professional?
“Whenever you’re not quite sure about what you’re doing, it’s better to leave the maintenance or refurbishment of the item to a professional. It’s usually more laborious and expensive to repair the item after a failed repair attempt. The maintenance and repair of valuable furniture should always be left to professionals.”
Clothing and textile care expert, photographer and writer Jenna Kiuru takes delight in items that are an inspired blend of great design, quality materials and functionality. For her own home and wardrobe, Jenna favors items that have been well cared for by another owner in a previous life, and kept in good condition by brushing, steaming, polishing or mending.
Text: Jenna Kiuru Images: Jenna Kiuru and Tuomas Pajuniemi