Indoor Teak Furniture Care: Tips for your vintage teak furniture

There is countless information available regarding how to care for your outdoor teak furniture.  And yet, despite the popularity of teak wood for mid-century modern furniture, there is little written regarding indoor teak furniture care.

 

Having taken the time to locate your perfect mid-century furniture, you now wish to keep this 50+ years old furniture in top condition. Letting this treasure shine as a showstopper in homes for generations to come.

 

Let’s dive into the tips that will help you keep the beauty of indoor teak furniture in great condition for years to come.  

Table of Contents

How to clean and maintain indoor teak furniture

Teak furniture is extremely durable, so it will require minimal effort to preserve its beauty indoors. Just follow the easy steps below.

 

1. Remove Dust: make dusting your piece part of your regular cleaning schedule. Use a soft cloth or a duster to white down the surface. You can use a damp cloth but do not leave water behind.

 

2. No harsh cleaners: Stay away from hard cleaners on your wood pieces. Simple soap cleaners work sufficiently and will not harm the surface of your piece. While you can purchase special teak cleaners, I would consider saving your money and using simple dish soap and water to wipe any dirt from your piece.

 

3. Oil the wood: I oil my teak furniture items twice a year. You can apply Danish or Teak oil for indoor furniture pieces (but ensure it is a colourless oil unless you want to change the colour of your piece).

use a damp cloth to remove any dirt and dust
Clean with a damp cloth
Dish soap is a gentle cleaner for furniture
No harsh chemicals, use dish soap.

I add the oil with a soft, lint free cloth directly to the surface and wipe the whole piece down. Once finished, I take another lint free cloth and wipe the whole piece down so that no oil remains on the surface, and it is dry to the touch again.

 

These 3 simple steps I use for indoor teak furniture care.  It cannot be easier.

 

By following these simple cleaning and maintenance practices, you can keep your indoor teak furniture looking beautiful and well-preserved for years to come.

Must-Have Items in your Teak Care Kit

Lint-Free Cloths – These could be cotton or microfiber cloths.

Mild Dish Soap – You want to ensure you use no harsh chemicals on your vintage furniture

Furniture Oil – I recommend a Teak or Danish oil with no harsh additives or colouring.  

Fine Steel Wool – To remove any scratch marks, lightly. 

Vintage Teak Coffee Table with a fresh coat of oil

What to consider when buying Furniture Oil

You want to ensure that your oil is as natural as possible.  It should only contain natural oils in the mixture.  Avoid all products with silicone additives.  For example, Pledge contains Dimethicone which is a silicone product.  

 

While these silicone additives will minimize the look of scratches short term they will affect the veneer and tones of the wood over time.  

 

Furthermore, silicone additives will seep deep into the wood grain and make it next to impossible for furniture restoration work.

Natural oil to nurture vintage furniture

Tips for maintaining teak furniture.

In addition to the 3 easy steps for caring for your indoor teak furniture, take these tips into practice to ensure that your furniture remains beautiful for years to come.

 

1. Use coasters  – Protect your teak furniture from scratches and water spots by using coasters. I am a drill sergeant with the kids to use coasters!.

 

2. Avoid Temperature changes – minimize extreme temperature changes to your furniture. This rule can be for all wood types, not only teak. Ensure the piece isn’t left near a drafty window or heating vent. 

 

3. Repair scratches – Try as hard as you might, you may find that your favourite piece of teak furniture has a scratch. What now?  Consider whether it is necessary to fix.  Some age marks will and should occur over 50+ years of use.

Use a coaster to protect your vintage furniture, oiled teak coffee table
Teak Coffee Table. Good condition but has a few spots of age

If you wish to try and remove scratches in your teak furniture, I recommend taking extra fine steel wool or sandpaper in a very high grit.  400 or higher and sand every so slightly the area. Ensure that you sand with the wood grain. Then oil the location as normal. 

 

If you over sand, the wood may change colour, as you sand away years of sun damage or oil built up.

 

If your teak is veneer, you will need to sand extra carefully to avoid burn through.  Check out all these helpful tips on sanding veneer. 

Veneer repaired on a piece which was primed for odour blocking
Teak Doors

Why teak is a popular choice for indoor furniture.

Teak wood is renowned for its durability, hardness, natural oil, and warm tones which range from golden yellow to deep reds, brown or even orange.  This wood type was extremely popular from the 1950’s through into the 1970’s.  Its warm tones matched perfectly with the colour patterns of the time.

 

Today this classic furniture is back in style.  The clean lines and warm tones work perfectly with modern décor, while adding a touch of class and retro glam. 

 

Teak is a naturally oily wood which gives it the added value of being less favourable for insects.  While not immune, it is a wood type that can claim to have less insect activities then other types of wood. It is also this natural oil which creates this wood’s natural water resistance.  There is a reason why there is so many examples of mid-century modern furniture made from teak, which remain in pristine condition still to this day.

Understanding the characteristics of Teak

teak wood grain is a characteristic on how to identify teak wood.
Brown Toned Teak
teak in orange tones. Indoor teak furniture care is easy to accomplish with this wood type
Orange Toned Teak

Teak wood is native from south Asia and is now often ethically farmed in plantations around the world.  It is important that modern day pieces of teak furniture are made from wood that is farmed in plantations.  This way the native teak forests in south Asia can be protected. 

The 5 Characteristics of Teak Wood

1. Colour: Teak is famed for its golden-brown colouring. However, the younger woods will be more golden-yellow then brown.  This is due to Teak darkening in colour as it ages.

 

2. Grain: Teak wood grain is rather straight with only slight waves.

 

3. Weight: As teak is a hardwood, it is dense and heavy.

 

4. Texture: As mentioned, teak has a natural oil, that continues to remain in the wood.

 

5. Scent: Due to the oiliness of the teak wood, there is also a very distinctive scent. Many consider it to be a smell like leather.

For more information on teak wood and how to identify it from other types of wood, check out the wood identification series which looks at teak.

How to identify teak wood

Is your Teak Veneer or Solid Wood?

Firstly, let’s dive into the first important question regarding your prized teak furniture.  Is it veneer or solid teak wood?  Often furniture made of teak, was made from veneer rather than solid wood.  It is not impossible to find solid pieces of teak wood.

 

Upcycled cocktail cabinet in art deco style. Large drink cabinet in teak and mahogany woods
Drawers and top are solid teak

5 steps to determine solid wood from veneer

1. Is the grain ornate and repeats? It’s likely veneer.

 

2. Does the grain not continue over the edge in the same pattern? It’s likely veneer.

 

3. Can you see a small thin strip of wood along the back edge? It’s likely veneer.

 

4. Wood Grain can be felt – it’s solid wood.

 

5. Is the item heavy? It’s likely solid wood.

For more in-depth support on determining if your piece is solid wood or veneer, check out this full article.

How to tell veneer from solid wood

Why it is important to know if your Teak is solid wood.

Solid teak furniture is usually always sealed or oiled.  It is never protected with a water-based topcoat due to the natural oils in the wood.  However, veneer teak is thin enough, that given the year’s and by taking the right steps, it could be top coated with a water-based product.  If this is the case, then your piece would only need the first 2 of the below 3 steps for teak furniture care.

Midcentury modern after refinishing and restoration work, with water based top coat as type of wood finish
Teak Veneer with Water Based Top Coat

Ensure your teak furniture lives on

Vintage furniture may require additional care and maintenance from big box furniture.  However, with the right steps and preventative measures, your indoor teak furniture care can be simplified and easy to do.  A few simple steps and your 50+ year old vintage teak furniture will continue to draw eyes and for years to come. 

Let me see your shining pieces of teak, leave a comment and save this article for future reference.

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12 Responses

  1. A friend put a hot casserole on my table and it left major light discoloration on the wood. How can I fix it. I tried soap and water and I tried piling it with a. Light teak oil. It ruins the table. What should I do?

    1. Hi Mary, Its always hard to diagnose the real issue via writing. Firstly, was the table Teak and is it solid or veneer? Is it the wood that is damaged or was there a finish on the table that is now damaged? Usually what happens, when heat is placed on wood, it causes the wood fibres to expand and trap moisture in. When the heat is removed, the wood contracts again and traps the moisture in. This usually appears as white marks on the wood or in the finish. If the mark isn’t white, let me know, but if it is, try the below methods.
      If this is the cause, I would consider using the heat method to remove the damage. It might sound strange that heat caused the issue and could actually repair the issue. You will need a hair dryer or clothing iron and a towel.
      Firstly, make sure your table is free of any dust or dirt. Give it a clean with a mild soap and water. Ensure it is dry before trying the next steps.
      You will want to first take your hair dryer and on a low, but warm setting, hold it over the stain and move it side to side. You are essentially trying to heat the trapped moisture out. If it’s not working, set the hair dryer on warmer and try again. Each time for a few minutes to see if there is any change.
      If the hair dryer does not work, you can try the towel and iron. Place a clean (not thick) towel over the stain and using the iron on a low setting. Then move the iron over the towel where the mark is. This process takes some patience. You will need to check occasionally under the towel to see if the stain is starting to lift. If necessary, you can turn the iron up. But never use the Steam Function or place the iron directly on the wood.

      I hope that these methods will work for you.

      Sarah

  2. Hi – I’m considering buying a MCM rolltop dresser/desk (it has drawers so you can’t sit down at it), but I want to put in a small room with other MCM furniture that is a lighter/brown grey color (refinished walnut).
    Is there a way for me to tone down the orange hue of the teak piece so it blends a bit better with the other pieces? It’s exactly what I need and if the room weren’t small I wouldn’t be as concerned about the color.
    Thx for any help!!!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Indeed Teak is often more orange in tone then walnut and the two next to each other will showcase their differences. How comfortable are you working with furniture? Do you know what type of finish is on the teak piece? If it is oil or wax you could try using toned oils or waxes to adapt the colour slightly. This will never get 100% to a walnut tone. If there is a finish on the piece, you may have to consider getting it refinished. It could potentially be stained then. However, teak is prized for it’s orange tones. Perhaps add a few small teak elements in the room to tie it in to the overall decor. Such as a picture frame, mirror, candle stick holders all in teak, on your walnut pieces. It could help to minimize the contract of having only 1 teak piece in the room.

  3. I bought Herman Miller teak headboards but the clear finish has smudges in it. I have tried Oz cleaner but the smudges still show. How can I clean the clear coat off and get down to the original wood?

    1. Hi Mary,

      That must be a gorgeous headboard! Shame that there are imperfections ruining the look for you. It is difficult to say for sure how to remove the clear coat without knowning exactly what the clear coat is. Did the seller provide you with information on the finish? Is it oil or an actual varnish or other top coat on the wood? A top coat would need to be removed with the appropriate stripper. An oil, you could start with a de-greasing soap to wash away as much oil build up as possible. If you want to send photos of the smudges to info@boldwallflowers.com, I could have a better look at the issue.
      When in doubt with any refinishing work, consider reaching out to a local, professional refinisher, whom could provide you with an in person visit and breakdown of the cost to refinish to your preferred standard.

  4. How do you prevent termites from attacking vintage teak indoor furniture? My mum keeps spraying insecticide on the furniture daily which I’m not convinced is good for either the furniture or our family’s health.

    1. Unfortunately I have no experience with termites. I reside in a country where their activity is minimal. I recommend speaking with a termite specialist and to understand what signs to look for. Perhaps it is better to watch for signs of termite activity rather then proactively spraying, if not necessary.

  5. I enjoyed your article, I inherited a teak desk and it has what appears ink stains from a printer. I believe the ink is many years old. Any advice for removal. I’m not sure if it is veneer or solid wood. Thank you.

    1. Hi Sally! I really appreciate that you enjoyed the article and took the time to let me know.
      Ink is a tricky stain as it is not organic, so oxalic acid may or may not work. With any serious stain removal attempt, you need to first remove the finish in the area. If this is something you are not comfortable with, you will want to reach out for a local refinisher to provide support. I would recommend trying oxalic acid as a first step and if that doesn’t work, I have seen others using baking soda to remove ink stains. I personally haven’t tried it, so you may want to research it further. And finally, if the spot is large and the top is actually veneer, you may want to replace the veneer itself and refinish to match the rest of the desk.

      Sometimes the charm of vintage furniture is however the marks which it has developed over the years. It will depend on how distracting and large the spots are, whether you should move forward with an extensive refinishing process.

      Sarah

      1. Thank you for taking time to reply. I appreciate your advice. I inspected the desk and it is solid wood and not veneer. Do you have any additional advice if oxalic acid or baking soda doesn’t help? Regarding the finish (novice question lol), is that a varnish or polyurethane coating? The desk doesn’t appear to have a finish, even the legs and support pieces. Does that sound right that it wouldn’t have been coated with something. Thank you

        1. If the desk looks to have a clear finish, such as a varnish, you can almost feel it as a coating. If the desk is truly from the 60’s Teak, it was probably an oil finish such as Danish oil. I would test it by taking a de-greasing dish soap and washing the area you hope to refinish. The de-greasing soap should dull the oil and start to remove it. It shouldn’t really affect a varnish, unless it has stronger chemicals in the soap. That could dull the finish or make it cloudy. So test in a corner first, if you want to still be able to back out.

          If you are sure it is an oil, I would get a fine steel wool and white spirits or mineral spirits and wash the top down this way. It should remove any remaining oil.

          Due to the stain being ink, if oxalic acid and the baking soda method doesn’t work. You could try sanding. But only if you are 100% sure that the teak is solid wood.

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Hey, I'm Sarah, the owner of Bold Wallflowers.

I'm on a self-taught journey through furniture refinishing and restoration, loving every experiment in my workshop.

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