The unique allure of teak wood undeniably enhances the ambiance of any living space. However, the question arises: is teak oil the ideal solution to emulate this effect? While teak boasts numerous benefits, it is not without its shortcomings, and being aware of these is crucial if you’re considering this finish for your project.
So, join me today as I delve into the pros and cons of teak oil to help you ascertain whether it is the most suitable finish for your undertaking.
Overview of Teak Oil’s Pros and Cons
Teak wood, a highly sought-after hardwood native to Southeast Asia, is prized among woodworkers for its durability and beauty. Its golden brown color that, in time, turns into an elegant gray also has a high oil content that makes it more resistant to damage and rot.
Teak oil was designed to preserve the condition and appearance of teak wood and other hardwoods.
Made out of a mix of linseed oil, tung oil, and other solvents, the product also enhances the beauty of wood by giving it a warmer, more natural, but also darker appearance — which isn’t ideal if you’re working with light-colored furniture.
Usually applied with a brush or cloth, teak oil takes several hours to dry. You should be careful with water or any liquids around your woodwork, as teak oil doesn’t make furniture waterproof.
Overapplication is also an easy mistake that can result in an overly oily or sticky finish, so follow the manufacturer’s instructions on the can.
Here is a summary of teak oil’s advantages and disadvantages that I’ll cover today:
What I Like
What I Don't Like
9 Key Advantages Of Teak Oil
Here are some of the reasons why I like using teak oil:
1. Provides UV Protection
If you have outdoor furniture or any pieces that come in contact with direct sunlight, then you should benefit from applying teak oil.
The oil provides the wood with UV protection through its natural oils and resins that penetrate the material and form a protective layer. Teak oil makes your woodwork less likely to sustain sun damage and fade.
However, not all teak oil cans are created with the same level of UV protection. You might also see different labels, such as “UV absorbers” and “UV pigments.” To preserve the original color of your furniture, I would suggest incorporating UV absorbers into your finishing process.
The inclusion of UV absorbers helps shield the wood from the damaging effects of sunlight, preventing the wood’s color from being altered by UV pigments.
While teak oil performs better than other finishing oils, it is still best to use specialized UV protection products in combination with teak oil. This way, you can guarantee maximum protection and durability.
2. Prevents Graying & Water Stains
Teak oil also works great in preserving the condition of your woodwork by preventing graying and water stains.
Similar to how the natural oils and resins in teak oil form a protective layer against UV rays, it also creates a barrier that keeps moisture from being absorbed into the wood grain.
Applying a layer of the product can also remove watermarks and other stains, giving the wood a fresh look.
While teak and certain kinds of wood look elegant when aged, you might not want your furniture to turn gray. Teak oil is not a permanent solution but can delay graying by months.
3. Easy To Apply
Teak oil is easy to find and also easy to apply. You don’t need to be an advanced woodworker to improve your creation with this finish. All you need besides the can is either a bristle brush or a clean cloth.
While some brands have particular instructions to achieve the best results, the following are the general steps to take when applying teak oil:
4. Resists Cracking & Peeling
Wooden furniture requires upkeep to maintain its beautiful appearance. When not looked after, it can be susceptible to cracking and peeling due to harsh elements and extreme weather conditions.
Unsatisfactory preparation of teak and other kinds of wood can also result in damage down the line.
Teak oil can be a good remedy as it repels moisture, leading to wood swelling and cracking over time. However, you need to know the need to prepare the wood properly and ensure even application of the oil following the wood grain for the best results.
A one-time application also isn’t foolproof — you’ll need to reapply teak oil as well as clean the wooden pieces.
5. Suits Indoor and Outdoor Furniture Applications
The benefits of teak oil I’ve discussed so far make it an ideal finish for outdoor furniture. Still, it is just as suitable for your indoor furniture.
If you don’t have teak wood but want to achieve its elegant silver-gray color on your pieces, then you can use teak oil. Just remember that the finish tends to give a darker color.
Besides aesthetics, teak oil is also beneficial in protecting indoor pieces. When applied with teak oil, wood hardens and dries in such a way that makes it harder for moisture to penetrate.
6. Not Prone to Splintering
Wood, if not regularly maintained, can soon see splinters. Exposure to sunlight and heat can cause splinters. Thankfully, you can keep these unsightly imperfections from happening.
If you have children or are just clumsy, you might want to address splinters  immediately as well — they pose a danger because they can lead to injuries.
With teak oil, wood becomes more durable. Applying it on wood makes the material softer and soaked, which in turn makes it less likely to splinter. The lubrication is protective, but it isn’t forever. Teak oil application needs to be repeated after some time.
Teak oil is generally considered non-toxic when used as directed. It can be applied to wooden toys or small accessories if desired. Some finishes have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are harmful when inhaled or ingested, but not teak oil.
While teak oil is non-toxic, I still want you to err on the side of caution. Make sure to research the wood you’re working with to ensure that it doesn’t contain any toxins.
Also, remember to take safety precautions such as working in a well-ventilated area, using safety equipment, following the instructions on the can to the letter, and letting teak oil cure completely.
If you have any pets, it is best to keep them away from your workspace.
8. Enhances the Wood Appearance
If your wooden furniture looks dull, then it might be time for a teak oil application. While the results won’t be immediate, your wooden pieces will become good as new with a dark, rich brown color.
The oil works even with old wood that needs some sprucing up. It highlights the wood grain, which makes the details on the wood accentuated.
However, wood applied with teak oil requires upkeep. The glossy surface will wear within a year, so make time to reapply at least once annually.
Woods of all kinds undergo a process called wood movement — this means that the material contracts and expands due to changes in their environment.
It can absorb and release moisture depending on the changes in temperature, humidity, and weather. Unfortunately, wood movement can also cause wood to warp, split, or crack.
Teak oil is a great solution because it is elastic, which means it can contract and expand in tandem with wood. But it remains unaffected because it is polymerized when the curing is completed.
The finish is maintained, and the wood keeps its color as well as the level of protection. This makes it ideal if you live where humidity and temperatures fluctuate a lot.
6 Disadvantages Of Teak Oil
Knowing teak oil’s benefits, it’s not hard to see why it’s preferred by many woodworkers. However, there are drawbacks worth considering before purchasing a can and applying teak oil to your wooden furniture.
1. Not Waterproof
Teak oil provides some level of water resistance, delaying the appearance of water spots, cracks, or splinters, but it is not waterproof.
While the oil creates a protective layer when penetrating the wood, repeated exposure to water will wear down this resistance, leaving the wood susceptible to damage. The resulting internal rot will not always be easy to spot, and when you do, it might be too late.
If you want a waterproof finish, you are better off with options such as polyurethane, tung oil, and Danish oil. These are best used on wooden pieces that are regularly exposed to liquids and moisture, such as items used in the kitchen and the bathroom.
For outdoor items, you can always cover them up for protection from water and other elements.
2. Darkens The Wood
If you prefer wood with lighter colors, then teak oil will not be your best option. The product will bring out the beauty of darker wood like mahogany but will not necessarily give similar results on materials such as birch.
The color from the first coat of teak oil will also turn darker as it dries and cures. You can’t reverse the darkened color of the wood after applying teak oil, which is why veteran woodworkers recommend testing the finish on a small area.
This way, you can determine how dark you want the wood to be and how many coatings it will take to achieve your desired look.
3. Regular Maintenance Required
As mentioned, the effects of teak oil are impermanent — you’ll need to maintain the wood and reapply the product to keep the piece in tip-top shape. Exposure to elements will break down the teak oil and its protective features over time.
To maintain the pristine condition of your finish, apply a new coat of teak oil at a minimum, once annually. It’s imperative to ensure that the surface is thoroughly cleaned of any debris, facilitating a smooth and uniform application.
For surfaces that might have acquired cracks or dents over time, a light sanding before the application of teak oil—either rubbed or spread—can significantly enhance the final outcome.
4. Not Food Safe
If you have wooden cooking utensils and tableware, you should consider other options that are food safe. Teak oil contains varnish, turpentine, and mineral spirits, which are unsafe to ingest.
Even if teak oil is left to dry and cure completely, these chemicals can seep out of the wood and contaminate the food that comes in contact with it.
If you are working with wooden cutting boards, bowls, and other food-related equipment, it’s better to use mineral oil, beeswax, and butcher block conditioner, all of which are food-safe finishes.
Drying and curing time will depend partly on the size of the wood you’re working with, and the number of coats applied, as well as the environmental conditions you’re in. However, teak oil generally requires more time and attention than the alternatives.
In humid places, it can take as many as three days for a coat to dry completely — not everyone will have that much time. It is also recommended to take a minimum of 2-3 coats when working with teak oil.
6. Applicable to Bare Woods Only
Teak oil is a penetrating oil, which means it works from within. It provides protection and color by being absorbed into the wood and the fibers, and it is able to do best in untreated wood.
When the material you’re working with already has a coat of paint or stain, then there is already a barrier that would make teal oil less effective.
If you must insist on using teak oil on treated wood, then you should sand the wood first to remove any finish. You should also clean and dry the surface before application. However, you shouldn’t expect to get maximum protection this way.
See Also: Will Teak Oil Go Bad?
Uses of Teak Oil
Although you already know the teak oil’s advantages and disadvantages, you might be wondering when and where to use it.
Teak oil is a versatile product — it can be used in almost all types of interior and exterior woodwork. This includes cabinets, doors, bed frames, and shelves, but also patio furniture and decks.
But it can also be used for a variety of purposes, such as the following:
How Many Coats of Teak Oil Should You Apply?
The number of coats can vary depending on the condition of the wood and the desired level of protection and finish. Like most woodworkers, I usually apply a minimum of two coats but go no further than four coats.
The more coats you have, the darker the wood will be. However, more coats will also take longer to dry. If you don’t have the time to wait, stopping at four coats is a good rule to follow.
Two coats may be sufficient for new wood, but weathered wood will usually need more to achieve the desired look. You might also have to sand between coats so that your application will be smooth and even.
It’s also worth checking the manufacturer’s instructions, which typically include the recommended number of coats and the drying time.
Teak oil’s effectiveness wears down over time, so you will have to reapply the product six months to a year after treatment. The recommended 2-4 layers will also be applicable then.
Is it Recommended to Apply Teak Oil on Cedar Wood?
Teak oil works best on teak wood, but it can also give the same benefits when applied to cedar. It has a unique grain pattern and color that can be enhanced by teak oil.
Nonetheless, you better conduct a preliminary test on a hidden section of the cedar to observe how the product interacts with the wood.
It’s crucial to note that applying excessive coats can substantially darken the wood, altering its appearance. Proceeding with caution and mindfulness of this potential change is key to achieving your desired finish.
Cedar is naturally resistant to decay and insect damage, but teak oil can provide added protection which includes shielding from UV rays and elasticity.
While drying can be time-consuming, adding teak oil to cedar is easy as taking a brush or cloth and rubbing along the direction of the wood grain. Two to four coats should suffice.
Is it Recommended to Use Teak Oil on Pinewood?
Teak oil works best when absorbed by the wood fibers as it is a penetrating oil, but you shouldn’t apply it on pine. The material is too porous that it will soak up more teak oil than necessary.
It also isn’t cost-effective because pine will need at least seven coats for a beautiful, protective finish. Teak oil can also destroy its natural grain instead of enhancing it.
Consequently, teak oil won’t be as protective on pinewood as it would be on hardwoods like oak and beech. Teak oil would make pine more susceptible to mold and decay, especially in humid locations.
In general, teak oil is not recommended for softer woods like pine. You’d get better results finishing wood with Danish oil, linseed oil, and tung oil.
Is it Recommended to Apply Teak Oil on Acacia Lumber?
Acacia lumber is a dense hardwood often used for outdoor furniture and decking. It pales in comparison to teak wood, but it can benefit from teak oil’s enhancing and protective properties.
Like teak, acacia will be weathered when exposed to sunlight for extended durations. Its color also becomes darker or lighter in time, depending on the environment, like turning from golden brown to mahogany.
Teak oil can preserve the condition of the wood by penetrating its fibers. However, teak oil might not be the best if you live in an area that sees plenty of rain. It offers some water resistance, but it is not waterproof.
Also Read: Acacia Wood vs Teak
Is it Okay to Apply Teak Oil on Top of Stain?
In general, it is not recommended to apply teak oil on top of a stained surface. The oil may not penetrate the wood properly and may not provide the desired level of protection and finish.
Stains are designed to penetrate the wood and enhance its natural color and grain, while teak oil is intended to nourish and protect the wood from moisture and UV damage. But the latter can only be effective if it can also be absorbed by the wood fibers.
If you have already applied a stain to your wood surface and wish to use teak oil, it’s important to ensure that the stain has fully dried and cured before applying the oil.
However, this method might require a long time, taking several days or even weeks. You might get more benefits for shorter with a wood finish or coating specifically designed for stained wood.
Can You Wax Over Teak Oil?
Based on my experience, I won’t advise against the application of wax over teak oil. Teak oil is specifically formulated to penetrate deep into the wood’s surface, providing a robust layer of protection against moisture and UV damage.
Adding wax on top could potentially hinder the teak oil’s effectiveness and disrupt its protective qualities. Meanwhile, wax is designed to sit on top of the wood surface and provide a protective layer against scratches and wear.
If you apply wax over teak oil, you won’t get the maximum benefit of either product. The wax may not adhere properly to the wood surface and may not provide the desired level of protection or finish.
Moreover, the wax may get in the way of the teak oil in such a way that it will be unable to penetrate the wood and provide long-lasting protection.
If you should apply wax over teak oil even after considering its detrimental effect, make sure to at least let the teak oil dry completely first before adding the wax.
While teak oil stands out as a flexible finish, it’s important to recognize that it may not offer the optimal level of protection or enhancement for softwoods. In fact, it has the potential to cause irreversible damage to these types of surfaces.
Gaining a comprehensive understanding of both the strengths and weaknesses of teak oil is vital. This knowledge ensures that you make an informed decision, considering the specific surface you intend to apply this finish to. The goal is to not just highlight the wood’s natural beauty, but also to safeguard it, ensuring its durability and appeal for numerous years ahead.
Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.
Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.