how to clean teak deck

How to Clean Teak Wood on a Boat + 3 Best Deck Cleaners

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Well, today, we are going to teach you how to clean teak wood on a boat. We are going to cover both how to clean teak decks and how to clean boat teak wood in other areas.

No matter how resilient teak wood is, your beautiful teak deck will need cleaning sooner or later. The same applies to any other teak wood on your vessel, whether in furniture, walls, doors or trim.

So, read on this article to find out how to properly perform teak deck maintenance and cleaning!

How to Clean a Teak Deck on Your Boat

To clean your teak wood deck, you will need the following tools and supplies:

cleaning teak decks
Cleaning tools
  • Kneepads and rubber gloves.
  • Sponge or foam brush.
  • Bronze wool pad or soft-bristled brushes to scrub the dirt off the teak.
  • Rags to rinse your teak after each scrubbing.
  • Bucket with clean water for rinsing.
  • Trisodium phosphate or TSP for cleaning. You may use specialized teak cleaning solutions as well – we have a few cleaner recommendations below.
  • Blue painter’s tape to mask the teak where necessary.
  • Optional: 120-grit sandpaper. You will need sandpaper if you need to sand off your deck’s old finish. Aside from that, if you accidentally damage your teak deck, then you will be able to rectify the damage with sanding.

You may also get yourself a sanding block and wrap the sandpaper around it for convenience. Aside from that, the flat profile of the block will evenly distribute the pressure.

  • Additionally, you may get yourself a random orbital sander.
  • Optional: whisk broom and dustpan to collect the remains of your old deck finish if you do end up sanding it. You may also use a shop vac for removing the dust.

And here’s the step-by-step process of teak deck cleaning.

1. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

First up, prepare your TSP cleaning solution. You should be able to find TSP at boating supply stores.

TSP is highly effective at cleaning and degreasing teak decks. It’s rather cheap and relatively safe as well.

To make the cleaning solution, add two or three tablespoons of TSP per gallon of water.

2. Apply the TSP Solution to the Deck

Using a sponge, apply the TSP solution to the deck. After about 5 minutes have passed, rinse and scrub the wood with a bronze wool pad or a soft-bristled brush.

Your brush will start collecting brown gunk – rinse the brush occasionally in the bucket of water. After gathering a significant amount of gunk, rinse the teak with a wet rag too.

Continue scrubbing and rinsing until you see that very little gunk is coming out of the wood. Then, move to the next section of wood.

A few things to keep in mind when applying a cleaner to your deck:

  • You should allow the solution to stay on the deck for not more than 5 minutes. If you leave it on the deck for more, then the TSP may start eating into the pulp of the wood. This will cause the formation of hard lignin ridges that look really ugly.
  • Note that any cleaner containing acid may eat away the pulp of the wood, so be really careful.
  • You may need to apply the solution to the teak wood and rinse it in small batches to prevent it from staying on the wood for more than 5 minutes.
  • For especially tough spots, you may need to use bleach. Bleach may easily damage the surface of the wood though, so you should be very careful with it. You should start with minimal amounts of bleach and use more if you are not achieving the desired result.
  • Instead of using bleach, you may get yourself a teak brightener as well. Teak brighteners contain bleach, so be careful with them too.

3. Remove Lignin Ridges

If the cleaner has caused lignin ridges on the deck, then you will have to sand the teak. This is not a perfect solution, but it’s the best you have.

You may use a random orbital sander with 120-grit sandpaper to sand the deck. Alternatively, you may get yourself sandpaper and a sanding block. Wrap the sandpaper around the sanding block to be able to apply more even pressure on the wood.

After you are done sanding, vacuum or brush away the dust. Wipe the surface with a tack cloth too.

4. Apply a Protective Coating to the Teak Deck

Once the deck is clean, you should apply a protective coating to it. You have two options:

  • Teak oil. Teak oil is excellent at restoring and preserving the natural golden color of teak. However, it doesn’t provide the best protection from moisture and sun.
  • Teak sealer. Teak sealers protect the surface of the wood from sun, salt, and moisture. Sealers don’t make the wood look as good as oils do, but they at least provide better protection.

You may use both teak oil and sealer, but you’ll need to apply the oil first.

We have a more in-depth guide detailing the differences between teak oil and teak sealer, so you should have a look at it too if you are interested.

Some people may also want to apply varnish to their teak decks, but this isn’t a good option. Varnish gets really slippery when wet, and you definitely do not want that.

How to Clean Boat Teak Wood in Other Areas of Your Boat

Teak wood is used not only in decks – it’s very commonly used in furniture, walls, and trim.

Inside, you will have a much easier time cleaning teak since you won’t have to deal with fish blood, salt, or oil. Still, we are going to give you instructions and tips on how to clean teak wood on a boat.

You will need the same tools and supplies for teak wood that you used on your deck.

Steering wheel on a yacht
Boat teak wood in other areas

Teak Wood that Cannot Be Removed

Ideally, you should remove teak wood for deeper cleaning. This isn’t always possible, however – for such cases, the steps below should be able to help you.

Here’s how you should generally clean fixed pieces of teak wood:

  1. If there’s any finish on the teak wood, you will need to remove it before cleaning. Use sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block and/or a random orbital sander.

Start from finer grit to avoid damaging the wood. If necessary, go coarser.

After removing the finish, use a vacuum cleaner to clean the sanded finish.

  • Using blue painter’s tape and drop cloths, mask off teak as necessary.
  • Prepare a cleaning solution for the teak. You may again use TSP, though for indoors, you could use less harsh cleaners (we have teak wood cleaner recommendations below).
  • Dip a small foam brush into your cleaning solution and apply it to a small section of teak wood.
  • After 5 minutes have passed, wet a soft-bristled brush with water and scrub the teak.
  • Like with your deck, you will see brown gunk come off the wood and collect on the brush. Rinse the brush in a bucket of water when necessary.
  • Rinse the teak using a wet rag.
  • Continue scrubbing and rinsing until you aren’t picking up much dirt from the teak wood.
  • Move to the next section of the teak.
  • Once you are done, reapply the teak finish if necessary.

Teak Wood that Can be Removed

In some areas, you may be able to remove teak wood for cleaning. Removable wood is easier to clean because you won’t have to bend down or worry about masking the surrounding furniture or upholstery.

Among teak items that you may be able to remove are doors and trim. You could clean these without removal, but your life would be more difficult.

The basic process of cleaning removable pieces of teak wood is the same as for non-movable wood. So follow the same step-by-step guide for cleaning.

how to clean teak wood on a boat
Yacht teak deck

Best Teak Deck Cleaner Recommendations

If you are struggling to choose a teak deck cleaner, then allow us to introduce you to what we think are 3 excellent products for cleaning teak decks.

STAR BRITE Premium Outdoor Teak Cleaner -...

1. Star Brite Premium Teak Cleaner

The Star Brite Premium Teak Cleaner is formulated to remove old stains and oil without any sanding. Containing no harsh acids, the Star Brite teak cleaner should not harm your deck in any way as well – as long as you use it sparingly, of course.

The Premium Teak Cleaner is also actually part of Star Brite’s 3-step teak care system. You don’t necessarily have to purchase the entire kit, but if you do, you will be able to not only clean your teak deck but also protect it and restore its natural sheen.

The Premium Teak Care Kit contains this teak cleaner along with a teak brightener and teak oil.

Buy it at Amazon

AwiaubSemco 2Part Teak Cleaner Gallon Size

2. Semco 2-Part Teak Cleaner

The Semco Teak Cleaner actually contains two components.

The Part 1 cleaner is intended to dissolve dirt, stains, and old sealers on your teak deck. As for Part 2, it is formulated to neutralize Part 1 and brighten the teak.

More or less, this 2-part teak cleaner corresponds to the first two products in the Star Brite Premium Teak Care Kit.

In terms of harshness, the Semco 2-part teak cleaner appears to be pretty gentle on the wood, so it should not in any way damage your precious teak deck – with careful use, of course.

Buy it at Amazon

TotalBoat Teak Cleaner and Brightener for...

3. TotalBoat Teak Cleaner Kit

The TotalBoat Teak Cleaner Kit is also a 2-part solution. Part A is formulated to remove finishes, oils, stains, mildew, and salt, while Part B neutralizes Part A and brightens the wood.

TotalBoat advertises that this teak cleaner solution does not build up on wood grain, so you should not need to do any sanding.

Aside from teak, this product may be used on other hardwoods like ipe. But to be fair, if you want to clean other hardwoods, you should probably get yourself a specially formulated cleaner.

Buy it at Amazon

How Often to Clean Teak Wood on A Boat?

Typically, teak wood is cleaned once a year. You may clean your wood more frequently if necessary, but to prolong the life of the wood, you should try to do cleanups no more often than annually.

How to Use Teak Cleaner (TotalBoat)

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does a Teak Deck Last?

Teak is extremely resilient and lasts for a long time. With proper care, a teak deck will last you between 10 and 15 years. In some cases, you may even get over 20 years.

With that said, how long your teak deck will last depends on a number of factors. Primarily:
• How consistently you maintain your teak deck.
• The quality of the original installation.
• How heavily you use the deck.

Perhaps the most damaging thing for teak decks is improper cleaning. Harsh cleaners and sanding can significantly damage the deck surface and shorten its life.

Even if you are very careful, your deck will erode over time. Sanding, cleaning, and contact with items can take away up to 1 mm of material from your deck annually. Teak deck thickness varies from 7 to 18 mm, so it doesn’t really take much time to go through the entire material.

Can I Use High-pressure Cleaners to Clean a Teak Deck?

You should not power-wash your teak deck – you will destroy the finish and leave ridges on the surface of the deck. You will have to sand the deck to get rid of the ridges.

Likewise, do not use hard brushes or household cleaning detergents – these are too harsh for teak decks.

How to Clean Teak Wood on a Boat – Conclusions

With our tips, you should now know how to clean teak wood on a boat properly without damage. Teak is tough but fairly delicate, so you should be careful when cleaning your precious deck.

After cleaning, we suggest that you apply a protective coat to your teak wood – in the form of either teak oil or teak sealer. We have a dedicated guide for these teak coatings, so you should probably give it a good read as well. There is plenty of important information there.

Thanks and till the next one, Desperate Sailors team.


Last update on 2024-05-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


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igor desperatesailors

Hi, I’m Igor, Skipper of S/Y "The Hooker". A decade ago, I conquered my childhood dream: to be a sailing skipper, own a sailing yacht. Yes, it knocked dullness out of my urban life — Read more →

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