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Teak oil is a synthetic oil that is optimized for the preservation and protection of teak wood. Widely recognized as one of the most durable woods available, teak wood is waterproof, virtually mold-proof, and largely sun-resistant. It is high in natural oils, and generally does not respond well to commercial varnishes and sealant. Still, many teak owners want to give their teak products a bit of extra protection against the elements. They can do so by applying teak oil.
Outdoor furniture and boat shells and casings are two of the most popular uses for teak wood. The wood is also sometimes used as decking or in external window casings, owing to its acclaimed strength and durability. It naturally resists water and sunlight, and can withstand being outside or on the water year-round. In optimal conditions, teak wood cares for itself, secreting oils and regenerating itself from within.
Most teak experts discourage the use of varnish, paint, or sealants on teak wood. These sorts of products can impair the wood’s ability to care for itself, and can cause the wood to crack, dry out, and generally lose the durability for which it is prized. Most teak wood requires no care aside from general cleaning and upkeep, but experts do recommend certain oil treatments for products regularly exposed to harsh conditions.
Furniture made from teak that has seen several years of scorching summers and howling blizzards is usually a good candidate for treatment. So, too, are teak boats that have spent weeks or months in water — particularly if that water was salty. Teak oil is not actually oil from a teak tree; teak oil cannot be extracted from a tree without destroying the teak lumber, which is usually much more valuable than the oil. Commercially available teak wood treatment is a synthetic product designed to mimic and enhance the naturally occurring oil’s protective properties.
Teak oil is usually sold by the same distributors that sell teak products, as well as by specialty lumber and home repair companies. There are usually different teak oils available for different needs. Teak furniture oil, for instance, is usually optimized for UV protection and to help outdoor teak furniture continue to stand up to the elements. Marine teak oil, on the other hand, is usually optimized for water exposure and moisture resistance.
There is no fixed formula for teak oil, and not all brands contain the same ingredients or essential elements. Most teak manufacturers recommend that teak owners use only approved or researched teak oil products. Because teak is typically quite expensive, using a low-quality oil that ends up damaging the teak can be a costly, and usually unnecessary, experience.