Will Teak Oil Darken Wood?

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Teak oil is not an oil extracted from the teak tree or the wood. Although teak wood contains a high degree of natural oil, it remains within the wood for most of its life. Teak oil is a mixture of different oils and solvents. We commonly apply it to teak wood, which is why people tend to call it teak oil.

We can use teak oil on both exterior and interior wood surfaces. Teak oil enhances the looks of the wood grain and provides some degree of protection from moisture and is said to block ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun, thereby increasing the longevity of the wood.

When we apply teak oil to wood, we should remove the excess oil before it dries. You can add subsequent coats after 24 hours. Although teak oil is said to provide protection to wood surfaces especially exterior wood, adding a fresh coat once or twice a year is a good practice.

Once you apply the final layer, you can lightly sand or buff it to bring out a smooth, silky finish. We use teak oil commonly on boat decks.

Teak Oil Explained

One of the most confusing varieties of oil with woods is teak oil. Different brands mix varying amounts of mineral oil, tung oil, linseed oil and blended oil. They may add these to wiping varnish, wax and turpentine. There is no conclusive proof, however, that teak oil offers adequate UV protection to the surface of the wood. Although there are products on the market that are design to provide UV protection:

Howard SWAX16 SunShield Outdoor Furniture Wax with UV Protection, 16-Ounce, Yellow
SunShield Outdoor Furniture Wax with UV Protection (Amazon)

Effects of Teak Oil on Wood

Here we look at the different effects teak oil has on wood. There are a few myths that we bust in this post. Other than that, we simply aim to discuss this popular wood finish in an attempt to help you understand teak oil better.

UV Protection

Craftsman at work on a wooden chair.

One of the main claims to fame by many manufacturers is that teak oil offers UV protection to the wood. But this has been disputed by many as we discussed above.

Teak Oil Darkens Wood

Try this experiment. Take a piece of unvarnished wood (should not be painted). Now, take any oil of your choice, edible or non-edible. Dip a waste cloth or rag in the oil and gently, but firmly apply it to the wood. You will notice that the wood darkens.

The laws of physics are such that any oil if applied to unfinished, unpainted wood will make the wood a darker shade. So, it is not only teak oil, but any oil will darken wood.

Teak Oil Makes Wood Dry Faster

Whether you have teak or any other oily wood, it will not dry faster by applying teak oil. No, applying teak oil to wood doesn’t make it dry faster.

Teak oil Feeds the Wood

Teak wood furniture stand on the terrace

Some manufacturers claim that teak oil nourishes wood and replenishes its natural oils. The natural oil present in natural wood, especially teak cannot be replicated. Teak wood contains sufficient natural oil that will remain within the wood for its lifetime.

Identification of Oils and Varnish

Here are some useful ways of identifying oils and varnish:

Drying Oil

If you can thin an unknown finish with mineral spirits, turpentine, make a puddle of it on a non-porous surface like a sheet of glass. If the puddle dries with wrinkles, it is a drying oil like linseed oil or varnish


If the puddle dries hard and smooth, then it is varnish.

Mineral Oil

If the puddle fails to dry, then it is some variety of mineral oil.

How to Apply Teak Oil to Furniture

Teak furniture has an ageless beauty that is difficult to match. Teak contains natural oils which protect the furniture from deterioration even when it is left outdoors. However, we can enhance the life of the furniture by applying a good brand of teak oil. Here are the steps you can follow to use teak oil on your furniture:

Warning: Bleach and ammonia produce a toxic gas called chloramine. A similar reaction can occur with bleach and vinegar.  Chloramine gas can make you sick and even be fatal. Be very careful when mixing bleach with any other products!

Cleaning Process

Before you apply teak oil to your furniture, you need to clean it thoroughly:

Step 1

Get the materials together that you will use for cleaning like a bucket, bleach, water, soft brush and detergent.

Step 2

Clear the area of obstacles and clear the area for placing your furniture in a well-ventilated location.

Step 3

Using a garden hose, spray the wooden furniture lightly. Do not use a heavy jet.

Step 4

Mix bleach (1 cup), detergent (1/4 cup) and water (1 cup) in a bucket of water. Pour the solution on the furniture and let it soak for 15 minutes.

Step 5

Now wash the solution and leave the furniture in the sun to dry.

Applying the Oil

Once the furniture is completely dry, you can start applying the oil:

Step 1

Gather your materials – a bristle brush, sandpaper, teak oil, lint-free cloth.

Step 2

Lightly sand down the surfaces of the wood.

Step 3

Apply the teak oil with a bristle brush or lint-free cloth

Step 4

Leave the furniture to dry for about 2 hours.

Step 5

Apply another coat. Repeat applying coats until you get a satisfactory look at the surface of the furniture. You will reach this stage when the wood stops absorbing the oil. You will have to apply up to four coats of teak oil.

Note: You may have to repeat this process every two to three months.

After applying the final coat of teak oil, you can add a wood sealer for added protection.


Dining table in the hallway at a modern house

Teak oil is one of the biggest misnomers in the woodworking industry. It means nothing. Manufacturers make tall claims about what their teak oil does. These oils may contain regular oils, varnishes, and waxes dissolved in petroleum distillate solvents or turpentine.

You don’t have to buy a product with the specific name of teak oil. Eventually, if you make a mixture of these known substances, you will probably get better results than from the products that manufacturers sell.

The importance is knowing what to mix and to adopt the right procedures for applying oils to wood. It is also important to note that although these oils offer some degree of protection, they are not much good without a wood sealer to seal off the surface of the wood from moisture, especially if your wood is going to be placed outdoors.

Follow these best practices, understand and question what manufacturers are offering you, and you will be well on the way to getting the best out of the oils that you apply to your wooden surfaces.

Happy Woodworking!