Is unfinished reclaimed wood furniture difficult to care for?
No, it’s not… if you follow these few simple tips.
At Bali & Beyond, much of our furniture comes from recycled or reclaimed wood, mainly old growth teak. Wood that once supported the sturdy structure of a house or seafaring boat falls into disrepair. We pull out the beauty hidden in the weathered timber and breathe new life into it, allowing the aged wood to speak. Much of the wood is left unfinished, adding to the story behind each piece of furniture.
Why is teakwood furniture such a special investment? Teak is a genus of tropical hardwood trees that is found only in southern Asia. It can grow as high as 40 meters tall. In its healthiest state, it is weather resistant, with natural oil and silica making it extremely durable, allowing the wood to be worked with even in highly exposed locations. The best quality teak comes from old growth trees grown slowly in natural forests making the wood harder and more durable.
Taking care with preventative measures will keep the grain strong, durable and clean for years. Following the following tips will help your piece strong and beautiful for years to come.
Cleaning Untreated Teak
1. Treat the wood with general care and attention. As hard and durable as teak is, it is also sensitive to stains and damage which can permanently mar its surface. Keep flames, chemicals and even black-soled shoes away from the wood’s surface to prevent irreparable damage.
2. Spray the surface with water or wet it with a cotton towel to clean the teak’s surface of loose dirt and grime, using only specialized teak cleaners. There are a number of high quality teak cleaners on the market. Use a cleaner like Amazon teak cleaner to do a thorough cleaning. Dilute the cleaner as directed by the label and then use a non-metallic brush to scrub the cleaner into the wood. Rinse the surface thoroughly afterwards.
3. Let the teak dry for 24 hours. If the teak is the color you want it after cleaning then move on to the next step. If the color is too dark then give the wood another cleaning
4. Finish the process with a teak oil. Teak oils are specially designed products to keep the teak strong and beautiful. Use an oil such as Teak Guard or Amazon’s Teak Oil to treat the teak with oil. Apply the oil to a clean and dry teak surface by wiping the wood with a rag soaked in the oil. Apply as many coats as the label of the product directs or until the teak has acquired the color you want.
Caring for Finished Teak Furniture
1. Regular dusting with a soft cloth is recommended. An old cotton T-shirt or lint-free dishtowel works well. Wet the cloth lightly, wring out so it’s just damp, and wipe down the furniture. Turn the cloth often so you’re picking up the dust, not just moving it around on the surface. Spray “furniture polish” is not recommended. These products often build up a residue and actually attract dust.
Rustic tabletops with several pieces of wood placed side-by-side can gather crumbs into the cracks. Brushing the surface off first with a soft brush will make it easier to clean the overall table with the cloth.
2. Give your furniture lots to drink during winter season. Set a cup of water in the room or better yet find a good humidifier to enhance the humidity. It’s not only good for your furniture, but your own health as well. And try not to place wood furniture near heating vents or a fireplace. It tends to dry the wood even more than the dry cold winters of Calgary.
The best care for wood furniture is a stable environment. Abrupt changes in humidity are what cause problems with wood joints, cracking, and splitting. In Calgary, any steps you can do to minimize these effects, the better. As hard and durable as teak is, it is still sensitive to stains and damage. Keep flames, chemicals and even black-soled shoes away from the wood’s surface to prevent irreparable damage.
3. Avoid placing indoor furniture in direct sunlight. Teak is an exceptionally strong hardwood that can live outside with no problem. However, the sunlight does change the colour of the wood from its original soft, honey brown tone to a silver grey. If that is not the look you are after, use curtains to regulate the sunlight falling on your furniture inside.
4. What is too hot? You can use a trivet or hot pad under hot dishes from the oven or the teakettle if you like, but in fact, the wood is remarkably heat resistant.
5. Prevent water stains. Immediately sweep the whole surface of the furniture equally (not just the area that’s been spilled) with a wet cloth. Finish off with a dry cloth to absorb more of the water. Use a coaster underneath glasses or coffee cups on tables if you don’t want a water ring to form.
Specific Stain Repair
Follow these steps for removing various stains from the wood.
1. Grease or Oil Spills
If grease or oil spills on the wood, it’s best to take care of it right away. Immediately pour salt directly on the oil. Wait until the salt absorbs the oil. Wipe the salt away and repeat if necessary.
Then wet down the whole area with a cloth first so a water ring doesn’t form. Finally scrub the remaining oil stain with a mixture of 1 litre warm water and 50 ml (1/4 cup) white distilled vinegar. Wipe again with clear water.
The longer the oil remains on the wood, the deeper it gets soaked into the pores.
If you find the oil remaining, you may need to sand the stain down with fine grain sand paper. Rub in the direction of the wood grain. Rustic finished wood seems to absorb the oil even more than smooth finish.
2. Rings and Water Marks
To remove water stains from the wood, rub non-gel toothpaste into the stain with a soft cloth. Wipe it dry. This works surprisingly well on both rustic and smooth finish wood.
3. Red Wine
First of all, make the whole area damp so no water marks form. Cover the red wine stain with a layer of baking soda. Add a spoonful of white distilled vinegar to the baking soda. It will bubble and foam. Stir it into a thick paste and leave it on the stain for 15 minutes or so.
Take a stiff brush and rub that into the wood in the direction of the grain. Don’t be afraid to really scrub the stain. It seems like it’s not coming out, but when it’s dry the stain should be reduced quite a lot. If not, repeat the process.
This may dull the colour of the wood in the treated area. You might want to wax over the surface of the wood afterwards. Or, just let it blend back into the overall colour as time goes on.
Proper care of your recycled wood furniture, whether unfinished or not, will assure you years and years of enjoyment.