Outdoor Wood Furniture Care and Maintenance

Folding Dining Table Set

Tips On How To Keep Your Outdoor Wood Furniture Looking Like New

Often, the most attractive Outdoor Patio and Deck Furniture is made from wood. Wood is a natural product, but when exposed to moisture and changes in temperature and humidity, wood reacts in a number of different ways. Proper maintenance of your Wood Patio Furniture will provide a long life over many years in a variety of weather environments.

Teak Furniture is perhaps the most desirable, and arguably the most expensive, outdoor wood furniture on the market. Teak is a beautiful, honey-colored, dense, tropical hardwood that is resistant to insect infestation and contains natural oils which make it resistant to rot and decay. Unfortunately, teak trees grow very slowly and take at least 60 years to reach harvest-able size, and because teak furniture is in such high demand, teak is not as easily acquired as woods like cedar, oak, or pine. With supplies not able to meet demand, the price of teak has increased dramatically. The advantage of teak, though, is that, with proper maintenance, it can last for more than 50 years, which makes the initial investment worth it for many homeowners.

While cleaning teak is not mandated, it is not a bad idea to clean outdoor teak furniture each year to remove any buildup of pollen, sap, or mildew. Do not use any bleach solutions because this may damage the coloration. Clean the furniture with water and/or neutral soap and a soft brush. Follow each cleaning with a coat of teak oil (optional) if you wish to keep the wood its original honey color.

Other tropical hardwoods, like Eucalyptus, have gained in popularity as the price of teak has grown prohibitive for many homeowners. Eucalyptus wood, like teak, is alluring, durable, hardy, and resistant to rot and insect infestation. The fast maturity of eucalyptus trees makes them more readily available and more easily affordable. Like outdoor teak furniture, outdoor eucalyptus furniture can be treated with teak oil following an annual cleaning to help preserve the wood’s natural color (if desired).

Varieties of other outdoor wooden furniture include cedar, redwood, oak, and pine. These woods, though (especially pine), must be treated with a preservative to prevent decay, which can occur rapidly if exposed to harsh weather environments. Protecting this wood furniture with a water-resistant stain, protective oil, or polyurethane is also recommended. Your local home and garden store will have many options from which to choose, and a store associate should be able to assist you in selecting the most appropriate product to be reapplied regularly (check manufacturer’s instructions for details).

Outdoor wood furniture should be cleaned once a year. Mix one tablespoon of bleach, five tablespoons of a gentle dish washing liquid, and a gallon of water, and softly rub the surface of your wood furniture with a soft bristle brush. Wash the solution from the furniture, and allow it to dry completely in the sun. Repainting or restaining wood furniture could be indicated at this time to cover and protect any worn or damaged areas.

All woods are susceptible to rot and decay if left in damp, humid, and shady areas for a long time. Wood that becomes saturated with rain water is more likely to warp and rot, so using protective covers when your furniture is not in use is strongly advised to keep your wooden patio furniture in good shape. The bases of furniture legs are definitely the most susceptible when it comes to water damage. If wood furniture is kept in the grass, at the poolside, or on a surface that collects even a small level of rain water, the legs can become easily saturated and damaged. Covering the bottoms of each furniture leg with rubberized material or small sections of cedar fencing material will help protect your furniture from rotting from the bottom up.

Finally, exposure to chemicals including solvents and chlorine, and exposure to common items such as alcoholic beverages, plants and flower nectar, and hot items (off of a grill, for example) can permanently stain and damage wood surfaces. Additionally, it is vital to prevent plastic objects, like plastic table cloths, toys, placemats, and appliance covers, from lying on wood furniture for a long period of time because plastic can discolor wood. Plastic can also stick to and damage a wood finish.

The lifespan for any wooden patio furniture depends greatly on the type of wood used and the weather it is exposed to. Properly maintaining your outdoor wood furniture can make it last for many years and maximize your investment. Outdoor wood furniture makes a quaint, charming, and nice addition to any backyard, deck, patio, or garden, and with care, it will continue to make a great impression for years to come.

22 thoughts on “Outdoor Wood Furniture Care and Maintenance”

  1. Tony Morgan


    I have redwood outdoor furniture, bought new about 20 years ago, and thought nothing of the risk of rot at the base of the legs, not all of them but mainly the bench legs, until recently. It has always sat on pavers.

    Mitre 10 recommended quite an expensive tin of something to dry the rot and also something appropriate to seal the holes left in the legs, once the rotted pieces are removed. Instead, I have removed the debris myself and left the benches upside down in the sun, and will next seal the holes.

    I have hunted high and low for something suitable to act as shoes for each angled bench leg (73x38mm) and two of the slightly larger angled legs on the table (115x38mm) but cannot find anything at Clark Rubber, Menzel Plastics or Bunnings to do the job properly. I have thought of sticking a matching sized piece of rubber at the foot of each leg but suspect those on the benches would soon come off, moving the benches away from the table.

    Your suggestion(s) on a suitable solution will be much appreciated.

  2. Gia Cespedes

    Asking questions are genuinely nice thing if you are not understanding something totally, however
    this post provides pleasant understanding yet.

  3. Kim

    I see that someone else asked the same question, however hasn’t gotten a response. I read on two different sites that to remove mold to use a solution with bleach. I did that as the last time I tried to use soap and water it did not remove the mold. Now I have lost much of my beautiful eucalyptus color! Oiling it doesn’t bring it back. What can I do? And why would it discolor it? Shouldn’t it be the same color all the way below?

    1. Trey Collier

      Why Would it discolor?

      Objects that contain color have dual linking molecules that have chromophores, usually carbon and oxygen. Oxidizers (like Bleach) break these dual bonds and chemically make them into smaller molecules with single bonds. These smaller molecules with less dual bonds absorb less light so most of the light is bounced back to you as lighter version or white.

      I believe its permanent. You might be able to sand down past where the chemically changed wood is to restore the color.

  4. Sandy

    Just purchased a settee made from eucalyptus wood. It has not been outside yet. I read that I should, yearly, put a water based acrytlic sealant on it. Should this be sufficient or is there something else I should be doing?

    1. Trey Collier

      Eucalyptus care is virtually the same as Teak. When you first buy it it will usually have a linseed oil treatment/finish. This will last just a few weeks. Water and oil don’t mix, so putting a water based anything would probably not be something I’d do. An oil based sealant would be more prudent or you could let it weather to a nice light gray color or the laborious task of teak oiling it monthly.

      Water is woods biggest enemy. Don’t set the wood directly on the ground as water will be sucked up into the wood. You can purchase plastic/rubber/vinyl “Caps” to lift the leg off the ground.

      Protect it with a watertight cover when not in use.

  5. Ryan J

    Most teak furniture sellers that I’ve heard from say treating teak with oil isn’t just optional so much as it is potentially harmful, because it interferes with the real oil in the wood’s interior. Would you agree that it’s better to clean it only and learn to appreciate the silvery gray color it takes on?

    1. Trey Collier

      Teak is one of the most durable and stable hardwoods in the world. You do not have to use oil or other preservatives to prolong its life outdoors. Oiling teak will tie you into an hard maintenance routine (monthly applications), and the wood is more likely to mildew. Oiled teak will also discolor irregularly depending on how evenly you apply the oil. I would not oil teak that is outdoors. You are right that the natural oil will evaporate and the wood will turn a beautiful gray over time.

  6. Karen

    My Eucalyptus table is covered with Aphids. They may be using it to lay their eggs. What is a safe treatment for this situation. This has never happened before.

  7. Jim

    I bought an antique wood topped table from an old dairy. The top is a tight grained southern yellow pine. I will use it in my summer kitchen – a roofed and screened space where the table may get some occasional moisture from storms with high wind and a few hours of afternoon sun. As it will be an eating surface I do not wish to use any toxic/copper-based preservatives. What do you recommend to protect it? Is mineral oil an option?

    1. Trey Collier

      There are many options. Oil based stain/sealer is one I like to use as it protects and makes it look nice. Take a look here. http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/articles/pondering-outdoor-finishes/ Even do a Google search for Outdoor Finishes or Exterior Wood Finishes for more ideas. Antique wood older than 20 years if it was treated for outdoor use was probably already treated with CCA. So a good finish that completely seals it would be needed if you plan to use this as an eating surface

  8. Felicity Stace

    Can you please explain in more detail what is meant by rubber or fencing material to protect the legs of our cedar table? We would like to sit it on grass, but want to make sure it stays in great condition. Thank you.

    1. Trey Collier

      Wood should never sit directly on grass or wet concrete. The moisture will speed up the rotting of the legs. So a rubber/plastic cap could be put under the legs. There is even a clear rubber spray that may be helpful I’ve been watching on TV commercials lately.

      Basically you want to keep the wood from touching/absorbing moisture from the ground.

  9. Paula Phillips

    My eucalyptus patio set was covered in mold after I took the protective cover off this spring. I washed with a solution of bleach water, which of course took much of the color off also. Obviously too strong. Now my table top is NOT the color of the chairs. Can I add a colorant ( what kind?) to the teak oil to try and match the chairs? Help please while the weather is still holding here in Washington State.

    1. Trey Collier

      Oh no! Paula I’m so sorry. Cleaning the furniture with water and neutral soap should have been your remedy and not bleach mixture. I’m going to do some digging to see what can be done.

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