An image of a deck with outdoor lounging furniture and 10-person dining table made by Dennis Boatworks.

The Best Cleaning Methods for a Teak Deck

Here’s the truth about teak decks: the wood they’re made from were once living organisms. Unlike synthetic materials, their surface is porous. Therefore, the wrong chemicals, or too much of them, cause significant damage. To the point the teak starts to show signs of scarring.

This is the point most boat owners need to replace the entire deck. Those teak deck maintenance costs can take a large chunk out of an operational budget. Thus, learning basic teak deck cleaning and care reduces the risk of this happening.

wood working in our Oakland Park shop
wood working in our Oakland Park shop

Common Stains

Most stains on a teak deck come from the daily operations of personnel or guests moving back and forth. For instance, grease and oil might come from machine lubricants or various foods. Sea air and saltwater spray also cause stains when they evaporate and leave groups of salt particles. Of course, general dust and dirt also result in areas that need to be cleaned.

Though deep-ingrained stains may need advanced teak deck cleaning and care, most of these can be removed with a simple process, the right combination of chemicals, and a good scrubbing. To help, here are the steps on how to clean your teak deck.

An image of a craftsman repairing damage on the outside of a yacht.
An image of a craftsman repairing damage on the outside of a yacht.

Accept its current look

If you have a raw teak deck that has a natural light wood gray hue to it, accept it. Don’t add brightener chemicals to it so it looks darker. This is only going to cause it to go bad faster and require it to be replaced. This is especially important to consider when adding to the yacht teak maintenance tips. Replacement of those decks can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Cotton Mops

Buy the best one possible. In fact, buy several if you find a good deal. This is the best tool to wash down teak decks on a regular basis.

A photo of a large jacuzzi being lowered onto the yacht to be installed during a remodeling project.
A photo of a large jacuzzi being lowered onto the yacht to be installed during a remodeling project.

Teak Cleaners and Detergents

Most experts who discuss how to deep clean a teak deck do not suggest a two-part cleaning solution. Fact is, the ratio of water to rough chemicals can be misinterpreted to the point there’s less dilution. In turn, a good deal of corrosion takes place.

Instead, single part teak cleaners and soaps must be used. If these aren’t available, then look at powdered dishwasher detergents that describe themselves as less abrasive. These normally have finer powder combinations than other soaps.

Should dishwasher detergents be used to clean the teak decks, make sure they’re properly diluted as they’re comprised of some chemicals. The normal combination is a quarter to a third cup of detergent in a half bucket of water.

Localized Stains

In certain situations, there’s no need to clean the entire deck. The problem may be localized to a certain area. In this situation, liquid dish detergent works fine. No need to dilute it. Simply apply it to a piece of terry cloth or other soft towel, then rub it in with the fingertips. After a good rinse, the stain should disappear.

Vacuum Bag Fiberglass Repair on Miss Lori
Vacuum Bag Fiberglass Repair on Miss Lori

Mildew

There are some situations where dirt or stains are not the problem on a teak deck. Instead, mildew might grow in the grains of the wood. Don’t be tempted to utilize a two-part cleaner for this. The best advanced teak deck cleaning and care for this type of problem comes from a homegrown solution.

In a bucket, combine a 50/50 solution of white vinegar and water. Try not to use bleach if at all possible. If it’s not properly diluted, the deck areas will develop stains that can’t be cleaned. Wash the mildew areas down with the vinegar/water solution, and then properly rinse it off before it completely dries.

Fiberglass Cabinet with a BBQ grill on a boat night time shot
Fiberglass Cabinet with a BBQ grill on a boat night time shot

Deeper Cleanings

In some environments, particularly on the New England Coast, teak decks need to be cleaned each season due to saltwater spray and various climate conditions. To deep clean a deck in this situation, use a non-abrasive scrubbing pad or a soft nylon bristle scrub brush. Never use a brush made with hard white bristles. In addition, scrub across the grain of the teak rather than against it.

Whatever form of teak deck cleaning is used, make sure the area is thoroughly rinsed off and dried before being put to use.

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