4/19/2012

Cleaning Outdoor Teak Furniture


I have a favorite chair sitting out by the garden that is in need of some TLC.  I think I'll name her Fuzzy. * It's a teak adirondack that we bought as a kit many years ago. It sits outside year round and over time has taken on a nice gray patina.
Blanketed in snow.

Throughout the summer season it gets an occasional wiping off to remove bird droppings and surface dirt. The squirrels like to leave walnut shells tucked away in it's nooks and crannies. Eventually it takes on a more rustic look that needs a little extra elbow grease. There's no magic product required, just a nylon scrub brush and a pail of hot water with dish detergent. It's a messy job and it's amazing how grossly dirty a chair can become, evident from the brown splatters I get all over my clothes when I do this job. When finished, rinsed, and left to dry the chair becomes a nice silvery gray again. These pictures were taken last spring before it got too bad. It was much worse now but I didn't think to take a before picture so you'll have to take my word for it.


Unfortunately I haven't done this extra deep cleaning in a couple of years. The chair was starting to look beyond weathered and more like something you might find camouflaged in a forest.  I was thinking maybe I should just get rid of it. Not only has it acquired all that dinge but it was getting fuzzy with green and gray patches of lichen. I'm a bit surprised because it always sits in full sun and I'd expect it more if were in a shady area. On the plus side I read that lichen grows where the air is clean and clear. Nice to know. However it's not so nice on a sitter's clothing. So the question is how to get rid of it!

Some people use bleach, but besides the obvious desire not to get bleach on my clothes in the process I also don't like the toxicity of the stuff.  I had done the initial scrubbing with dish detergent before these pictures were taken which, although improving it, didn't do much for the lichen as you can see. (The dark areas are just spots that hadn't dried yet.)



Better, but not there yet.
My second go at it involved using OxiClean, or you could use any other brand oxygen cleaner I imagine. It's just what I had on hand. I dissolved a handful of the powdered Oxi in a bucket of warm water and went to work. This time around I used a densely bristled copper wire brush followed by rinses with the hose. I tried to go with the grain of the wood as much as possible since the wire is a lot harder on the wood and probably not the best idea except as a last resort. It seems to have taken off a lot of the lichen but it started to rain so hasn't had a chance to dry yet. In any case it didn't get rid of all the lichen since it's growing in the spaces between the slats where I couldn't reach with my brush. A power washer might work for those spots but it's not recommended. Again, as a last resort, it might be worth a try. We've gotten about twenty year's enjoyment out of this chair and hope to get a few more yet. The chair is still sturdy so if nothing else I'll just throw a beach towel over it when I want to sit there.

While I was at it I also scrubbed the top of our picnic table. We used to keep it stained and coated with marine varnish every year or so but gave up on that long ago. We haven't used it for picnics in a long time. Mostly it's just a place to sit and chat or, more likely, use as an outdoor workbench for gardening (potting plants, ripening tomatoes) or doing home improvement projects. The picnic table is made of pine lumber and I was really surprised at how well the Oxi removed the weathered gray from that. It also seems to be a little hard on your skin so I'd recommend wearing rubber gloves, which I failed to do. Learning the hard way.

Back with a results update and pictures tomorrow, weather permitting. 
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*Fuzzy is actually a family name. My Dad's younger sister Eleanor got the nickname in high school after she had a bad hair perm. The name stuck and everyone in the family, and in our home town, called her Fuzzy. She was married to Neil, but we always knew him as Kink. Not sure where he got the moniker but it was always Aunt Fuzzy and Uncle Kink. They were a fun couple and the names just suited them. 


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