I am back from another small spring boat show at the Lake of Constance. As the boating market is upside down since Covid and new boats are basically not available to being presented even on boat shows, we rely on our owners to kindly borrow their yachts to their fellow dealers so that we can at least show the yacht. This happened last weekend when we´ve had an Oceanis 30.1 on display.
Of course, our owners are right to ask for something in return and besides a thorough spring check-up of their yachts we clean and polish their boats to the core: Not just to make them pretty and shiny as if they were brand new for the boat show visitors but also as a nod to our owners who had been so kind to lend the yachts. In this, I found it especially interesting and absolutely overwhelming to see the finished “product” after we cleaned the Teak deck of the Oceanis, worthy of an article. Here we go.
Products for Teak deck cleaning you should use
First of all, we went into the local chandlery and bought a bottle of “Teak Cleaner”. This is the first product of a series of products which are recommended to treat the Teak deck. But we refrained from buying the second and third step because we don´t like treatment of the Teak deck that is more than just cleaning.
Teak is a natural material that of course changes over time – it is okay to do so. Any detergent, oil, shampoo or other chemical agent can alter those natural properties and can cause the wooden slats to “behave” strangely. More than ever this goes for Teak oil, a product we really don´t like because it alters the wood over time. So: Only cleansing, nothing more!
We also need a soft brush with short bristles and a stronger one with shorter bristles. Don´t go for too strong and strict bristles as these will over time brush out too much of wooden fibres, we want to treat our material well. These three, some nice weather and motivated biceps are needed – and of course fresh water.
Teak deck cleaning: Step-by-step
First of all you will have the Teak deck wetted with some fresh water and maybe cleaned of all dust, sand and dirt. When the deck has been wetted for a couple of minutes, the cleansing agent (Teak cleaner) is dripped over the Teak. Not too much but also not too less. We refrain from making fresh water-cleaner solution and pour a bit of the cleaner over the surface.
Then the soft brush is used to spread the agent all over the surface of the deck. Try to disperse it evenly. Again – not too much but also not too less. Again, we let the agent do its work and leave the surface soaking for a couple of minutes. Be aware not to walk into the cleaner and over the deck as this could cause stains and spots later on.
After some minutes, take the stronger brush and start to scrub. Never scrub against the grain texture of the wooden surface but longitudinal with the grain of the Teak wood. Now the magic is about to happen: The water/detergent mix will turn deep brown and the more you brush the more you will see small pellets appearing. This is where the fun starts.
Will the Teak deck suffer?
These little pellets are scrubbed off dead fibers of the Teak wood mixed with dirt. Seeing this you now understand why you don´t want your brush to be too strong: Of course, we only want to take away the really dead fibers which are already sucked out of the natural Teak oil, that is responsible for the long lifetime of a Teak deck. We want to smoothly take out this material and rinse it of the dirt.
Will your precious Teak deck suffer? Well, of course taking away material is never good, over time, every material will degrade. But, if you check the ingredients of the cleansing agent and work the deck smoothly, you won´t do any damage. Again, we don´t like using oil or paint products and anything else that does “more” than just cleaning. In this, your deck shouldn´t suffer and you will have many years to come enjoying the nice decking.
After a few minutes of working and scrubbing you will see that the pellets will start to accumulate at the ends of the deck. This is the dirt of the last sailing season: Sand, dust, salt, Diesel, food and drinks and all the stuff that falls on your deck and remains there. The brush will efficiently take out all of the smudge and bring it to the surface.
When done, take a bucket full of fresh water or the hose and rinse off all of the dirt. This is a really satisfying and rewarding job as the deck will reveal a whole new look to you. I will appear fresh and bright, the orange color of the Teak will re-surface and it will turn deep-orange when rinsed. It´s a real Wow!-effect for sure!
Before and after cleaning
When we did it on the boat of our clients I must admit I was a bit sceptical beforehand. My colleague had the idea to clean the deck and promised a great outcome – I didn´t thought it could be turning out like this, I thought we could achieve such a look only by sanding the deck (which you also shouldn´t do unless absolutely necessary!).
Look at the before-after picture above: This is a Teak deck being used for one complete sailing season left out in the nature. Lake Constance is a fresh water sailing area so the salt-factor is off the equation, but nevertheless, the direct comparison between old (left side of the cockpit) and cleaned (on the right hand side) is absolutely breathtaking, isn´t it?
We did this treatment for the other half of the cockpit flooring and also the bathing platform. It took us about one hour of work to do the job and when I rinsed the cockpit in the end I was puzzled: I haven´t expected such a great result. My colleague said that one can now repeat this treatment one time to get an even more perfect look, but as time was running out and it already looked 100 per cent better than before, we had it like this and put away our gear.
How to treat your yacht Teak deck
So, why would you do this? Teak is supposed to turn grey over the course of a handful of weeks. It has been like that for centuries. Well, yes, the yachting magazines and marketing brochures only show the fresh Teak deck and suggest that this is the way the boats should look. Which is a fallacy. Nevertheless, “Sex sells”, as they say, and it is like that with boats as well, which are also predominantly emotional products. So, of course we “spice up” the boats for our boat show – and you should do this to your boat, at least when you sell your used boat.
Look at the picture above: There was a small detail on the Oceanis we couldn´t clean. Left hand side the freshly cleaned Teak, right the grey Teak as it is after a year. That’s usually the natural color – just like the hair of women (or men) when they turn grey. Of course, you can leave it like this and there is a certain matter of course and dignity to women wearing their natural grey hair. But honestly, we love them with fresh and strong colors, don´t we? Same here, I guess.
In the end, the outcome was amazing. To our starboard side a brand new little boat was displayed on the boat show with a freshly made Teak deck. The difference is barely noticeable and I guess we could have done it even better with a second thorough treatment. Should you go for this in your boat? It´s up to you, but I, personally, like my girlfriend coloring her hair …
You might also find interesting to read:
Supplanting Teak in boatbuilding
Iroko is the new Teak
EVA-foam instead of Teak decking?