I bought a sweet little tray at a yard sale that was in rough shape, but had a Kjeni Denmark sticker (here’s a similar tray on Etsy). I’m such a Euro-snob, I scooped it up right away. Whenever I shop, “Made in Canada” is 10 points, “Made in USA” warrants a 9.5 and made anywhere in Europe is 9. Finding things not made in China is one of the many reasons I love to shop vintage.
Unfortunately, this tray was only in my hands a short while because it caught my Dad’s eye! He was quite smitten with it and wanted it for his bedside table, which is also teak. He thought it would be a perfect catchall that would help protect the table as well (like father like daughter, I guess). I was pretty surprised that my Dad wanted to accessorize his bedside table and had the eye to pick something so perfect. I happily handed it over, but we decided it needed a little TLC. While my Dad had a snack and “supervised,” I grabbed some teak oil and transformed the tray. I was dubious about its makeover potential, but was amazed at the difference.
It is amazing what teak oil can do to revive tired, worn out teak, but there are some tips and tricks that must be followed!
How to Oil Teak:
Always default to the instructions on the label of your teak cleaner. These products can really vary and it’s best to follow the directions to the letter. I have used brands that indicate the oil should sit on teak for a few minutes, others indicate a few hours. Some recommend buffing or burnishing after application, others don’t. Ask your local mid-century modern furniture dealer for their recommendation – they might even sell the best teak oil in their shop!
- Teak cleaner (optional)
- Teak oil (I have used the one linked and also a brand called Zinolin)
- Lint-free cloth
- Gloves (always a good idea)
Here’s what I did:
- Open the window or work outside (on a day with low humidity)
- Make sure the piece is clean – you can purchase special teak cleaner, but use a light touch
- Apply a generous coat of teak oil with a soft, lint-free rag
- Apply teak oil in the direction of the stain
- Allow to dry for two hours and wipe off excess**
- Repeat as needed (I used 4-5 coats and that made a real difference)
- To reach inside edges and corners, use a teak oil soaked Q-tip
Additional Teak Oiling Tips:
**I have, however, worked with some brands of teak oil (like this one) that perform better if you let it sit for only a few minutes and then remove, opting for more coats with less time to sink in. IF the brand of teak oil you’re using doesn’t specify a time, default to letting the teak oil soak in for only a few minutes before wiping off the excess and work gradually to build up the sheen.
Word of Caution: Oils are combustible, so do not leave oil-soaked rags balled up in your trash can. We throw ours in an outdoor fire pit or let them dry laid flat outside. I have heard that you can also put them in a jar of water, but that’s not what we do.
Teak Oiling Results!
Before, the tray was dry and washed out looking (you can really see the how dry it was in the second photo):
Here is the tray with half an application of teak oil, so you can really see the difference.
It looks fabulous now. (Notice how the little bowl did make its way to my parents’ home?!?):
Be forewarned, oiling wood (instead of using a stain or varnish) is really addictive!
I wrote a post about how I refinished the arms and legs on a mid-century chair:
I also oiled the arms on an upholstered chair (read my tip for not getting oil on the fabric!):
Then I oiled a solid walnut trivet we made from scratch:
I even oiled the top of an old stool I bought, even though I wasn’t sure what kind of finish it originally had. It turned out beautifully, though!