Cleaning the Teak Decks

We know we have work to do on our decks.  The seams are dried and need to be re-done.  More importantly, in a good rain, when I walk on it, I can see a bit of water coming up around the sides of the wood near the seams, so I know that water is getting below the teak (but still on top of the fiberglass deck).  Even though we need to do that, Deb and I have learned a little bit about ourselves and what we 'need' to keep moving on a project when there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.  Part of that is ensuring that we see progress along the way.  I always refer to it as "Little Victories, just enough to keep me motivated through the next few projects"

So it was with this concept in mind that I decided I wanted to clean the decks and at least have the teak look really nice.  It likely has 10+ years of grime, mold and other goop in the grains of the wood.        

I went over to West Marine to look at the 2 step teak cleaning systems but in the end opted to go with the old school salty mariners way of cleaning the decks.  That is tried and true sea water only.  Typically you would either use your salt water wash down system or the old bucket method, just spill salt water on the deck, using a deck brush scrub against the grain of the teak, then rinse.  
Port Side Deck Forward - Before photo
It is important that you scrub against the grain.  Going with the grain will remove a larger amount of the softer wood between the grains (leaving a slightly uneven surface), which is the reason for ongoing maintenance and cleaning 2 times a year, you want to go against the grain.

I was hoping to get a little time lapse video of doing the whole deck, but I must admit it actually took a bit longer than I thought it would.  I have a long handle brush however when you start to look at some of the small spaces to do, and around sanctions and the deck box, and fittings, dorado boxes, etc.  It quickly became obvious I needed to spend a bit more time on my hands and knees scrubbing by hand in those areas.  Because of how dirty and gray the decks were, they took quite a bit of scrubbing and I had to break the golden rule of going against the grain.  I could actually see mold in some places on the deck deep in the grain.  To get it clean, I had to do a few strokes with a small brush with the direction of the grain, then circular motions ensuring that it stayed wet the whole time I was scrubbing.    

After photo of the same area after 15 min of scrubbing
Much like wet sanding versus dry sanding, It is a less aggressive way to clean things and reduce the amount of material that is removed while scrubbing)  After scrubbing a section of the deck the wetness from the water almost turns to a dark gray sludge like material.  Just keep it moist and keep scrubbing.  

After doing a section about 4 feet by 6 feet or so, I would then use the wash down hose to rinse it off. One good hint is to be sure to also get the side of your hull wet where your deck drains are.  It will keep the dirt from sticking to it when it rinses off the deck.  And don't forget to rinse off the side of the hull below the deck drains when your finished with the deck.  

I will not oil the teak, but some people do that too.  I like the way the oil looks because it keeps that nice rich color.  The problem with oiling it is that you have to do it every couple of months and we have a lot of deck space.  They also now have synthetic teak sealers that won't leave that oil residue that you get if you sit on an oiled bench for example.  Also we have a fiberglass coachhouse roof and I wouldn't want to track any of that residue onto the nice white waxed surface when walking up there.  
Port Side complete (Photo taken from the Bow but not out on the bowsprit)

If you follow the typical 2 step teak cleaning systems (just about every marine cleaning supplier has a similar system), you essentially wash the deck (consider that what I did above but without the $30 quart sized bottle of cleaner).  

Step 2 in those systems is a "Brightener".  Again about $30 for a quart of so of it.   You can make your own rather inexpensively by getting Oxallic acid and diluting it in warm water.   I may still do that and if I try it, I will create a blog post on that as well along with the details of how to make the teak brightener for under $5 and it stores better on the boat in powder form to be mixed up in quantities you need.  

I will say one of the most rewarding parts of this process is when you actually rinse the deck after scrubbing.  It is just an amazing contrast that you see instantly.  It was a good motivator and the top sides are starting to shape up, one step at a time.


1 comment:

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