I have acquired a ~10 year old Westminster (do they use grade A teak?) teak table and chairs and am now looking to restore to a high quality, starting with the table. I've had a look online for the answer but most advice assumes the teak is unstained.

The table has been previously stained on the upper side. I don't know if teak oil or sealant has been applied - is there a way of finding out? Edge of stained table top The table is unstained underneath and has some mildew that seems to come off easily. Underneath of table top with mildew From my research the options I see are as follows:

1) Clean with bleach/soap/water mix and soft bristle brush. Apply more stain. This is the easiest solution. Would this have any negative effects other than the appearance of the wood not being the natural one?

2) Sand to remove the stain and restore the natural colour. Then apply a sealant to maintain the colour. Do I need to do anything different with the sanding because of the stain? Does sanding the stain out damage the wood?

3) After cleaning, sand to remove badly applied stain and built up dirt but with no intention to completely remove the stain since this is apparently very difficult. Apply more stain. Is this better than 1) given I will re-apply stain?

Which of these options do you recommend or are there others I haven't considered?

  • 1
    Welcome to SE David. For future reference, sanding is actually the worst way to remove old finish. It is, unfortunately, virtually the default advice online because most advice online comes from amateurs, and well-meaning though it may be it's terrible advice. Almost no reputable pro will use sanding as the primary means of removing old finish (instead relying on chemical strippers which are purpose-made for this job).
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:29
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    Also see this previous Answer to see what power washing is capable of achieving.
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:30
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    scraping is also a great way to remove finish - faster and cleaner than stripping, if it is feasible to do so.
    – aaron
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:43
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    Sanding off finish and just sanding to prepare the surface of wood are completely different. The latter is perfectly acceptable (almost universal in fact). Re. the link, I'm not going to look at that as it's a site based in the US and they don't have their cookie policy set up properly. And anyway doityourself.com is highly variable as to the quality of its content (as are most how-to sites to be honest). [contd]
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 19:16
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    As a general caution, in the UK we have to be very careful about much of the woodworking info available online in English as the great majority is written by Americans for Americans. Many things (processes as well as products) are not directly applicable to British woodworking. And a great example of this is directly related to your Question — the types of strippers available. In just about every hardware store in the US methylene chloride strippers are freely sold but over here that's now a controlled substance and no longer legally sold to members of the public.
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 19:23

1 Answer 1


Just to clarify:

  1. "stain" only changes the color of the wood, it does not seal or protect it. "Finish" comes in two basic forms, film-forming and non-film-forming. These are applied to protect wood generally from moisture, abrasion, and UV if the piece is to be used outside.

  2. Wood need not be stained at all - that is purely an aesthetic choice.

  3. Wood need not be finished at all, but a clear finish can keep the wood looking as intended for longer.

  4. Sanding out stain or finish does not damage the wood.

  5. If you want to apply/reapply stain, the general recommendation is to stop sanding at around 180-220 grit, otherwise people report problems with even stain penetration and coloring . If you are going to apply a film finish, you could stop around 150-180 - more doesn't hurt, but it's just wasted effort.

It looks like your piece was stained and finished on the top surface. The bottom surface generally doesn't need any help, but if you are going to use this furniture outside, applying a UV- and mold-inhibiting finish (eg, marine spar varnish) is often a good choice.

Ultimately all of your 3 options will be fine, it's just a matter of how even you expect/want the stain coloring to be. Sanding things out partially then trying to perfectly match color will be extremely frustrating. The most straightforward approach (although it will mean a lot of physical work) would be to sand down to bare wood everywhere and then stain/finish as you want.

  • 1
    Because finish manufacturers don't have to follow any rules your 1 isn't actually the case at all (although it should be). Regrettably many so-called stain products are either a finish (best example for the US is probably "gel stain", on my side of the pond it's the numerous exterior 'stains' which can be at least two completely different products, exterior varnish and wood preseravative) or have some binder included as in some of the Minwax products.
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:23
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    @Graphus yeah good point. actually from that drip line in the first picture I would bet that a minwax all in one stain+finish was used.
    – aaron
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:44
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    Yeah, and if the OP is in the UK then it could easily be one of the exterior varnishes with stain as part of the name.
    – Graphus
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 13:51
  • @Graphus Yes from UK Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 16:31
  • @aaron Thank you for your suggestion, I will follow your advice on the sanding grit once I have stripped and/or scraped. Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 16:38

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