Teak Teak Teak … Inside This Time!

I woke up this morning to a cloudy dreary day that looked like an ideal candidate for cleaning and lemon oiling Winterlude’s interior teak.  It’s a project I try to tackle twice a year — once when we return to the boat and once just before we leave.  Otherwise 30 year old teak will become tired and worn.  Unfortunately this year I’ve been lazy and didn’t do it in November when we returned and knew I had to get it done before we leave to cruise for three months — when there will be MUCH more fun things to do than play with teak.

We are so lucky — the interior of our boat is solid teak staving — i.e. individual teak 2″ slats with a groove to all fit together.  Although we did not want ANY teak when we were boat shopping, the teak is homey, warm and inviting and we’ve grown to love it…  well at least 363 days a year.  🙂  So what’s up with the missing two days?  That’s when I have to provide it the required TLC or it won’t stay looking pretty!

Interior Teak Project

Interior Teak Project

As I said I’ve been procrastinating this project for months.  First I had get motivated to move everything that came into contact with the teak — books, hats, cameras, all the spices in the spice race – you’re starting to get the picture  The boat is a wreck and I’m always astonished at how much CRAP we have “unstowed” everywhere!  Every year I make a promise to myself to “clean up the mess” i.e. get rid of stuff just sitting around, not hidden, but every year when I do the teak I remember that I have not succeeded!

The second step is to wash all the walls and teak trim, drawers and louvered doors with Murphy Oil and water.  I just squirt a bit of Murphy Oil cleaner in my little red bucket and fill it half full of water.  Then I use a soft cotton rag to begin the process, starting in the front and working my way back to the companionway.  I wipe down every bit of the teak – this portion of the project takes about 3 hours, without doing the quarterberth – that’s where I stuff all the stuff so that I can actually SEE the teak to clean it.

Teak Louvered Doors -- 204 louvers in the entire boat to be exact!

Teak Louvered Doors -- 204 louvers in the entire boat to be exact!

After letting it dry, I start back at the front of the boat with pure lemon oil.  I use a Viva papertowel dipped in the lemon oil and proceed to wipe lemon oil over everything — generously.  Despite the satin varnish, our teak will begin to soak up the lemon oil almost right away.  After a half hour or hour, it begins to look quite splotchy, but I continue with getting a generous coat on all the teak and leave it alone.  We’ll leave it alone for at least 24 hours.  After 24 hours, I’ll take a rag and rub over to redistribute lemon oil, letting the splotchy areas that have already soaked it up have a bit more and getting rid of  too much lemon oil on everything.

At this point, I start to put stuff away and regain my life.  The entire project takes most of a day – by happy hour, I’m ready to celebrate it being done!

Finished ... Now Where's that Glass of Wine???

Finished ... Now Where's that Glass of Wine???

And the boat smells so good – if you like lemons!  🙂

My philosophical comment for the day:  after many years of doing this project, I have determined that it is NOT possible to get high by sniffing lemon oil.  Worse luck..


Anyone do your interior wood differently?  Leave a comment and let us know!  Cheers!  J


  1. I use teak oil on the teak inside of my boat every spring. The wood is natural so all I have to do is oil it. It sure looks nice afterwards. Now the out side needs varish and that is an endless job.

    • We just finished doing our outside varnish .. and it needs another coat before we leave for three months. Aaarrrgggg…. But cetol was no less work, so we’re varnish converts.

  2. Beautiful! Thanks for the tip, as all of this is new to us.

  3. I use Old English oil on mine – and like to use an old sock. Put my hand in it, squirt the oil on it, then wipe away.

  4. William knowles says:

    We did this with our Hunter 30 and the white mold went crazy, I was told it was the lemon oil.

    • Very interesting! We’ve used lemon oil twice a year for the past 10 years and never had any mold below – but we use a dehumidifier when we leave the boat — and it’s been in Panama 3 years and the Rio Dulce Guatemala 2 years, so it’s had some extreme humidity. Thx for letting me know! Cheers! Jan

      • I also usually do mine twice a year (HC33, so lots of teak below) and don’t run into mold issues – but I live aboard so have heat running during the winter.

  5. Day 1 of cleaning the boat and interior teak for the season (currently weekend cruisers/long term wannabes). Since the rigging job isn’t done stuff is everywhere. So doing the teak cleaning and oiling in sections. The aft cabin is done, tomorrow the saloon. Murphys Cleaner and Pledge Orange Oil are my current products, but I can’t find Pledge Orange Oil anymore so going to Lemon Oil next. Those louvered doors are killers. Found a brush with bristles a bit bigger than a toothbrush. It’s not that hard but why am I exhausted?!

  6. Oh that’s ANOTHER thing on our list…

  7. 🙂

  8. I read this thinking I would learn something but I do it the exact same way. The blog was good!

    • Welcome Janet! Sounds like you already know the “secret”. I’m surprised at the number of boats who do nothing to the interior teak … with predictible results. 🙂 Cheers! Jan

  9. Chris Tancig says:

    Any sugestions on cleaning raw teak on the interior of a 40′ hunter? No varnish or other products on the wood owner wants to keep it that way.

  10. Nina Huether says:

    To do the louvres, I use a putty knife wrapped in a towel or sock soaked with the lemon oil (the chemical variety) then a toothbrush sprayed with the oil for the corners. First inside then the outside. It’s an obsessive compulsive’s dream job. Dusting the louvres frequently makes this oiling job ALOT easier.

  11. your wood looks beautiful – great color!

    I’ll have to try this Murphy oil…

  12. My wife thanks you for the heads up on applying the lemon oil in multiple coats. She uses a chamois to remove the excess oil with great results.


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