How to care for your garden bench

My garden bench is 8 years old but still looks as good as new. Maintenance should be done every year. It takes very little effort – less than 1/2 hour, start to finish – but it really makes a difference and will make your investment last longer.

First, I would suggest you invest on a cover (they are usually green) to protect your bench from weather damage, making your annual maintenance much easier.

My green cover is quite old and not as efficient as it used to be but it still helps a little, although the most affected areas are the front of the arms and the front of the seat (touching the fold of your knees when you are sitting). I also get the odd water stains in the middle of the seat. This year, all I used was a fine finishing grade of sandpaper. Next year, I will start with a slightly coarser grade to concentrate more on the arms as the finishing result is slightly too dark for my liking compared with the rest of the bench. But, it is not worth doing it all over again. I will just be more careful next year.

First, I used a soft bristle brush (the size of a dustpan brush) to remove the odd dirt and spider cocoons. If your bench is dirty, you might want to give it a good scrub with some detergent and let it dry thoroughly before going to the next stage. Now, time to use the sandpaper.

Sanding down a garden bench wearing rubber gloves

Always sand down along the grain of the wood

Caress the wood along the grain with your other hand to check for any raised/rough bits

To ensure regular and even strokes, wrap your piece of sandpaper around a small piece of wood.

Wrapping sandpaper around piece of wood

Once you have removed the water marks and your wood feels nice and smooth, remove any dust with white spirit before applying your oil. I have used oil ever since we purchased our garden bench. I prefer oil to varnish because the wood feels much nicer to the touch. Use lint-free piece of fabric, taken from an old shirt, T-shirt or even (clean!) underwear.

Teak oil and White Spirit with lint-free clothes

Turn the bench over and start applying your oil on all the undersides, including under the feet. Use newspapers to protect your floor from any oil stains but mostly to protect your newly oiled wood from any dirt or grit on the ground.

Applying oil to a garden bench

Use newspapers for protection

Make sure you apply oil to all areas. There is nothing more annoying than realising that you missed a bit after everything has been put away.

Using thin screwdriver to apply oil in awkward areas

Use a thin screwdriver to push the cloth into small awkward areas

Newly oiled garden bench

When dry, you can buff with a clean cloth to give it a shine

Your garden will look so much more beautiful now with this brand-new-looking piece of furniture in it!

It does not matter if your sanding work is not perfect. You can always improve the following year. When I first oiled my bench, I did not realise that the wood was not very smooth. In fact, it was quite rough to the feel. But now, it is as smooth as a baby’s bottom!

P.S. A little update! (date 17 May 2016). I have just oiled my bench again this year and now, I don’t even bother using White Spirit anymore. All I do, is use a clean soft brush and brush the wood dust off the surface. It works just as well!

11 thoughts on “How to care for your garden bench

      • Hi I have just purchased a new garden bench stained and varnished I would like to add a further protection coat .how do I set about adding it thanks Gordon

        • Hi Gordon, if the finishing is good, I would not bother apply another coat of varnish. You would need to sand the whole bench with fine sandpaper to ensure a good key before your new coat. So instead, I would invest in a good quality protective bench cover (don’t get a cheap one because it is false economy and it won’t last as long) and leave it on when the bench is not in use (sun rays are as much damaging as rain and frost and it protects it from bird’s droppings!) and, if your bench is to stay on grass, I would place some “feet” under the legs – i.e. thin pieces of wood, old drink coasters, pieces of cork cut to size – what you want to do is keep the feet off the ground to prevent humidity from rising. I hope that helps.

    • I used Colron refined Teak oil but I am sure any good quality oil would do though. The instructions say you can also apply the oil with a paint brush but this would mean cleaning the brush afterwards…. so an old rag is much better.

  1. Very interesting.
    This is what I have done for years, with great effort.
    This Spring I discovered the company called Marine Teak, I think. They showed me what is used on boats etc and it is brilliant.
    First of all I did 2 chairs with success and since then have done a bench (teak) in appalling condition followed by the bench (works I think) my son made for his GCSEs years ago.
    As they were all oiled so that has to be removed so a lot of initial sanding was done but very worth while followed by the following treatments.
    Wessex cleaner.
    Wessex restorer
    Semco Sealer.
    The Marine Teak have a video of what they do.

  2. Your ideas for raising the feet, especially are good. Will try these. I am able to keep the furniture on slabs but usually raise them on small bricks for the winter.

    • Thank you for your comments Margaret. I checked them online, the company is called Wessex. Using marine products is a great idea. They protect against salty, windy and wet environments. It can’t really get more extreme than that! Kind regards

    • This is not oil like the one you use in the kitchen or you put on your skin. This type of oil slightly soaks into the top layers of the wood when you first apply it and then dries/hardens after a few hours. You can even polish the surface of the bench when the oil has dried to make it that little bit more shiny. So, no, you cannot stain your clothes when you sit on the bench.