We’ve always had a porch swing in our backyard. This one is at my house, swinging over the deck we just refinished.
Most of the steps we'll walk through in this post are actually the same as the steps for the weathered bench we refinished last summer, using trusted Penofin products to clean and brighten it. That bench lived at Todd’s house for a decade, but had never been finished. Because it was under a roof, there wasn’t a lot of moss or green growth on it, but there was plenty of dirt—and it was in desperate need of cleaning. The point? Whether you’re working with brand new wood or something that’s been lying around for years, you can easily transform any type of outdoor wood furniture with this process. The biggest differentiator between Todd's weathered bench and this swing is how we’re staining it.
It’s simple. First, we use a cleaner to wash away any dirt or green growth that may have accumulated over time. Then, we use a brightener that makes the wood look less gray and more, well, like wood. It brings the original color back, and puts you in a good spot to stain it. Finally, we apply teak oil, which not only improves the color and makes it look refreshed, but also helps protect the wood. Clean, brighten, finish. That's it!
The more often you partake in this process, the longer the life of the swing. We do ours about once a year; sometimes every other year. It’s totally based on your dedication to the look of your porch swing, and how much DIY time you have available. If it’s been a year and you’re happy with the look of your bench, leave it for another year.
Let’s get started.
Step 1: Tape Off Metal and Rope
Start by covering everything except the specific material you’ll be cleaning—in this case, wood. Here, we taped off metal and the rope that hangs the swing. We also rinsed off any vegetation that might come into contact with the cleaner.
Step 2: Mix Penofin Cleaner
Penofin comes in three steps. Penofin Step 1 is a stripper, Penofin Step 2 is a cleaner, and Penofin Step 3 is a brightener. Because we’re dealing with a swing that’s only been oiled in the past and hasn’t been painted, we jumped over Penofin Step 1 and straight to Penofin Step 2. If you’re working with a piece of wood that needs to be stripped, start with Penofin Step 1.
Wearing gloves, I like to mix Penofin Step 2 with warm water, because it helps the crystals dissolve. If the crystals don’t dissolve before you spray the solution, they’ll clog the sprayer and it’ll never work again. Remember: warm water! It’s always smart to start with less Penofin Step 2 than you think you’ll need, too—usually there’s a range. If you use too much, you’re going to end up with the grain on the wood raising and looking kind of fuzzy, which means you have to sand. Starting with too much Penofin Step 2 means more work. Start with less.
Step 3: Apply Penofin Cleaner
Before starting, make sure the wood you’re cleaning is dry.
The easiest way to get an even coat is with a sprayer. If you’re cleaning a deck, you’ll want to apply Penofin Step 2 and let it sit for 10–15 minutes. For furniture, Penofin recommends that you apply the Step 2 product, then scrub it.
Step 4: Scrub
After you’ve applied Penofin Step 2 to your piece of furniture, scrub the wood lightly. If you scrub too hard, you’ll raise the wood—again, less is more here.
The softer the wood, the softer the brush needs to be. Regardless, you’ll want something nonmetallic that won’t scrape the wood. The porch swing we’re cleaning is made out of a harder wood: teak. For this, I like to use a little handheld brush I got at Dunn Lumber. If you’re cleaning a softer wood like cedar, you’ll want to use a softer brush.
Step 5: Rinse
Once you’ve given the wood a good scrub, it’s time to rinse. Spray it down with a hose, or pour buckets of water on it—it really doesn’t matter how you do it, so long as all the Penofin Step 2 is washed away.
Step 6: Mix Penofin Brightener
Penofin Step 3 is the brightener—it restores the color of the wood and brings it back to life. Wearing gloves, mix Penofin Step 3 with warm water until the crystals have dissolved, like we did earlier. And remember: less is more.
Step 7: Apply Penofin Brightener
Unlike Penofin Step 2, Penofin Step 3 can be applied to wet wood.
If you’re reusing the same sprayer you used in Step 2, give it a rinse with water, then spray it a few times to make sure there’s no cleaner in the nozzle.
Fill the spray bottle with Penofin Step 3, then apply an even coat. Let sit for 10 minutes.
Step 8: Rinse Again!
This is always a fun step for me—as you rinse off the brightener, you can see how it changes the color of the wood.
Step 9: Let Dry for 24 Hours
Step 10: Sand
We wound up with raised grain and fuzziness in a few spots on the wood, so we sanded down those areas using a 150-grit sandpaper. 150-grit is the in-between sort of grit: It’s rough enough to deal with the raised grain and fuzziness, but smooth enough that you don’t have to follow up with a higher grit.
Step 11: Apply Teak Oil
Teak oil is made for—you guessed it—teak wood. Teak wood is typically used for decking on boats—particularly the big, beautiful sailboats. Teak oil is designed specifically to work with the wood, but also to work with life on the open sea. It’s tough, water-resistant, and beautiful—all at the same time.
And, because it’s a different medium, it’s fun to work with. It’s not quite a stain, and it’s not quite a finish; you can stain the wood first before you put teak oil over it, or you can put teak oil right on raw wood. Even better? Teak oil isn’t exclusive to teak wood. You can use it on any type of wood bench—even on existing varnished surfaces. If you’ve got a piece of furniture that’s varnished and looks like it’s reaching the end of its life, you can apply a layer of teak oil and extend the life of that furniture. Teak oil is versatile, and it’s what we’re using on this project.
Apply the oil with a natural bristle brush or a lint-free cloth. Let it sit on the wood for 5–15 minutes.
Step 12: Sand Again!
For a smoother finish, run 400-grit sandpaper over the wet surface. We skipped this step because the wood that was used for our swing had a lot of ridges and isn’t very smooth to begin with. Whether makes sense for you depends on the specific material you’re working with.
Step 13: Wipe Off
Step 14: Apply Additional Coats
Let each coat dry for 8–24 hours before applying the next. Penofin recommends four coats for interior surfaces, and six coats for exterior surfaces. This is where you have to decide how much you really love your bench or swing or piece of outdoor furniture, and how much care you want to give it. We refinish our swing every one to two years, and apply two coats of teak oil.
It’s always amazing—and honestly, really surprising—when you can take a bench that’s never been treated (like Todd's), or an old and dirty one, and totally bring it back to life.
Todd’s bench was a fair amount of work. It had so much buildup because it hadn’t been touched in 10 years. We really had to take a sponge to that bench, cleaning carefully between the slats of the seat because so much dirt had worked its way into every groove.
The thing I love about refinishing a swing like this is that (because we refinish it every year or so) it doesn’t take much effort to keep it looking this way. You can be more casual about it. The teak oil is a super-cool, very unique product, and I like the fact that it has a hard finish to it, but not so much that when we go to clean it, we have to strip it down.
These projects are similar in nature, but the products are different. It’s always fun to see how much life you can put back into an old piece of wood furniture!