Preserving Our Cedar Porch Swing


Two years ago I built this pergola from rough-sawn cedar, and hung a new cedar porch swing so that we could relax and enjoy the view. But two years of sunshine and rain have begun to rob the wood of its natural oils, so today I decided it was time to take some preventative action. If you’d like to see how you can add several years of life to your outdoor furniture, just follow along.

As you can see, the sun had robbed the cedar of its natural oils, leaving it susceptible to water stains, bird droppings, and eventual decay.

My first step was to give the porch swing a light sanding with #150-grit sandpaper. This opened up the pores and revealed more of the original color of the cedar.

Quick Tip:  I keep an old, clean paint brush hanging on my workbench just for getting the sanding dust out of corners, cracks, joints, and the pores of the wood. The soft bristles do a great job of removing the dust without leaving streaks or scratches in the bare wood.

For my finish I selected Minwax® Helmsman® Teak Oil, designed to refresh the natural color of dense woods and help protect them from both moisture and the ultra-violet rays of the sun. For ease in application, I poured the Helmsman® Teak Oil into a clean container.

I then used a natural bristle brush to apply a generous amount of the Helmsman® Teak Oil, giving it 5-10 minutes to soak into the wood. Without wiping off any of the oil, I applied a second coat, leaving it on an additional 15-20 minutes. The total time you leave the Helmsman® Teak Oil on the wood before wiping it down should not exceed 30 minutes.

After no more than 30 minutes, I begin wiping off any excess oil that has not been absorbed by the wood. The key to Helmsman® Teak Oil is allowing it to dry in the wood, not on the wood. Wipe it completely dry with a clean cloth, going in the direction of the grain of the wood, then give it 6-8 hours to cure.

As you can see, the Helmsman® Teak Oil has replaced the missing natural oils, and is now protecting the wood against both the sun and the rain. You can use it on either indoor or outdoor furniture constructed of dense woods, such as mahogany, cedar, teak and other imported hardwoods. And anytime the wood starts to dry out, simply repeat the process to get years of use out of your furniture.

Until next time,

Thanks for stopping by!


PS – Be sure to check out the Minwax® Facebook page for even more tips and techniques, plus photos our readers have sent in of their recent projects!




24 comments on “Preserving Our Cedar Porch Swing

  1. Michelle Pappas

    Will the oil come off on our clothes when we sit on the swing after applying this oil? This has been my fear and the reason I haven’t done this yet even though my husband keeps telling me this is what we need to do to refinish our swing.

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Your husband is correct, Michelle. Once the oil completely dries it does not remain or become sticky again. You may be thinking about the old linseed oil finishes that did become sticky in humid weather, but the new Minwax oil finishes dry and harden in the wood and won’t leave any oil on your clothes. Good question! Thanks for reading.

  2. Justin

    I love how the oil really brought out the color of the wood on the swing. And the I love the pergola as well. It must be a great view.

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Thanks for the compliment, Justin. I had no idea what a dramatic change the pergola would make to the front of our house. It was the best small investment I’ve ever made into a house with this big of a return. Thanks again!

  3. Harry Thom



    Reference your “Preserving Our Cedar Porch Swing” article.

    I am refinishing a teak bench very similar in design to your cedar bench article. Unfortunately I was unaware that the Helmsman teak oil should not be allowed to dry on the surface (I thought that it was simply oil and would not harden). Can you recommend a solvent that will dissolve the “oil” so that I do not need to resand back to clean wood surface? I have tried acetone but it has marginal results.

    Thank you

    Long Beach, CA

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      I’ve been in your situation before, Harry. Other than sanding, what I would suggest is trying mineral spirits on a mild scrub brush, or Formby’s Furniture Refinisher. If neither of those works, your next step would be to use a true furniture stripper such as Formby’s Paint & Poly Remover. Thanks for reading and good luck!

  4. Tisha

    Your swing looks simply beautiful! Our new front porch has unfinished cedar beams used as supports. Would I be able to use the teak oil to protect them or would it be better to use some other type of protection? Many of the semi-transparent exterior staining products that I have found are too opaque for my tastes. I would love for my beams to have the beautiful look and color of your swing.

    Thank you so much for all of your wonderful insights and helpful how-to videos on the site. You have helped me so much! I am thrilled to have found your blog.

    Have a great day! Thank you again!

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Many thanks for your kind words, Tisha. I would certainly opt for the Minwax Helmsman Teak Oil but to keep in mind that the sun is out there every day attempting to bleach out the color of the wood, so you may have to apply the Teak Oil regularly to keep the wood looking new. Let us know if you have any other questions and good luck!

      1. Tisha

        Thank you so much, Bruce! I truly appreciate the help & feedback!

        And I do have another question some time when you have a minute…although it’s on an entirely different subject. I have watched many of your wonderful videos on wood finishing & have learned so much. However, I am preparing to stain & finish some brand new oak kitchen cabinets. I plan to stain them & then finish the outside of the cabinets with the MinWax Fast Drying Poly (oil based). However, I was wondering if there would be a better way to finish the inside of the drawers & upper cabinets? Some cabinet finishers do not recommend using oil based stains & finishes inside of drawers & cabinets. What is your opinion? How would you finish out the insides of cabinets & drawers? I am not brave enough to spray anything, but I don’t mind rubbing by hand. I have them all sanded and ready to go, but have been unable to decide what to use. I am at a standstill.

        Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated! Thank you so much!

        1. Bruce Johnson Post author

          Thanks for writing, Tisha, and a very good question. Obviously the insides don’t need as much protection as the outside of the cabinets but they do need something. And since your comfortable using a rub-on finish I would recommend Minwax Wipe-On Poly for the inside of your cabinets and drawers. It may only take one, possibly two coats, but I would give the shelves an extra coat to help protect them even more. Many thanks and good luck!

  5. Ryan

    It really looks like a brand new swing. Thanks for the tip about letting the oil dry inside the wood rather than on it. I’m sure it must make a big difference in the final result.

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      Thanks, Ryan, for your comments. You are correct, a big mistake people make with a penetrating finish such as Minwax Teak Oil is that they think they should let it dry on top of the wood rather than in the wood. Doing this results in a sticky finish, but when the excess is wiped off and the Teak Oil hardens in the wood, you get a natural looking protection.

  6. James

    Any suggestions on a longer lasting sealant for exterior teak and cedar? I also like to see the grain

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      I agree completely, James. I used Minwax Helmsman Teak Oil but we have to recognize from the beginning that the sun never lets up. One coat is not going to last several years. For my pieces that are in direct sun I often give them a fresh coat of Teak Oil twice a year to keep the wood looking pretty and to prevent it from turning gray and drying out. Thanks for reading!

  7. Vicki

    My husband and I are preparing to refinish our cedar porch swing. It has been varnished before, and my husband just sanded away all the old peeling varnish. We would like to use penetrating oil this time. Is it okay to stain the swing before applying the teak oil if you want to enhance the color of the cedar?

  8. Lydia Vasquez

    I’ve been searching for this product (Helmsman Teak Oil by Minwax) and having trouble finding it. I have found Minwax Teak Oil. Can you tell me if this name difference is simply new packaging or is there an difference between Minwax’s Helmsman and teak oil product? If there is a difference, do you have any recommendations about where I can buy the Helmsman product? Thanks so much.

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      It’s simply a difference in packaging, Lydia. The name Helmsman was added to Minwax Teak Oil to stress its ability to be used outdoors. Thanks for reading! -Bruce

  9. lisa justus

    We have cedar beams in our kitchen ceiling. Our sheetrock walls are light beige and want the cedar beams to be in sharp contrast, so we want them to be very, very dark (maybe even ebony). What prep and treatment do you recommend on the raw cedar and what stain color/type do you recommend? Do you have pics of any beams done in a dark stain we could see?
    Thanks so much!

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      I don’t have any pictures, Lisa, but I think if you did a little searching online you should be able to find some. Cedar is extremely porous and will soak in a great deal of stain very quickly, so after going to and looking at the color chart, be sure to test any stain you pick out ideally on a piece of scrap cedar, or on a small spot that will not show on your beams. I urge this strongly because you will be amazed at how dark cedar will become under your stain. I like your idea, but do test the stain first. Good luck and send pictures when it’s completed!

  10. Ann

    I just put up cedar fishscale shakes as decoration on the front part of my garage. Is the oil the best way to seal them or would a polyurethane be better? Also, can these products be applied this late in the season or do we need to wait until the spring? I live in the Chicago area. Thanks!

    1. Bruce Johnson Post author

      I would always recommend a penetrating oil finish specifically formulated for exterior use on cedar style shingles used as siding. It may be too late for this season, as the oil would need temperatures between 65-80 degrees to properly dry. Otherwise it’s going to congeal and may become an uneven sticky mess. I would air on the side of caution, waiting until you’ll have two to three days of temperatures in this range before applying an exterior penetrating oil. Cedar has enough natural oil to withstand your Chicago winter for now. But I would apply the oil finish in the Spring. Minwax makes a Helmsman Teak Oil intended for outdoor use but if you’re covering a large area, you may also want to consider one of the products made by Thompsons designed for outdoor use. Good luck!

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