PS Advisor July 2018 Issue

Cetol Versus Teak Sealer

I own a 42-foot Pearson 424 with lots of bright work. Iíve absolutely had it with Cetol! There must be something that is easier to use than this. It forms a dark coating after a few years and begins to peel in splotches. Then you have to remove it, clean the teak, and start over. Oh, the stuff goes on clear so if you spill a drop on your gelcoat, you canít see it until it ambers. Once that happens, you can never get it off. Iím trying Semco Natural. I tried a small area a couple of years ago and so far have had good luck. While it isnít as durable as Cetol, it doesnít build-up.

Rich Carter

Pearson 424, via PS Online

Teak sealer
Photos by Ann Key

After just six months, the six coats of Dalyís Seafin Teak sealer (second and fourth panel from left) had broken down. The Cetolójust three coats and without glossóalso was ready for recoating.

Because stripping and removing a coating from your caprailówith all its small corners, and hardware to work aroundóis so much harder than simply touching it up, the switch to a sealer like Semco can make sense. In the April 2017 PS Advisor we weighed the pros and cons of all of these coatings, and if you are going to use any of them, a sealer requires the least amount of effort exerted in one fell swoop. You'll also want to review our series of wood finish †reports in 2009-2011, covering the most widely sold of the wood finishes for boats (We are currently working on an update, although only a few new products have entered the market.)

Akzo Nobel, the makers of both products, recommends prepping and recoating either product on an annual basis. Prepping usually only requires scuffing with a green 3M Scotch-Brite pad, wiping down with a solvent to remove any dust, oil or grease, and recoating. Yours must have been fairly long†gone.

Based on observation, reader surveys, and our own panel tests, 12 months is about as long as you can expect either of these products to maintain their new or shiny appearance without recoating. One caprail coated with the Natural Cetol alone, which was left untouched for the duration of the test, required a complete refinishing after about 18 months of exposure in the tropics. Refinishing in this case (a 30-footer) did not require any scraping or removal with a heat gun, just a long day with a palm sander, sanding blocks, and some 3M Scotch-Brite†pads.

If Cetol stains the gelcoat, a heavy-duty rubbing compound (see ďHeavy Duty Rubbing Compounds,Ē PS April 2014 online) is probably your best bet for removing the Cetol, but the answer depends somewhat on your non-skid. If itís molded gelcoat and in good condition, you can try to clean it with a Scotch-Brite pad and a cleaner like Interlux 202, or you may have to sand†it†off.

If itís an older molded gelcoat thatís porous, Interlux recommends pouring a solvent like acetone, Xylene, or MEK on the stain, then covering it with plastic to keep the solvent from evaporating; wait 30 minutes or so, then clean the surface with a Scotch-Brite pad. If it is a nonskid paint, then sand off the Cetol and retouch with the paint. Some paint removers may also help, but Interlux Interstrip 299E should not be used on deck, according to the maker.

Semco is a popular sealer and a good choice for someone who doesnít want to deal with a big refinishing project in the future. This is what contributors John and Amanda Neal use on their Hallberg-Rassy. Be careful in assuming that Semco does not stain gelcoat. In our experience, it will stain the gelcoat if it is not wiped away immediately.

Comments (13)

I also own a Pearson 424 with it's enormous amount of teak. Years ago I took off the teak "brow" to simplify my life a bit. I've had the boat 25 years and have tried lots of things except for varnish.
My current attempt is 2 coats of Cetol Light followed by 2 coats of Cetol Gloss. My hope is I'll get a few years out of the toe rail and the grab rail because I first made Sunbrella covers for all teak surfaces! My local canvas guy gave me some ideas on the sewing using a pattern. Appearance is not perfect but if it saves me hours of refinishing it will be worth it. My plan is to leave these covers on during the winter also. Anybody else tried this and how many years can I expect to delay refinishing??

Posted by: chesapbob | July 23, 2018 9:51 AM    Report this comment

Which product is recommended for the floor teak inside the cabin?

Posted by: Hector | July 11, 2018 10:01 AM    Report this comment

I swear by Honey Teak from Signature Finish. I've tried almost all of the products listed above, and Honey Teak has proved to be the best. Easily spot repaired, with a clear sacrificial UV coating that needs to be re-applied once a year.

Posted by: Biomassive | July 9, 2018 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Still waiting for the magic finish. Over the years I have tried everything from the sealer used on tiger cage floors in zoos, to glossy vinyl finish for swimming pools, and every marine finish touted as new and better. I don't think I've ever missed a Practical Sailor test result. So far, nothing works on my all bright teak 1900 Chinese Junk. It is all old-growth teak and the grain is so tight it doesn't absorb anything. But it doesn't rot either. The 2" thick hull planks run end to end and still have the original iron nails. Only two pieces have been replaced since I resurrected her from the bottom of the Gulf. She is up waiting for her current restoration and I would love some advice. Has anything new emerged over the past 10 years?

Posted by: Mandarin Star | July 8, 2018 12:19 PM    Report this comment

I highly recommend Deks Olje, a product in between oils and a good varnish.

Oils require frequent re-applications and never give the varnished look. Varnish is beautiful, but repairs require huge amounts of effort, sanding back to bare wood periodically as the finish ages and gets compromised.

Deks is softer than varnish, but since it penetrates well and breathes well, it doesn't crack or peel (at least they say so, and we've personally never had it crack or peel). The #1 finish gives a nice sheen, the #2 approaches a wet look. Durability is somewhere around Cetol, but without the surface failure from weathering if the Deks in maintained.

Which brings us to the kicker. Annual maintenance is to wash the finish with soap and water, then lightly go over it with a mild scotch-brite soaked in #1. And if you want more shine, a layer of #2. Both are very thin and readily absorbed.

If you get a ding, you can dab on some #1 and not worry about it. Or if you're passionate about the finish, you can then put on some #2 to complete the shine. Since it's not a varnish, it lasts a very long time in a can.

I completely get why Deks didn't fare as well as other products in the last long-term test -- it's not as sturdy when left alone to the weather for X years.

But to the me the metric that matters is "the most beauty over time for the least effort". If the Deks doesn't crack and peel, and the annual wash-then-one-coat keeps it in top shape, the total hours over time works much better for me than other products.

Of course, that's the "if" that matters.

After six years of maine summers and winters we're still happy. The old boat is now sold and we plan to use Deks on the teak for a Pearson Ensign we've started renovating. We've also used it on stained acacia wood Ikea outdoor furniture, which guests assume is varnished mahogany -- though only two years in the weather for the furniture. But perhaps with different woods, or different latitudes, the longevity is different.

On a related note, I liked using the #1 on wear surfaces that got abused. I used to get a knot in my stomach when I saw varnish get scuffed up, knowing a repair was in order. With the Deks I could wash, throw down some #1 when I had the opportunity to let it sit overnight, and we were set.

(I've clearly drunk the Deks Olje kool-aid, but that said, I still wanted to share our experience with it).

Posted by: mikec | July 8, 2018 8:22 AM    Report this comment

Test comment for bad gateway error.

Posted by: mikec | July 8, 2018 8:21 AM    Report this comment

Why don't you just put Epifanes clear varnish on. Too much work? Five to seven coats, but gorgeous when done.

Posted by: zengirl | July 7, 2018 2:17 PM    Report this comment

We are again trying Watco Teak Oil. Applied in Chiapas MX last April. Will return to "Someday" in November, and let you know how it held up.

Posted by: Umpqua Chief | July 7, 2018 11:25 AM    Report this comment

good morning... as much as I cursed my "brightwork" I am always reminded of an old sailor I met in the gulf islands years ago... who had limited bright work but maintained it religiously.
When I asked him why he smiled and showed me his watch, an old wind up pocket watch, concluding by saying its like my watch its about being a labour of love and routine... after that... well there wasn't much more to say... have a good day everyone

Posted by: arcticmonkeyvan46 | July 7, 2018 11:00 AM    Report this comment

I've had success using Cetol Clear Gloss over 8-12 coats of Awlspar M3131 varnish. The varnish is so easy & agreeable to use. It will allow multiple coats a day without sanding to build up, then one sanding before 2-3 coats (depending on whether I have to sand again due to surface quality) Cetol Gloss. From then on I lightly sand and apply a topcoat of the gloss onece a year here in North Carolina.

Posted by: OBXJim | July 7, 2018 10:22 AM    Report this comment

Why not leave teak natural. Far builders have been going bare for eons. Nothing beats varnish for fancy looks. Provided some work is done every 4 to 6 months to keep it fresh with washdowns. Most cruisers we see doing "blue water" have scruffy looking teak. Like large anchors sending out the message that "we're blue water sailors". Not dock captives.

Posted by: Piberman | July 7, 2018 9:23 AM    Report this comment

I have mahogany handrails and trim and some teak trim with the same problem. I have switched to Australian Timber Oil from Cabot. After about a year the wood still looks great. It does not peel. You get the protection and the color, just not the shine of varnish. Tow out of three is not too bad.

Posted by: Jack Buba | July 3, 2018 12:01 PM    Report this comment

I use Semco teak sealer on bare wood, then a quality varnish on top of it. Yes, I do have to touch up after a few months, but it's a small price for great looking teak.

Posted by: dennisjay | July 2, 2018 4:23 PM    Report this comment

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