Battle of the Teak Cleaners - Snappy Teak-Nu vs Star Brite
Note: I/we are not sponsored by any companies mentioned in this article. We cruise full time on our test bed, SV Confianza, and we enjoy sharing our tests and opinions to give back to the community.
We are teak oilers over varnishers, so our teak needs regular elbow grease. In our (seemingly never-ending) quest for the right teak cleaner, we decided to do a face-off between the two most often recommended products: Snappy Teak-Nu and Star Brite Teak Cleaner. With a weathered table and worn-out bow pulpit seats, we embarked on a side-by-side comparison.
After the test, we thought Snappy Teak-Nu was going to be a winner, but a few weeks out gave us a different story!
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Deciding to Give Snappy Teak-Nu a Try
Our journey began with a couple of YouTube video demonstrations of Snappy Teak-Nu, sparking our curiosity to test it out on our heavily weathered teak table. When we went to the local marine surplus and chandlery in Daytona Beach, Florida, one of the employees even commented: "that's what all the super yacht guys use." We figured we must be on the right track.
I should point out that Star Brite acquired Snappy Nu in 2018, so both products are owned by the same company.
Initial Results from Snappy Teak-Nu
We started with our cockpit table. The table was a mess from sitting in a boatyard, mostly uncovered, while our repower project dragged on from the initial 2 months to over 6 months. Normally we take great care of this table, but, alas, it was in a sorry state.
The splotchiness is a symptom of using the Star Brite Teak cleaner and brightener originally and then not keeping up on the oiling. As the oil washed out, the unprotected parts started to darken and grow mold.
Let's see how Snappy Teak-Nu can handle this mess! Here's a gallery of that first test before we get into the side-by-side:
Angie was initially very impressed with this new-to-us product. It did take a whole three treatments, but it appeared to completely restore the table! SPOILER: It didn't last. More on that under the "Unforeseen Twist" heading later on.
After we were generally satisfied with the result, Angie questioned how it compared to the cheaper and generally more accessible Star Brite Teak Cleaner & Star Brite Teak Brightener, which is our usual go-to.
The Showdown - Snappy Nu vs Star Brite Side by Side
Our weathered bow seats provided an ideal testing ground, as it gave us two equally water and sun damaged platforms to work with – an area in dire need of some TLC.
On the port side, we enlisted the help of the Star Brite Teak Cleaner set.
Meanwhile, on the starboard side, the Snappy Nu Teak stepped up to the plate.
Both products come in two parts, but the specifics of their chemical compositions seem quite different. Snappy Nu Teak has 2 parts, a strong Acid followed by a Neutralizing basic solution.
As far as we can tell, the acidic components in Snappy Nu Teak play a role in breaking down dirt, grime, mold, and other contaminants that can accumulate on teak wood over time. These acids help to dissolve the buildup and restore the wood's natural color and appearance.
However, because of the presence of acids, there is a lot of debate on whether it's damaging to the teak. The acid is then neutralized with a basic solution and the dirt washed away with water.
The Star Brite kit is made up of two solutions as well - a Cleaner and a Brightener. Again, as far as we can tell, Starbrite Teak Cleaner is generally not categorized as a strong acid-based cleaner, though it does contain acidic components. Instead, it seems to employ a combination of detergents, surfactants, and other cleaning agents to remove dirt, stains, and weathering from teak wood surfaces. As the formula is not published, we can only make certain assumptions. The brightener is even more of a mystery.
Applying Snappy Nu Teak felt very satisfying. As the product transformed into a tar-like mud, it seemed to be waging a successful war against dirt and grime. On the other hand, Starbrite lacked the dramatic visuals during the process, but its results were on par with its competitor.
Three rounds of treatments ensued for each side, with comparable scrubbing efforts for both products. Neither stood out as exceptionally easier or harder to use.
Post-treatment, a visual divergence emerged. The Starbrite-treated side displayed a more bleached appearance, while the Snappy Nu side retained more of the coveted amber wood color. Initial favoritism for Snappy Nu began to take root.
The Unforeseen Twist
As time passed, there was an unexpected turn of events. The Snappy Nu-treated side exhibited a fibrous film that stubbornly clung to the wood after the cleaning process. Despite applying two coats of Starbrite teak oil, the issue persisted.
It appeared as if there was pulp peeling away from the wood, and we now expect we will have to sand and refinish some of these surfaces. It was most visible around our door frame and table (our initial projects mentioned above) more-so than on the bow seat surface tested, and I expect to have to refinish all these surfaces in the near future.
The Snappy Teak-Nu Predicament
Delving into the Snappy Nu experience, we uncovered some concerning issues. The destruction of wood fibers became evident through our tests on the table and door frame. The cleaner seemed to remove material from the grain, emphasizing the grain's heights. Another crucial problem emerged: the growing presence of mold in teak's crevices. Less pulp in the grain led to quicker mold growth – a challenge we hadn't anticipated. There is also a fuzzy film appearing over the surface that seems like further pulp lifting away from the wood.
The instructions do say to give the wood a scrub with a stiff bristled brush, and maybe we were supposed to remove more of this pump. But the brush also was digging out the grain in the teak. Teak grain is very soft compared to the very hard wood. And aggressive scrubbing over time will create big peaks and valleys in the wood. This attracts the very mold that we are trying to get rid of in the first place!
Two months in, the Star Brite side emerged victorious, presenting a more appealing appearance, as we were not happy with how the Snappy Teak-Nu surfaces aged.
While Snappy Nu showcased impressive initial results, its long-term effects raised concerns. Star Brite, with its reliable performance and lasting vibrancy, emerged as the preferred choice in our experiment. Next project: doing an actual sanding and restoration to bring our teak fully back to its original glory.