Tung Oil vs. Linseed Oil

Tung Oil vs. Linseed Oil – Best Oils for Enhancing and Preserving Wood

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The hotly-debated topic about what’s the superior product when it comes to tung oil vs. linseed oil frequently comes up when DIY enthusiasts are looking to seal and preserve their wood. As with all items, there are pros and cons to each of these products. To help you determine which wood treatment will best serve your needs, we will discuss the benefits of tung oil as they compare to linseed oil in this article.



Tung Oil vs. Linseed Oil

These two oils are amongst the most commonly used oils to varnish your beloved wooden projects, and for good reason. Tung and linseed oil can offer you some impressive benefits, including outstanding protection from external factors and an eye-catching finish on all of your wooden items.

Applying Oil to Wood with Brush


What Is Tung Oil?

Let’s give some background details before getting into the colossal tung oil vs. linseed oil debate. Tung oil is an oil that is created from the seeds of tung trees; which only grow in selected places throughout the globe. These trees are found within various Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, and Burma and the oil from this tree has been used to seal and protect wood in these regions for centuries.

Tung Tree Branch with Flowers


What Is Linseed Oil?

Now, onto Tung oil’s rival, linseed oil. Linseed/flax oil is an oil derived from flax seeds of the flax plant, once the seeds have been dried out and pressed. The flax plant is not as rare as tung trees, as they grow within the regions of northern Europe, Russia, Canada, and China, among other places. This factor makes linseed oil considerably more accessible for individuals thanks to its ability to grow in a climate that is damp and cool, making it a rather versatile plant. 

Linseed Oil is Made from Flaxseeds


What Can Linseed and Tung Oils Be Used For?

If you intentionally searched for this topic, you probably already know that these oils are ideal for varnishing wood and are highly sought-after. The linseed oil vs. tung oil for the wood topic is centered on which of these oils you should choose to do the job of protecting and preserving your beloved wood projects. Both linseed and tung oil work by adding a smooth layer of protection that improves the look of an item, and also protects against any external factors that may cause wood to deteriorate.

Tung and Linseed Oil Protect Wood

If you’ve stumbled across this article while searching for DIY project ideas though, you may not know all of the benefits of linseed oil and tung oil. As far as linseed oil is concerned, the product is incredibly versatile. Both boiled and raw linseed oil are used as varnishes and painting mediums. This oil is also used in other items including soaps, food items, inks, hair care products, and linoleum. Boiled linseed oil in particular, works wonderfully in the varnish that is designed for your interior wood products and is entirely food safe.

Linseed Oil Finish is Food Safe

Tung oil is considered to be the less versatile wood treatment, as it’s mainly used for the vanishing and protecting of wood. Tung oil has made a name for itself as a popular varnish that gives the wood a smooth finish; giving the wood an almost plastic-like look. Tung oil is effective for both interior and exterior wood products thanks to its visual appeal and impressive protection. You can also cover various surfaces including metal, bamboo, brick, and concrete with a matte finish.

You Can Seal Stone with Tung Oil



What Is the Difference Between Tung Oil and Linseed Oil?

There is clearly some difference between linseed oil and tung oil in the versatility of their applications However, those aren’t the only distinguishing factors between these two oils. These are the main components that differentiate the two oils:

FactorsTung OilLinseed Oil
Visual appealWhen applied, tung oil leaves a shiny, glossy finish that is commonly compared to the look of plastic. This finish is ideal for interior projects.When used as a finish, linseed oil produces a matte look on the intended surface. This product is ideal if you are looking to create a tasteful rustic look.
VersatilityThe product is limited mainly to sealants that are used for coating and varnishing surfaces; including wood, bamboo, concrete, brick, and steel.Linseed is an incredibly versatile product and is found in various products, from personal care to food and more. It can also be used to varnish interior and exterior wood products.
PracticalityTung oil may take longer to apply, as it requires various coats to perform at its best because of its thin consistency (at least five coats are recommended). The drying process can take up to 72 hours.Linseed oil may take a lengthy amount of time to dry if you apply raw linseed oil. It may take anywhere from about two to 10 full weeks to properly dry. Boiled linseed oil dries much quicker, over one to three days.
DurabilityTung oil is considered an immensely durable oil, only requiring touching up every couple of years if preserved correctly without harsh external factors (like extreme weather and excessive sunlight.) Besides that, tung oil is still considered resilient against water and other factors.On the other hand, linseed oil requires consistent upkeep and touching up, if natural oil is used. It’s advised you touch up on your wooden items annually for the best outcome. It’s best to use linseed oil on indoor items as it’s not as water-resistant as tung oil.
CostSince tung oil is more difficult to source, it’s considered the rarer oil. Thus, tung oil is the more expensive product between the two.Linseed oil is a product that can easily be found at your local corner, grocery, or hardware store. Due to its accessibility and common usage, it’s cheaper than tung oil.

The debate of linseed oil vs. tung oil mostly comes down to your preference on what finish you’re looking for, and how much time you have on your hands for the entire wood treatment process. Other than that, there is little in these two beloved oils to make one significantly superior to the other.



The History of Linseed Oil vs. Tung Oil

The origins of both of these oils create a clearer understanding of how the practice of using them for preserving and maintaining wood developed. Let’s briefly discuss where both of these oils originated from and how they are used today.


Tung Oil

This popular sealing oil originated in China, dating as far back as 400 BC (if we are to rely on the recorded written works of Confucius). It’s believed that tung oil was first used as a protective layer of varnish over ships as a means of making the ships more waterproof. This was during the Song Dynasty period.

Tung Oil in Chinese Woodwork

By the time the 1900s rolled around, use of the oil began to stretch into different parts of the globe, including growing popularity within the United States in 1896 and reaching Germany during 1897. The UK, Australia, India, and African countries soon joined in on using the product, and the rest, as they say, is history!


Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is a much more recent creation, having been invented by Frederick Walton in 1860. Walton was an English manufacturer and inventor who also created linoleum, a waterproof cover for flooring. Linseed oil was used for coating too and was soon included in an array of items thanks to its safe and versatile nature. The 1900s saw linseed oil becoming increasingly popular and spreading out across the globe, initially for its industrial use. Once it was discovered that flaxseed oil (the original compound of linseed oil) is safe to consume, it was introduced into food and cooking.

Linseed Oil is Edible

These two oils have proven themselves as DIY staples for enhancing and preserving wooden projects. Linseed and tung oil reign supreme as the preferred varnish oils thanks to their durability, gorgeous finish, and impressive ability to protect against the elements.



How to Apply Linseed or Tung Oil

Once you’ve decided which oil suits your DIY needs best, it’s time to get to work and give your wood creations a quality oil finish. What follows are step-by-step instructions on how to varnish with each oil.

Apply Linseed and Tung Oil with Cloth


Tung Oil

A popular choice with DIY hobbyists, tung oil offers you strong protection against any external aggressors with the added benefit of a striking sheen finish. There is an easy way to get the job done without the need for fancy products or equipment.


What You’ll Need

  • A soft, dry cloth
  • A bristle brush
  • Pure tung oil

Before you get down to business, you need to make sure your wooden item is clean first. A simple dusting or wipe down with a dry cloth will remove any dust before you begin the coating process. Using a clean bristle brush, begin with the most hard-to-reach areas to avoid any mishaps later, which includes those difficult corners. When applying the varnish, use brushstrokes that follow the way the wood grain flows.

Remove Excess Tung Oil

It is advisable to use a generous amount of tung oil for the first few coats to truly saturate the wood. Once the first coat is applied, successive layers can be applied, taking care not to totally soaking the item. It should take around five coats to achieve the full effect.

Applying Tung Oil to Wood

Reassess your product after about 30 minutes, and remove any excess oil that may be still lingering with your soft clean cloth. Keep an eye on the product over the next few hours in case any bubbling occurs. Once the product is totally dry, simply apply another coat of tung oil to smoothen the bubbles over. This simple method helps you to perfectly seal and protect your much-loved wooden DIY projects. You can also sand your wood item down first for a smooth finish, which we will tackle in the linseed oil method.



Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is another immensely popular varnish product that requires only a few coats for impressive protection against sunlight and water damage while providing a classic rustic matte finish. The process of varnishing with linseed oil is also relatively easy, provided you use the appropriate method and equipment.


What You’ll Need

  • Natural bristle brush
  • Sandpaper
  • A clean cloth
  • Boiled linseed oil

In this instance, we are discussing how to coat your wooden items with boiled linseed oil. You can prepare the surface of your wood by giving it a light sand with sandpaper first, before beginning the varnishing process.

Sand Wood Before Applying Oil

After this has been done, the rest of the process is incredibly similar to the tung oil application as discussed above. Begin by tackling the challenging spots first, applying the oil in curricular motions. When it comes to linseed oil, only two to three coats are necessary. Once you’re done, use A clean cloth to wipe down the item to remove all excess oil that may be left. As with tung oil, give the item 30 minutes to check for any bubbles or extra residue that needs extra wiping down.

Linseed Oil Brushed onto Wood

You can use alternative applicators besides the natural bristle brush too. A grey Scotch-Brite pad or soft clean cloth can be used as an applicator for both of these oils. It mainly comes down to individual preference.




Alternatives to Linseed or Tung Oil

Speaking of alternative applicators, there are other options when it comes to oil varnishes too. Linseed and tung oil alternatives can be explored if you’re looking for a different method or finish on your wooden items. Quality tung oil alternatives may include mineral and Danish oil. These oils are ideal alternatives to linseed oil too.


Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a derivative by-product of refined crude oil, in liquid form. This oil is commonly found as the main ingredient in petroleum products. and is both clear and odor-free. Mineral oil can also be found in various personal care and beauty products, including make-up and creams. For the use of varnished wood, here are some advantages to mineral oil:


  • Mineral oil is labeled as non-toxic
  • Is food safe in its purest form
  • Easy-to-apply
  • Seals wood without changing the color

  • Since this oil isn’t as thick, it’s also not as durable as tung or linseed oil
  • Will not protect against scratches and water damage

Mineral oil is considered an appealing varnish alternative for smaller wooden household items, including wooden spoons, cutting boards, and other small wooden household items.


Danish Oil

Danish oil is a hybrid oil that is a blend of tung oil, vegetable oil, chemicals, and/or polymerized linseed oil. This blend was created with the idea of including all the benefits of these separate oils, into one concoction. Danish oil is great for those with no particular oil preference that are looking to try out something new.


  • Danish oil is waterproof
  • Suitable for use on exterior wood items
  • Contains tung oil and linseed oil
  • Dazzling sheen finish
  • Fast-drying hybrid oil that is also easy to apply

  • Not as durable as linseed oil or tung oil used on their own
  • Will require frequent reapplication

These items make for awesome linseed or tung oil alternatives for DIY hobbyists who are looking for a bigger challenge than normal.



In the battle of tung oil vs. linseed oil, the one that reigns supreme all comes down to what finish you’re looking for, and how much time you have on your hands for the varnishing process. Both oils provide adequate protection with a stunning finish. Ultimately, the best oil to use will depend on the nature of your project, the amount of future maintenance you are willing to put in, and your personal preferences.



Frequently Asked Questions


Can I Use Linseed Oil on Cedar?

Treating Cedar with linseed oil is common practice, and sometimes, actually preferred over other varnishes. Boiled linseed oil provides cedar with a stunning finish, while protecting external Cedar from any damage caused by harsh sunlight or extreme weather. Using linseed oil as a sealant may also protect against superficial dents, scratches, and even water damage.


Which Oil Is Best for Outdoor Projects?

All of the above-mentioned oils can be used for both interior and exterior wooden items. However, when it comes to which oil stands the test against extreme weather and environmental exposure, tung oil reigns supreme. Tung oil is well-known for its protective properties against harsh sunlight and water damage, making it an ideal first choice. Your wooden items will have an elegantly smooth finish too.


Which Oil Is Ideal for Smaller Projects?

Although all of the oils mentioned above work wonderfully as a protective varnish, some may be the more practical choice when it comes to smaller projects. Such oils include linseed and Danish oil. Linseed oil doesn’t require many coats to get the job done but may take a while to dry. Danish oil has a much quicker drying time but requires more regular maintenance. It all boils down to which aspect you find to be the most essential when varnishing your items.


Which Oil Dries the Quickest?

If you’re in a hurry to finish your varnishing process (or just don’t have a lot of patience!) then you may be wondering which oil does its job in the quickest time. Mineral oil may take up to six hours to fully cure. Danish oil may take only around four to six hours to fully dry. Linseed and tung oil are thicker oils, which may delay drying times. Your best option for a quick-drying oil that both protects and preserves your wood items is Danish oil, thanks to its thin consistency.


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