Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil | Which is Better? | 2023

Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil

Selecting the right finish for wood is crucial if you want to ensure your material of choice is protected for as long as possible. A decent finish not only provides wood with a protective layer, it can also enhance the natural beauty of the material. Tung oil and linseed oil are two readily available options for those looking to protect and improve the appearance of wood.

Need some help deciding on which oil is the right product for your project? Below, we break down the key differences between tung oil and linseed oil to help you choose the right finish for your needs.

Tung Oil Explained

Tung oil is an affordable and readily available choice of finish for those looking to protect wood. This plant-based solution is easily absorbed into most varieties of wood, meaning you won’t have to worry about applying countless coats to ensure a desirable finish. Tung oil also dries pretty quickly, with the final finish looking close to what you might expect from a conventional varnish or lacquer.

If you’re searching for an oil to be used on external wood, tung oil is a great option. This plant-based oil boasts superb water resistance. Once tung oil has completely dried, it provides an almost impermeable barrier that will prevent moisture from setting in. This ensures that mould growth never gains a foothold.

It also prevents wood from softening over time. Tung oil also has an attractive honey-yellow hue that greatly enhances the appearance of most woods. The most natural tung oils should be semi-clear in appearance, imbuing the wood it is applied to with a subtle amber character once it has dried.

There are a couple of drawbacks to using tung oil. For starters, the best tung oil products tend to be on the expensive side. If you only need a finish for a small project, the overall cost of your project will be minimal. However, if you intend to apply a generous finish to a large surface area, the cost can quickly stack up.

Applying tung oil can also be fairly time-consuming. Unlike linseed oil, which usually only requires a few coats to be applied to wood, tung oil often requires five or more individual coats. If you want the best possible results, you’ll also need to invest considerably more time when it comes to sanding and preparing your wood prior to applying tung oil.

Linseed Oil Explained

If you’re searching for a fast-drying finish that delivers spectacular results, linseed oil is definitely something to consider. When applied properly, linseed oil absorbs readily into wood and provides an incredibly durable finish. Not only will linseed oil protect against moisture, it will also minimise damage from scuffs and scratches. Linseed oil also tends to deliver a satin sheen after application. This can revive the appearance of the most tired piece of wood with relatively little effort.

Linseed oil is also quick and easy to apply. You’ll only need to apply a few coats to ensure a great finish. If you’re using boiled linseed oil, you can also expect fast-drying results. In fact, a single coat of boiled linseed oil can dry in as little as a few hours. Another major benefit of linseed oil is that it can be applied to a broad range of woods. Regardless of the original condition or colour of the wood you are working with, you can expect noticeable improvements after minimal application and effort.

Linseed oil isn’t without its drawbacks. Unlike tung oil, linseed oil is not intended for external use, rendering it useless for reviving old garden furniture or decking. Although a coating of linseed oil will provide you with a reliable waterproof barrier, it won’t hold up against constant exposure to rain and sunlight. Another downside of linseed oil is that it is prone to fading. After initial application, you’ll be able to enjoy a noticeable golden hue. However, this will inevitably fade to a darker shade.

The Verdict

Linseed oil has some definite advantages. It’s easy to apply and dries incredibly quickly. However, it won’t hold up against the elements, meaning it’s not ideal for use with outdoor furniture and wood that is regularly exposed to the elements. Tung oil, although expensive, is by far the better choice.

It’s fairly easy to apply and dries quickly, somewhat negating the multiple layers you’ll need to apply to achieve desirable results. It also enhances wood with a beautifully warm character, while the overall finish is far more durable than what you can expect from linseed oil.


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