Wood furniture is a staple in many homes. The warm, natural beauty of wood never goes out of style. However, wood furniture can lose its luster over time without proper care. This is where olive oil comes in. As a plant-based oil derived from olives, it can provide a nourishing treatment for wood surfaces. But is olive oil an effective and safe choice for conditioning wooden furniture? Let’s dive deeper into this natural solution for wood care.
What Are the Benefits of Using Olive Oil on Wood Furniture?
Olive oil has several characteristics that make it suitable for use on wood furniture:
Penetrates Deeply into the Wood Grain
The molecules in olive oil are small enough to absorb deep into the wood fibers. This helps moisturize the wood from the inside out. Oils like tung oil and linseed oil work similarly.
Acts as a Protective Moisture Barrier
Once absorbed into the wood grain, olive oil forms a natural protective layer against moisture loss. This prevents the wood from drying out and cracking over time.
Restores the Wood’s Natural Oils
All wood contains natural oils that keep it flexible and prevent cracking. Over years of use, furniture loses these beneficial oils. Applying olive oil replaces some of these lost oils.
Enhances the Natural Beauty of the Wood
Olive oil accentuates the natural patterns and grains in wood. It provides a lustrous, low-sheen finish that looks subtly richer.
Leaves No Build-Up
Unlike some wood polishes, olive oil leaves no waxy residue or film on the surface. It absorbs fully into the wood.
Hypoallergenic and Odorless
Pure, high-quality olive oil is free of harsh chemicals and additives. It has no bothersome fumes or smell.
Affordable and Accessible
Olive oil is readily available in most homes and grocery stores. It provides an inexpensive wood treatment compared to commercial polishes.
Based on these natural benefits, olive oil has clear potential as a nourishing wood conditioner. But it’s not necessarily the perfect solution. Let’s look at some of the downsides.
What Are the Drawbacks of Using Olive Oil on Wood Furniture?
While olive oil has many positives, there are a few cautions to keep in mind:
Requires Frequent Reapplication
Olive oil provides only short-term conditioning. It slowly wears off with cleaning and daily use. Frequent reapplication is needed, like every few weeks.
May Go Rancid Over Time
Olive oil can oxidize and become rancid if left on wood for extended periods. This leads to an unpleasant smell and sticky residue.
Not as Effective as Specialty Oils
Oils like tung and linseed oil penetrate deeper and last longer than olive oil. They provide superior protection.
Can Attract Dust and Grime
The oily film left by olive oil can attract dust, dirt, and fingerprints. Frequent polishing is needed to avoid a grimy buildup.
Not Ideal for Outdoor Furniture
Olive oil is not durable enough for outdoor wood furniture. It wears off quickly in the elements. Oils like teak and tung work better outside.
May Darken Light-Colored Wood
The yellowish hue of olive oil can subtly darken very light woods like maple or birch. A mineral oil is clearer for these woods.
While olive oil has some drawbacks, proper application can help maximize its benefits while minimizing any downsides.
How to Apply Olive Oil to Wood Furniture
Applying olive oil properly is key to getting the most out of it as a wood treatment. Here are some tips:
Choose the Right Type of Olive Oil
Extra virgin and pure olive oils work best. Avoid flavored or infused varieties which may contain additives.
Clean the Surface Thoroughly First
Remove any dust, dirt, old polish or grime with a wood cleaner before applying olive oil.
Use a Clean, Soft Cloth
A microfiber cloth or cotton flannel works well to apply a thin, even coat of oil.
Apply a Small Amount
A little goes a long way with olive oil. Use sparingly to avoid a greasy residue.
Rub the Oil Deep into the Grain
Gently rub the oil to help it penetrate the wood fibers for maximum absorption.
Let the Oil Soak In
Leave the oil on for 10-15 minutes before removing any excess.
Buff to a Natural Sheen
After soaking in, buff the wood gently with a clean cloth to remove excess oil and create an even glow.
Reapply Every Few Weeks
Renew the olive oil coating every 2-4 weeks for optimal conditioning.
Taking this care to apply olive oil sparingly and thoroughly will provide the best results. But how does olive oil compare to other wood conditioning products?
How Does Olive Oil Compare to Other Wood Furniture Conditioners?
Olive oil has some distinct pros and cons when compared to other options for conditioning wood furniture:
- Pro: Mineral oil is clear and won’t alter the wood color.
- Con: It doesn’t penetrate the wood grain as deeply as olive oil.
- Pro: Has a longer shelf life than olive oil and won’t go rancid as quickly.
- Con: Has a higher melting point so it needs to be warmed to liquefy.
- Pro: Provides a slightly harder surface film than olive oil.
- Con: Significantly more expensive than olive oil.
- Pro: Cures into a protective, water-resistant finish.
- Con: Takes longer to penetrate than olive oil.
- Pro: Penetrates very deeply into wood pores.
- Con: Has a strong odor that some may find unpleasant.
Beeswax Furniture Polish
- Pro: Beeswax can fill in small cracks and scratches.
- Con: Leaves a residue that needs periodic removal.
Commercial Wood Conditioners
- Pro: Provide balanced formulations for easy application.
- Con: Cost more and contain synthetic additives.
As this comparison shows, olive oil occupies a middle ground between specialty oils and commercial products. It offers a short-term, natural wood treatment for a low cost.
Does Olive Oil Provide a Protective Finish for Wood Furniture?
While olive oil conditions and polishes wood, it does not create a protective finish or film. True wood finishes like polyurethane or lacquer provide a durable seal against spills, scratches, and moisture.
Olive oil soaks into the wood grain without leaving any coating on the surface. It adds moisture and richness to the look of the wood. But olive oil does not seal the wood or offer lasting protection. It can, however, add conditioning benefits under other finishes.
What Types of Wood Can Be Treated with Olive Oil?
Olive oil’s gentle composition makes it safe for most wood species and finish types.
Good Woods for Olive Oil
Olive oil brings out the best in both light and dark hardwoods. It’s also suitable for engineered woods and wood composites like plywood.
Compatible Finish Types
- Raw unfinished wood
- Stained or painted wood
- Waxed wood
- Lacquered wood
- Polyurethaned wood
- Varnished wood
- Shellacked wood
Olive oil is compatible over the top of most sealant finishes. It won’t disturb the finish but will condition the wood underneath. The only exception is unfinished raw wood, which will absorb more oil.
Olive oil is not ideal for woods used outdoors. These benefit more from oils like teak and tung. Greasy exotic woods like rosewood and ebony also do not need added oils. But for most indoor furniture, olive oil can provide benefits.
Is Olive Oil a Long-Term Solution for Wood Furniture Care?
The light, absorbent nature of olive oil means it does not last indefinitely on wood. While it provides an initial conditioning surge, the effects taper off in just a few weeks.
For long-term wood preservation, heavier oils like tung, linseed and walnut oil provide more enduring protection. Waxes and commercial polishes also have longer-lasting effects.
Olive oil is better suited as a periodic moisturizing treatment in between deeper conditioning. Used sparingly and reapplied every 2-4 weeks, it can be part of an ongoing maintenance routine. But it is not a permanent solution for wood preservation by itself.
How Does Olive Oil Condition and Protect Outdoor Wood Furniture?
While olive oil can provide mild conditioning for indoor woods, it is not well-suited for outdoor furniture care. When used on patio, porch, or deck furniture, olive oil has some distinct disadvantages:
- Breaks Down Quickly: The sun, rain, snow and other elements degrade olive oil rapidly. It requires reapplication every few days to keep up.
- Attracts Dirt and Debris: Outside grime and pollen stick readily to olive oil’s oily residue.
- Too Light for Durability: Olive oil absorbs deeper into wood outdoors where the weather has dried it out even more. This makes the oil disappear faster.
- Prone to Mold: In shaded, damp areas olive oil can promote mold growth on the wood surface.
- Stays Greasy: Olive oil remains slick and tacky feeling outdoors. This can transfer onto clothing.
- Not Waterproof: The oil does not repel water well, potentially causing wood to crack.
Better Oils for Outdoor Furniture
Here are some superior oil options for outdoor wood care:
- Teak oil
- Tung oil
- Linseed oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Hemp oil
Teak oil, in particular, contains natural water repelling properties. Tung oil forms a protective barrier. These oils penetrate well but also cure to a resilient finish in outdoor conditions.
Maintenance Tips for Outdoor Wood
To keep outdoor furniture looking its best, try these care tips:
- Apply a wood protectant sealant first like marine varnish or spar urethane.
- Remove dirt and debris regularly with a wood cleaner.
- Let wood dry out completely between rains to avoid trapped moisture.
- Sand lightly between re-oiling to remove grayed upper fibers.
- Refresh oil treatments each season or as needed.
While olive oil falls short for outdoor use, the right combination of protective sealants, cleaning, and refreshing oils will maintain the beauty of exterior wood furniture.
What Are Some Simple Olive Oil and Vinegar Wood Furniture Polish Recipes?
Olive oil can be combined with vinegar or lemon juice to create quick and easy DIY wood polish:
Basic Olive Oil and Vinegar Wood Polish
- 1 part olive oil
- 1 part white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
Mix the two ingredients. Apply a small amount to clean wood using a soft cloth. Let sit 10 minutes. Buff with a clean cloth until no oil remains.
Fancy Olive Oil Lemon Polish
- 2 parts olive oil
- 1 part fresh lemon juice
- Optional: Few drops essential oil for scent like lavender, orange, peppermint
Squeeze fresh lemon juice into olive oil. Add essential oil if desired. Mix well. Follow directions above for application.
The acidity in the vinegar or lemon juice helps cut through dirt and grime. It allows the oil to penetrate deeper into the grain.
For best results, shake the mixture vigorously before each use. Apply thinly and buff thoroughly after 10 minutes dwell time. Store unused polish in an airtight container.
What Are Some Alternatives to Olive Oil for an All-Natural Wood Polish?
Some other kitchen ingredients can also be combined to create effective homemade wood polishes:
- Coconut Oil and Lemon Juice – Features coconut oil’s longevity and lemon juice cleaning power
- Beeswax and Orange Oil – Beeswax fills pores while orange oil brightens
- Walnut Oil and Vinegar – Longer-lasting walnut oil with a vinegar cut
- Almond Oil and Lavender Oil – Includes aromatherapy benefits
- Coconut Oil and Vinegar – Blend longevity of coconut oil with cleaning of vinegar
- Flaxseed Oil and Lemon Juice – Penetrating flaxseed oil paired with lemon acid
- Teak Oil and Water – Creates an emulsion polish for teak furniture
Your choice of all-natural ingredients allows you to customize a wood polish. While olive oil might not be the perfect fit for all situations, it offers a safe, inexpensive, and generally effective conditioning treatment for indoor wood furniture.
Olive oil is an accessible, affordable wood treatment option with many benefits. It soaks into the grain to hydrate wood while adding a lustrous glow. However, it is not a cure-all. Olive oil requires frequent reapplication. It can attract dirt or go rancid over time. And it does not provide a protective finish for wood. Used properly and in moderation, olive oil can be a simple solution for restoring indoor wood furniture’s radiant beauty. But also consider other oils or waxes for longer-lasting care. With some trial and error, you can find the right balance of natural oils to keep your treasured wood furniture looking its best.