Pure Tung Oil: Benefits, Applications, and Comparisons

Pure tung oil is a type of drying oil derived directly from the seeds of the tung tree without any additives or distillation processes. It is important in woodworking due to its durability, versatility, and eco-friendliness.

It forms a tough, flexible layer that protects the wood from scratches, spills, and the damaging effects of UV rays. It is also incredibly versatile, as it can be used on a cutting board, a piece of furniture, or a wooden boat.

Lastly, pure tung oil is non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for food contact surfaces, making it a favorite among woodworkers who care about the environment and their health.

The Difference Between Tung Oil and Pure Tung Oil

Let’s clarify a common misconception: tung and pure tung oils are different. Yes, they both originate from the seeds of the tung tree, but the similarities pretty much end there.

Tung oil, often found in hardware stores, is usually a blend of raw tung oil, mineral spirits, and other additives. This concoction is designed to make the oil easier to apply and speed up drying.

However, this convenience comes at a cost. The additives dilute the oil, reducing its protective qualities and potentially introducing harmful chemicals.

On the other hand, pure tung oil is just that – pure. It’s the raw, uncut version, free from additives or distillates. It’s a bit more labor-intensive to apply and takes longer to dry, but the result is well worth the effort.

The Journey from Seed to Bottle: Processing Methods and Their Impact

The difference between tung and pure tung oil largely depends on their processing methods.

Tung oil undergoes “polymerization,” which involves heating the oil to high temperatures. This process thickens the oil and makes it dry faster when applied to wood. However, it also strips away some of the oil’s natural properties.

Pure tung oil, in contrast, is cold-pressed from the seeds of the tung tree. This method retains all of the oil’s natural characteristics, including its deep-penetrating, water-resistant, and protective qualities.

A Test of Time: Quality and Durability of Both Oils

Pure tung oil takes the cake when it comes to quality and durability. Its ability to penetrate deep into the wood provides long-lasting protection from the inside out. It’s resistant to water, alcohol, and food stains, making it an excellent choice for kitchenware and outdoor furniture.

While still offering a decent level of protection, Tung oil falls short in comparison. The additives and distillates reduce its durability, making it less resistant to scratches and stains. Over time, the finish may also become brittle and start to crack.

The Benefits of Pure Tung Oil

Pure tung oil offers many benefits, making it a standout choice for wood finishing.

Firstly, it’s incredibly durable. It forms a tough, elastic finish that protects the wood from the wear and tear of daily life. It’s like a shield, guarding your wooden pieces against everything from water spills to UV rays.

Secondly, pure tung oil is safe and eco-friendly. It’s non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for food contact surfaces. This makes it an excellent choice for kitchen utensils, cutting boards, and children’s toys.

Lastly, pure tung oil enhances the natural beauty of the wood. It penetrates deep into the wood fibers, highlighting the grain and giving the wood a rich, warm glow. It’s like a beauty treatment for your wood, bringing out its best features.

The Guardian of Wood: Protective Properties of Pure Tung Oil

One of the standout qualities of pure tung oil is its protective properties. When applied to wood, it forms a hard, water-resistant layer that safeguards it from moisture, mildew, and UV damage. It’s like a raincoat, a sun hat, and a suit of armor all rolled into one.

The Beauty Enhancer: How Pure Tung Oil Brings Out the Best in Wood

Pure tung oil doesn’t just protect your wood; it beautifies it. It seeps into the wood fibers, enhancing the grain and imparting a warm, lustrous glow. It’s like a spotlight, illuminating the wood’s natural beauty for all to see.

Now that you’re well-versed in pure tung oil’s benefits and applications, why not try it? Here are a few options to get you started:

  • Walrus Oil Pure Tung Oil – $29.99 USD
  • Pure Tung Oil (Chinawood Oil) – $6.50 CAD
  • 100% Pure Tung Oil – $21.00 CAD
  • Real Milk Paint Pure Tung Oil – $73.99
  • Pure Tung Oil – Organoil – $154.95 AUD
  • The Disadvantages of Tung Oil

The Flip Side: Potential Downsides of Using Tung Oil

As with everything in life, tung oil isn’t without its drawbacks. While its benefits are numerous, it’s only fair that we shed light on the potential downsides.

Firstly, tung oil can be a bit of a diva regarding drying time. Unlike its synthetic counterparts, tung oil takes its sweet time to dry. This means you must be patient and allow ample time between coats.

Secondly, tung oil requires a bit more elbow grease to apply. It’s not as simple as slapping on a coat of paint. You must apply it in thin layers, buffing each until fully absorbed.

Lastly, pure tung oil has a distinct smell. While not unpleasant, it can be quite strong during application and drying.

Turning Lemons into Lemonade: Mitigating the Disadvantages

Before you get discouraged, let me assure you that these disadvantages are not deal-breakers. In fact, they can be easily mitigated with a little bit of knowledge and the right approach.

To speed up the drying process, ensure your workspace is well-ventilated and the temperature above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. You can also consider adding a drying agent, like cobalt siccative, to your tung oil.

As for the application process, consider it a labor of love. Yes, it requires more effort, but the result is well worth it. Plus, applying and buffing the oil can be quite therapeutic!

If the smell of tung oil is a concern, rest assured that it dissipates once fully dried. You can also use a respirator during application if you find the smell too strong.

How to Apply Pure Tung Oil

Applying pure tung oil is more of an art than a science. It requires patience, precision, and a bit of elbow grease. But don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you achieve the best results.

  1. Preparation is key: Start by sanding your wood piece until it’s smooth. This will allow the oil to penetrate more deeply.
  2. Less is more: Apply a thin layer of tung oil using a clean, lint-free cloth. Remember, applying several thin coats rather than one thick one is better.
  3. Buff, buff, buff: After applying the oil, wait 15-30 minutes, then buff the surface with a clean cloth. This will help the oil penetrate the wood and remove any excess.
  4. Patience is a virtue: Allow the oil to dry for at least 24 hours before applying the next coat.
  5. Repeat for best results: Repeat the process until you’ve achieved the desired finish. Typically, 3-5 coats should do the trick.

The Waiting Game: Drying Time and Factors Affecting It

One of the most common questions about tung oil is, “How long does it take to dry?” The answer, my friend, depends on a few factors.

Firstly, the temperature and humidity of your workspace can significantly affect the drying time. As a rule of thumb, the warmer and less humid the environment, the faster the oil will dry.

Secondly, the thickness of your application will also play a role. Thinner coats dry faster than thicker ones.

Lastly, the type of wood you’re working with can also influence the drying time. Some woods absorb oil faster than others.

So, while it’s hard to give a definitive answer, you can expect pure tung oil to dry within 24-48 hours under optimal conditions.

Pure Tung Oil vs. Other Oils

When it comes to wood finishing oils, there’s a whole world of options. Let’s look at how pure tung oil stacks up against other popular choices like linseed, Danish, and teak oil.

Linseed Oil: Derived from the seeds of the flax plant, linseed oil is a common choice for wood finishing. It penetrates well and gives a warm, rich glow to the wood. However, it doesn’t dry as hard as tung oil, making it less durable and more prone to scratches.

Related: Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil

Danish Oil: Danish oil is a blend of oil and varnish, offering the best of both worlds. It penetrates the wood like oil and provides a hard, protective surface like varnish. However, it’s not as natural as pure tung oil, often containing synthetic resins and solvents.

Related: Danish oil vs Tung oil

Teak Oil: Despite its name, it doesn’t come from teak trees. It blends oils and varnishes, designed to penetrate dense woods like teak. While it’s great for outdoor furniture, it doesn’t offer the same level of protection as tung oil, especially against water and UV damage.

In the grand scheme, pure tung oil emerges as a strong contender. It offers a natural, durable, and versatile finish that’s hard to beat.

The Good, the Bad, and the Oily: Pros and Cons of Each Oil Type

Each oil has its strengths and weaknesses. Here’s a quick rundown:

Pure Tung Oil:

  • Pros: Durable, versatile, eco-friendly, enhances the natural beauty of wood.
  • Cons: Long drying time, requires multiple coats, strong smell during application.

Linseed Oil:

  • Pros: Easy to apply, gives a warm, rich glow.
  • Cons: Less durable, prone to scratches, can darken over time.

Danish Oil:

  • Pros: Easy to apply, dries faster, provides a hard, protective surface.
  • Cons: Contains synthetic resins and solvents, less natural.

Teak Oil:

  • Pros: Penetrates dense woods, good for outdoor furniture.
  • Cons: Less protective, not suitable for food contact surfaces.

Safety and Toxicity of Pure Tung Oil

While pure tung oil is non-toxic and safe for food contact surfaces, taking certain precautions is still important. Always work in a well-ventilated area to avoid inhaling the fumes. Wear gloves to protect your skin, and keep the oil out of reach of children and pets.

Also, be aware of the risk of spontaneous combustion. Rags soaked in tung oil can heat up as they dry, potentially causing a fire. To dispose of them safely, spread them out in a single layer outdoors until they’re fully dry.

The Verdict: Is Pure Tung Oil Toxic?

Pure tung oil is derived directly from the seeds of the tung tree, without any additives or distillates. This makes it a safe, natural choice for wood finishing. It’s non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for food contact surfaces.

However, some people may be allergic to tung oil. If you experience any allergic reactions, such as skin irritation or breathing difficulties, stop using the oil immediately and seek medical attention.

While we’re on the topic of safety, here are a few items you might consider to ensure a safe and efficient application process:

  • Pure Tung Oil (Chinawood Oil) – $6.50 CAD
  • Tung Oil – $35.99 USD
  • Tung Oil | Sweet Pickins Milk Paint – $9.95
  • Pure Tung Oil – Organoil – $154.95 AUD
  • Half Pure Tung Oil and Half Citrus Solvent – $40.99

How Pure Tung Oil Works on Different Types of Wood

Pure tung oil is a versatile finish that works well on various wood types. However, each type of wood has its unique characteristics, and understanding these can help you achieve the best results.

Pine: Pine is a softwood that absorbs oil quickly. Pure tung oil can give pine a warm, golden glow, enhancing its natural grain pattern. However, due to its quick absorption rate, pine may require more coats of oil for a durable finish.

Oak: Oak is a hardwood with a pronounced grain pattern. Pure tung oil can deepen the color of oak, giving it a rich, amber hue. The oil also accentuates the grain pattern, adding depth and dimension to the wood.

Cedar: Cedar is a softwood often used for outdoor furniture due to its natural resistance to decay. Pure tung oil can protect cedar from moisture and UV damage while enhancing its beautiful reddish color.

Maple: Maple is a hardwood with a subtle grain pattern. Pure tung oil can give maple a warm, golden tone, making it an excellent choice for furniture and flooring.

Walnut: Walnut is a hardwood known for its rich, dark color. Pure tung oil can enhance the depth and luster of walnut, making it look even more luxurious.

The Right Oil for the Right Wood: Tips on Choosing

When choosing a finish for your wood, consider the wood’s characteristics and the desired outcome. Pure tung oil is versatile and works well on most wood types.

However, remember that softer woods like pine and cedar may require more coats for a durable finish. Also, remember that tung oil will darken the wood slightly, so it’s best used on woods where this effect is desired.

Pure Tung Oil for Outdoor Use: Durability and Weather-Resistance of Pure Tung Oil

Pure tung oil is a fantastic choice for outdoor use. Its natural water resistance makes it an excellent protector against rain and humidity. Plus, it’s resistant to UV damage, which helps prevent the wood from graying over time.

But that’s not all. Pure tung oil also forms a flexible finish that can withstand temperature changes without cracking or peeling. This makes it a reliable choice for outdoor furniture exposed to the elements.

Tips for Applying Pure Tung Oil on Outdoor Furniture

When applying pure tung oil to outdoor furniture, remember a few tips.

First, make sure the wood is clean and dry. Any dirt or moisture can prevent the oil from penetrating properly.

Second, apply the oil in thin coats. This allows the oil to penetrate deeply and dry more quickly.

Third, allow ample drying time between coats. This can vary depending on the temperature and humidity, but a good rule of thumb is to wait at least 24 hours.

Lastly, for the best protection, apply at least three coats. This will provide a durable finish that can withstand the elements.

Pure Tung Oil for Furniture: Why Pure Tung Oil is a Great Choice for Furniture

Pure tung oil is a match made in heaven regarding furniture. Its unique properties make it an excellent choice for preserving and enhancing the beauty of your wooden pieces.

Pure tung oil penetrates deeply into the wood, providing a robust, durable finish that can withstand daily wear and tear. It forms a flexible barrier that resists water and alcohol, making it ideal for tables, chairs, and other frequently used items.

Secondly, pure tung oil enhances the natural beauty of the wood. It brings out the grain pattern and gives the wood a warm, rich glow. Unlike synthetic finishes, which look plastic and artificial, tung oil leaves a natural, hand-rubbed appearance.

Lastly, pure tung oil is easy to maintain. Scratches and scuffs can be easily repaired by applying a fresh coat of oil. This makes it a practical choice for furniture that sees a lot of use.

Applying and Maintaining Pure Tung Oil Finish

Applying pure tung oil to furniture is a straightforward process, but it does require some patience. The key is to apply thin coats and allow ample drying time between each one. This allows the oil to penetrate deeply and dry properly, resulting in a durable and beautiful finish.

Maintaining a tung oil finish is equally simple. Regular dusting and cleaning with a damp cloth will keep your furniture looking its best. If the finish looks dull or worn, apply a fresh oil coat to restore its luster.

Top Brands for Pure Tung Oil

With so many brands on the market, choosing the right, pure tung oil can be overwhelming. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the top brands and what they have to offer.

Real Milk Paint: Known for its eco-friendly products, it offers a pure tung oil free from additives and distillates. It’s a great choice for those looking for a natural, non-toxic finish.

Hope’s: Hope’s tung oil is praised for its easy application and durable finish. It penetrates deeply and dries to a low gloss sheen, enhancing the natural beauty of the wood.

Minwax: Minwax is a well-known brand in the woodworking world. Their tung oil finish is a blend of oil and varnish, offering the penetration of oil and the protection of varnish.

Formby’s: Formby’s tung oil finish is a high-quality product that’s easy to apply and dries quickly. It provides a warm, hand-rubbed luster that’s perfect for antique furniture.

Watco: Watco’s tung oil finish blends tung oil and other oils. It penetrates deeply and provides a moisture-resistant finish, making it a good choice for outdoor furniture.

Choosing the Right Brand for Your Needs

When choosing a brand, consider your specific needs and preferences. Real Milk Paint is a great choice if you’re looking for a natural, eco-friendly product.

If you want a finish that’s easy to apply and dries quickly, consider Hope’s or Formby’s. If you need a finish for outdoor furniture, Watco might be the right fit.

Where to Buy Pure Tung Oil

Whether you’re a seasoned woodworker or a DIY enthusiast, knowing where to buy pure tung oil can save you time and ensure you get a quality product. Here are some options:

Online: The internet is a treasure trove regarding woodworking supplies. You can find pure tung oil on various online platforms. Here are a few options:

  1. Walrus Oil – Pure Tung Oil – $29.99 USD
  2. Craftsman Supply – Pure Tung Oil (Chinawood Oil) – $6.50
  3. Rusty Design – 100% Pure Tung Oil – $21.00
  4. Build With Rise – Real Milk Paint Pure Tung Oil – $73.99
  5. Enviro Coatings Australia – Pure Tung Oil – Organoil – $154.95

Offline: If you prefer to shop in person, check out local woodworking or home improvement stores. They often carry a range of wood finishes, including pure tung oil.

Quality Matters: Tips on Choosing High-Quality Pure Tung Oil

When choosing pure tung oil, look for products labeled as “100% pure” or “pure tung oil”. Avoid products labeled as “tung oil finish examine” or “tung oil varnish”, as these often contain added chemicals or diluents.

Pure Tung Oil for Food Safe Surfaces

Pure tung oil is popular for food contact surfaces like cutting boards and kitchen countertops.

It’s natural, non-toxic, and doesn’t leave a synthetic residue that could contaminate food. However, ensuring the oil is 100% pure and contains no added chemicals or solvents is important.

Application and Maintenance: Tips for Using Pure Tung Oil on Food Safe Surfaces

Applying pure tung oil to food safe surfaces is similar to applying it to furniture. The key is to apply thin coats and allow ample drying time between each one. For maintenance, simply clean the surface with a damp cloth and reapply the oil as needed to maintain its protective finish.

Frequently Asked Questions about Pure Tung Oil

When it comes to pure tung oil, it’s natural to have a few questions. Let’s dive into some of the most common queries and clear up any confusion.

Is Pure Tung Oil Waterproof?

Yes, pure tung oil creates a waterproof finish. It penetrates deep into the wood fibers, sealing them from moisture. However, while it provides excellent water resistance, it’s not entirely waterproof. For items exposed to heavy moisture, consider additional protective measures.

Can I Use Pure Tung Oil Over Stain?

Absolutely! Pure tung oil can be used over wood stains. It enhances the color of the stain and provides a protective layer. Just ensure the stain is completely dry before applying the oil.

How Many Coats of Pure Tung Oil Do I Need?

The number of coats depends on the type of wood and the desired finish. Generally, 2-3 coats are sufficient for a durable finish. However, additional coats may be necessary for a more glossy finish or for woods that absorb more oil.

Does Pure Tung Oil Darken Wood?

Pure tung oil can darken wood slightly as it brings out the natural grain and color of the wood. It gives the wood a rich, warm tone. However, it does not add pigment like a stain would.

How Long Does Pure Tung Oil Take to Dry?

Pure tung oil takes longer to dry than other finishes. It can take 24-48 hours for each coat to dry. Factors like temperature, humidity, and the type of wood can affect drying time.


Pure tung oil is a versatile, eco-friendly wood finish with many benefits. It enhances the natural beauty of wood, provides a durable and water-resistant finish, and is safe for food contact surfaces.

Whether you’re a professional woodworker or a DIY enthusiast, pure tung oil can be a great addition to your woodworking arsenal.

Remember, the key to a successful finish is proper preparation and application. Always ensure the wood surface is clean and dry before applying the oil.

Apply thin coats and allow ample drying time between each one. You can achieve a beautiful and long-lasting finish with pure tung oil with patience and care.