Teak Oil vs Tung Oil: A Comparative Guide to Wood Finishing

Ah, the age-old question – Teak Oil or Tung Oil? Which one is the superior choice for your cherished wooden pieces?

If you’ve ever found yourself standing in a hardware store, staring at shelves of wood-finishing products, you’re not alone.

The decision is not simple; the right choice could mean the difference between a dull and vibrant finish, a quickly worn-out piece, and a long-lasting masterpiece.

Understanding Wood Finishing

Before we dive headfirst into the deep end of the Teak vs. Tung Oil debate, let’s take a step back and understand what wood finishing is all about. Wood finishing, in the most general sense, applies a protective layer or treatment to a wooden surface.

Sounds simple, right? But in reality, it’s a complex art form that requires a keen eye, a steady hand, and a deep understanding of the materials you’re working with.

Wood finishing is not just a final touch you add to your wooden piece. It’s a crucial step that can enhance the natural beauty of the wood, protect it from damage, and give it a smoother, more polished appearance.

The finish can make the grains of the wood pop, adding depth and character to the piece. Wood can dry out, crack, or deteriorate without a proper finish. The right finish can protect the wood from moisture, heat, stains, and daily wear and tear.

So, where do Teak Oil and Tung Oil come in? They are two types of oil finishes commonly used in woodworking. Each has unique properties, advantages, and uses, which can influence your finished wood piece’s look, feel, and durability.

What is Teak Oil?

When you hear the term “Teak Oil,” you might assume it’s oil extracted from teak wood. But here’s a little secret: Teak Oil isn’t derived from teak wood! Instead, it blends oils and solvents, including linseed, tung, varnish, and mineral spirits. Each manufacturer has its proprietary blend, so the composition can vary from product to product.

Teak Oil is widely used to finish and protect indoor and outdoor wooden furniture. Is teak oil best for teak furniture?, hence the name, but it’s versatile enough to be used in various woods.

The beauty of Teak Oil lies in its ability to penetrate the wood’s surface deeply, nourishing it from within and providing a robust protective layer. It accentuates the wood’s natural grain and color, creating a warm, rich finish that’s truly pleasing to the eye.

Applying Teak Oil is a straightforward process. Clean the wood surface, apply the oil using a brush or a clean rag, let it penetrate the wood, and then wipe off the excess. The result? A beautiful, long-lasting, and water-resistant finish that’s perfect for indoor and outdoor applications.

What is Tung Oil?

On the other hand, Tung Oil is a pure oil derived from the seeds of the Tung tree, native to China. The oil is extracted and processed to produce a safe and natural finish. Tung Oil has been used for centuries in China for wood finishing, and it’s appreciated worldwide for its superior quality and durability.

When applied to wood, Tung Oil penetrates deep into the fibers, enhancing the wood’s natural patterns and colors. It provides a waterproof barrier, making it an excellent choice for pieces needing moisture protection.

Tung Oil’s main advantage is its ability to create a hard, durable finish while maintaining the wood’s natural feel. It produces a beautiful, hand-rubbed luster for antiques, fine furniture, and other high-quality woodwork.

The application process for Tung Oil is similar to that of Teak Oil. You apply it to the wood, let it penetrate, and then wipe off the excess. However, Tung Oil takes longer to dry than Teak Oil and may require more coats to achieve the desired finish.

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Teak Oil vs Tung Oil: The Differences

Teak Oil and Tung Oil are both excellent choices for wood finishing, each offering unique properties and uses. This article will explore these two popular wood finishes’ composition, uses, benefits, and drawbacks.


The composition of Teak Oil and Tung Oil plays a significant role in their respective properties and results.

Teak Oil: Teak Oil is a blend of oils and solvents, and its exact composition can vary from one product to another. This variability means that the finish you achieve with one brand of Teak Oil might differ from another.

Tung Oil: In contrast, Tung Oil is a pure oil derived from the seeds of the Tung tree. Its properties are more consistent across different products due to this uniform composition.


Both oils are versatile and can be used on various woods, but they are often favored for different applications.

Teak Oil: Teak Oil is particularly popular for outdoor furniture due to its water-resistant properties.

Tung Oil: Tung Oil is often chosen for fine furniture and antiques because it creates a hard, durable finish.


Each oil offers unique benefits that contribute to their popularity.

Teak Oil: Teak Oil is easy to apply, dries relatively quickly, and enhances the wood’s natural grain and color.

Tung Oil: Tung Oil penetrates deeper into the wood, provides a higher level of protection, and maintains the wood’s natural feel.


Despite their benefits, both oils have certain drawbacks.

Teak Oil: The varying composition of Teak Oil can lead to inconsistent results. It also requires regular reapplication to maintain its finish.

Tung Oil: While Tung Oil offers a durable finish, it takes longer to dry and may require more coats to achieve the desired look.

Teak Oil and Tung Oil: A Comparison on Different Wood Types

The choice between Teak Oil and Tung Oil can also depend on the type of wood you’re working with. Let’s see how they perform on different wood types:

  • Oak and Pine: These woods are porous, and both oils penetrate well into the wood. However, Tung Oil might provide a slightly more durable finish.
  • Walnut: The rich, dark walnut colour can be enhanced by both oils, but Tung Oil darkens the wood more than Teak Oil.
  • Cedar: Teak Oil’s water-resistant properties can particularly benefit outdoor cedar furniture.
  • Mahogany: Tung Oil can beautifully highlight the reddish tones of mahogany, giving it a warm, rich finish.
  • Maple: Maple has a tight grain, and both oils can help to bring out its natural patterns. However, Tung Oil’s deeper penetration might be an advantage on this type of wood.

Teak Oil vs Other Oils

Regarding wood finishing, Teak Oil isn’t the only oil in town. Let’s see how it stacks up against other popular oils like linseed and mineral oil.

Linseed Oil: Derived from the seeds of the flax plant, linseed oil is a traditional choice for wood finishing. It penetrates deeply into the wood and gives a warm, rich finish. However, it dries very slowly and might become gummy over time. Compared to linseed oil, Teak Oil dries faster and is less likely to become sticky or gummy, making it a more practical choice for many applications.

Related post: Teak oil vs linseed oil

Mineral Oil: Mineral oil is a non-drying oil that stays wet on the wood’s surface. It’s often used for cutting boards and butcher blocks because it’s food-safe. However, it offers little protection against scratches and doesn’t enhance the wood’s grain or color. In contrast, Teak Oil penetrates the wood, offers more protection, and enhances the wood’s natural beauty.

Related post: Teak oil vs mineral oil

So when should you choose Teak Oil over these other oils? If you’re looking for a finish that’s easy to apply, dries quickly, enhances the wood’s natural grain, and offers a decent level of protection, Teak Oil is a solid choice. It’s particularly suitable for outdoor furniture and other items exposed to the elements.

Tung Oil vs Other Finishes

Tung Oil is a fantastic natural finish, but how does it compare to other finishes like polyurethane and shellac?

Polyurethane: This synthetic finish forms a hard, protective film on the wood’s surface. It’s highly resistant to water and scratches, making it an excellent choice for floors and other high-traffic areas. However, it doesn’t enhance the wood’s natural color or grain like Tung Oil. Plus, applying polyurethane can be more complex, as it often requires a brush and careful application to avoid drips and brush marks.

Related post: Teak oil vs polyurethane

Shellac: Made from the secretions of the lac bug, shellac is a natural finish that gives a high-gloss look. It dries quickly and is easy to apply. However, it’s less durable than Tung Oil and isn’t resistant to water or alcohol. Tung Oil, on the other hand, penetrates deeper into the wood and provides a more durable, water-resistant finish.

So, when should you opt for Tung Oil over these finishes? Tung Oil is an excellent choice for a natural, durable finish that enhances the wood’s natural beauty and feel. It’s perfect for fine furniture, antiques, and any wood project where you want a hand-rubbed look and a protective finish. However, remember that Tung Oil takes longer to dry than other finishes and might require more coats to get the desired look.

Safety Considerations When Using Teak Oil and Tung Oil

Safety should be your top priority when using any oil for wood finishing. Teak Oil and Tung Oil come with their safety considerations.

Given its blend of oils and solvents, Teak Oil can be potentially harmful if not handled correctly. It’s flammable, and its fumes can be toxic if inhaled in large amounts. Therefore, always use Teak Oil in a well-ventilated area and avoid open flames or sparks. Furthermore, it’s crucial to properly dispose of any rags soaked in Teak Oil since they can spontaneously combust if left crumpled.

Tung Oil, on the other hand, is generally considered safe and non-toxic once dried. However, some people might be allergic to it, so it’s always good practice to wear gloves when handling Tung Oil. Like Teak Oil, it’s recommended to use Tung Oil in a well-ventilated area and properly dispose of any used rags.

For both oils, always keep them out of reach of children and pets, and never pour leftover oil down the drain. And, as with any product, always read and follow the manufacturer’s safety instructions.

Frequently Asked Questions About Teak Oil and Tung Oil

Regarding Teak Oil and Tung Oil, several questions frequently pop up. Let’s address a few of them:

  • How durable are Teak Oil and Tung Oil? Both oils provide a decent level of protection for wood, but Tung Oil is generally considered more durable due to its ability to harden upon exposure to air.
  • How often should I apply Teak Oil or Tung Oil? This depends on the exposure of the wood piece. For outdoor furniture finished with Teak Oil, you might need to reapply it every few months. Tung Oil, given its durability, might require less frequent applications.
  • Can I mix Teak Oil and Tung Oil? Mixing different types of oils is generally not recommended, as they might react with each other or create unpredictable results. However, remember that many commercial Teak Oils already contain some Tung Oil in their formulation.

Product Reviews

Starbrite Teak Sealer: This product is one of the best-selling teak sealers. It’s not a traditional oil-based product, instead it acts as a sealer for the teak wood.

It is primarily used to protect the color of teak wood from fading due to exposure to air and sunlight and was originally developed for boat decking and other marine uses. Still, teak sealer also works well on outdoor patio furniture made from teak or other dense hardwoods.

The product is easy to apply, has a beautiful result, is long-lasting, and requires less maintenance than oil. It comes in three different color variations: Clear, Natural Light, and Classic, to offer a variety of finishes​1​.

Minwax Tung Oil Finish: This is an oil-based protective finish that also gives wood a hand-rubbed luster. It penetrates wood pores and restores vitality to dry thirsty wood. Minwax Tung Oil is easy to maintain and can be applied over stained and unstained wood​2​.

Unfortunately, within the time limit I couldn’t find detailed reviews for Watco Teak Oil and Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil

DIY Wood Projects: Tips for Using Teak Oil and Tung Oil

The following general tips may apply when using teak oil and tung oil for your DIY projects:

  1. Cleaning: Before applying teak or tung oil, ensure the wood is clean and dry. This will help the oil to penetrate the wood and provide better protection.
  2. Application: Following the wood grain with short, even strokes when applying teak or tung oil. A steady hand will help you achieve an even finish.
  3. Drying: Allow oil to dry thoroughly after applying it. For some products, such as the Starbrite Teak Sealer, allowing the furniture to sit in direct sunlight as it dries can help the sealer properly set.
  4. Number of Coats: One coat is often sufficient, but you can apply additional coats with a darker finish. Always allow each coat to dry thoroughly before applying the next​1​.


Both teak oil and tung oil have their benefits. Teak oil, as represented by Starbrite Teak Sealer, primarily protects the color of the teak wood and is easy to apply and maintain.

As represented by Minwax Tung Oil Finish, Tung oil penetrates wood pores and restores vitality to dry wood, giving it a hand-rubbed lustre.

Both oils can be used for various wood projects, and the choice between the two often depends on the specific requirements of the project and the desired finish.