Tung Oil Advantages and Disadvantages – All You Need To Know!

tung oil advantages and disadvantages

Tung oil is one of the most popular oil finishes for wood furniture. It is a 100% natural eco-friendly wood finishing product that produces crushing the seeds of tung trees.

It has some clear differences from other finishing oil as an ideal protective finish that protect your woodworks from many environmental elements.

If you’re interested in Tung oil finish, it’s totally worth doing a bit of digging to know, Tung oil Advantages and Disadvantages.

Waterproof oilSlow penetration
Non-toxicUnpleasant odor
Food safeLong processing time
Easy to applyExpensive
Attractive in colorDifficult to store
Doesn’t yellow over timeDoesn’t smoothen the wood grain
Resistant to acids and alcohols 

But that’s a quick snapshot. So, let’s discuss Tung oil advantages and disadvantages by taking each one of them separately.

Advantages Of Tung oil

1. Waterproof Oil

Tung oil is waterproof and helps to protect furniture and other woodworks from water droplets and moisture.

It works as a water-resistant coating on top of the wooden surface and prevents water molecules and moisture from going inside of the wood.

Therefore, even though the wood you have chosen for woodwork has no water resistance, applying Tung oil, it’ll be safe from absorbing water.

But make sure that the wooden surface is cured and Tung oil is applied properly without missing any spot.

As a finishing oil, Tung oil hardens to a tough coat as long as it’s exposed to air.

The components of Tung oil crosslink with atmospheric oxygen and polymerize to make a hard, water-resistant film.

In this process, Tung oil absorbs 12% of atmospheric oxygen to form waterproof skin on the wooden surfaces.

This is the chemical reaction process behind the waterproofing ability of Tung oil.

2. Non-Toxic

Tung oil is completely non-toxic. It doesn’t contain VOCs. Being natural is the best factor to consider Tung oil as a non-toxic finisher.

Because it’s completely made of crushing seeds of tung trees without adding any artificial ingredients.

 It can use to make kitchen utensils and children’s toys. 100% pure Tung oil is safe on toys and make sure to cure the toy for around 30 days before use after application of Tung oil to gain the best results.

Tung oil is resistant to pests and insects.

Therefore, it can apply to any woodworking project and cause no harmful effects on our health and safety.

But when Tung oil is exposed to air, oxidation happens and produces hydrocarbons and aldehydes in very little concentrations.

These amounts are not harmful to most people and animals.

3. Food Safe

Tung oil is 100% food safe. It is extracted from tung nuts. You can apply it on any kitchen utensils such as cutting boards, butcher blocks, countertops, bowls, baskets, and many more.

Once the Tung oil is applied make sure to keep it for around 30 days until it is fully cured.

Otherwise, the chemical ingredients of tun oil can release from its surface and cause lots of trouble.

If you’re using pores open-grained wood as a cutting board., you’ve probably noticed the moisture will not be inside of the wood.

Those woods are excellent for the growth of bacteria and can cause food allergies for a long time usage.

But applying Tung oil works as a grain filler and prevents water from getting inside of the wood and stops bacteria and fungi growths. This will make the wood food safe.  

Pure Tung oil doesn’t contain volatile compounds which are hazardous to meat and vegetables.

Tung oil is the best natural finishing oil which gives the maximum protection for foods and your health.

4. Easy to Apply

Applying Tung oil is so much easy. It produces an easily maintained and durable finish easily and effectively.

Apply Tung oil using a paintbrush or cloth along the direction of wood grain for better results. This will help the wood to absorb the oil so much easier.

Even a beginner in woodworking can apply Tung oil without any issues.

Apply a minimum of 6 coats of Tung oil for better results.

Make sure to let the wood dry after the application of each coating of Tung oil for more than 6 hours.

Once you feel the surface is smooth and dried, go for the next coat of stain and repeat the drying process.

Let’s find out steps to apply Tung oil effectively and easily without causing any trouble.

  1. Sand the entire wooden surface with 220 grit sandpaper with even pressure until you get a nice and smooth surface.
  2. Clean the sawdust and debris using a damp cloth
  3. Apply the first coat of Tung oil along the direction of the wood grain using a paintbrush without missing any spots.
  4. Leave the wood for more than 6 hours to dry completely.
  5. Once the wood is completely dried, apply the second coat of Tung oil after rubbing the surface slightly using 660 grit sandpaper after dipping it in Tung oil for better absorbance.
  6. Let the wood dry for several hours and apply another coat of Tung oil once it is fully dried and absorbed to the surface.
  7. Repeat the above procedure for a minimum of 6 coats of Tung oil to get the best results with excellent protection.

5. Attractive in Color

Tung oil has natural transparent color. You can achieve a pretty impressive color with sheen by applying Tung oil patiently.

But it takes time to penetration the oil and changes the appearance of the wood.

Once it applies to the wooden surface, it gives deep golden rich color with a wet floss look for the surface.

Tung oil not only works as a protective film but also improves the appearance of the furniture.

You can get nice looking glossy finish using by applying around 8 coats of Tung oil. The extra sheen increases the beauty and the appearance of the woodwork.

The advantage of using Tung oil is that it doesn’t give glossiness which looks similar to a plastic shine. It just helps the wood to improve its natural shine.

Tung oil gives the wood a darker look with warm rich color which gives a pleasing feeling.

You can get a nice-looking result by sanding the wood slightly using 600 grit sandpaper after the completion of the drying process of each coat of Tung oil.

6. Doesn’t Yellow Over Time

The Tung oil finish doesn’t turn into yellow color or rancid over time like most of the finishes do.

Therefore, you’ll be able to keep the color of your loving furniture more stable for a long time.

It’ll be fresh as new with Tung oil.

This is where tun oil is different from other finishing oils like Linseed oil, varnish, polyurethane finish. Because they are prone to discoloration.

You should do the maintenance once or twice a year by applying linseed oil from the beginning.

But with Tung oil, you don’t have to worry about that, because it doesn’t change the color under any circumstances.

7. Resistant to Acids and Alcohols

Tung oil is not only waterproof but also resistant to various acids and alcohols.

This is why Tung oil is popular for applying for cutting boards, and desk countertops.

Tung oil is resistant to,

  • Dust
  • Alcohol
  • Acetone (nail remover)
  • Vegetable acids
  • Fruit acids

For example, you have spit orange juice on countertops finished with Tung oil, you can easily clean it up using cloth because fruit acid cannot destroy the Tung oil film and Tung oil doesn’t let acids penetrate inside of the wood.

As you can see Tung oil is an excellent oil finisher that can use for any interior woodwork to give protection from environmental elements and to improve the appearance to look fresh as new.

8. Elasticity

Even though Tung oil hardens pretty well, it has a great amount of flexibility and elasticity.

Therefore, even in harsh weather conditions, the Tung oil layer won’t crack easily and increase the lifespan of the wood.

Because of the elasticity property of Tung oil, when the wood is expanding and contracting due to temperature variations in the outside environment, the Tung oil coating will also expand and contract along with the wood without losing its stability.

This is so much important as a finisher which makes Tung oil versatile.

The elasticity of Tung oil doesn’t go even when it is fully cured and turned into a solid polymerized structure. The compatibility of Tung oil with the wooden surface is exceptional.

There will be no cracking, scratches, or dull spots that will remain on the wood due to expansion or contractions of Tung oil coating.

As we have discussed most important advantages of Tung oil areas above. So, let’s turn the table and head into the disadvantages of Tung oil.

I’m pretty sure, the disadvantages of Tung oil will be important as advantages to avoid mistakes and make the finishing looks perfect as you’re looking for.

So, let’s jump in!

Disadvantages Of Tung oil

1. Slow Penetration

Tung oil penetration to the wood is very slow.

Not like many other oil finishes, Tung oil need at least 6 or more coats to complete the penetration to the wood and make a perfect Tung oil layer surface.

This is so time-consuming and you need to put lots of effort to finish that many coatings.

Because of this, sanding between each coat of Tung oil is recommended for effective Tung oil finishing.

The drying time for each coat is around three-four days due to poor penetration of Tung oil.

2. Unpleasant Odor

Tung oil produces a mildly unpleasant, distinct odor for a few days until it is fully cured after it is applied.

Better to wear a mask when applying Tung oil because this unpleasant odor can cause respiratory problems.

However, the odor will go away over time when the coating is eventually drying. If you don’t like the smell of Tung oil, better to dilute it with mineral spirit.

Because mineral spirit has the ability to mask the distinct odor of Tung oil. But according to my experience, I’ve never found the odor of Tung oil is offensive to me.

But lately, there’s a lot of Tung oil commercial products that are free of the smell of the natural Tung oil.

You can easily prevent this disadvantage of Tung oil by using mineral spirit or by using an alternative commercial product.

3. Long Processing Time

Not like many other finishing oils, Tung oil takes around 30 days to fully cure. Never place Tung oiled woodwork or furniture in direct sunlight until it’s fully cured.

During the first 10 days, check the wooden surface frequently and wipe off the Tung oil that seeps to the surface.

The long processing time of Tung oil to settle in the wood is one of the main drawbacks that cannot be skipped.

During the curing time make sure not to place heavy objects on top of the wood and protect the wood from mud and dirt because the surface is tacky, and it’ll be so hard to remove them once they’re attached.

You’ll have to wait until the wood is naturally waterproof, seals, and protect the surface.

4. Expensive

Tung oil is relatively expensive than other similar finishing oils such as Linseed oil.

You can save money by buying a larger amount of Tung oil if you’re using it for large woodworking projects.

Generally, Tung oil is nearly 25% more expensive than other popular oil finishes such as,

  • Linseed oil
  • Varnish
  • Polyurethane
  • Some paints

5. Difficult to Store

Never keep Tung oil can in direct sunlight. Tung oil reacts with heat and light and that causes to ruin the product.

Therefore, storing Tung oil is difficult, and always select dark, the area under room temperature to store Tung oil. Keep it away from a lot of light and heat.

With exposure to light and heat, the Tung oil container will form a film or gummy-like deposits around the corner of the lid of the can.

Once you notice those, there’s no use of Tung oil, because that means the chemical structure of Tung oil is already changed and it is non-reversible. Therefore, storing location is very important for Tung oil.

6. Doesn’t Smoothen Wood Grain

Tung oil does not have the ability to smoothen the wood grain. Therefore, after each coat of Tung oil, the surface should be wet sanded to get a smooth wood grain.

The brush marks also will disappear after the surface is wet sanded properly.

As you can see the disadvantages of Tung oil are good to know before applying Tung oil to particular woodwork.

Because when you’re finishing the wood one mistake can ruin whole the woodwork and it’s better to have a good idea about the disadvantages of Tung oil to minimize the mistakes.

Now you know Tung oil advantages and disadvantages in detail. So, let’s answer some frequently asked questions about Tung oil.

What Is Tung oil Use For?

Tung oil is a popular wood finisher that can apply basically to any woodworking project. Here’re the main uses of Tung oil,

  • Cutting boards
  • Countertops
  • Butcher blocks
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Children’s toys
  • Interior furniture

Tung oil is applicable for any wood type and for any woodworking project.

How Many Coats of Tung oil Should I use?

The number of coats of Tung oil you should apply on particular woodwork depends on the,

  • Type of the wood
  • Glossiness you want
  • Level of sheen you want

Generally, a minimum of 6 coats of Tung oil should you use for a better finishing coat.

Tung oil has poor absorbance and slow curing speed. Therefore, you need to apply a lot of coats to get the shade you wish.

For glossiness, 8 coats of Tung oil is recommended for better results.

Is Tung oil the Same as Danish Oil?

Both Tung oil and danish oil belong to the finishing oil category. But they are not the same.

There’re so many pros and cons of Danish oil as well.

Here’re the differences between Tung oil and danish oil in terms of their properties and uses.

PropertiesDanish OilTung oil
AppearanceNot glossyGlossy
Drying time6 hours – 1 dayAround 3 -4 days
Number of coats needed2 – 3 coats6 – 8 coats
UsesIndoor furniture, wood handles, kitchen utensilsKitchen utensils, boats, countertops

Is Tung oil Good for Cedar?

Tung oil works perfectly on Cedar wood. it works as a protective layer while giving a dark rich look to the Cedar wood furniture and woodworks.

Cedar wood decks, panels, frames, fences, sidings, musical instruments perfectly absorb Tung oil and help to build a nice uniform protective film over the wooden surface.

When you’re applying Tung oil on Cedar wood, make sure to apply along the direction of the wood grain to get the best results.

Can I Use Tung oil Over Stain?

Yes, you can use Tung oil over stained wood surfaces. But you need to make sure the stain is oil-based.

Because Tung oil is well compatible only with oil-based stain. Tung oil doesn’t combine well with water-based stains.

While stain is giving a nice appearance to the furniture, Tung oil can use to give extra protection from outside elements like moisture, insect attacks, and many more.

Can I Paint Over Tung oil?

Yes, you can paint over the Tung oil surface.

 First of all, clean the surface using soap and water. Then do a light sanding and apply a prime coat to seal the surface perfectly.

Then you can apply paint over Tung oil without any issue.

Tung oil is an oil-based finisher; therefore, I highly recommend using oil-based paint over Tung oil for better compatibility.

Can I Stain Over Tung oil?

Tung oil is designed to harden the surface and to give protection for the wooden surface.

The top layer of Tung oil isn’t compatible with wood stain. Therefore, the wood stain will not penetrate through Tung oil.

There’re is no use of staining wood after Tung oil is applied. Because the protective layer should always expose to the outside.

By applying stain over Tung oil, the protective layer will be covered and there’ll be no use of having Tung oil anymore.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about: Tung oil Advantages and Disadvantages

In this article, I have deeply discussed Tung oil advantages and disadvantages that I have learned over years of working with Tung oil for furniture and different woodworks.

The advantages and disadvantages of Tung oil are discussed separately in detail with the characteristic feature of Tung oil as a finisher.

Overall, Tung oil is an exceptional wood with lots of advantages and you can learn lots of new things through its disadvantages as well.

Furthermore, I have answered frequently asked questions about Tung oil with its uses over wood types like Cedar.

Hope you have gained pretty good knowledge about Tung oil advantages and disadvantages with its qualities.

So, let’s head into your next woodwork and make sure to apply Tung oil as a wood finisher, to see how the oil works in the practical world. Have fun in woodworking!

Walter Parker is a woodworking enthusiast. He is passionate about woodworking projects & plays with woodworking tools having spent over 2 decades as a leader for Woodworking Planet. He wants to make people love woodworking! Read More About Him!

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