Danish Oil vs Tung Oil (What’s The Difference?)

When in need of a wood oil finish for your woodwork, Danish oil, and Tung oil would surely be options to consider. So, what’s the difference between both types of wood oil finishes?

The difference between Danish oil and Tung oil is Danish oil is a synthetic wood oil gotten by combining other types of wood oils with a solvent, usually varnish. Tung oil on the other hand is a natural wood oil gotten from the nuts of the Chinese Tung tree.

Raw Tung oil can’t penetrate wood so the oil is mixed with thinning agents like mineral spirits to improve its absorption in wood. Given its natural nature, Tung oil is food-safe and non-toxic while Danish oil is slightly toxic and not food-safe.

This post reveals all you need to know about Tung oil and Danish oil including which to use on different woodwork items. Let’s dive in.

Danish Oil vs Tung Oil: Major Differences

Danish Wood Oil

What is Danish Oil?

Danish wood oil is a synthetic wood oil finish made by mixing other types of wood oil finishes with a solvent and varnish. Danish oil formula includes linseed oil, Tung oil, varnish, synthetic resins, mineral spirits, and other additives.

The synthetic formula of Danish oil makes it slightly toxic and as such, not ideal for all surfaces especially kitchen equipment and baby furniture.

Like other wood oil finishes, Danish oil is water-resistant when dry and it doesn’t take long for the wood oil to dry. The presence of solvents and additives in Danish oil makes it dry fast meaning that you can apply multiple coats in a short period.

Asides from the quick dry time, Danish oil is also resistant to scratches, dent marks, heat, and stains. Danish oil gives a hard satin or semi-gloss finish on wood.

  1. Danish oil is commonly used on bare wood since it penetrates wood well
  2. Danish oil is used to protect wood floors from spills and traffic
  3. Danish oil offers good moisture-resistance
  4. Danish oil can be tinted or colored to produce a colorful finish
  5. Danish oil can be used as a primer, finish, or top coat on wood.

Tung Oil

What is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a natural wood oil finish that originates from China. Tung oil is gotten by mechanically pressing the nuts of the Chinese Tung Tree.

Pressing the nuts allows manufacturers to extract the oil which is then thinned with mineral spirits or turpentine to make it flow better and soak in wood. Tung oil is water-resistant when dry and the finish also offers wood protection.

Since Tung oil has a natural formula, the wood oil finish is non-toxic and food-safe. However, Tung oil dries slowly and can take about 3 days to fully cure. Tung oil gives a hard and gold-tinted finish to wood.

  1. Tung oil is used to waterproof wood
  2. Tung oil protects wood
  3. Tung oil is used on baby furniture and kitchen equipment since the finish is non-toxic
  4. Tung oil beautifies wood by providing a gold-tinted and glossy finish
  5. Tung oil is used to highlight detail work, carvings, and natural wood grain on wood furniture.

So, is Tung oil better than Danish oil or is it the other way around? To know which is better, let’s compare both wood oil finishes.

To compare both wood oil finishes, we’ll use their features and see which comes out on top. Here is a table that identifies the major differences between Tung oil and Danish oil when used on wood:

Next, let’s check out these differences and more in detail.

 Danish OilTung Oil
The formulaDanish oil is syntheticTung oil is natural
Dry TimeEach coat dries in 4 hoursEach coat dries in 24 hours
WaterproofingDanish oil is water-resistantTung oil is almost waterproof
Number of coats3 coats or lessAt least 5 coats
DurabilityGoodBetter than Danish oil
ToxicityA bit toxic and not food safeNon-toxic and food safe
The finishOffers an amber-tinted finishOffers a gold-tinted finish

Wood Protection

How well does the wood oil protect wood?

Danish Oil

Danish oil offers good wood protection to wood furniture, décor, tabletops, and other wood surfaces that don’t see heavy use or high traffic.

However, on busy wood surfaces like floors, Danish oil wouldn’t offer much wood protection because such surfaces see more traffic and abuse than the Danish oil finish can withstand.

Tung Oil

Tung oil offers impressive wood protection from scratches, dents, chemical spills, and the weather. The elasticity of the finish also helps to withstand temperature changes that can affect the wood surface.

The main reason Tung oil offers very good wood protection is that the oil particles have a longer period to dry and harden.

Best For Wood Protection: Tung Oil

Tung oil offers superior wood protection to Danish oil because Tung oil particles dry harder and stronger.

Water Resistance

How well does the finish protect against wood?

Danish Oil

Danish oil is water-resistant meaning that the finish will give you enough time to wipe off water spills and drink spills on the Danish oil.

If you leave water on Danish oil for too long, it will gradually begin to seep into the Danish oil finish. The reason for this is that the particles in the Danish oil are not closely packed.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is almost waterproof. The wood oil finish is commonly used over water-prone wood surfaces since it offers good protection against moisture.

The reason for this improved water resistance is that the particles in the Tung oil become closely packed when dry. Since the particles are closely-packed, it becomes very difficult for moisture to penetrate the Tung oil coating.

Best For Water Resistance: Tung Oil

Tung oil offers improved moisture resistance than Danish oil because the Tung oil particles are closely packed.

Wood Penetration

How well does the wood oil penetrate wood?

Danish Oil

Danish oil penetrates and fills in the wood fibers easily. This is because the wood oil has already been pre-thinned to make it soak into and penetrate wood easily.

In most cases, you can apply Danish oil directly from the container after stirring and it will be absorbed in the wood evenly to give a smooth finish.

Tung Oil

Tung oil has very poor wood penetration. In its natural state, 100% Tung oil can’t penetrate wood. So, the raw Tung oil is usually thinned with mineral spirits to make it thinner and to improve its wood penetration. You should know that if the wood oil doesn’t penetrate the wood as it should, the finish will be blotchy.

Best For Wood Penetration: Danish Oil

Danish oil penetrates wood better than Tung oil. That’s because it is thinner and has a higher ratio of solvents to Tung oil.

The Number of Required Coats

How many coats of the wood oil are needed on wood?

Danish Oil

You don’t need many coats of Danish oil on wood because the wood oil finish penetrates wood easily. This means that you can achieve even coats and proper coverage of the wood with fewer coats of Danish oil. On average, you only need 3 coats of Danish oil on wood; 4 coats for improved durability.

Tung Oil

You need more coats of Tung oil on wood. This is because Tung oil penetrates wood very slowly and as such, you’ll need more coats of the wood oil to properly fill in and cover the entire wood surface. On average, you’ll need at least 5 coats of Tung oil on wood for proper coverage and durability.

Best For Less Number of Coats: Danish Oil

You need more coats of Tung oil than Danish oil. That’s because Tung oil has poor wood penetration and as such more coats are needed for proper coverage.

The Dry Time

How long does the wood oil take to dry?

Danish Oil

Danish oil is the fastest drying wood oil finish. The wood oil dries very quickly because of the presence of quick-drying solvents in its formula.

A Danish oil coating will dry in less than 2 hours in a dry environment. But, in moist conditions, the Danish oil will take over 4 hours to dry which is still a quick dry time. You can finish a Danish oil application in less than a day.

Tung Oil

Tung oil takes longer to dry because of its slow penetration in wood. Also, since Tung oil has a very low level of solvents and additives in its formula, each Tung oil coat can take up to 24 hours before drying.

The dry time would be increased if the Tung oil is applied in moist conditions. It would take days to finish a Tung oil application because you need to wait 24 hours between each coat and you need to apply up to 5 coats or more.

Best For Dry Time: Danish Oil

Danish oil dries faster than Tung oil because it is thinner and solvent-based while Tung oil is a natural wood oil.

The Finish

What type of finish does the wood oil give?

Danish Oil

Danish oil gives a satin and transparent finish that can be tinted to show any color. You can even purchase tinted Danish wood oil to give a colorful finish to your woodwork.

However, you should know that Danish oil tends to turn yellow or develop an amber-like color after a few weeks on the wood. The amber tone is caused by the drying and oxidization of the oil solvents in the wood oil.

Tung Oil

Tung oil gives a hard gold-like finish that is glossy and very reflective. The finish of Tung oil appears wet even when it has dried and this shows you how glossy the finish is. The gold-like tint that develops on the Tung oil finish is due to the rich texture of the wood oil.

Best For Better Finish: Tie

Tung oil finish is glossy and has a gold-like appearance while Danish oil finish is satin and has an amber-like appearance on wood.

When Should You Use Danish Oil?

  1. You should use Danish oil when working on bare wood since the wood oil has impressive wood penetration
  2. Use Danish oil when in need of a quick finish on wood
  3. Use Danish oil when you want a semi-gloss or satin finish on wood
  4. You can use Danish oil when working on wood tool handles
  5. You can use Danish oil when working on low-traffic areas of the home like wood décor and wall frames.

When Should You Use Tung Oil?

  1. Use Tung oil when working on kitchen equipment, baby furniture, and other sensitive surfaces
  2. Use Tung oil when working on moisture-prone areas since it offers superior moisture resistance to Danish oil
  3. Use Tung oil when you want a high-gloss finish on wood
  4. You should use Tung oil when working in busy areas of the home since Tung oil offers superior wood protection
  5. You can use Tung oil as a sealant since it has slow wood penetration.

Final Words

In summary, Danish oil and Tung oil are both great finishes to us on wood. The best choice for you will depend on your taste and needs for the wood.

Though Danish oil dries faster and is easier to apply than Tung oil, it is not as durable or water-resistant as Tung oil.

Leave a Comment