How to Fix Sticky Linseed Oil? (3 Methods)

When your linseed oil turns sticky, the wood oil will attract dust and contaminants that will eventually ruin the finish. So how do you fix sticky linseed oil?

To fix a sticky linseed oil, you need to dissolve the uncured linseed oil with mineral spirits or turpentine. Then use a clean cloth to wipe off the excess linseed oil and leave the finish to dry.

If the sticky linseed oil has been contaminated, you’ll need to remove the sticky linseed oil and reapply the finish from scratch. If you used raw linseed oil on wood, chances are it will turn sticky because raw linseed oil has a very long dry time.

This post reveals more ways to fix a sticky linseed oil including tips on how to prevent a sticky linseed oil finish. Let’s dive in.

Why Is Your Linseed Oil Sticky?

The usual culprit for a sticky linseed oil finish is excess linseed oil. This happens when you apply too many coats of the linseed oil and when you don’t wipe off the excess linseed oil after application. When there is excess linseed oil on the wood than the wood can absorb, the finish is bound to get sticky.

Linseed oil like other types of wood oil needs to be absorbed in the wood fibers to stick and dry properly. When you over-apply the linseed oil or apply too many coats that the wood can absorb, there will be excess or leftover linseed oil on the wood that will not be absorbed in the wood fibers.

Since the excess wood oil wasn’t absorbed in the wood, it will remain on the wood surface where it will gunk up and turn sticky. However, this is not the only cause of sticky linseed oil.

Here are other reasons for a sticky linseed oil finish:

1. The Drying Conditions Are Not Optimal

Linseed oil needs to be applied in optimal drying conditions. The optimal drying condition for linseed oil is when the surface is dry and the room temperature is above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you apply the linseed oil when the drying condition is less than optimal, the finish will not dry as it should and will eventually turn sticky. This happens when the surface is wet and when the room temperature is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

2. The Linseed Oil Has Been Contaminated

Another reason for linseed oil not drying is when the linseed oil has been contaminated by dirt, stains, or dust. Linseed oil has a very natural formula as the wood oil is gotten from the seeds of the Flax plant.

The natural formula of linseed oil means that it doesn’t welcome contaminants. So, if the surface is filthy or affected by grease and stains, the linseed oil will get contaminated and will not dry properly. This is why painters advise to always wipe and clean the wood before applying linseed oil.

3. You Applied Raw Linseed Oil

There are two types of linseed oil; boiled and raw linseed oil. Raw linseed oil is unprocessed and 100% natural. It contains no quick drying additives which means that it takes very long to dry.

Boiled linseed oil on the other hand has gone through processing where the oil is treated with hot air. This causes boiled linseed oil to dry quickly.

When you want to finish wood, you have to apply the boiled linseed oil. If you apply raw linseed oil to the wood, it will never cure and will remain sticky for several hours.

4. You Applied The Linseed Oil On A Sealed Surface

Like other types of wood oils, linseed oil needs to penetrate the wood to stick and dry properly. If there is a sealant like polyurethane on the wood, the sealant will cover the wood pores making it impossible for the linseed oil to penetrate the wood.

Since the linseed oil can’t penetrate the wood fibers, it will stay on the sealed surface where it attracts dust and gets contaminated. Eventually, the finish will turn sticky.

Will Tacky Linseed Oil Eventually Dry?

It takes linseed oil 1-2 days to dry. If the tacky linseed oil remains sticky or tacky after 48 hours, it will not dry and you’ll need to fix the problem manually. This is because the tacky linseed oil would have been exposed to dry air which will cause the finish to solidify in its tacky state. When the linseed oil solidifies in its tacky state, it will not dry.

When linseed oil gets tacky, it’s usually not the end of the line. Sometimes, the tacky linseed oil eventually dries but this only happens if the tackiness was caused by cool temperature or less than optimal drying conditions. For instance, if you applied the linseed oil when the room temperature is cool, the linseed oil will get sticky but when the room temperature is increased, the sticky linseed oil will eventually dry.

However, if the tackiness is caused by a water leak, too much linseed oil, or contamination, the linseed oil will not dry eventually. In this case, you’ll need to fix the problem causing the tackiness so the linseed oil can get dry.

Also, if the tacky linseed oil has turned solid or semi-solid, it will not dry. The tacky linseed oil will only dry if the problem was caused by temperature or a brief problem with the drying conditions.

How To Fix Sticky Linseed Oil? (3 Methods That Work)

Here are three effective methods to fix a sticky linseed oil:

  • Use a hairdryer to dry the linseed oil
  • Wipe off excess linseed oil with mineral spirits
  • Dissolve and remove excess linseed oil with a wire sponge.

This guide will show you how to use each of these methods, when to use them, and the tools and supplies needed to carry out each method.

1. Use A Hairdryer

Use A Hairdryer

The first possible method to fix a sticky linseed oil is to increase the heat around the linseed oil coating. Since the linseed oil isn’t drying as it should, exposing the coat to increased heat will increase the rate of evaporation causing the wood oil to dry faster.

You can use a hairdryer to supply enough heat to the linseed oil. Hairdryers produce heat over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and at this level, the linseed oil will dry faster.

You should know that this method only works within the first 24 hours after applying the linseed oil. So, you should use this method a few hours after applying the linseed oil. If the linseed oil has solidified in its tacky state, a hairdryer will not be of much help and may even compound the problem.

For this method, all you need is:

  • A hairdryer
  • A pair of gloves
  • A face mask

Here is a guide to this method:

  1. Inspect the Danish oil to know the wet and sticky parts.
  2. Plug-in and turn on the hairdryer.
  3. Set to medium heat (or 100 degrees Fahrenheit).
  4. Move the hairdryer around the sticky parts of the linseed oil for 5 minutes.
  5. Repeat step 4 at an interval of 15 minutes for the first 1 hour after applying the linseed oil.
  6. Turn off the hairdryer and leave the finish to dry.

Important: You should put on a pair of gloves and breathing protection while heating the Danish oil.

2. Dissolve and Wipe The Excess Linseed Oil With Turpentine

Dissolve and Wipe The Excess Linseed Oil With Turpentine

The next method to try out is to dissolve and wipe off the excess linseed oil. This method works for when the tackiness is caused by excess linseed oil and when you didn’t wipe off the excess linseed oil after application.

Since excess linseed oil is what is causing the tackiness, all you have to do to fix the problem is to remove the excess linseed oil. To do this, you’ll need to dissolve the linseed oil with turpentine and wipe off the excess.

For this method, you’ll need these:

  • Turpentine or mineral spirits
  • Rags
  • A clean bowl

Here are the steps for this guide:

  1. Pour some mineral spirits or turpentine into a clean bowl.
  2. Dip and soak a clean cloth in the bowl of turpentine.
  3. Sprinkle some mineral spirits directly on the sticky linseed oil and leave for 30 minutes.
  4. After 30 minutes, use the damp rag to wipe off the excess linseed oil stain. To do this, swipe the rag across the wood surface in the direction of the wood grain.
  5. Touch up the linseed oil coat and leave it to dry.

Tip: Don’t use alcohol-based solvents like acetone to dissolve the sticky linseed oil. This is because the solvent will completely remove the linseed oil finish.

3. Remove The Sticky Linseed Oil

Remove The Sticky Linseed Oil

The final method to fix a sticky linseed oil coat is to remove the linseed oil completely. This method works when all other methods have failed and when the stickiness is caused by contaminants or application over a sealed surface.

The idea here is to scrape, strip, or dissolve the sticky linseed oil off of the wood. When the sticky oil has been removed, you can prep the surface and reapply the linseed oil.

Here are 3 methods that you can use to remove the sticky linseed oil:

  • Use a paint stripper.
  • Use acetone to dissolve and remove the linseed oil.
  • Use steel wool to remove the finish.

Do You Have To Wipe Excess Linseed Oil From A Surface?

Do You Have To Wipe Excess Linseed Oil From A Surface?

You should always wipe off excess linseed oil from a surface after application. This is to prevent the linseed oil coat from turning sticky. If you don’t wipe off the excess linseed oil, it will gunk up on the surface and turn sticky.

You need 3-4 coats of linseed oil on a wood surface. The reason for this is to allow the linseed oil fully soak into the wood fibers. However, the porosity of wood varies from wood to wood. While some wood pores can absorb up to 3 coats of linseed oil, some others don’t accept more than 2 coats.

So, when you apply the linseed oil, you are required to wait about 30 minutes for the wood to absorb as much linseed wood oil as it can. After 30 minutes, the wood would have reached maximum absorption and you are required to wipe off the excess linseed oil that wasn’t absorbed. If you don’t wipe off the unabsorbed linseed oil, it will remain on the surface where it will gunk up and turn sticky.

What Happens If You Re-Coat Linseed Oil Too Soon?

If you recoat linseed oil too soon, the second linseed oil coat will turn sticky. This is because there will be solvent trapped in the first coat causing the second coat to stay moist and turn sticky or tacky.

You are required to wait 6-24 hours before recoating linseed oil. The reason for waiting this long is to give enough time for the linseed oil coat to dry and harden for another coat. The linseed oil will only become dry enough for another coat when all the solvent has been evaporated and this takes place between 6-24 hours.

If you recoat linseed oil before it becomes dry enough for a recoat, there will be solvent trapped in the existing coat. The presence of solvent in the existing coat will dampen the second coat and cause it to remain wet and sticky.

How Do You Know When Linseed Oil Is Cured?

Here are expert tips to know when linseed oil has cured:

  1. When the linseed oil no longer looks wet or reflective, it has cured.
  2. When the linseed oil has developed a gold, amber-like, or yellowish tone, it has cured.
  3. When the linseed oil becomes water-resistant.
  4. When you notice that you can wipe, clean, and sand the linseed oil with damage, the oil has cured.
  5. Linseed oil has cured when the finish no longer smells.

Final Words

In summary, linseed oil can turn sticky for many reasons. To fix the stickiness, you need to first find out why the linseed oil is sticky. If the stickiness is caused by cool temperature, all you need to do is to increase the room temperature and you can do this using a hairdryer.

If the stickiness is caused by temporary issues like the over-application of the wood oil, you need to dissolve and wipe off the excess. However, if the stickiness is caused by extreme issues like contamination, you’ll need to remove and reapply the linseed oil.

Finally, you should know that the best way to fix a sticky linseed oil is to avoid it. So while applying linseed oil, take proper precautions to prevent the linseed oil from turning sticky.

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