Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil (What’s The Main Difference?)

When it comes to picking a wood oil for your furniture, floor, or deck, most painters will tell you to go for Tung oil or Linseed Oil. Both oils set the benchmark for other wood oils but what’s the difference between Tung vs Linseed Oil?

Tung oil doesn’t penetrate deeply into the wood as much as linseed oil. In terms of additives, linseed oil contains a higher volume of additives including metallic dryers. In terms of the finish, Tung oil gives a glossy honey-like finish while linseed oil gives a glossy yellowish finish.

Tung oil is a quick-drying wood oil gotten from the Tung tree while Linseed oil is a slow drying thick wooden finish gotten from the seeds of the Flax plant.

This post reveals more about both types of wood oils. So, let’s dive in.

What is Tung Oil?

What is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a wood oil finish gotten from the nuts and seeds of the Tung tree. Tung oil was traditionally used by the Chinese because it dries fast and evens out well on wood.

When dry, Tung oil sets out a honey-like sheen on the wood. This sheen dries hard and protects the wood from scratches, dents, and moisture.

Tung oil is great for wood surfaces in the laundry room and bathroom where moisture can be a problem. Tung oil can also be used on kitchen slabs and tabletops as the wood oil is eco-friendly, non-toxic, and food safe.

Tung oil is very easy to apply and sanding is usually not required because the oil needs to absorb into the wood grain. Tung oil is commonly used to seal mold-affected areas as the wood oil is resistant to mold growth.

What is Tung Oil Used For?

  • Tung oil is used on kitchen slabs, tabletops, cabinets, and equipment since it’s food-safe and non-toxic.
  • Tung oil is used to protect the wood from moisture and spills
  • Tung oil is used to achieve an even glossy finish on wood
  • Tung oil is used on outdoor furniture since it can withstand moisture well and is mold-resistant
  • Tung oil is used to achieve a quick finish on wood since it cures within 48 hours.

What is Linseed Oil?

What is Linseed Oil?

Linseed oil is a natural wood oil finish that is gotten from the ripe seeds of the flax plant. Linseed oil is known to penetrate wood grain deeply.

The wood oil is thick meaning that it is most ideal for porous wood so the oil can penetrate the wood properly. Due to the thick nature of the wood oil, you get to achieve proper coverage with fewer coats.

You should know that linseed oil takes a long time to cure. The wood oil can take several weeks to dry especially if the wood has a previous finish. Linseed oil is known to have a softer finish compared to other wood oils.

You should also know that it’s not advised to apply raw linseed oil on wood. Raw linseed oil will take months to fully cure. This is why it’s common to apply boiled linseed oil.

“Boiled” here has nothing to do with heat or fire. To “boil” linseed oil means to add metallic dryers to the raw linseed oil. The dryers make the wood oil dry faster. Boiled linseed oil should cure on wood in about a week.

What is Linseed Oil Used For?

  • Linseed oil is used to protect the wood from scratches, pencil and claw marks
  • Linseed oil is used to make furniture glossy
  • Linseed oil is used to protect against humidity and moisture
  • Linseed oil is used to highlight or enhance wood and stain colors.

Linseed Oil vs Tung Oil

Here is a table that displays the main differences between Tung oil and Linseed Oil:

 Linseed OilTung Oil
ColorHoney-likeYellow-like
SourceSeeds of the Flax plantSeeds and nuts of the Tung tree
Consistency and flowThickLight
How many coats?2-3 coats on wood4-5 coats on wood
Dry-TimeQuick (in less than 24 hours)Slow (in about a week)
AdditivesPresentVery low – None
Cleaning and MaintenanceModerateEasy
DurabilityGoodGood

Let’s compare the features of both wood oils and see which comes out on top. Let’s start with the…

Dry Time

Tung oil dries faster than Linseed oil. On average, Tung oil will dry fully in less than 48 hours. When thinned, Tung oil will dry in about 24 hours. Linseed oil takes much longer.

Raw linseed oil will remain tacky for at least a week on wood. Raw linseed oil will also take at least 3 months to fully cure in wood. This is why manufacturers boil the linseed oil by adding metallic dryers to make it dry faster.

Even with the additives, linseed oil still doesn’t dry as fast as Tung oil. Boiled linseed oil will take about a week to cure fully in wood.

Thickness

Linseed oil is thicker than Tung oil. In its raw state, linseed oil is at least twice as thick as Tung oil.

Coverage

How well does the wood oil cover the wood?

Linseed oil has better coverage when compared to Tung oil. Due to the thickness of the wood oil, you can cover more areas with fewer coats. On most wood, you only need 2 coats of linseed oil.

On low-stress areas of your furniture like the legs can be covered properly with 1 coat of linseed oil. With Tung oil, you need more coats.

One reason for this is that Tung oil is lighter or thinner than linseed oil.  So, you’ll need more coats of Tung oil for proper coverage. On average, you’ll need 4 coats of Tung oil on a wood floor.

Color

Usually, wood oils aren’t used for their colors. However, Tung oil has a honey-like sheen. When the oil starts to set in the wood, it reveals a honey or gold-like sheen that deepens most stain colors.

Linseed oil, on the other hand, has a yellowish or amber-like sheen on wood. The linseed oil color is lighter and it’s used to enhance stain colors.

The Finish

What Type of finish does the wood oil give?

Tung oil gives a deep-colored finish while linseed oil gives a brighter finish. Both oils are glossy but Linseed oil finishes reflect light better. Also, Tung oil finishes dry harder than linseed oil.

Tung oil is a drying wood oil meaning that the wood oil dries by oxidization (or oxygen) and not evaporation. This makes the oil dry hard. Linseed oil is also a drying oil but the oil takes so long to cure that the finish is often softer than Tung oils when it eventually gets dry.

Water-Resistance

Tung oil is more resistant to moisture than Tung oil. Since the oil is harder, it repels moisture better than linseed oil. This also makes Tung oil more ideal for outdoor use than linseed oil.

Linseed oil will also repel moisture as long as it’s not constant or much. This means linseed oil can survive on your kitchen cabinets but not bathroom furniture.

Mold-Resistance

Linseed oil has no mold prevention. The wood oil shouldn’t be used to cover mold-infested areas because it is prone to mold growth.

Tung oil however helps to curb mold growth better. You should know that Tung oil is not a mold-killing wood oil. Tung oil will not kill or destroy mold. Tung oil just makes it difficult for mold to grow since the oil is hard and moisture-resistant.

Application

Tung oil is often easier to apply than linseed oil. This is because linseed oil takes a lot of time. Since the wood oil is thick, it’s more difficult to control. Also, since the wood oil dries slowly, you have to wait longer before a recoat and much longer before you can use the wood.

With Tung oil, the wood oil dries faster so you can recoat quicker. Also, Tung oil is more flexible and thinner so it’s easier to control.

Additives

Does the wood oil contain foreign compounds?

Linseed oil contains more additives than Tung oil. Tung oil often has no additive in it and is usually at least 95% pure.

Linseed oil however contains more additives. For instance, the wood oil contains metallic dryers meant to speed up its dry time. Linseed oil is often between 75-85% pure.

Cleaning and Maintenance

Tung oil is easier to clean and maintain than linseed oil. The hard and glossy layer of Tung oil makes it difficult for stains to stick to the wood oil. So, you can easily wipe off stains, grease, and oils.

Also, since Tung oil has a deeper sheen, it hides stains and dirt better so you don’t need to clean as much.

Given its nature linseed oil is more likely to accept stains. Linseed oil is also more reflective so stains will be obvious resulting in frequent cleaning.

Don’t forget that Tung oil is more water-resistant so you can use it on wood that will be washed frequently.

Toxicity

Tung oil is non-toxic. The wood oil is eco-friendly and has a low level of additives so it’s safe to use on cooking equipment including chopping boards, slabs, and wood trays. You shouldn’t use linseed oil on cooking equipment.

Final Words

Overall, Linseed oil and Tung Oil are both great wood oil finishes. The ideal one for you depends on your budget, taste, and needs.

Just remember that Tung oil dries quickly and is more resistant to moisture and mold. Linseed oil takes longer to dry and is ideal for enhancing the wood grain and stain colors.

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