Can You Apply Tung Oil Over Stain? (How-To)

Tung Oil is commonly used over paint to protect and make the paint glossy. But can you put Tung oil over a stain too?

You can put Tung oil over stain but only when the stain is completely dry. You have to apply the Tung oil with a clean lint-free cloth.

Tung oil works on oil-based stains and water-based stains. But the finish is more suited to oil-based stains since it contains a high volume of oils gotten from the Tung Tree.

Tung oil dries quickly and when dry forms a glossy layer that gives the stain a nice gleam. The finish also protects the stain from scratches, dents, and the elements. However, the durability of the finish depends on how well the Tung oil sticks to the stain.

Does Tung Oil Stick To Stain?

Tung oil sticks to regular water-based and oil-based stains if you sand the stain with fine-grit sandpaper before applying the oil. But the oil doesn’t stick to sealed stains and topical stains like gel and lacquer.

This is because the top coat of the sealed or topical stain will prevent the Tung oil from penetrating the stain properly. So if the stain has an existing sealant like polyurethane or varnish, you need to remove the sealant for the Tung oil to stick.

You should know that Tung oil sticks better when the stain coating on the surface is thin. This is because Tung oil is a penetrating finish that likes to soak deeply in the fiber or grain to stick well. So if the stain coating is thin, the Tung oil can adhere better than when the stain is thick and hard.

You should also know that you are required to sand the stain before applying Tung oil. This is the best way to ensure that the Tung oil sticks to the stain. When you sand, you create tiny scars in the stain that the Tung oil can penetrate through and soak into the stain to reveal a strong finish. You should only sand the stain with a fine-grit sandpaper.

So how does Tung oil affect stain? Does it make the stain darker, lighter, or yellow like oil-based polyurethane? Let’s check that out.

Will Tung Oil Darken Stain?

Tung oil will not cause stain to turn dark if that’s what you are wondering. The Tung oil only makes the stain color appear deeper.

Being an oil finish, Tung oil is thick and the finish doesn’t allow light to pass through easily. Since the Tung oil reflects low light, it makes the stain’s color appear deeper. The Tung oil also makes the wood look darker.

You should know that Tung oil finishes usually develop an amber (gold-like) look after a while. When the finish starts to cure, the oils in the finish get dry and set on the stain creating an amber or light gold sheen. You don’t need to worry though. This amber color is barely noticeable, especially on wood and furniture.

If you wouldn’t like the stain’s color to get deeper, you can thin the Tung oil with mineral spirits up to 50%. This will make Tung oil lighter so it doesn’t deepen the color of the stain. Thinning the Tung oil also makes it easier to apply.

Now, let’s check out how to apply Tung oil over stain.

How To Apply Tung Oil Over Stain?

This guide will reveal how to apply Tung oil over stain in 5 simple steps. But we’ll need a few tools and supplies first:

  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • A degreaser
  • An angled paintbrush
  • Clean lint-free rags
  • Tung oil
  • Hairdryer (optional)

Here is a 5-step guide on how to apply Tung oil over a stain:

1. Clean and Degrease The Stain

Clean and Degrease The Stain

The first step is to clean and remove grease from the stain. These can prevent the Tung oil from sticking properly and they can taint the finish.

To remove grease, wipe the stain with a degreaser. Use a rag to remove dust and clean the stain. If the stain was sealed, you should remove the sealant here with a paint stripper.

2. Sand The Stain

Sand The Stain

The next step is to sand the stain. You should only sand the stain with a fine-grit sandpaper. Any other grit will be too coarse and can remove the stain.

You can wet-sand the stain but you’ll have to wait a few hours after wet-sanding for the stain to get dry. Dry-sanding is a faster alternative.

After sanding, you should remove dust nibs and debris on the stain with a clean rag. Dust nibs can cause pimples in the Tung oil finish.

3. Apply The Tung Oil

Apply The Tung Oil

When the surface is smooth and clean, you can apply the Tung oil. To do this, pour some Tung oil into a clean bowl. Then dip a clean lint-free rag in the Tung oil. It’s best to not let the rag soak the Tung oil. Just let the rag get damp. Then use the damp rag to apply the Tung oil on the stain.

You’ll need to rub the Tung oil over the stain. Massage the oil into the stain by rubbing in a circular motion. You’ll need at least 3 coats of Tung oil for proper coverage over the stain. You can use an angled paintbrush to get into tight spots and corners.

4. Wipe The Excess Tung Oil

Wipe The Excess Tung Oil

After applying the Tung oil, you need to wipe the excess. If you don’t wipe the excess, it can cause the finish to get tacky.

When you have wiped the excess, leave the Tung oil to dry for at least 48 hours before using the surface. Tung oil takes several hours to fully dry. You can speed up the dry time by using a hairdryer.

Different Types of Stain You Can Apply Tung Oil Over

Here are some different types of stains that you can or can’t apply tung oil over:

Water-Based Stain?

You can apply Tung oil over a water-based stain as long as you let the water-based stain dry completely before applying the Tung oil.

If the water-based stain is dry enough, the Tung oil will stick well. On average, a water-based stain should be left to dry for at least 1 hour before you put Tung oil over it.

You should also remember to sand the water-based stain with fine-grit sandpaper before putting Tung oil over it.

Oil-Based Stain?

You can put Tung oil over an oil-based stain. Tung oil has a high volume of tree oil so it will work perfectly on an oil-based stain. However, you have to sand off the glossy layer on the oil-based stain to allow the Tung oil to penetrate.

Miniwax Stain?

You shouldn’t put Tung oil over Miniwax stain. This is because Miniwax stain is also a penetrating oil finish. If you put Tung oil over Miniwax stain, the Tung oil will not soak into the stain or the wood at all.

This means the Tung oil will not stick and will turn sticky. You can only put Tung oil over Miniwax stain if you strip the top protective layer off the Miniwax stain and this is easier said than done.

Gel Stain?

You can’t apply Tung oil over gel stain. This is because gel stain can’t be painted or stained over. Gel stain when dry forms a hard and moisture resistant film that doesn’t absorb any type of paint, stain, or oil. To apply Tung oil over a gel-stained surface, you need to remove the gel stain completely first.

Wood Stain?

You can put Tung oil over wood stain but you must sand the wood stain first to allow the Tung oil to penetrate and stick to the wood stain.

Tung oil will work well on both water and oil-based wood stains as long as the stain gets dry enough before putting the Tung oil over it. Applying Tung oil over wood stain will protect and add an extra sheen to the wood stain.

Varathane?

You shouldn’t put Tung oil over varathane. This is because varathane is a sealant and as such will not allow the Tung oil to penetrate.

Since the Tung oil can’t penetrate, it will not stick or perform well on the varathane stain. If you want to apply Tung oil over a varathane-stained wood, for instance, you’ll have to strip the varathane off with a paint stripper first.

Final Words

Overall, you can apply Tung oil over stain but you should ensure that the stain is not sealed. If the stain was sealed, you’ll have to strip the sealant to allow the Tung oil to stick. Also, ensure to sand before applying Tung oil so the Tung oil can penetrate easily.

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