When you want excellent protection for outdoor furnishings, wood oils typically make the best choice due to their durability and ability to beautifully withstand the elements.
Numerous wood oils are on the market purporting to be the best oil for wood outdoor furniture, but which ones are really worth the hype?
The simple answer is that high-quality wood oils in a variety of formulations work great for your lawn and garden furniture, though some work better than others for specific purposes and climates.
In this piece, we explore the pros and cons of these furniture oil options to help you find the solution that best suits your personal style and requirements of your outdoor space.
Benefits of Finishing Exterior Wood Furniture with Wood Oils
In a word, nothing beats the natural look provided by wood oils when you’re finishing or refinishing exterior wood furniture. Perfect for enhancing the appearance of wood grain, wood oils run the gamut from a low-sheen matte appearance to a chic satin finish to a glossy wet wood look, helping you achieve the ideal appearance for wooden garden furniture like benches, stools and shelving. In addition to complementing the natural grain, furniture oils typically boast all-natural formulations whether they combine wood oils like Outdoor Defense Oil and teak oils or feature only the medium itself, such as pure tung oils and hemp oils.
High resistance to the elements, fuss-free application and long-lasting performance make these wood finishes an excellent choice for outdoor wooden furniture, and easy maintenance means you can keep your furnishings looking great over time with just a quick reapplication. Additionally, many furniture oils help enhance distressing or antiquing for a fresh farmhouse feel for porch decor, while others lend depth and color to lighter wood pieces by highlighting wood grain. If you want to use wooden furniture painted with Real Milk Paint outside, many options also allow use over this all-natural medium for added convenience and decorative flexibility.
Best Oils for Outdoor Wood Furniture
When determining the best oils for outdoor wood furniture, you have lots of options, depending on your local climate, the amount of exposure furnishings receive and the overall aesthetic you wish to cultivate. Most wood oils have eco-friendly formulations, whether they’re pure or combine different mediums, aiding you in sustainable decorating and keeping your outdoor space pristine. With those things in mind, we’ve listed the best oils for outdoor wood furniture alongside options popular with some creators and restorers.
Outdoor Defense Oil
Finish outdoor furniture quickly and easily with Outdoor Defense Oil by the Real Milk Paint Co. Made with 100% Pure Tung Oil, Pine Oil and Zinc, this nontoxic finish offers protection against mold, mildew and UV rays and works with not only wood outdoor furnishings but also concrete, stone and other absorbent materials. Deep penetration into the pores of wood, however, makes Outdoor Defense Oil a great choice when you want a matte finish with natural texture and no buildup. Three to five coats of this wood oil typically confer excellent protection without the need for thinning with solvents, allowing you to use Outdoor Defense Oil on projects straight from the container. The formulation goes on simply with a rag, sponge or brush for effortless application on most surfaces.
Not just one of the best oils for outdoor wood furniture, Outdoor Defense Oil also works great on everything from raised garden beds and wood fencing to concrete planters or patios and brick accent walls. Keep in mind this medium contains no additives to speed drying, so a partial cure before light use takes between 7 and 15 days and a full cure for regular use takes up to 30 days. Maintenance for surfaces finished with Outdoor Defense Oil is easy, requiring only a quick wipe-down with soap and water. High-quality containers keep this finish well-sealed for hassle-free storage, enabling easy recoating should the surface look lackluster or dry. For added convenience, Outdoor Defense Oil mixes well with Dark Tung Oil if you want a deeper finish for your outdoor furnishings.
Pure Tung Oil
Also known as China wood oil, Pure Tung Oil cures by oxidation, not evaporation, creating a flexible waterproof finish ideal for outdoor wood furniture. Perfect for surfaces like tables and shelving, Pure Tung Oil by the Real Milk Paint Co. has FDA approval for food contact, resists abrasion and acid and doesn’t peel or blister, making it one of the best oils for outdoor wood furniture such as prep surfaces and butcher boards used alongside gas grills. The Grade 1 yellow finish lends a honey tone to your furnishings, but our Pure Tung Oil retains a matte finish and never adds gloss, no matter how much you use. Zero volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the green formulation ensures the eco-friendliness of this all-natural medium.
While some other tung oil brands require sanding between coats and wet-on-wet burnishing, Pure Tung Oil by the Real Milk Paint Co. absorbs well with only light sanding before the first coat and easy application with paintbrushes, rollers, rags and sponges alike. Additionally, Pure Tung Oil doesn’t go rancid and stores well for years, so you can have it on hand for touch-ups down the road or for new outdoor furniture projects that strike your fancy. Mix Pure Tung Oil with our Citrus Solvent for optimal absorption, or choose our ready-to-use Half & Half Oil or Dark Half if you want a richer finish for premixed convenience. Pure Tung Oil has partial cure times of 7 to 10 days and full cure times of 15 to 30 days, ensuring a beautiful naturally polymerizing finish that endures weather well.
One of the best oils for outdoor wood furniture, Hemp Oil adds weatherproofing but has the added advantage of working well for distressed projects. It works well for distress techniques with paint, helping you create an attractive chippy finish perfect for antique furniture, outdoor accent tables, shelving for planter displays and log-style garden stools. Formulated for a matte finish with no gloss and low sheen, Hemp Oil offers a hypoallergenic option for the sensitive and is food contact safe for added flexibility in outdoor kitchens. Like other finishing oil products by the Real Milk Paint Co., Hemp Oil contains no volatile organic compounds.
One advantage of using Hemp Oil for outdoor furniture projects is its naturally thin viscosity. It penetrates lightly sanded wood well and doesn’t typically require thinning with solvents like Citrus Solvent or Odorless Mineral Spirits. Another benefit of using Hemp Oil is that it works on numerous surfaces, from bare and old wood to surfaces covered with Real Milk Paint or even chalk paint. Designed for application with a brush, rag, roller or sprayer, this all-natural medium absorbs quickly and takes roughly 30 days to cure for fuss-free furniture decorating or renewal.
Some consider linseed oil one of the best oils for outdoor wood furniture, though for all its advantages, it has an equal amount of issues. For example, both raw and boiled linseed oil offer ways to spruce up outdoor benches, chairs and tables, but these mediums tend to turn yellow over time, giving your furnishings a dull, dirty look. Boiled linseed oils typically have chemical drying agents and varnishes added. Additionally, neither boiled nor raw linseed oil resists mold and mildew well, which can damage your favorite pieces, and it’s also vulnerable to bleeding when exposed to extreme temperature changes, making it unsuitable for areas with cold winters and hot summers. Surfaces finished in this medium may also be vulnerable to staining if colored liquids leach into the wood. Additionally, linseed oil leaves a glossy finish for a wet wood look, which may not be suitable for earthier designs and pieces you wish to retain a distressed or antiqued appearance.
Thought by some to be one of the best oils for outdoor wood furniture, mineral oil has a nontoxic formulation that’s safe for food contact and doesn’t yellow or darken with time. Additionally, mineral oil is odorless, so application is safe and pleasant for most, even in unventilated spaces. For all its advantages, however, mineral oil has some very big disadvantages. The largest is that it is a petroleum distillate, or in other terms, a by-product of the processing of crude oil. Though simple to apply, mineral oil isn’t very durable, leaving outdoor furnishings vulnerable to scratches and scuffs. Mineral oil also requires frequent reapplication, which means your furniture might not remain protected from cold, heat and the elements. Mineral oil is not classified as a drying oil, meaning it never truly hardens and can be worn away much faster than some of the previously mentioned oils.
Also on the best oil for outdoor wood furniture list, teak oil offers excellent durability and versatility. Harvested from tropical hardwood, teak oils complement wood grain with their light formulations, age beautifully and resist insects, rotting and acids. The method of harvest, however, means teak oil isn’t always simple — or affordable — to find. In terms of performance, teak oils typically don’t work any better than wood oils like tung and hemp, making options by the Real Milk Paint Co. a better choice for most hobbyists and professionals looking to protect unfinished wood or renew a wooden surface.
Other Oil Coatings
Other oil coatings some use to finish or refinish outdoor wooden furniture include options like flax oil, lemon oil and olive oil. While each of these oil coatings has its own unique uses in polishing and maintaining furniture, none of them have the durability to weather heavy exposure to the elements, making other wood oils more attractive choices for protecting your outdoor wood furniture.
How to Apply Oil on Outdoor Wood Furniture
Applying wood oil finishes to outside furniture is typically a simple process. The first step is cleaning the wood surface you’re finishing with a reliable cleanser like Tri-Sodium Phosphate, making sure to remove all the dirt, dust and grime. Next, remove any paint or varnish from the piece, if necessary, with our Soy-Gel Professional Paint Remover and repair any metal discoloration with our Oxalic Wood Bleach. Now you’re ready to lightly sand the wood with 220-grit sandpaper to abrade the surface to ensure optimal penetration of your chosen wood oil. Keep in mind that finer grit sandpaper often polishes wood and hinders oil absorption, so stick to the heavier suggested grit for satisfying results.
The next step is thinning down the wood oil you’re using with Citrus Solvent if necessary. Our Outdoor Defense Oil and Hemp Oil typically require no thinning for application, but our Pure Tung Oil usually needs thinning at a 1:1 ratio unless you’re working with extremely dry or porous wood. If you prefer something premixed, consider our Half & Half and Dark Half Oil products. Once you have the mixture that works for your outdoor wood furniture project, apply the wood oil to your surface with a brush, lint-free cloth or roller and let the oil absorb. Then, repeat the process over and over until the wood doesn’t absorb any more of the oil and wipe the excess away with a clean rag. It’s important not to allow oil on the surface be exposed to intense sunlight as it may flash cure the not yet absorbed oil. Now, simply let your project cure until the finish is durable enough for light or full use.
For maintenance of your wood oil finish for porch, deck and patio furniture, just clean the surface with soap and water and mix oil to the ratio you used the first time. Next, wipe on the oil in a thin coat, let it absorb a bit, then clean up any excess. Allow the maintenance coat of wood oil to cure for 24 hours before using your outdoor furnishings again to achieve the best results.
As you can see, the best oil for wood outdoor furniture depends on the look you want and the durability you need. These wood oils help your pieces retain their natural grain and beauty, and options for darker wood reduce discoloration risks common with wood varnishes and stains. When choosing wood oils for your next DIY project, consider all-natural options from the Real Milk Paint Co. for high-quality results that stand the test of time, whether you’re sprucing up old furnishings or creating brand-new pieces for personal use or professional sales.