Both tung oil (sometimes referred to as china wood oil) and linseed oil are naturally derived finishing oils that are used for woodworking crafts, furniture, flooring, and decks, and tung oil is additionally used on surfaces like brick and concrete. Tung and linseed oils are both popular finishing products because they’re both classified as drying oils, which means they dry by exposure to oxygen, rather than by evaporation. 

Both types of oil produce a penetrating finish that’s not sticky to the touch, but there are some differences between them, and some reasons to choose one over the other. 

Origin of These Natural Oils

Tung oil and linseed oil both come from plants. Tung oil is pressed from the seeds contained within the nut of the tung tree, while linseed is derived from ripe flax seeds.

Additives and Curing

Raw linseed oil can take anywhere from a few weeks to a couple of months to fully dry, which is why most linseed oil is boiled. Boiling isn’t actually a heating process, but rather the practice of mixing metallic dryers with the oil to make it dry faster, as boiled linseed oil will dry within a day. Pure tung oil, on the other hand, has absolutely no additives or metallic dryers. By thinning with a natural solvent, such as Citrus Solvent will help thin the oil to penetrate better and can slightly speed the drying time.

Sanding Over Both Oils

Sanding is not really needed between coats of either linseed oil or pure tung oil. If the surface feels rougher than you would like, then you can sand typically before oiling or after the first coat. One key is not to sand the raw wood too fine before oiling. Sanding with 100 to 220 grit before oiling is recommended if the wood needs sanded. Sanding with very fine sand paper will close off the wood grain.

Water Resistance

A major benefit that tung oil has over linseed oil is that tung oil provides water resistance, where linseed oil does not. Because of this, tung oil is ideal for applications like bowls, plates, butcher blocks, cutting boards, and other food-related items that require regular washing.

Note: Tung oil is also food-safe, whereas most linseed oil is not.

Color, Finish and Durability

A pure tung oil finish has a honey-like color, and while linseed oil starts out with similar yellowing it fades to a darker orangey finish over time. Similarly, tung oil resists mold and can last for years, whereas linseed oil is prone to it. Moreover, tung oil dries to a flexible, hard, and durable flat finish, whereas linseed oil cures much slower and produces a softer oil finish that has some sheen.

Tung and linseed oil are both popular for a number of reasons, including that they are both environmentally friendly (raw linseed oil, anyway), plant-based finishes, and contain no VOCs. Tung oil offers a number of advantages over linseed oil, including that it produces a water-resistant finish, the beautiful amber color doesn’t darken over time, it’s not prone to mold, and it creates a wonderful matte finish that’s also food-safe.

For your next project, give Real Milk Paint tung oil a try and see for yourself the advantages it has to offer, and find out how it can benefit your home, your hobbies, and your unique creations.