When you’re deciding on a finish for butcher blocks and cutting boards or furnishing wooden baby toys, mineral oil may end up on your list of potential candidates. Using even food-grade highly purified mineral oil as wood finish, however, most often proves a big mistake for wooden surfaces that see food contact for both safety and durability reasons. The potential to clog pores makes mineral oil bad for your skin, while its lack of water resistance makes it a poor choice for your wood. Not to mention questionable origin.

Fortunately, Real Milk Paint Co. has alternatives to the food-grade mineral oil problem with high-quality oil finishes and wood waxes that negate the need to use mineral oils in your woodworking and restoration projects.

Great Alternatives to Mineral Oils for Wood Finishes

While you might not have sensitive skin or pore-clogging concerns about your wood, ample reasons exist not to use mineral oils as a finish for DIY projects. For instance, Pure Tung Oil from the Real Milk Paint Co. offers a top-of-the-line way to finish wood you use in the kitchen, including butcher blocks, cutting boards, countertops, and charcuterie boards. 

This 100% natural finish utilizes nontoxic ingredients and mixes well with our Citrus Solvent for easy application in all your woodworking projects. Tung oil also does not mold or darken over time like linseed oil and is safer than mineral oil. Other wood finish oils we offer ideal for food contact surfaces include our Hemp Oil and Cutting Board Oil if you want an alternative to Tung.

While you may encounter petroleum-based products everywhere else in your daily life, you don’t have to when it’s time for woodworking projects. The Real Milk Paint Co. offers numerous all-natural products such as non-toxic wood paints and finishing oils that help you feel good about sustainability when completing DIY, high-quality woodworking, and restoration projects.

Close up view of oil application - avoid using mineral oil for wood surfaces

Mineral Oil and Their Many Uses

To understand why mineral oil isn’t a good choice for creating a protective barrier on wood projects, you must first know its origins. Chemically similar to petroleum jelly, mineral oils — both the unrefined forms and the highly refined ones — are still derived from petroleum “(petroleum distillate),” which automatically gives them a bad rap from those concerned with sustainability and the environment.

Despite this and the fact that its stable compound produces excess oil that may even clog pores, mineral oil is used in cosmetics, skincare products, baby oil, and many products for acne-prone skin due to its nonreactive, odorless and tasteless nature. Other common products that utilize mineral oil include:

 Use Pure tung oil and not mineral oil as wood finish

  • Packaging materials
  • Cold creams
  • Liquid makeup removers
  • Body creams and body oil
  • Hair care products
  • Cleaners and air fresheners
  • Machine and engine oils
  • Agricultural products
  • Aviation industries
  • Animal foods
  • Cutting Board Finishes
  • Industrial chemicals

Why Not to Use Mineral Oil As Wood Finish

Aside from the fact that petroleum-based products such as crude oil and mineral oil are bad for the environment, mineral oil finishes have other downsides that may affect how you feel and look and inhibit the durability and care of your home décor. Consider the following reasons and strong evidence when you want to understand why we don’t recommend mineral oil for application on dry skin, natural wood, or various uses around the home.

Human Health Concerns with Mineral Oils

man applying finish on butcher block countertop

Though many mineral oils undergo a rigorous refining process to remove impurities, primarily when used in products to keep skin moisturized, moderately refined mineral oils have a carcinogen classification almost the same as crude petroleum oil as it may contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. This moisturizing ingredient is often used in lubricants for machinery, and the type of mineral oil used in the industry has the downside of potentially leading to complications such as skin cancer with frequent contact.

Generally speaking, food- and cosmetic-grade or white mineral oil for dry skin usually boasts top-notch quality levels and usually has some other active ingredient like walnut oil. Issues with allergies and toxicity may still be an issue, however, even when you just use mineral oils to keep your skin moisturized since it’s so closely related to petroleum jelly. For the bottom line, even purified mineral oil is something to stay away from if you’re the least bit unsure about its provenance.

Issues with Cosmetic Products Containing Mineral Oils

A man avoiding using mineral oil finish on wood surfacesTypically used as a filler ingredient in over-the-counter beauty products for those with dry skin, mineral oil was once praised for its hydrating properties. Other lubricant base oils like hyaluronic acid, however, provide a safer protective layer for skin that locks moisture in and staves off premature aging without the use of harsh occlusive agents.

This means, however, that you may encounter a skincare formulation that combines mineral oil with essential oils and other moisturizing ingredients (and other potentially pore-clogging ingredients!) like vitamin E, shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, or jojoba oil.

Though touted as a non-comedogenic way to protect the skin barrier, the mineral oil in these formulations may lead to cosmetic issues such as clogged pores on certain skin types like oily skin, acne-prone skin, or allergic reactions for sensitive skin.

Others who apply mineral oil to their skin may incur an unexpected skin reaction or rash, sometimes requiring a visit to a cosmetic dermatology professional. This is because the occlusive ingredient in mineral oil clogs pores by locking the skin barrier, preventing natural perspiration.

Additionally, avoid beauty products like sun care lotions containing mineral oils on any of these skin types, as they may lock in sunburns and cause permanent scarring.

Wood Finish Considerations with Mineral Oils

Beyond potentially leading to health concerns and clogging pores, mineral oil isn’t very kind to your wood furnishings over time. Unhealthy impurities and concerns that applications of mineral oil cause cancer make this finish wholly unsuitable for food contact surfaces like butcher blocks, cutting boards, charcuterie boards, and wood countertops, but other factors make mineral oil bad for other surfaces as well.

While mineral oils might clog pores when used in skincare products, they don’t waterproof surfaces, so if you finish a table with these formulations, it may retain water rings from glasses or even a spray bottle of cleaners. Counterintuitively, surfaces finished with mineral oils undergo water loss since there’s no real barrier effect on wood. Other reasons not to use mineral oil on wood include lack of durability, inability to protect against scratches, and need for frequent reapplication.

pure tung oil to finish wooden surfaces