what is the best oil for treating wood?

I thought it might be an idea to put a few blog posts which answer frequently asked questions and what is the best oil for treating wood? has to be one of the most frequent.

Dry wood is like blotting paper and would soak up whatever you put on or in it. A breakfast bowl would soak up the milk which would then go rancid, not nice. We treat wood to seal the surface and make it less absorbent so that it can be used for food and washed afterwords.

You can treat wood with oils or waxes, waxes tend to sit on the surface whereas oils tend to penetrate deeper. Oils can be separated into those which cure or set and those which always stay liquid. The ones which set are best partly because a cured oil protects the wood better, waterproofing the surface and not washing out, but also because an oil that always stays liquid like olive for instance can go rancid.

The three most common oils which set on their own are linseed, walnut and tung oil. Linseed and walnut have both been used as the carrier oil in oil paintings from the middle ages and it is the oil curing which sets the paint. Tung oil, made from a tropical nut, is commonly used in commercial finished like danish oil which is basically a mix of tung oil (expensive) with white spirit (cheap) the white spirit makes the oil thinner and helps it penetrate the wood. Warming the oil has the same effect but without adding unpleasant chemicals.

Since I know what a field of linseed or a walnut plantation look like and they are traditional in Europe these are may favourite oils. I advise folk who just want to treat a bowl at home to use walnut, it is sold everywhere you buy olive oil and makes a nice salad dressing too. The oil comes in a glass bottle and I suggest standing this bottle in hot water for a few minutes to warm the oil, pour it onto the wood and wipe around with a piece of kitchen paper, allow it to soak in for a minute or two then wipe off any excess with clean kitchen paper.

Unfortunately I can not use it commercially due to nut allergy so I use linseed. DIY shops sell raw and boiled linseed, boiled has metal drying agents added which are poisonous (a bit like old lead based paints) it is fine for cricket bats or window frames but not for food use. The drying agents mean that it sets in a couple of days rather than weeks.

So raw linseed is the stuff and liking to source things locally and organically I would ideally like to find a UK farm or oil mill where I could buy cold pressed organic oil. So far I have not found this so I use a really nice linseed which a friend buys for me in Sweden. Over there linseed is sold like olive oil here, there are so many different choices available. I like my oil because it is almost colourless where many linseed oils are very yellow. It costs more than a good extra virgin olive oil even buying it 20 litres at a time but it is worth it.

All my woodware is treated with this oil, the dry wood soaks it up and with time it sets in the wood and no further treatment is necessary. At home we never re oil any of our plates and bowl, just use them wash them in hot water with detergent and let them dry. If you want to keep your bowls looking bright and fresh then an occasional wipe with walnut oil will do the job.

One last comment, many commercial oils such as IKEAs chopping board oil are based on “mineral oil” or liquid paraffin oil. This is an inert oil so it never goes rancid but it never sets either. It is also a by product of the petrochemical industry, I prefer a natural vegetable based oil.

Hope this is helpful. Any other questions feel free to ask and I’ll try to answer them here.

Now you know what to treat woodware with you might like to see the wooden bowls and plates that I make for everyday use.

You may also like to read:

78 Responses to what is the best oil for treating wood?

  1. William de Wyke December 15, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    I went looking for proper raw linseed oil and ended up buying "flax seed oil" from a health food shop. It was expensive but works well for the quantities I need.

  2. Steve December 16, 2009 at 1:50 am #

    Robin, Raw linseed oil is known to cure very slowly. Is their any concern that washing will remove uncured oil? I have been trying to determine how much direct exposure to sunlight(winter) affects the curing process. Thanks.Steve

  3. Robin Wood December 16, 2009 at 6:31 am #

    William, yes flax seed oil is the same stuff but tends to be more refined sold in small bottles and very expensive. The best UK source I have found is a nice oil sold in agricultural merchants as a horse feed supplement. It is £25 for 5 litres and has a pleasant nutty small but is rather yellow.Steve, raw linseed can cure quite slowly but sunlight does speed things as does warming the oil before you apply it. I talked to a painter (decorator) in Sweden who had used raw linseed as his base oil for many years. He said oils varied enormously, the best oils cure very quickly. My current oil cures quite quickly but I also have some which has been exposed to sunlight for 3 months in a bowl and this is almost setting in the bowl. My painter friend told me how they put their linseed in big glass tanks on the windowsill and stir it once a day for several months. The sunlight part polymerises the oil and so when you use it it goes off much quicker.

  4. Market Participant December 17, 2009 at 2:55 am #

    The Folly of Food-Safe FinishesThe driers in boiled linseed oil, are not made from lead (usually manganese or cobalt) and are present in very small amount. The driers catalyze the oxidation of the fatty acids in the drying oil, causing it to crosslink and harden. The driers in BLO are permanently trapped in the oil film, and harmless therein. UV light tends to "energise" the oil which encourages oxidation as well, by promoting free radicals. Mike Mahoney makes a pre-treated (polymerized) walnut oil and walnut-oil+ wax blend that can be used to finish wood bowls and such. There is also General Finishes Salad Bowl Finish, which is a food safe urethane type finish

  5. Robin Wood December 17, 2009 at 8:50 am #

    What you treat your bowl with is a matter of personnel choice just as some will choose organic food and others intensively produced food and each side will argue the pros and cons. Lack of proof of harmful effects is not sufficient reason for me to avoid something. Poisonous lead based oil paint passed all the tests of lack of proof and recommendation by all government agencies mentioned in the linked article for many years.I think the popular woodworking article is fair in pointing out that commercially available finishes contain only small amounts of metallic drying agents which once cured are unlikely to cause a problem. On a personnel level I prefer to treat my wood with something I would be happy to drink and which is commonly sold as a food product. One of the issues I have with boiled linseed is that in the UK because it is not sold as a food product the contents do not have to be declared on the bottle, I would like to know what is in it.I find it interesting that despite the liturgical culture in the USA walnut oil is commonly used as a wood finish there whilst in the UK we tend to avoid it due to the widespread concern about nut allergy. I have done considerable research and not found a clear answer as to if walnut oil on a bowl could be harmful to a person who suffers from nut allergy but since an alternative is available I am happy make use of what I feel likely to be the safest and most environmentally sound product I can.

  6. Robin Wood December 17, 2009 at 9:16 am #

    PS I just read through the data sheet that comes with the "salad bowl finish" linked to above. It may well be food safe when cured but this section would be enough to put me off."WARNING: This product contains chemical(s) known to the State of California to cause cancer.Benzene 71-43-2 WARNING: This product contains chemical(s) known to the State of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm. Benzene 71-43-2 Toluene 108-88-3"I wish UK legislation made this sort of information available on UK finishing products so that consumers could make informed choices.

  7. Woodland Antics December 19, 2009 at 8:56 am #

    Hello Robin,thanks for this post, I am enjoying reading it and the comments. There is always more to think about with subjects like this,By the way, a couple of years ago we started buying cold pressed linseed oil from Flax farm when they were at a show at the Weald and Downland museum. Tasted superb. Their website is worth a look.http://www.flaxfarm.co.uk/ Only a few months ago I sold a rake to a couple who are now farming flax in Gloucestershire. Not sure where but I hope to catch up with them next year and see how it's going – and find out how well the hayrake copes with raking flax!cheersMark

  8. Ricardo Rocha July 5, 2010 at 5:36 pm #

    Hi.You say that IKEA mineral oil is not suitable because it never sets. But what about this oil made by them:http://www.ikea.com/gb/en/catalog/products/50070378It contains linseed oil and a drying agent that has no lead and it's suitable to use with food.

  9. Robin Wood July 5, 2010 at 5:42 pm #

    Personally I have yet to see a drying agent that I would want to eat. I have not looked at the spec sheet on this oil so don't know what the drying agent is. As I have said before what folk use on their woodware is personal choice once we know the facts.

  10. Neilidge November 22, 2010 at 12:42 am #

    Hi Robin,I have made a couple of bowls recently and found your advice really helpful on sealing them but since luckily my brother lives in Sweden i wondered if you would divulge your brand of linseed oil, maybe I could send him on a mission to get me some!ThanksNeil

  11. Robin Wood November 22, 2010 at 7:25 am #

    You can buy it from the shop at the national folk craft school at Saterglantan http://www.saterglantan.se/butiken_en.phpand you can see the one I use in this blog post.http://greenwood-carving.blogspot.com/2008/12/how-to-make-home-made-paint.html

  12. Brent March 5, 2011 at 5:18 am #

    Hi Robin, ever tried Hempseed oil? It has a similar drying value to walnut oil and does not yellow. I can't compare the two; hempseed oil worked so well for me it has been the only oil I have used for finishing. No nut allergy issues either and tastes great too. Coconut oil is good for a surface/penetrating coat and will not turn rancid for a very long time. It mixes well with beeswax for a topcoat that smells/feels great.

  13. Robin Wood March 6, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    Interesting Brent, I actually have a tiny pot of hemp oil that was given to me but too little to try out really. In the UK it is sold in small quantities for high prices in health food shops. Or in even smaller quantities at even higher prices for other uses. I see in the US second pressings are available quite reasonably http://www.sunstarorganics.com/43438/445471/Miscellaneous/HEMP-SEED-OIL.htmland if I had that available it certainly looks as good as linseed. It sounds as if prior to the prohibition of hemp products in the 1930's that this oil was much used in industrial finishes.

  14. Brent March 6, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    I found info here about applying for permits to import seeds and grow in the UK. I would try this route if it were open for me… I am a farmer though! I understand it is among the most simple and benign crops to grow, requiring very little effort beyond breaking the ground, seeding and standing back. Although I understand UK growers are looking for varieties that will ripen seeds more reliably in a mild climate. Also, maybe you could find a local hemp farmer a little easier since they need to register? I get my oil from hempseed.ca or Nutiva.com, both have been good. I carve spoons mostly so I don't need much for that purpose, more for eating.

  15. J. April 30, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    Nut allergies can have terrible consequences and one can empathize with people who suffer from them. However, recent research is finding, that early exposure to nuts (even peanuts) reduces rather than increases the danger of allergic reaction. People need to quit fearing and avoiding so many things.

    • edward December 27, 2013 at 8:19 am #

      I have a son with a severe peanut allergy. He was one when he had his first reaction to peanuts and his allergies have only gotten worse. It is a very serious problem and should not be treated lightly. Nothing wrong with being conscientious to the challenges of others.

  16. Robin Wood April 30, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    @JIf the "new research" suggests that walnut oil will not cause anaphalaxis in nut allergy sufferers then I'll start using it straight away because it is a great oil. In the meantime anaphalaxis causes 1500 deaths per year in the US, I have met a few folk that suffer acute anaphalaxic reaction to nuts and they would not share the view that we need to quit fearing and avoiding things.

  17. Evert May 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Yesterday I had a mallet turned from yellow balau wood, last night I put it in a mixture of boiled linseed oil and turpentine to soak for a week or to. But I spoke to a friend and he said that they used a mixture of linseed and carnia oil on a jetty they built from balau wood. What is carnia oil (web searches only point to carnia seed) and what is it used for. I have not been able to locate a manufacturer, a supplier or a description of the oil.

  18. Ladybegood January 4, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

    No one seems to have posted here for a while, but I am quite interested in the reference to carnia oil too. That is because of its apparently being recommended for a jetty, ie for external use in water. Very interesting that! Advice re the best treatment for external (non food related) oak, generally, would also be appreciated. But re the issue with nut allergies, the guy who was saying "recent" reseach recommends early exposure to allergens, was correct. It is hardly "recent" evidence, though, and apart from anything else (with any understanding at all re how the immune system works) it is common sense. Babies and very small children should have their immune systems introduced to all potentially dangerous allergens while the immune system is still developing. Being introduced early means the body is taught to recognise whatever as "normal". Problems are much more likely to arise re things that only get introduced later. The sentence re people needing to quit fearing and avoiding things was potentially dangerous nonsense though. it actually sounds as if f someone has read something but not actually understood it. If someone already has a nut allergy, anaphylaxis (or anaphyalactic shock) is far too serious to take risks with. But people who are scared of an allergy shouldn't let their fear keep those allergens away from very small children, because that is exactly the wrong thing to do. It is obviously much better to prime the immune system to prevent the allergy developing at all.

  19. Garrett January 8, 2012 at 7:10 pm #

    I need to treat a wood knife handle. Can linseed oil be used for that as well?

  20. Muskokabrian February 16, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    I have some flax seed oil that I bought at a health food store which has past it's expiry date and smells a little rancid so I don't want to use it for cooking. However, I thought it would be good as a finish for cutting boards I make. I was wondering if boiling it would be a way to improve it as a finish and get rid of the rancid smell.I should add that I tried using a little as a test on a cherry board. The finish looked nice and the rancid smell did not remain after drying.

  21. vjc August 6, 2012 at 6:39 pm #

    Thanks for the article!I've been looking for proper information on this subject for weeks, I don't know why I didn't find this post earlier!I'm still wondering about natural oils and rancidity: Most texts seem to claim that ALL vegetable oils go rancid over time. I personally finished a desk with linseed oil (organic health food stuff, meant for food) about half a year ago and I did notice an unpleasant smell about a month afterwards – does it mean the oil went rancid? or was it a result of using the desk (getting grease from my hands etc on the surface) before the oil had set? Since then the smell has disappeared and I'm still using the desk daily. Does it make any difference in terms of rancidity if you add beeswax?

  22. Robin Wood August 6, 2012 at 9:10 pm #

    vjc I have never heard of linseed going rancid and smells are difficult things to talk about over the net. Some people find the smell of linseed unpleasant whilst others like it. I think the protein content of linseed can cause it to grow mildew in humid environments and I wonder if the protein could have been your issue? I believe Linseed intended for paint tends to be filtered to remove the protein.

  23. vjc August 7, 2012 at 7:32 am #

    Thanks for the tip! I see if I can find filtered oil next time.

  24. woodlandantics August 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

    Hello, I am certainly not an expert or a biochemist but I believe that all (animal or vegetable) oils, being polyunsaturated fats at room temperature (ie liquid) are subject to rancidification – ie the process of chemical decomposition most often through oxidation. Annoyingly Linseed (flaxseed) oil is particularly subject to rancidification through oxidation as its major constituent alpha-linoleic acid is a triglyceride fatty acid which exhibits a strong reaction with oxygen – indeed its why we use it – and the lipid trygliceride is broken down to a stable solid hydrocarbon (thats the nice hard but not brittle surface we are after) releasing a mixture of volatile compounds such as aldehydes and ketones.It's these flavours and smells which we learn to associate with rancidity. Not always bad, in some cases such as stilton cheese we may value these flavours, but they can be an acquired taste to say the least. Be wary when a Romanian offers you pork fat! When my linseed oil arrives fresh from the farm I often take off the top half a litre and put it in the fridge for salad dressings. When fresh the typical linseed smell is almost absent – this smell is an indicator of oxidation in itself and the taste rapidly starts to become harsh, or perhaps metallic. It needs cold, dark and absence of oxygen to slow the oxydation as much as possible – but its the oil that most wants to oxidise (go rancid)so you can't really win.Historically linseed oil would have been refined (washed) for some purposes which would have had the effect of removing some compounds such as free fatty acids. I don't know if this would have changed the smell and taste of rancidification? It certainly changes the colour and purity of the oil. Perhaps the way the cold press is run may also affect the composition of the oil (if you are using cold pressed raw linseed oil). This may result in some oils being judged to be different quality. Normally most people learn to like the smell of oxidising linseed oil and associate it with cricket bats and other pleasant memories – but I have had some customers where the smell of linseed makes them physically sick. So I guess one persons pleasant wood finish is another persons rancid food? As you say, it's hard to discuss on the net, but wikipedia is a great starting place if you are interested in the process.As I say, I am not an expert, just an interested user so I apologise for the poor explanations,cheers Mark

  25. tshoney November 18, 2012 at 6:34 am #

    Would coconut oil work? Are some people allergic to it too? It is solid at room temp.

  26. Luc January 2, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    Hi Robin,I'm not sure about the time needed to let the oil set. I read here and there that it could take weeks, but how do I know when it's set? I also wonder how much application is needed for the process. By the way, I can't tell you how much I enjoy your blog and your carving skills inspire me a lot. Greetings from Montreal.

  27. Robin Wood January 3, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    tshoney, not sure about coconut oil but hopefully the article shows what you are looking for enough to make an informed decision. Coconuts don't grow in the UK or anywhere near so it's not something I will be using.Luc, you know when it is set if you place it on a piece of newspaper over night and it does not leave an oily mark. In the UK we can sell and start using bowls before the oil is set because few folk use table cloths any more. In Sweden friends have to be sure it is cured before sale as folk use nice hand woven linen cloths. I only apply once by dipping in hot oil, if applying cold then topping up once a day for three or four days is best, saturate the surface, let it soak up as much as it will before wiping off excess.

  28. Luc January 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

    Thank you for this nice detailed explanation.I will now order walnut oil, there's a nice online store in Canada who sells it in quantity up to a 1 L. It's called Lee Valley, maybe some other canadian visitors would like to know this.

  29. Ashley January 12, 2013 at 12:28 am #

    Would you suggest walnut oil for butcher blocks as well? I purchased a John Boos butcher block and they advise to use mineral oil… I also have some nice mid century furniture pieces, some of which are walnut and some teak. Additionally have a few Japanese nesting tables that I believe to be cherry. Can I use walnut oil on all of these to polish? What about stains / spots, can I remove those without sanding, etc.?

  30. Dick Scoones February 1, 2013 at 7:33 pm #

    Can anyone suggest a non-commercial solution for protecting exterior wood exposed to conditions of heat and extreme sun in summer (Mediterranean Spain)? Thank you.

  31. Rex Kellett February 5, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Hi I am treating kitchen cupboard doors that I think are Oak, can I use linseed on oak? The can says not to.

  32. Siobhan O'Connor February 10, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    What about the combustability of linseed oil or is the natural edible linseed oil not combustable?

  33. Robin Wood February 10, 2013 at 11:37 am #

    @ Siobhan all oils are combustable. The oils that cure such as linseed, tung and walnet generate a small amount of heat as they cure. If you have a big bundle of oil soaked rags packed tightly together it is possible for this heat to cause spontaneous combustion though it is very rare and it does need well soaked rags packed tight. I always use paper kitchen towel and burn it afterwards but if you want to use rags either spread them out so they stay cool as they dry or keep them in a metal tin.

  34. Robin Wood February 10, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    @rex I use linseed regularly on oak, no idea why anyone would suggest not.

  35. Weed February 16, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

    Nice post!You are lucky to live close to flax/linseed fields.Wondering if you have ever tried this?: http://www.fullchisel.com/blog/?p=1655I live in the desert so raw oil tends to dry quickly for me anyway.Thanks, A.W.

  36. David Gladwell April 1, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    RobinI think this has sort of been answered before but I'd be grateful for reassurance! I have recently bought two (new) intricately carved panels, one in Morocco which is cedar, the other in Uzbekistan which might be walnut. Neither has been treated at all and the carvers variously recommended cottonseed and linseed oil. I'm very keen to retain the original colour of the wood as far as possible. You say that 'my linseed oil is virtually colourless' – is that the one you get from Sätergläntan? And if so, would you recommend it for my purposes? Very grateful for any advice – they're both beautiful pieces

  37. Robin Wood April 4, 2013 at 1:06 pm #

    David any oil will darken your wood significantly, to get an idea how much you could sponge some water onto the back of one of your panels, that is the colour it would go with oil. If the wood is a darker colour anyway then the difference between the normal yellowish linseed and the light coloured oil I get from Saterglantan would be minimal it makes a difference on white woods which develop a yellow tinge with most linseed.

  38. LisaHR May 19, 2013 at 10:39 pm #

    The previous owner of my new home was an amateur cabinetmaker. One of the cabinets has a very strong acrid smell that seems to stick to whatever I put in there. I thought it was a chemical from the varnish or off-gassing from within the plywood interior panels. But he says he used linseed oil that went rancid. I've smelled linseed oil before and it never bothered me but this is awful.I've tried cleaning it, airing it, filling it with baking soda, and finally (desperate) coated the entire interior with 2 coats of polyurethane from a "green" building supply place. Nothing works. Still smells horrible and it gets worse in warm weather. The cabinet is at least a year old, so I don't think the smell will go away with time.Before I throw out this very pretty cabinet, can anyone suggest how to get rid of the smell? Thanks,Lisa

  39. Weed July 9, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Hi Robin,I'm wondering if you have any tips for a polish (without any petroleum distillates) for white oak floors that have been finished with polyurethane. This may sound like a paradox but I assure you I did not have anything to do with the current plastic finish.Many thanks in advance,Andy

  40. Robin Wood July 9, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    Hi Weed, I am afraid my comments are all based on personal experience and experimentation and only applicable to raw wood. Sorry I can't help with your poly finish.Lisa I am afraid that is not something I have experienced. In my very early amateur days I did treat some wood with sunflower which went rancid and getting rid of it proved impossible, even boiling bowls in water did not get rid of it all, it would keep oozing out. I have never heard of linseed producing such an unpleasant smell before and I have a lot of experience of using it on many different types of application.

  41. Weed July 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Robin,many thanks for your response to my previous question.Afraid I have another. What walnut oil do you buy and where do you buy it?I ask because although walnut oil has a very innocent sounding name it seems not all walnut oils are so innocent.I won't mention their names but I have found two woodworking companies on the internet that sell walnut oil, one in Canada and one in the U.S. Both claim their products are 100% pure walnut oil (do not contain petroleum distillates). However one of them has the California Proposition 65 information listed on the walnut oil information page and the other cannot even sell to people in California and Oregon.Please advise.Thank you,Andy

  42. Robin Wood July 11, 2013 at 3:48 pm #

    weed I am in the UK as stated in the article I don't use walnut oil for the things I sell due to the food allergy thing. When I use it for my own use I buy it from the supermarket where pure walnut oil is available alongside olive oil sold as a salad oil. It is cheaper than a good linseed/flax oil.

  43. Eric Goodson August 5, 2013 at 12:48 am #

    Hi Robin,
    Have you tried “cooking” your bowls in flax oil, say in a slow cooker? I have heard that green wood can be gradually stewed in oil so to remove the moisture and drive the oil into the wood. If so, what temps and times do you recommend? Also, have you ever tried baking a piece of wood after it has soaked in oil to help speed the polymerization process? Again, temps and times?
    Thanks for any info, and love your blog. Just built my own bowl lathe and have turned a few bowls. Very rewarding.

    • Robin Wood August 6, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      Hi Eric I dip my bowls in hot oil in a deep fat fryer.

      • Li March 8, 2014 at 11:35 pm #


        How hot is the oil? Then do you leave it set a bit (how long) or wipe it off right away? And then how long roughly until it’s dry enough for use? Do you continue to wipe it off as it dries.



        • Robin Wood March 9, 2014 at 12:38 am #

          Li these are all things that can be experimented with easily, to me the internet is great to source technical info but there comes a time when it’s best to read less and do more. How hot I don’t know and it doesn’t matter, if it is cold it is thick and gloopy, warming it makes it thinner so it penetrates that is all. I wipe it off within a couple of minutes. I can and do use it straight away though the oil is not cured. In Sweden folk have posh hand woven linen tablecloths so it is important the oil is fully cured before selling a bowl, in the UK it is not so important. I dip it once, wipe it off once, job done.

          • Li March 9, 2014 at 1:20 am #

            Robin, thanks so much for responding.

            That makes great sense. I’ve begun experimenting but this inspires me to roll with it and go beyond the warmth level I’ve started with. And also, to not think I need to wait so long for it to cure before use.

            I also really liked the comment you made earlier about that some folks get the raw flax oil and sit it in the sun and stir it to begin the polymerization.

            Thanks! Li

  44. Donna December 4, 2013 at 11:23 pm #

    Hi Robin
    Just wanted to say, great article! Very informative and concise.

    Thank you for your help, i will be getting some walnut oil when I’m next at the sueprmarket! Easy! :)

  45. Andrea December 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    If I just use small limbs which I’ve just cut down;and want small rounds for interior design which oil, and or, adhesive would you recommend? Im very broke and just trying to decorate on a no little to no budget.. Thank you

  46. Charlie T January 6, 2014 at 1:01 pm #

    I enjoyed reading the blog on best oils to treat woods and have already learn’t quite a bit. We have a 3cm thick oak kitchen bar (1m x 3m) which we use for prep, eating, drinking around so as you can imagine well used. It is 5 years old and we originally treated it with Danish oil every day for a week, every week for a month and then every month but stopped after 3 months as everything would stick to it especially paper, cardboard, etc.
    We haven’t done anything since and the sticking to be honest has got worse.
    Do you think we should sand it down and oil again? I am of course concerned that the wood will eventually dry out and split.
    Your comments would be welcomed.

    • Robin Wood January 6, 2014 at 1:18 pm #

      If using a commercial finish like Danish oil I would seek advice from the manufacturer. I am surprised that it sounds not to have cured properly. How much did you apply? I would always put the oil on leave for a few minutes to soak in then remove all from the surface. I would not recommend sanding that will just create a nasty mess of dust particles mixed with oil. If there is a surface skin of sticky uncured oil I would strip this off as well as possible by scrubbing with warm water, detergent and a plastic scouring pad then re apply a finish

      • Charlie T January 23, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

        Hi Robin

        Thank you for your reply, I’ve been away for a while hence not getting back to you earlier.
        When we applied from the start we just left it to soak in and didn’t wipe off any excess so maybe it is for that reason. Of course we are novices in this area and its always dangerous letting us loose on something we did not know enough about. I will take your advice and scrub it with warm water, detergent and a plastic scouring pad then re apply a finish. I’ll let you know how we get on.
        Once again really appreciate your time and expertise.

  47. Harry January 20, 2014 at 1:44 am #

    Robin, would using tung oil as a finish be a concern for customers with nut allergies? I use tung oil for bowls I’m using in my house. I will look for raw linseed oil and try that.

  48. Michelle February 7, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    I have a oak floor that the polyurethane finish has been scuffed thin. I am renting and do not want to pay for new flirting but would like the floors to stay nice while I’m here. Is walnut/linseed/coconut/tung oil ok for floors and then buffed up with beeswax on top??

  49. jane February 22, 2014 at 9:36 pm #

    Hi Robin,
    I restore furtniure at a heritage railway and now have a wash(draining)board to restore. When is it best to use varnish as oppsed to wax/oils?
    Many thanks

  50. Praveen February 24, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

    Thank you for your informative post Robin.

    I generally use wax for interior wood, and removal is easy if its not quite right or you want to change to a different finish. (rarely bother)

    In response to the post regarding coconut oil, I use this annually on my chopping boards, wooden spoons and knife / garden tool handles. I have read it will go rancid, but not for a long time, and has not for me over 5+ years with the use my items get.

    Get it warm and dip the item or wipe on. It will not set, so will feel oily until you rub it all off. Its fine on skin and hair obviously, since you can fry your eggs in it,

  51. Lai April 28, 2014 at 4:44 am #

    I just set up my IKEA kitchen and am treating the Solid wood worktops. As the wood treatment oil has been discontinued in the local IKEA store here and I had to buy a pricey one from ACE hardware.

    The treatment oil is blended with lemon oil however still mixed with Hydrocarbon (Petroleum Derived Compound) which I don’t like it. This is my first time DIY using treatment oil on wood and have no idea how proper I would have treated the new woods and how well I can preserve them although they are guaranteed for 25 years.

    Did you mean that any kind of natural oils can be used for wood treatment let’s don’t talk about the price of the oils. I have been using a number of essential oils for aroma therapies and topical use and therefore curious to ask if I can use these PURE oils to treat the woods. (As some of them are very affordable and I would prefer to use natural stuffs than those are commercially produced)

    And I purchased these oils (whether it is essential or carrier such as sweet almond, macadamia, walnut, avocado) at an affordable price from an online store at USA named iherb. If I can confirm this, then I will switch to natural oils instead.

    Need your advice. Thanks and have good day.

    • Robin Wood April 28, 2014 at 7:48 am #

      Hi Lai, did you read the article? Most pure oils will remain liquid and can go rancid over time. I would advise walnut or linseed or if you wish to continue using an oil similar to the ikea oil then it is mineral oil which is sold in pharmacies as a laxative, you can add essential oil to it if you like but it will have no long term effect.

  52. Lai April 29, 2014 at 2:58 am #

    Robin. Heap of thanks for your article and prompt reply!

    I completed the treatment by applying the 3rd coat as recommended in IKEA’s manual. The next will be sanding using coarse sand paper (also an instruction from IKEA’s manual). I am going to proceed with this final touch up within 12 hours.

    However, after reading some of the discussion and advice posted here I am doubtful now whether I should follow the IKEA manual for the last step.

    I like natural wood’s colour and texture but I am a novice and completely new for taking care of natural woods. And worrying If I had treated the fresh woods appropriately, worse if I had done it wrongly then it could have caused harm to the durability of the worktops and ultimately it may not serve its purpose in good condition over long term.

    Thanks Robin.

  53. lynda May 5, 2014 at 10:06 pm #

    Very interesting article.
    I have made my own wood polish for years now.
    I mix 1 part pure beeswax to 4 parts pure coconut oil.
    (I substituted Olive oil with coconut after my dogs started licking the wood.They don’t appear to be as interested in the coconut.)
    Applying every 8 weeks.let soak for at least 4 hours then buff
    With a cotton cloth. Only need to wipe over weekly in between applications.
    Lovely shine.shows grain well. No problems with rancidity to date.
    However I mix well including mixing twice when setting in the first two hours. This seems to help cohesion.

  54. Paul Cowburn May 30, 2014 at 10:48 am #

    I was interested to learn what the difference between boiled and raw linseed oil might be in terms of wood preservation and your article answered that thank you. The reason being, Taylor Guitars recommend the boiled LO to treat the fingerboard now and again, usually when strings are changed. Its easy to see why now.

  55. Rob Drury June 19, 2014 at 6:02 pm #

    Excellent article. A model article for the conveyance of information in general.

  56. Glen July 28, 2014 at 2:11 pm #

    Hi Robin,
    I am thinking about making a wooden cake stand for my wedding but am unsure about how to ensure it is food safe, I know you have said that you use linseed oil, but would beeswax be ok to use as well?

  57. Kirk August 10, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Hello – I’ve enjoyed your blog! I’ve been using either hemp or coconut oil in my spoons. I’m also interested in trying the organic raw linseed oil. With the hemp or coconut oils I normally apply a generous coat and then place the spoon in the oven at 350 degrees for about 3-4 min, this process literally sucks the oil into the wood. In researching linseed oil it sounds like it may be more sensitive to heat than hemp or coconut, have you had any experience heating bowls or spoons after applying linseed oil?

  58. Douglas Jones August 11, 2014 at 12:55 am #

    As usual a model of information! I am interested in making a couple of quaichs to share a good whiskey with. I typically use Mahoney’s Walnut or Walnut Oil and wax on anything that will touch food. Using a modern lathe I can build the heat so to speed polymerization.

    You use raw linseed oil exclusively. I have no issues with your choice of finish. I am more interested how raw linseed oil, after drying, stands up to the alcohol in good whiskey? Does the linseed oil dissolve in the alcohol (nasty) or once polymerized, is the oil finish impervious to the alcohol?

    Another possibility is you use do not use a finish in your quaichs. In which case what wood in North America would be of tight enough grain and neutral enough taste to work in a quaich?

    Douglas R Jones

    • Robin Wood August 20, 2014 at 5:31 pm #

      I use a hot dip in pure beeswax for my quaichs, alcohol dissolves cured oils. We don’t use walnut in the UK because of the nut allergy thing, it surprises me that people do not feel it is an issue in the US.

  59. Christine Philips September 6, 2014 at 8:29 am #

    My daughter has just treated her 3 month old babies cot with cedar oil. I cant seem to find out whether it is safe for babies or for furniture. My grandson is now sleeping in the cot but I am concerned whether there may be long term effects on either the baby or the wood. (baby being most important of course).

    • Jen September 21, 2014 at 7:40 am #

      Hi Christine and hi Robin…

      Just hijacking your post Christine because I’m interested to hear Robin’s answer, and to ask my own question.

      We have a new cot, just made from untreated pine, so nothing fancy but I do want it to last as long as possible. Last night I gave it one coat of raw linseed oil, applied liberally and wiped off with a cloth. Today it feels dry to the touch already, though I know it needs longer to cure. I came online to find out more about what to do now and I’m now worried I may have done the wrong thing! I don’t want it to go rancid…

      Also, I want to know baby will be safe being in contact with it with their mouth and hands and that the cot and baby will continue to be safe should there be any ‘accidents’ further down the line!

      Thanks Robin. Having discovered your blog I’m now off to browse your shop :)

      • Robin Wood September 21, 2014 at 9:24 am #

        Hi Jen,
        Realistically oiling will not alter the lifespan of furniture kept indoors. When indoor furniture dies it is generally because the joints become loose and wobbly after years of use and abuse. If the joints are well made int eh first place it should last years. A dry wood surface however is like blotting paper and will attract stains and dirt much more easily than an oiled surface. A cured oiled surface can be wiped clean easily. Raw linseed is used as a food product in Sweden, it does not go rancid in the way that other veg oils do instead it cures when exposed to oxygen. I am 100% sure cot and baby will both be fine.

        • Jen September 21, 2014 at 9:19 pm #

          Thanks Robin, I appreciate your advice. I’ll look into giving it another coat in a few days perhaps.
          Best wishes

    • Robin Wood September 21, 2014 at 9:19 am #

      Hi Christine I am afraid cedar oil is one I do not know about.

  60. The Linseed Farm October 14, 2014 at 2:26 pm #

    If you’re looking for Linseed Oil, whether it is fresh and for you to consume or you require some for your wood. We can help! http://www.thelinseedfarm.co.uk

  61. Prabighya November 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm #


    I wanted to know if it is okay to use mustard oil or almond oil? We find lots of this oil in Nepal and wanted an opinion on this.

    Thank you

    • Robin Wood November 15, 2014 at 9:02 am #

      Sorry I do not know about mustard oil I am 99% sure almond oil does not set or cure so I would not use that.

      • Agustin December 9, 2014 at 8:33 pm #

        Hello, Do you think that olive oil virgin extra is the best for wooden treatment?

  62. Joy Irving December 13, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    I’ve just coated a new oak floor with four coats of warmed raw linseed oil, and have waited a week between each coat, so as to make sure that the floor was dry before applying the next coat. At the moment the floor is matt. I’ve tried buffing it with a cloth and a green pad, but it still remains matt. Is there anything I can do to give it a slight shine. I thought linseed oil would buff up, but it doesn’t seem to. Any suggestions? Have I done anything wrong?

Leave a Reply

Powered by Wordpress and Woocommerce and tweaked by Tom Broughton 2013