Best Tung Oil: Reviews 2020 (Recommended!)

Tung oil, or wood oil, is made from the seed kernels of tung trees. It is an essential product in woodworking as it protects wood from wearing down naturally and makes it waterproof.

When tung oil comes into contact with air, it hardens and gives the wood a shiny, smooth, and glass-like finish.

But it is such a broad topic that you need to do some research before knowing what the best tung oils are, as well as how to properly apply each of them. That is where we can help.

The following article will detail important information about tung oil and will also be recommending some of the top tung oil products on the market.

Need a recommendation? Here you go:

Top 8 Best Tung Oils Reviews

First off, let us look at some of the more popular options for tung oil which are in the market right now, along with their key features.

1. Hope’s 100% Pure Tung Oil

Our first option is from Hope’s and it is their 100% pure tung oil, which means that it has no additives or solvents. If you need to, you can thin this out as per your requirements using a citrus solvent or something similar.

This will make the oil’s tint less intense and will allow you to easily work in layers, without worrying about applying too much oil.

The pure tung oil does not give a very glossy finish but it will still penetrate the wood and solidify there to protect it from water, alcohol, and other oils for years. It also enhances the natural color and grain of the wood and can be hand-rubbed on to apply.

You should let the first layer dry for at least an hour, before wiping it down to remove excess and apply each of the subsequent layers every 12 hours or so. If you see any unevenness on the surface after finishing the wood, use a mildly abrasive pad to smoothen it out.

This pure tung oil is available in many size options so you can get one even if your project is of a smaller scale. Besides stripped, unfinished, or weathered wood, you can also use this on countertops, concrete floors, stone, cast iron, and brick surfaces. Overall, it’s one of the best quality tung oils out there.

Key Features

  • You can choose your own solvents or additives as it is a 100% pure tung oil.
  • Can be used on a number of surfaces besides wood.
  • Easy to apply since you will only need a rag or soft brush.
  • The finish is not too glossy and can help you avoid an ‘artificial’ look.

2. Real Milk Paint Dark Tung Oil

As the name suggests, this tung oil from Real Milk Paint has a dark finish. It is said to give an aged and antique look to wood due to this dark tint.

This one is available in plenty of size options so you can get one depending on how many areas you need to cover or how many layers of tung oil you would need.

The antique finish is instant so there is no chance for the color to develop and get darker than how it looks upon initial application. Of course, you do need to wait sometime between each application to let the oil dry and harden.

This tung oil does contain a natural resin which will allow it to give wood that shiny and glass-like look, and add some depth to the wood’s grain.

Do not let the dark tint scare you away, though, because it will still keep the wood’s natural color. For instance, if you apply this on cherry cedarwood, the wood’s natural red shade will still show through the tung oil while also having an aged look.

If it does turn out to be too dark for you then you can thin it out as needed using a proper solvent.

Key Features

  • Has a dark tint that gives the wood an instant antique look.
  • The tint is not too intense, so the natural shade and grain of the wood will still be visible.
  • Natural resin additives help to give wood a smooth and shiny surface.
  • Available in a number of size options for user convenience.

3. FDC Chem 100% Pure Tung Oil

This tung oil from FDC Chem is probably one of the ones with the lightest tints. It has a rich and warm tone which gives any surface depth and an antique look.

Once it is dried and solid, this tung oil can protect the wood from acid, water, alcohol, and other oils. It does not have any additives or solvents, which means that it does dry down over a long period of time.

However, it is still pretty easy to apply and if you have the time and patience to let each layer dry fully, you should have a finish that will last you years. Its finish is on the glossier side rather than being satiny.

While it works perfectly on any type of wood, this tung oil is also great for finishing concrete, stone, and brick surfaces.

Key Features

  • Gives wood a light tint that adds depth and a wet, glassy look.
  • Pure tung oil without any solvents.
  • You do not have to go over it too many times to get a protective finish.
  • The finish of this oil is not too glossy and so it does not reflect a lot of light.
  • Gives a classy, aged look while protecting from the external environment.

4. Real Milk Paint PTO-G Pure Tung Oil

This is a lighter tinted pure tung oil option from Real Milk Paint. As with any tung oil, this one also protects wood and other surfaces from alcohol, water, acid, and oils.

Because it is a lighter tint oil, you may feel tempted to use a heavier hand when applying. However, you should remember that this is still 100% pure tung oil. So, when unmixed with a solvent, it will apply thickly and will take up to one day to fully dry and solidify.

Moreover, this oil comes in a variety of quantities so you can buy one for your smaller-scale projects without feeling like the product might go to waste. Of course, you may want to decant the larger size ones for easy pouring during use.

The light tint of this tung oil makes sure that the natural color of the wood remains unchanged and its grain is enhanced. It adds depth to any surface after it has hardened and gives a wet-looking finish.

This lightness of color also means that it will become more and more transparent as you add a solvent to it. It does dry quite fast by itself but will take even less time to dry down when distilled.

Key Features

  • The light tint makes it easy to apply and does not darken the wood’s color.
  • The finish is impenetrable and shiny, giving any surface a classy look.
  • Gives you the freedom to either uses it as it is or thin it out using a solvent.
  • Comes in a wide array of quantities, all in easy-to-pour containers.

5. Minwax Tung Oil Finish

This tung oil finish from Minwax is great for both unfinished and prefinished wood. It is able to seep into the wood’s cracks and pores to restore its natural color while also hydrating it.

As with a lot of other options on this list, this one is also a wipe-on tung oil. You can even use an old t-shirt to wipe this onto the wood’s surface. Whether you are applying it to dry wood or refreshing an older coat, this will enhance the wood’s color and give it a shiny and polished look.

It is safe to use on antiques as it is a lighter formula that is hard to mess up. If you do end up applying it badly, you can always clean it up easily using a paint thinner or a mineral spirit. The resulting finish will look natural.

Before buffing out any imperfections after application, wait at least 10 minutes for the layer to dry. This oil has a very light tint which seems to not change the wood’s natural color at all.

Key Features

  • Not pure tung oil, so each layer dries within half an hour at most.
  • Very easy to apply using nothing more than a simple rag and mild abrasive.
  • Provides maximum resistance to water, oil, and alcohol.
  • Gives a natural-looking finish.
  • Very easy to reapply a new layer that will last a long time.

6. Formby Low Gloss Tung Oil Finish:

As the name suggests, the main appeal of this Formby tung oil finish is its low gloss look. While the wet-looking finish of most tung oils is very popular, there are some people who prefer a less shiny finish for their wooden projects.

Not to mention how easy this oil is to apply. Since it is not pure tung oil and has been thinned out, it can be wiped on using a soft cloth. It applies in very light layers that dry fast and give the user a lot of control over the end result.

As with any tung oil product, this one also penetrates the wood and creates a solid barrier against the outside environment, lengthening the wood’s lifespan. A key feature of this oil is that it is made in China, which is in many ways the home of tung oil.

The finish of this oil looks hand-rubbed and is not too reflective, giving wood a natural but polished look.

Key Features

  • Thin tung oil applies in light layers and dries relatively fast.
  • The non-glossy finish is a great option if you do not like the reflective look.
  • Can be applied quickly and with very few household resources.
  • Protects surfaces from acid, water, oil, and mildew for years on end.

7. Watco Tung Oil

This tung oil from Watco is great for using on unfinished and stained interior wooden surfaces, such as on trim, furniture, molding, etc. It restores as well as enhances the wood’s natural hue and texture.

The oil’s drying time is 24 hours maximum, but this can be reduced further if it is distilled with a solvent. This tung oil seeps into any wooden surface and solidifies itself, creating an impenetrable layer between the wood and its surroundings.

It protects surfaces from not only water but also other oils, acids, and alcohols. Though it is recommended that you use two layers of this oil, you should use at least 4 layers, just to be safe. This is a thinner formula, after all, and will be hard to overdo.

Repeating the layers will increase the glossy look of the oil but it will not darken the wood’s color by a lot. Hence, there is a lot of freedom for the user in terms of how they want the end result to look.

The application of this tung oil is very easy. All you need to do is wipe it on and buff out any unevenness or excess oil after each layer has dried fully.

Key Features

  • Simple to apply as you only need to wipe it on in even layers.
  • Has a light tint that does not alter the wood’s original color.
  • Provides surfaces with protection against moisture and general wear.
  • Drying time is quite low so it is a good option if you are in a time crunch.

8. Wood River 100% Pure Tung Oil

Our last recommendation is another 100% pure tung oil, and this one is from Wood River. It is supposed to give wood a rich and luminous sheen. While it does harden like tung oil, it is still pretty elastic during application.

Its drying time is very fast but not too fast, which means that you will have plenty of time to apply it as you like.

In about 4 to 5 coats, you should have a satin sheen on your wooden (or concrete/brick) surface, with a light and warm tint that still lets the wood’s natural grain and color shine through.

This oil provides you with some liberty in terms of how you can apply it. If you want, you can use it as is, or you can thin it down using a solvent.

The latter option will speed up the drying time considerably, but it will also mean thinner layers, which you have to repeat quite a lot in order to get a fully protective coating.

Key Features

  • You can customize the consistency to your needs using the proper solvents.
  • Does not require many coats in order to get a resistant and protective layer.
  • Gives wood a satin, rather than glossy finish, which many people prefer.
  • The tint is very light, which means that it does not alter the color of the wood.

What to Look for While Buying a Tung Oil? 

When shopping for tung oil, there are some obvious factors that should affect your decision such as price, your budget, the oil’s brand, and the quantity of oil you will need.

However, there are a couple more things you need to consider to choose the best pure tung oil. Let’s get to learn them.

Types of Tung Oil

There are a few finishes to choose from: oil/varnish blends, wiping varnish, and pure tung oil. All three offer the signature protection and durability of tung oil but differ in how they should be applied or how much pure tung oil they contain.

Pure tung oil does not contain any solvents or additives, which means that it lowers the user’s exposure to VOCs. However, it can be a more time-consuming option for tung oil.

On the other hand, we have oil/varnish blends and wiping varnishes. These have either artificial or natural resins and solvents added to them. This thins out the tung oil and speeds up its drying time by a lot more than pure tung oil.

Application Techniques

Wiping varnishes and oil/varnish blends are much easier and less time-consuming to apply, while pure tung oil can take a couple of days to harden.

Oil/varnish blends contain a mixture of tung oil and varnish, whereas wiping varnishes are tung oil which has been thinned out so that it can be wiped on to be applied.

With blends of oil and varnish, you will need to wait a few minutes after each application and then buff away excess oil in order to prevent wrinkling.

And for wiping varnishes, you only need to put the oil on a rag and wipe it on. It will dry up quite fast and harden on its own.

A wiping varnish may not be as shiny as an oil/varnish blend, since it has been thinned out a lot. But it will be the easiest to apply and quickest to dry between all three options for tung oil.

Drying Times

With pure tung oil, it takes a couple of days for it to harden and you need to do at least five coats of it in order for it to be fully effective.

If you try to rush this application process of pure tung oil, you will only be wasting more time because you may need to sand down wrinkling and unevenness caused by the oil not having enough time to dry down.

You only need to wait about an hour (or even less than that) between coats when applying to wipe varnishes or oil/varnish blends.

Oil’s Tint

Tung oil products come in different tints and hues. Some are very light and others have a darker tint. There are also warmer and cooler tones in tung oil tints.

If the surface you want to use the oil on is already dark, then you don’t need to worry about the oil’s tint.

However, if your wood is light in color, you need to be careful to not use a very dark tinted tung oil, unless you do want to darken the wood’s natural color.

What is Tung Oil Good For?

Tung oil is most commonly used to protect wood surfaces from the outside environment, and also to give wood a smooth and shiny finish. The oil is known to harden when it is exposed to air, and when applied to wood in layers, the resulting finish is transparent and has a ‘wet’ look to it.

In fact, when tung oil is applied to wood in a few layers, the uneven cracks and hollows in the wood surface are filled up, and the finish looks almost as smooth as plastic or acrylic. So tung oil’s primary uses are definitely to protect the wood and give it a pleasing finish.

How Many Coats of Tung Oil Should I Use?

The more coats of tung oil you apply, the better and longer it will protect the wood. Ideally, you want to apply no fewer than five coats of pure tung oil. These many layers will maximize the oil’s protective capabilities and will also give the wood a much smoother finish.

However, if you want to retain the wood’s natural texture or grain, but still want the protective strength of the tung oil, there is a way to do that too.

What you need to do is thin down the first couple of layers of tung oil using something like turpentine. Thin down the tung oil by half the first layer, and then decrease the proportion of the thinner for each layer.

The last layer (or few layers) should be fully tung oil though, as that will ensure that the oil lasts you a long time and protects the wood properly.

Does Tung Oil Darken Wood?

Tung oil does not ‘darken’ the wood itself, but some oils may have a slight tint. It enhances the natural color of the wood so that it appears more prominent. Woods have very dynamic surfaces with little quirks that make them unique.

The good layering of tung oil helps to make these quirks more visible, which makes the wood appear less flat and dull. The oil also makes the wood smoother, so you can see the wood’s unevenness without it seeming to have a bad finish.

With the tung oil on top, a wood’s texture is toned down to the touch while it becomes more prominent visually.

Is Tung Oil Waterproof?

When it is applied properly and in a good number of layers, the best quality tung oil can make a wood surface be resistant to water. Because tung oil can seep into the cracks and holes in the wood, it goes deeper than just the surface. When the oil hardens on the wood, it becomes impenetrable to water.

As a matter of fact, many centuries ago, tung oil was used to preserve the wood used in building ships. Modern tung oil is able to give wood a smooth surface that is easy to clean and resists water.

How Long Does Tung Oil Finish Last?

Tung oil is known for its longevity. This is why it is so popular when it comes to finishing wooden surfaces. A good layer of tung oil will last you many years easily.

Unlike lacquers, tung oil does not need to be reapplied every few months and can hold up for over a decade. And the more time you put into preparation and application, the longer your tung oil will last.

Tung oil does not evaporate like alcohol-based finishes, nor does it wear down easily. It seeps into the wood and stays there to protect it against the outside environment.

Apply layers of the tung oil to wood, and buff with steel wool either between each layer or right before the final layer, to get that smooth and glass-like finish. Let each layer dry for an hour at least (preferably a whole day), and it should become quite solid.

Once your application is done, this should last you for many years before the tung oil even begins to wear down to reveal the wood underneath.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will tung oil darken the color of wood?

Some tung oils have a light, warm tint to them which, when applied in a few layers, may slightly darken the color of the wood. However, tung oil will not change the color of wood significantly.

2. How long does it take for tung oil to dry?

After coating a wooden surface with pure tung oil, you should wait at least a few days before touching it again. Tung oil can take some time to dry and if it obtains a scratch during this time, that will be hard to get rid of later.

3. Does tung oil have a bad smell?

The odor of tung oil (which is unpleasant for some people) will last a few days after application, but it will weaken as time goes by. You can use another wax or lacquer finish on top of the tung oil if the smell bothers you too much.

4. Can I use tung oil on a non-wooden surface?

Deepening on the manufacturer’s recommendations, a lot of tung oils can be used on surfaces other than wood, such as brick, stone, and concrete.

5. Does tung oil become fully solid after application?

Initially, tung oil fills up the cracks and holes in the wood’s surface and dries over time to become fully solid (almost like acrylic plastic) and impenetrable.

Final Words

Tung oil is undoubtedly a good thing for wood. Not only does it give wooden surfaces a smooth and shiny finish, but also it protects them from external wear, tear, and water damage.

Of course, tung oil makes wooden surfaces look more visually pleasing, as it enhances the wood’s texture while getting rid of its natural roughness. This oil has been used for centuries to protect wooden objects and lengthen their life cycle.

Based on the above reviews, you will likely be able to find the best tung oil that suits your particular needs.

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