Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil: A Comparison Guide

Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil: A Comparison Guide


When it comes to wood products, choosing the right type of oil to finish your piece is absolutely essential. While there are several types of oil on the market, two popular options include tung oil and linseed oil. But if you’ve ever wondered which one is better for any particular project, we may have the answer to your questions! Continue reading to learn what distinguishes these two oils, as well as the benefits and drawbacks of each, so you can decide which one is best for you!

What is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is derived from tung trees and has water-resistant properties. Often used as a wood finish, it's been used for centuries by Chinese furniture makers to protect and beautify wooden furniture and give it a soft, natural sheen. The oil penetrates deeply into the wood fibers, providing protection against dust, scratches, water rings, and other common wear and tear that may be inflicted on the wood over time. Tung oil dries relatively fast compared to other natural oils and creates an exceptionally watertight seal on wood surfaces, making it ideal for outdoor furniture or items exposed to moisture.

What is Linseed Oil?

Linseed oil, also known as flax oil, is chosen by many DIY hobbyists and homeowners because it's a natural wood sealant. It comes from the seeds of the flax plant and it creates a light yellow-brownish liquid that is not only great for protecting wood surfaces but also gives them a wonderfully glossy finish. Thanks to its high concentration of essential fatty acids, linseed oil can be beneficial in helping to preserve the natural beauty of the wood rather than covering up any imperfections with heavy layers of paint.

Key Differences


Tung Oil

Tung oil offers a lovely matte finish that helps the wood stand out without overly staining or coloring it. If the tung oil isn't pure, it may change the color of the wood. However, using tung oils with additives may result in different shades and degrees of glossiness.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil gives wood an amber color that will fade over time. This effect is significantly more visible in lighter woods like birch and maple. Linseed oil also provides a glossy finish once dry.

Upkeep and Durability

Tung Oil

When applied correctly, tung oil produces an extremely durable finish for wood. The finish soaks into the wood and then cures to provide a highly scratch-resistant and water-resistant layer. Tung oil finishes need frequent cleaning and recoating to preserve their durability if they are to withstand everyday usage.

Linseed Oil

Although linseed oil-finished wood is much more resilient than raw wood, linseed oil as a finish does not rate highly on the durability scale. Linseed oil-finished wood is prone to chipping and water damage. This is amplified if the finish is not maintained and recoated on a regular basis, at least once a year.


Tung Oil

While no tung oil finish can ever be timeless, pieces maintained indoors and away from the sun and water will survive far longer than those left outdoors.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil should be applied at least once a year or more frequently depending on usage. Linseed oil should never be exposed to direct sunlight or water since it is not intended for outdoor usage.


Tung Oil

Just sand the board until it is smooth, then remove any dust or debris before applying the oil to the surface. Add extra oil when dry areas appear. Wipe the board with a dry towel after the wood has stopped absorbing oil. Allow it to dry for a few days before gently sanding and re-coating. It is possible to apply five or more coats.

Linseed Oil

Both oils require similar applications. After sanding and cleaning the wood, apply linseed oil while following the wood grain until the whole surface is coated. Allow the oil to be absorbed for 15 minutes before wiping away any excess oil.

Apply at least three coats. Allow for boards to cure for several weeks between coats and polish with grade 0000 steel wool after each coat.


Tung Oil

Pure tung oil costs between $25 and $30 per quart, whereas impure tung oil with other additives is less expensive.

Linseed Oil

A quart of pure linseed oil will cost you less than $20, but boiled linseed oil may be bought for as little as $13 per quart.

Tung Oil vs Linseed Oil: Which is Best?

When comparing pure tung oil to raw linseed oil, tung oil triumphs in practically every aspect. The overall look is nicer and less yellowed, it's simpler to maintain, more durable, and requires much less time to apply. However, if price is an issue, linseed oil is less expensive than tung oil while still producing a high-quality natural finish, particularly if you prefer sheen over matte.

Is Linseed Oil Toxic?

Linseed oil is not categorized as a health or environmental hazard.

However, when porous organic material (like cotton waste or a rag) absorbs linseed oil, there is a risk of spontaneous combustion. This oxidation, which generates heat, may occur at room temperature, but the danger increases as the temperature rises. (1)


Tung oil is a harder-drying oil with better water resistance than linseed oil, making it perfect for outdoor furniture. On the other hand, linseed oil has sealant qualities that make it ideal for interior finishes. Either option can provide an excellent finish in its own right, but one may be more advantageous depending on the application. Ultimately, regardless of which option you choose, committing to proper surface preparation and maintenance will ensure a high-quality end result.

  1. “Environmental Health and Safety.” Eastern Connecticut State University, www.easternct.edu/environmental-health-and-safety/index.html. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.