Danish oil has been in the business for a while now. But, the question of whether it is safe or not is still a question for many. Since it is used in furniture and basic items such as bowls and plates, it’s important that you know how food safe this substance is. Wondering if it imposes a risk on your health is common. No one wants to use utensils and furniture that are not food safe. There is no easy answer though:
Danish oils are basically food-safe when they’re fully cured. However, some may contain chemicals that you don’t want to have around your meals. It depends on the manufacturer and the ingredients and additives used for a particular product. When using Danish oil around the kitchen you should make sure you are using one explicitly labeled ‘food-safe’.
Read on to learn more about the ingredients of Danish oil and how you can find a food-safe product.
Which Ingredients Are Used for Danish Oil?
Danish oil is not produced with only one recipe. Manufacturers use different ingredients to make their own brands. What’s common in the market is Danish oil made from linseed oil or Tung oil that has been polymerized. Sometimes, manufacturers mix these two ingredients to create a better mixture.
Tung oil is also called wood oil or drying oil. When it is exposed to air, the oil becomes hard and it creates a transparent coating that looks shiny and wet. Woodworkers use this for wood finishing as it provides protection. If a wooden product is coated with Danish oil multiple times, it can make a product look like plastic. Linseed oil, on the other hand, is known as a flax oil that works like Tung oil. It becomes solid when it polymerizes, which is ideal for wooden objects.
Both ingredients, in their natural form, are organic non-toxic oils. However, the food safety of Danish oil depends on the additives and chemicals that are used in addition to these natural components.
How Do You Tell if Danish Oil is Food-Safe?
In terms of safety, the use of Danish oil raises a debate. Since there are different recipes that can be used, there is no general answer – manufacturers use their own mixture of ingredients that may or may not be considered food-safe.
One way to tell if it’s food safe is if a finish has cured through polymerization. When the product with oil cures totally, it is already considered food safe. The curing time for products with Danish oil may take days and this is an important part of the process so that it won’t react with food substances when used.
The FDA states in this context:
‘Resinous and polymeric coatings may be safely used as the food-contact surface of articles intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food’.US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Code of Federal Regulations, Title 21
(link to the document)
Another way to tell the safety of Danish oil is by researching the ingredients used. For instance, linseed oil is proven to be edible. It’s even a good source of Alpha Linoleic Acid too. This fatty acid is one of the essentials a human body needs in order to survive. If the Danish oil used to finish wood has linseed oil in it mixed with non-toxic additives, then you can rest assured that the product is food safe since the materials used are edible.
In any case, you should check the back of the can or the manufacturer’s safety data sheet (SDS; example) for details with respect to food safety and potential health risks.
What Are the Concerns with Danish Oil?
Even if you follow the above tips, you should be careful using Danish Oil around the kitchen. Its main purpose is finishing furniture, such as shelves or cabinets, rather than being used on wood with regular food contact.
What’s potentially wrong with Danish oil is the toxins added by manufacturers to make the mixture, not the oil itself. As you can see, Tung and linseed oil are healthy and safe if used purely. However, manufacturers have cut back the oil and some combine it with toxic ingredients to make Danish oil more efficient. Obviously, you could consider using pure natural Tung oil or linseed oil to coat wooden products. However, the improved mixture of Danish oil improves the application process and resilience which is an advantage.
Read our guide to oil as a wood finish to learn the differences and make up your mind whether those are suitable alternatives for your project.
Which Danish Oil Brands Are Safe to Use?
To tell whether Danish oil is toxic or non-toxic, it depends on the brand and the manufacturer. Be sure to read the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) to review and understand the level of toxins that might be included in the Danish oil you are using.
It’s essential that you know about these things since the ingredients used to make Danish oil is interdependent on food safety. Remember that Danish oil is typically used to coat furniture, rather than the utensils you use when you eat. Nevertheless – if you use it around the kitchen, you should make sure that you buy a food-safe type of Danish oil.
Some of the good brands that are food safe are Watco and Tried & True.
Example of WATCO food-safe Danish Oil
(you can find it e.g. on Amazon).
Watco is manufactured by Rust-Oleum and it’s known to deeply penetrate woods. It’s an oil-based blend that is great for sanded wood, virgin wood, and stripped wood. It also creates a perfect finish for wooden products. The ingredients are non-toxic, which means it is food safe.
Tried & True uses linseed oil as its main mixture for Danish oil. It gives a satin finish that’s ideal for kitchenware, boards, and children’s furniture. It’s also FDA-compliant and is non-toxic when it comes into contact with food substances.
Example of Tried & True food-safe Danish Oil (also available on Amazon).
Danish oil is a proven and efficient way of finishing wood. It is basically deemed to be food-safe once it’s fully cured. You may nevertheless give it a second thought as some manufacturers add chemicals to their mixture that may not be ideal for contact with food.
Before you apply Danish oil in your kitchen, always check the back of the can and the SDS for details about food safety. Also, adhere to products that are explicitly labeled food-safe, or – if in doubt – use a natural oil such as mineral oil, Tung oil or linseed oil.
Read more about oil for finishing wood in our ultimate guide where we also compare the pros and cons of the different types.
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