Whether you’ve recently got a lovely new piece of hardwood furniture or you are refinishing a wooden object – one thing you’ll need to consider is how you treat the wood. Finishing a wood surface with Tung oil or Teak oil helps prolong its life, enhances it’s natural appearance and make it look as great as possible.
There is some debate about Teak oil vs Tung oil and which one is the best. In this article, we will be explaining what each one is and how they differ so you will know all you need to before commencing with your project.
- Why Should You Treat Wood?
- Teak Oil Finish
- Tung Oil Finish
- What Are the Differences Between Tung Oil and Teak Oil?
- Which One Should You Choose – Teak or Tung Oil?
- Teak Oil vs Tung Oil: Conclusion
Why Should You Treat Wood?
In its natural form as an organic material, wood naturally deteriorates over time. This is because of its tendency to absorb water and provide plenty of nooks and grooves for bacteria to grow and start breaking the wood down.
Wood treatment or finishing is the process that is used to prolong the life of your wooden items and is necessary for all products no matter if they are remaining indoors or outdoors. Outdoor furniture, of course, is exposed to far more risks so it’s crucial that it is treated properly so it remains useful.
Types of Wood Treatment
There are several different products available to treat wood, each of which have their own benefits and downsides. They all fall into two main categories as follows:
Penetrative Wood Treatments (most Oils)
These are finishes that are designed to be absorbed into the surface of the wood (hence penetrating it) and protect the top layers of what you are treating. Most oil and wax treatments work this way and offer a tough and durable protection. These are the easiest treatments to apply, and can simply be re-applied when the finish is starting to look a bit worn. You can even just cover patches with the oil again and it will look like it did when you first treated it.
Exterior Wood Treatments (Lacquer, Paint, Varnish, etc.)
These, as the name would suggest, cover the top surface of the wood with a protective layer without absorbing within it. In this category are traditional paints, lacquers and varnishes, and a whole new range of modern design chemical applications. Many years ago, those finishes tended to flake and peel, but the new formulas are designed to avoid these problems.
Teak Oil Finish
Teak oil is a penetrative wood treatment that is intended to provide protection to wood by using natural substances. The products called Teak oils do not contain any substances from the Teak tree (source). The product is called Teak oil because it is designed and marketed by the manufacturers as the best one to use when treating Teak wood (that is the claim, at the least). The makeup of the oil will differ between brands, but often will be a mixture of linseed oil, varnish, and mineral spirits. It may also actually include small amounts of Tung oil.
What Is Teak Oil Used for?
If this leaves you asking “What is Teak oil used for?” the answer is simply that it can be used to treat any type of wood so long as you want the particular visual effect that it provides. Again, this depends on the manufacturer and the ingredients that they use to make their Teak oil. Often, the Teak oil finish brings a warm and vibrant appearance to the colour of the wood. Therefore, it is commonly used on furniture and certain types of wood, e.g. rosewood.
How Is Teak Oil Applied?
Teak oil is very easy to apply, and it can be sprayed, brushed or wiped onto the wood. It absorbs deep into the surface and won’t crack or chip. Its drying time is usually less than 10 hours. Many Teak oil products also have the benefit of being UV resistant to further protect furniture in the garden.
Characteristics of Teak Oil
The oil does, however, change the colour over a long period, especially with Teak wood. It normally transitions from a warm honey colour at the start to a patina colour later on. It also creates a hard layer on the surface of the wood being treated, which makes it very difficult to glue wood together after it has been treated.
Tung Oil Finish
With the manufacture of Teak oil in mind, you’re probably wondering what is Tung oil made of? It’s actually created from the Tung tree, which is native to China. It is produced from the nuts of the tree and has been used to treat wood for hundreds of years – often as a waterproof coating for the hull of wooden ships.
What Is Tung Oil Used For?
It is often regarded as being one of the best natural ways to finish wood because of its effective protection and great colour that is produced by the end of the process. Once the oil has air-dried, it becomes transparent. It is also completely waterproof and flexible.
It is commonly used on children’s wooden toys because, as a natural oil, it is completely non-toxic. But also hardwood floors, and even boats or stone are examples for the typical use of Tung Oil.
How Is Tung Oil Applied?
Tung oil has to be applied in a certain way to produce the desired effects, known as wet on wet burnishing. This involves sanding the surface in between the application of each coat, with each piece requiring between 3 and 5 coats, with a couple of days drying time for each. This long drying time is the main setback of using Tung oil.
You should also be aware that it doesn’t store well for a long time so you should aim to use it pretty soon after buying it.
What Are the Differences Between Tung Oil and Teak Oil?
Both oils are transparent with Teak oil finish having a warm hue (exact appearance varies a lot among the different products) and Tung oil bringing a satin or wet look to the treated surface.
While Teak oil is a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients, Tung oil is usually a natural and non-toxic product that can even be used for children’s toys or kitchen equipment. However, the downside of Tung oil is its days-long drying time and the time-consuming application. Teak oil, on the other hand, is easier to use and dries faster.
Comparison Table: Teak Oil vs Tung Oil
| TEAK OIL || TUNG OIL |
|Appearance|| Transparent but usually with hue; |
Hue and intensity vary, depending on the composition of the product (check the description on the can)
| Transparent; |
Satin or wet look;
Can get a plastic-like look after application in (too) many coats
|Typical drying time & Application|| Dries in < 10 hours; |
Straight-forward application in one or more coats
| One or more days; |
Applied in several coats (3 – 5 as a rule of thumb) with sanding in between (see details above)
|Components|| Different ingredients, |
varying among the different manufacturers;
Often a combination of Linseed or Tung oil with Varnish (hence not exactly a natural oil)
|Pressed seed from the nut of the Chinese Tung tree (usually a natural oil but some manufacturer use additives to enhance drying time and usability)|
|Characteristics|| Vary, depending on the composition of the product; |
Hardens upon curing
| Usually non-toxic in its natural form (check the back of the can whether toxic additives have been used); |
Hardens upon curing
|Typical use (Examples)|| Teak;|
Certain other types of wood like rosewood;
Inside use, e.g. for furniture;
Outside use possible if the product has UV protection
Other wooden objects;
|Find Teak Oil on Amazon||Find Tung Oil on Amazon|
Which One Should You Choose – Teak or Tung Oil?
This mainly comes down to 3 key considerations:
- the intended use,
- how you want your wood surfaces to look, and
- how much time you can set aside to apply the treatment.
If your planned use requires a non-toxic, food-safe oil, Tung oil is the answer. If you want to (re)finish wooden furniture, you might consider Teak oil as an alternative. It is easier to apply, dries faster and brings a warm hue (and a variety of shades to choose from) which many people find appealing.
Depending on the application, Tung oil retains a more natural look of the wood and adds a certain sheen (read more). However, this comes at the price of a more complicated application process and longer drying time. If you’re looking for a quick and easy treatment, then Teak oil will be a much better choice.
Teak Oil vs Tung Oil: Conclusion
Wood is a great material for making objects like furniture and flooring, but it is vulnerable to moisture and other factors unless it has been properly treated with a protective finish.
Teak oil and Tung oil are both very good at doing this job. There are a few clear criteria – e.g. ease of use (Teak oil) or food-safety required (Tung oil). If these are not applicable, your decision will probably come down to how you want the wood to look, and how much time you have free to complete the process – if you want a quick and easy-to-use finish, Teak oil will probably be your first choice. Find Teak oil and Tung Oil on Amazon now.
If you also consider using other oils, read our overview of the different types of oils for wood finishing where we compare Teak and Tung oil with Danish oil, Hemp oil, Linseed, and Boiled Linseed oil.
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