Last updated on September 11th, 2023
Oils are perhaps the most popular products for wood finishing. They bring out the character and luster of most wood types better than other finishing products. But not all oils are created equal, so which way to go—Teak oil vs Tung oil?
Both teak oil and Tung oil soak into the wood, enhancing its color and protecting it against weather elements. For outdoor wood furniture, Teak oil may be a better choice because most varieties consist of additives that provide UV protection for the wood.
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What you need to know about teak oil for outdoor wood furniture
Teak oil is not an extract from the famed teak wood. And pure teak oil does not exist. Teak oil varies from brand to brand and can consist of refined Tung or linseed oil, mixed with mineral spirits and varnish, sometimes other polymers
The polymers and other additives are included in Teak oil formulas to provide faster drying and a hard finish.
While Teak oil tends to cure faster, you need to apply it in thin layers just like you do Tung oil. Then, allow each layer to cure for approximately 24 hours before applying the next one – or according to the manufacturer’s recommended wait time.
Usually, two to four coats of teak oil should be sufficient to produce the desired finish for your outdoor furniture.
While teak oil primarily targets teak furniture, it is suitable for any outdoor wood furniture, especially those made of hardwoods like eucalyptus, mahogany, and rosewood. It enhances the grain and nourishes the wood from the inside out.
Teak oil pros and cons
Teak oil has some unique properties that make it a popular choice for use on outdoor wood furniture. But it also has a few limitations. Let’s take a quick look at both.
- The oil works great on dense woods like teak, mahogany, and rosewood.
- It soaks well into the wood grain and cures into a hard finish. Teak oil tends to penetrate even the tightest grain, making it suitable for tropical hardwoods.
- Teak oil is easy to apply with a rag or brush.
- It will not crack or chip and will stay intact from the moment you apply it.
- It offers protection from the sun’s UV rays.
- The oil is suitable for use in both interior and exterior applications
- Teak oil can alter your outdoor wood furniture’s original color as it ingrains deep into the fibers. Because it goes deep, you may not quite return the wood to its original color even after stripping off the oil layer.
- Glue may not adhere to the wood after applying teak oil to it due to the hard finish.
- Teak oil tends to fade and lose the beautiful golden tint a few months after its application. You may have to reapply the oil often if you want to enjoy the beautiful sheen and protection as it does not last very long.
- The oil may not extend the service life of your outdoor furniture.
What you need to know about Tung oil for outdoor wood furniture
Tung oil is sometimes referred to as Chinese wood oil because it comes from China’s Tung tree seeds. Notice that the Tung tree is also native to a handful of other Asia countries other than China.
Unlike teak oil, Tung oil is 100 percent natural, extracted from the oil-rich Tung seeds. The oil is available in different varieties, with Watco Tung Oil being the most common variety in various stores.
Because Tung oil is non-toxic and ecologically friendly, it is commonly used on salad bowls, wood chopping boards, and such like furniture that handle food.
The oil is also versatile and relatively easy to use. It will not cause any irritation during application. More importantly, it makes your outdoor wood furniture resistant to water and moisture, which could give room for molds and other fungi.
Pure and dark Tung oil
Tung oil is available in pure and dark types. Pure Tung oil has no additives and dries to a flexible, honey color.
Modified or dark Tung oil contains added non-toxic, resinous hydrocarbons that give it a darker, richer tint. The modified Tung oil tends to cure into a glossy, heavy finish.
This finish also penetrates deep into the wood, creating a protective layer impervious to water, alcohol, dust, and various acids. The dark Tung oil also gives the wood a slightly darkened look.
Tung oil pros and cons
You could love Tung oil for many reasons, but there are also areas where the oil falls short. This section looks at the pros and cons that could make the oil a suitable choice for your next woodworking project or a lousy one.
- Tung oil forms a protective layer making the wood surface impervious to water, some acids, and alcohol.
- It forms a flexible film of the wood surface, ideal for protecting expanding wood from molds, stains, and rot.
- Pure Tung oil is entirely natural, food-safe, eco-friendly, and non-toxic.
- It is easy to apply
- The oil preserves the original wood color under it. Even though wood coated in Tung oil will have a darker tint, the actual wood color remains unspoiled beneath the oil layer.
- Tung oil cures to a darker shade that tends to make the wood grain pop. Pure Tung oil dries into a beautiful matte finish. This can add depth to the look and create an antique-style finish on the wood surface.
- Pure Tung oil does not penetrate the wood.
- The oil has a long drying time. This can be inconvenient if you have limited time to spend on the project.
- You need about 3 to 5 coats of Tung oil to achieve the desired finish. This only makes the whole exercise more time-consuming.
- Tung oil does not store well, so you need to use it quickly. Keeping it for long will likely mean you must throw it away.
How to apply teak oil vs Tung oil for outdoor wood furniture
While both teak oil and Tung oil require at least 24 hours of waiting time between coats for outdoor wood furniture, the two wood oils vary in their mode of application.
Applying teak oil
Teak oil offers a variety of application options—you can spray the oil on the furniture, apply it using a natural-bristle brush, or with a lint-free cloth. Here are the steps to follow:
Step 1: Clean the wood well and dry it. The wood must be clean and free of any dust or loose dirt before applying the oil to it.
Step 2: Sand the wood by hand with 400-grit sandpaper to give you a smooth workpiece to apply the oil on.
Step 3: Apply a generous amount of oil on the surface. As mentioned, you can spray it directly onto the surface or apply it using a lint-free cloth or painter’s brush. Be sure to wipe out the excess product after application.
Step 4: Give it 5 to 10 minutes, and then apply another coat, emphasizing the dull spots.
Step 5: Give it about a day before buffing it with a clean, dry rag to give it a bit of an extra shine. The manufacturer may recommend a different amount of time between coats; ensure you read and follow the instructions on the product label.
When oiling large outdoor wood furniture, ensure you remove the excess oil before it has dried, and then apply additional coats every 24 hours. Also, consider giving the surface a light sanding after each coat has dried.
Step 6: After applying all the layers of teak oil, buffing with a clean, dry rag is recommended to give the wood surface a silky smooth sheen.
You will also want to maintain your teak oil-protected furniture with a fresh layer about once or twice every year.
Applying Tung oil
Tung oil application is a little different from teak oil. It requires applying a small amount of the oil on a lint-free cloth, not directly on the wood.
Soak the cloth with the oil and rub it on the wood surface along the grain. Also, you should ensure you do not saturate the wood too much with oil. In any case, here are the steps to follow when oiling outdoor wood furniture with Tung oil.
Step 1: First, prepare the Tung oil by thinning it with mineral spirits. Mix one part Tung oil and three parts turpentine or mineral spirits to create your product. Mix well.
Step 2: Prepare the wood surface by sanding it lightly with 320-grit sandpaper. This will give you a very fine surface to oil. After that, wipe it down with a tack cloth.
Use a dry clean rag to wipe down the sanded surface to remove all the sanding dust.
Step 3: Apply a small amount of the Tung oil mixture on a lint-free cloth and rub it on your wood furniture along the grain. Ensure you cover every inch of the smoothly sanded, bare wood surface.
Step 4: Wipe the excess oil mixture off the wood furniture and let it sit for about 20 minutes before wiping it off again to remove any oil drops. After this, allow the surface to dry for about 48 hours before applying another coat.
Step 5: After the first coat is dry, consider giving the surface a light sanding and adding two more coats. Ensure you wait for the recommended period between each coat—for the best results. The amount of time between coats should be specified on the product label.
Ideally, you should have at least three coats of Tung oil on your outdoor wood furniture for the best protection.
Step 6: When done, properly dispose of the rags used. The clothes can be highly flammable and should be disposed of carefully.
Features of Teak oil vs Tung oil side by side
To help you decide what’s best for your next woodworking project, let us look at some comparing features of two of the most common oil types; teak oil vs Tung oil.
Mode of production
For starters, Tung oil is produced from the seeds of the Tung tree, scientifically referred to as Aleurites fordii. The tree is native to China and a few other Asian countries. The oil has been in use in China for finishing furniture since 500 BC.
Teak oil is produced from refined linseed oil or Tung oil and other additives intended to ensure a faster drying and hard finish. The additives in teak oil can include varnish and polymers.
Even though we have gone over the application methods for these two, it is essential to point out the differences again real quick. Three ways can apply teak oil: brushing, spraying, or wiping.
On the other hand, the Tung oil application requires putting a small amount of the oil on a lint-free cloth and rubbing the furniture with the soaked cloth along the wood grain. Applying Tung oil directly onto the wood surface is not recommended.
Also, you need to apply a small amount of Tung oil, unlike teak oil that should be a generous layer on the first coat. The idea is to avoid oversaturating the wood furniture with Tung oil.
From the preceding, teak oil offers multiple modes of application that may make it easier to use than Tung oil.
In most cases, you will find that pure Tung oil sells cheaper than teak oil. While the rigorous marketing that goes into teak oil may have a part to play in influencing this price, the fact is that you will likely pay more for teak oil than pure Tung oil.
Hard surface finish
Tung oil is a drying penetrating oil, so it cures into a hard finish. However, teak oil usually contains polymers included in its formula to provide faster drying and a harder finish. Most of the time, teak oil has a small amount of varnish, which influences how hard it will cure.
So, teak oil tends to be harder than Tung oil when dry. It not only dries faster but also harder.
Wood fiber penetration
Pure Tung oil tends to have poor wood penetration. Usually, you need to mix it with turpentine or mineral spirits to improve this penetration.
Teak oil penetrates even the tightest wood grain nicely, protecting it from within. This goes a long way in preventing cracks or chipping on outdoor wood surfaces with teak oil.
Tung oil is hard to store. You need to use it as soon as possible. Otherwise, it quickly forms gummy films and deposits around the edges of the container. These changes usually signal that the oil is ruined and no longer usable.
On the other hand, teak oil is ideal for your DIY projects because it is easy to store. You can purchase the oil in a large barrel and keep it for years without worrying about it going bad.
Both the color and viscosity tend to remain consistent even after keeping it for a long while.
Teak oil usually has UV protection that makes it ideal for use on outdoor wood furniture. It will help shield these pieces of furniture from the punishing effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and preserve the wood’s color.
Tung oil offers excellent protection against moisture damage by making the outdoor wood surface impervious to durst, water, alcohol, and some acids. However, it may not protect your furniture from UV rays.
If you are looking for a beautiful glossy appearance, you may want to go for Tung oil. It is a king of aesthetics and will give our furniture a glossier and warmer-looking finish.
Teak oil also offers a relatively glossy appearance, especially if you buff the surface well after oiling and drying. Still, Tung oil provides better aesthetics. It darkens the wood surface color and emphasizes the grain.
FAQs About Teak Oil vs Tung Oil
What is the best oil to use on outdoor teak wood?
Teak Oil is the best oil to use on outdoor teak wood furniture. It has better penetration and contains UV protectants. These aspects make it provide excellent water and weather resistance for your outdoor teak wood furniture.
Teak oil also does a better job bringing out the golden honey tint of teak wood.
Does Tung oil make wood waterproof?
Tung Oil dries to a relatively hard finish on the wood surface, making it impervious to water, moisture, and various other liquids. It has been in use for preserving wood and in various waterproofing projects for eons.
Verdict: teak oil vs Tung oil, what is best for outdoor wood furniture
While Tung oil makes wood waterproof, teak oil does more by protecting outdoor wood furniture from sun damage as well. As such, teak oil makes a better choice for coating outdoor wood furniture.
Clearly, both teak oil and Tung oil offer great surface protection to wood furniture. However, teak oil is a better choice for outdoor wood furniture such as tables and benches that may spend time exposed to the sun. It contains UV protectants that keep your furniture safe from sun damage.