Oils are considered to be one of the best wood finishes for waterproofing purposes. Whether it is outdoors or indoors wooden furniture, there are oils for all occasions. When it comes to the outdoors though, you need to be more careful of what finish you choose because it has to face the outside elements that can be harsh on any finish. You need to be specific when choosing an oil for outdoor furniture. To help you choose, we have made a list of the top 4 oils for outdoor wood furniture and their pros, cons, and tips.
The top 4 oils for outdoor furniture are as follows: Teak, Tung, Danish, and Boiled Linseed Oil. Teak oil is said to be the best oil for outdoor furniture, it waterproofs wood and protects against sun damage. Tung oil is also a great choice as it repels not only water but also insects. Danish oil has resins and either linseed oil or tung oil in the mix that can protect against the elements really well. Lastly, boiled linseed oil is also a great choice as it repels water.
It is worth noticing that people prefer teak wood for outdoor furniture. This is because teak wood contains natural oils that repel water and can endure the harshness of the outdoors. It can withstand rainstorms, snow and even the boiling heat of the sun in summers without weakening or diminishing. Teak oil compliments teak furniture very well, it replenishes its natural oils.
Let us discuss why each of the oils mentioned above is great for outdoor furniture along with their pros, cons, and tips.
1. Teak Oil
When it comes to outdoor furniture, teak is the wood of choice for woodworkers. This is because it has the most amount of natural oils in it, which helps in water resistance. While teak has oil in it, teak oil in particular is not extracted from the wood of the tree.
The term teak oil is often misinterpreted by people as the oil extracted from either the wood or the fruit of the teak tree. It is merely called teak oil because it compliments furniture and decorations made out of the wood of the teak tree.
Originally teak oil contains a mix of tung oil and boiled linseed oil along with some other preservatives. Teak oil is specifically manufactured with the needs of outdoor furniture in mind. It not only reinvigorates the wood but also protects it from rain, hail, and blistering sun. The mixture of the oils seeps deep into the wood grain, bringing out its beauty while coating the surface for protection.
While most oils protect wooden furniture from water damage, they don’t do that well of a job against sun damage. Sun damage can not only deteriorate the finish over time, but it can also dry out the natural oils in the wood, making it brittle.
Not only that, after a while wood starts to turn grey in the sun, which steals its beauty away. Though if you want to fix that, just sand the whole piece lightly and apply some teak oil finish on it. Try to find one with UV inhibitors for maximum protection from sun damage.
With that in mind, let us go through a few pros and cons of applying teak oil to outdoor furniture.
- Does not darken the colour of the wood and maintains its natural colour.
- Great for protection against rain, snow, and sun damage.
- Easy application.
- Dries and cures faster than most oils on the market.
- Requires frequent reapplication.
- Some chemicals in the Teak oil might change the color of the wood after a while.
- Some brands of teak oil do not replenish wood like oil finishes usually do.
- You cannot apply other finishes over some brands of teak oil.
If any manufacturer sells teak oil calling it natural, then it is probably a false claim. It was a cheap marketing tactic, which most wood maintenance product manufacturers had used in the past. But after being called out by many professional woodworkers, they have mended their labels.
Tips and Tricks to Applying Teak Oil
- Teak oil requires a few coats to be applied. The least number of coats needed to be applied to outdoor wood is 2. Depending on the penetration of the wood though, you might want to apply more than that.
- Always wipe off excess oil once you are done applying a coat.
- If you are applying after a long time, lightly sand the surface of the furniture with super-fine grit sandpaper.
- Once you are done sanding, don’t forget to clean off the surface for dust,
One of the best teak oil and outdoor furniture kits comes from Starbrite, which is a premium product providing the best results.
2. Tung Oil
When it comes to 100% natural oils, nothing beats tung oil for outdoor furniture finish. Tung oil is not always sold as 100% natural, at times there are additives in the mix. That is because it is very expensive and is not always available as well. But, even if a product is not it is not hundred percent pure tung oil, the amount present in it will suffice as a finish.
Naturally, the tung tree wood is water-resistant, and this quality of the tree is also found in the oil extracted from the nuts that grow on it. But that is not the only set of qualities that set it apart from any other oil. Tung wood is naturally repellent to insects, and as before, this quality is present in the oil extracted from its nuts too. Which makes tung oil a great oil finish for outdoor furniture, as it repels insects.
So along with being naturally resistant to water, it repels insects as well. Since this oil is mostly sold with additives, finding one with a UV inhibitor will increase the life of your outdoor furniture. It will replenish the wood and also keep it protected in the long term from all kinds of damage from the outdoor elements.
Due to having such great protective qualities, most oil-based varnishes have tung oil in the mix. Even Danish oil has tung oil in it most of the time, otherwise, it has boiled linseed oil present in it.
- It is food safe and non-toxic.
- Flexible even after drying, so if the wood bends or flexes, it does not peel off.
- Protects against water and insects.
- Easy wipe-on application.
- Long drying times.
- Pure tung oil is very expensive and not readily available.
- Does not penetrate woods on its own.
- Requires frequent reapplication on outdoor furniture.
Tung oil is present in most branded products, so chances are that the outdoor furniture finish you have been using for a while might have it already. The drying times for tung oil are longer than what most people would like. It can take up to a day or more for the oil to fully dry and longer to cure. Also, tung oil does not darken the colour of wood a lot, just deepens it and really brings out that grain structure.
Tips and Tricks to Apply Tung Oil
- Tung oil requires a whole day to ideally dry properly, so you will need to let it sit overnight and then reapply another coat the next day.
- Before applying, don’t forget to sand off the previous finish if there is any applied on the furniture. If it is new furniture and hasn’t been finished yet, then there is no need for sanding.
- Sanding between coats of oil is a good idea as it creates a smoother surface.
- Tung oil is non-toxic, but in case it has any additives, you might want to apply it on furniture in a room with plenty of ventilation.
We found Hope’s Pure Tung Oil to be one of the best in the market at the moment. It is said to be food-safe, but we wouldn’t want you to apply it directly on your utensils or chopping board. Though once it is cured properly, almost all oil-based finishes are non-toxic. But you need to cure it long enough, we would recommend at least 2-3 weeks. It is not necessary to cure it that long for outdoor furniture so rest easy.
3. Danish Oil
So the name Danish oil might give you the wrong idea, it feels like some proprietary oil that comes from Denmark. But if you have been in the woodworking business long enough, you will know that it is just a blend of oils mixed with quick-drying resins and varnish. There is no specific recipe for this and every brand usually has different ingredients in the mix. But most top-rated brands that manufacture Danish oil use the above-mentioned items.
Danish oil has either polymerized linseed oil or tung oil in it, and in some cases, you will find it has both. The resins mixed in along with varnish allow the oil to dry up faster to a hard finish. It is one of the most common oils used in almost any woodworking project, whether it is for outdoor or indoor furniture. With a wide variety of applications, it is perfect for any situation.
With tung oil and/or polymerized linseed oil, along with resins and varnish, Danish oil protects wood from all kinds of damage. It makes furniture water-resistant and impervious to rot. In some brands, you will also find additives like UV inhibitors already in the mix along with other ingredients. This protects outdoor furniture from sun degradation that often occurs on wood and on most finishes.
- Dries fast to a hard finish.
- Water-resistant properties are ideal for outdoor furniture.
- Penetrates into the wood and replenishes it.
- An easy wipe-on application that can be done by those inexperienced with woodwork.
- Darkens the colour of the wood.
- Brands may contain additives that might make them toxic until it fully cures.
- Also requires frequent application to outdoor furniture due to sun degradation. (Unless it contains a UV inhibitor that protects against sun damage)
Tips for Applying Danish Oil to Outdoor Furniture
- When you apply Danish oil to furniture, it dries fast so you can apply two coats in one day.
- Sanding before applying Danish oil will help in adhering better.
- It has a nice satin hard finish once it dries, but can be brought to a gloss finish if you apply a wax polish over the coat of danish oil.
Some people swear by the Watco brand of Danish Oil and for a good reason, it is reasonably priced and does the job right.
4. Boiled Linseed Oil
Though not the best oil for outdoor furniture, boiled linseed oil is better if you are going for a 100% natural oil finish. Compared to tung oil, it is inexpensive and can be sourced easily. It makes wood water-resistant, but it might have trouble protecting outdoor furniture from all the elements.
If you are asking why linseed oil is used after being polymerized or boiled under pressure, it is because raw linseed oil does not dry easily. It can take twice as long or more to dry properly, and even then until it cures, it feels sticky to the touch. Only classical woodworkers, who prefer the old ways, still use linseed oil in its raw form.
Boiled linseed oil can dry faster, and it dries to a hard finish. But if you enjoy the natural colour of wood, maybe this oil isn’t for you, as it does not darken wood but does give it a slight amber or yellowish hue. This might appeal to a certain audience, but not to everyone.
- Reasonably priced and can be used 100% naturally.
- Food safe and non-toxic.
- Repels water and resists water damage when applied to wood.
- Easy wipe-on application, which can be used by anyone and anywhere, does not require a well-ventilated room.
- Replenishes wood’s natural oils and gives it life.
- Changes hue of wood.
- Not great against sun degradation.
- Takes a greater drying time than other oils.
Tips for Applying Boiled Linseed Oil to Outdoor Furniture
- Some people prefer the honey colour that accompanies after usage of boiled linseed oil. As it dries further in the sun, the hue becomes deeper and gives the wood a really nice look. But to get that effect you might want to apply a few coats which will take a longer time but the results will be satisfactory.
- Sanding before applying any finish is mandatory, boiled linseed oil is no exception. You can even sand between coats for a smoother look.
- Try to find double-boiled linseed oil as it takes less time to dry due to the absence of moisture in it.
- Wipe off excess as it will make the furniture sticky otherwise.
Why Should You Oil Outdoor Furniture?
With the harsh elements of the outdoors, wood often gets damaged over time. It not only starts to become grey in colour, but it also dries up and loses all of the natural oils in it. This weakens wood and makes it brittle which causes it to break with ease. Along with that, water damage is quite common in outdoor wooden furniture. A good argument would be to apply something like polyurethane or varnish to outdoor furniture. It is not a bad idea either with UV inhibitors being mixed in with those finishes.
But it will not replenish wood and give it the life that you will get from applying oils to wood. You will just be coating it from the outside and the wood will keep drying and consuming its own oils throughout its age. If you really want your outdoor furniture to live a long life, then nothing will help you out more than using oils for outdoor furniture. With the sun drying out the natural oils from the wood, replenishing it using a mix of your own oils will give the wood longer life.
Not to mention oils are 100% natural and they do not have chemical additives unless it says so. You can even find pure oils that are meant to be applied to wood to replenish its beauty and strength. You can always apply a coat of a hard film finish over the oil finish once it dries and cures. But once a hard film finish has been applied you cannot apply oil over it.
Sun degradation can be worse than water damage as it can peel off the toughest of finishes within a few months. But with an oil finish protecting the wood underneath a film finish, you give the wood twice the protection and a chance to live a long life without being damaged by UV rays from the sun.
Best Outdoor Oil for Cold, Hot and Windy Days
Of all of the oils that have been tested for outdoor use, tung oil is one of the best for almost all situations. Whether it is hot, cold, or windy outside, tung oil will be the best in all situations for your outdoor wooden objects/furniture. Some people might argue that teak oil is better than tung oil.
But if you have been in the woodworking world long enough, you will know that teak oil is a mix of tung oil with boiled linseed oil along with additives. It is similar to Danish oil in composition in that regard. Though if we are talking about a mix then Danish oil is also a great and viable option. It also contains varnish and resins that harden up and give a nice protective layer to the wood.
So if you are in the market for 100% pure wood oil, tung oil is the best option for you. It does not change the colour of the wood, protecting it from natural elements outdoors. But if it is okay to use something with additives, then teak oil is said to be the best against the harsh elements of the outdoors.
How Often to Reapply Oil to Outdoor Furniture
When it comes to reapplication of oils to outdoor furniture, it really depends on the severity of the harsh conditions it has had to face. If it has been pouring a lot of it has been intensely hot and the sun has been blistering everything for a few months, then you should consider checking up on the condition of your outdoor furniture. In most cases, a good application lasts about 6 months and above. But as we said, if the conditions have been severely harsh, the look of the furniture will be enough to tell you when to reapply a new coat of oil.
If the wood has become grey, faded, and the previous finish (in the case of polyurethane and varnish it will start to peel) looks faded, it is high time you reapply oil to outdoor furniture. To do so, just lightly sand the furniture with super-fine grit sandpaper, (220-grits is perfect for this job) to lightly sand the surface to remove traces of any previously applied finish. This will also prepare the surface of the wood to accept oil for better absorption.
After that, apply oil on a rag and wipe it on the furniture and leave it for an hour. After that take a clean rag and wipe off any excess oil that might have been left on the surface of the wood. Leave it to dry again for half a day at least and then you can reapply another coat of oil. Apply as many coats of oils as the manufacturer suggests. But we recommend at least 2 coats of any oil finish.
FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions
Is teak oil made out of the teak tree or the fruit of the teak tree?
No, teak oil is made from a combination of tung and boiled linseed oil along with other additives. It is best suited and compliments teak wood furniture, which is why it is called teak oil.
Can you apply polyurethane or varnish over the oil?
Yes, you can apply a varnish, lacquer, or polyurethane over wood that has had drying oil applied to it before. Though, for the best results, make sure the drying oil has already dried and cured before you apply another finish over it.
Is it necessary to wipe off excess oil?
If you don’t wipe off excess oil, it will become sticky to the touch. Not to mention, fungus and mildew might grow on the wood if the excess oil does not dry off properly.
How long does oil take to cure?
Oils cure faster than other finishes that are made through chemical procedures. Even if the oil has not cured, you can still keep it indoors for drying because it is non-toxic and does not release fumes. A strong odour might accompany the oils though, which might irritate you, but nothing toxic.
Are all oil finishes non-toxic and food safe?
In cases of 100% natural and pure oils, yes they are food safe and non-toxic. However, we would suggest checking the brand manufacturer’s guide for better knowledge. Because if there are any additives in the mix which are toxic, it might cause you discomfort or severe illness if you put them on any utensils or kitchen items.
Oils are great for indoor or outdoor use, but when it comes to outdoor furniture, it goes through tremendously harsh conditions. Having oil replenishes the wood’s condition, not only increases its life but also protects it from the harsh weather conditions it might have to face outdoors.
But not all oils are suitable for outdoor furniture use, so be careful what oil will suit your outdoor furniture better. Some oils do a better job of protecting against one element than the other.
Then there are those that do a good job under almost all conditions, but it alters the colour of the wood. So there is a compromise in most situations, but any of the oils mentioned in our list will serve your purpose beautifully.