A finish is an essential part of any wood project that helps increase its longevity and durability. With so many finishes in the market, you need to be knowledgeable about their use and purpose. Using lemon oil as a finish might be new to most people. So if you are considering using it, then this ultimate guide for using lemon oil for wood will help you along the way.
Lemon oil, just like any other oil finish, protects the wooden surface from moisture and helps wood avoid drying out and cracking. It does so by replenishing the oils in the wood which are present when it is newly cut. It can also be used as a cleaner, to clean off stains on old pieces. Lastly, it leaves an amazing fragrance of lemons that just makes the whole room fresh.
With so many types of finishes in the market, it becomes hard to choose one. Synthetic finishes protect the surface the best and stains really pop the grain on the wood. But oils do both, protect the wood from moisture, drying up, and cracking while making it look aesthetically pleasing. Lemon oil is the perfect combination of protection, looks, and fragrance.
What are Effects of Lemon Oil on Wood
So what exactly does lemon oil do to wood is that it replenishes its vitality?
Over time wood uses up its own oils to stay fresh and avoid drying up. When it is over-dry, it starts to crack, which is quite common in old wooden pieces. This is why people use oil finish to revitalize the wood, giving it a fresh and nice look. It also replenishes the wood’s natural oils and gives it more durability to keep it from drying up.
While lemon oil is not necessarily required for this purpose, it is better compared to any other oil-based finish as it not only revitalizes the wood, it also cleans it. Lemon, as everyone knows, is an excellent cleaning agent. It contains citric acid, which helps remove dirt build-up on items from frequent use. Since lemon oil is extracted from lemons, it retains some of its cleaning properties.
But lemon oil is not used as it is, it is usually paired with a conditioner and polish. Products that have lemon oil mentioned on it, always contain additives. Partially the reason behind it is that lemon oil is not thick and does not dry into a film. So it is not exactly a great finish in terms of protection used by itself. It will protect the wood from mild moisture, but not against other elements.
What it does though is revitalize wood, clean its surface in case of any dirt and grease build-up from frequent use, and give it a beautiful citrus aroma.
To sum everything up let us check the pros and cons of using lemon oil on wood.
- Revitalizes dried wood and replenishes its natural oils.
- Cleans the surface of wood, removes any stains, grease, and dust build-up on it.
- Great lemon aroma for those who love its smell.
- Protects wood against moisture.
- Non-toxic lemons are edible and pure lemon oil can be used on the skin as a cleaning agent.
- Lemon oil does not alter the color of the wood.
- Pops up the grain on the wood, giving it a beautiful look.
- Does not dry to a film and requires to be reapplied frequently.
- It can remove an older finish due to its acidic nature.
- Not suitable to be used with some types of wood.
- Should not be used on antique furniture.
What is Lemon Oil Most Used For
While most people would think that lemon oil will be used for wooden utensils and cutlery, that is not true. Due to the additives in most lemon oil products, it is not safe for use in the kitchen. If you are using pure lemon oil though that is another story. It is mostly used for guitar and furniture maintenance.
Mostly lemon oil is used as a cleaner and replenisher for wood. It’s also frequently used to clean guitar fretboards as well because that part of the guitar is not coated with a lacquer finish. Guitar fretboards are made with pinpoint precision, so a layer of lacquer will change its tone and might cause it to sound different than it should. As it is used so frequently, there is quite a grease built-up from the oil your hand secretes.
To clean this area, professionals use lemon oil, which not only cleans it but also conditions and revitalizes it. You can use the whole of the guitar as well, not just fretboard, but if you are using pure lemon oil, it might damage the previous finish.
The second use for lemon oil is in furniture. A good product will not only clean the furniture but also polish it. Something like Weiman Lemon Oil, which not only contains lemon oil but also has other oils that give life to dried-out wood, is great for this purpose. Such products also contain polish compounds, UV inhibitors, and wood conditioners.
How to Apply Lemon Oil Onto Wood For Best Effect
The effectiveness of any finish depends on how you apply it. If applied properly, some finishes last for longer compared to if you don’t. The same goes for lemon oil and lemon oil products. Since it is not as thick and does not dry to a film, you don’t need to apply a lot of it.
Take a lint-free cloth, you can use a cheesecloth too, and apply the lemon oil on it. Don’t pour the oil on the wooden surface like you would with some other oils. just gently rub the oil onto the wooden surface with the cloth. If the cloth becomes dry, apply oil to it again.
Once you have applied, depending on the product, you might have to buff it. If it is pure lemon oil, then you just rub it on and leave it to dry, rub off the excess. If it is a product like Weiman Lemon Oil, then you might need to follow the product manufacturer’s instructions and buff it out. This will help the surface to become shiny and smooth and will help protect the wood with the additives in the product.
In the case of pure lemon oil, if you want a protective finish, you can use a wax compound, pure beeswax, or carnauba wax for added durability afterward.
Best Lemon Oil for Wood
While using pure lemon oil is great, sometimes it’s not the best course of action. Weiman Lemon Oil, which we have mentioned above, is great for giving wood a good shine while also using the lemon oil for replenishing the wood’s natural look, popping the grain structure on the surface, and for a great lemon aroma.
It also contains UVX-15 sunscreen, making it great for outdoor furniture as well. UV inhibitors are necessary for a finish that has to provide protection from discoloration due to prolonged exposure to sun rays.
Can Lemon Oil Be Used on Antique Furniture
Even though the description on the Weiman Lemon Oil states that it is perfect for antique furniture, we would recommend not to use any. Antique wood is usually older than 100 years. So any oils or finishes that are harsh or contain chemicals shouldn’t be used when working on antique furniture.
The best way to give antique furniture a shine and replenish it if it has dried off is by using natural oils and waxes. Since wax can be used over an oil-based finish, it is a great way to preserve the wood while also giving it a great shine.
While lemon oil is natural, it can be a tad bit harsh since it has some acidic properties that it retains from lemons. If you are using it as a cleaner though, then you must use it minimally and quickly remove it with a cloth. Then you need to apply a natural oil finish, a boiled linseed oil or teak oil is perfect for this purpose. You can then use beeswax to coat the antique furniture.
But if you are dealing with highly valued antiques, it is best left to professionals. As the maintenance costs are nothing compared to what the antique furniture itself costs.
Is lemon oil okay to use on kitchen utensils?
If it is pure lemon oil, then yes, it can be used on kitchen utensils, if it’s a product by a manufacturer that contains lemon oil, then refer to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Does lemon oil leave behind a fragrant aroma of lemons?
That is a given that pure lemon oil would contain the fragrance of lemons. Even if some products are branded as lemon oil and do not exactly have lemon oil in them, they still contain the aroma.
What is the best use for lemon oil?
Lemon oil is best used as a cleaner and conditioner for wood. It also replenishes oils in the wood avoiding over-drying and cracking.
Does lemon oil alter the appearance or color of wood?
Lemon oil enhances the look of the wood and makes the grain pop out. But it does not change the color of wood unless it contains some other additives.
Can I use lemon oil on antique furniture?
The answer is yes and no, it should not be used as a finish, but rather as a cleaner.
Can I use another finish over lemon oil?
Yes, you can use another finish over lemon oil. Since it does not dry to a film, it just gets absorbed by the wood instead. After it dries, you can apply wax or any other finish that dries to a film to protect the wood and increase its durability.
Is lemon oil good for preventing moisture?
Like all oils, lemon oil helps protect the wood from moisture. But it does not work as well against moisture as other oils do. Instead, use it in the mix with another oil that prevents moisture to improve odds.
Lemon oil is not as great a finish as it is a good wood conditioner and cleaner. So it is better not to consider it one either, instead use it for its true purpose. If you have wooden furniture that is dried out and requires to be replenished with its oils, then using lemon oil will certainly do well for it. Just make sure you know what you are using is lemon oil and not just a brand name for a lemon fragrance finish with other ingredients.