When Should You Use Linseed Oil on Wood?

Are you looking for a natural wood finish for your wooden furniture? Linseed oil is quickly growing in popularity for this use for a number of reasons, including its environmentally friendly, non-toxic nature. However, if you’ve never used this material before, you may find yourself wondering when linseed oil is a good option and when you should avoid using it. 

Linseed oil should be used to finish bare or previously oiled wood. Ideally, it should be limited to indoor wooden surfaces. However, it can be used in any indoor location you like, from floors and beams to paneling, moldings, and even woodworking figures. 

Of course, there’s a lot more to using linseed oil than just knowing when to use it. If you’re hoping to become a pro with this finishing material, you’re in the right place. This article will cover everything you need to know about linseed oil, including the best uses for the material, the pros and cons of this finishing oil over other options, and any other questions you may have. 

Best Uses for Linseed Oil on Wood

As discussed above, linseed oil is best used as a finishing agent once you have completed working on your wood projects. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a natural, waterproof finish and is a popular food-safe oil for finishing wooden kitchen items (and other items that may come in contact with food regularly). 

This oil can also be used as an effective wood conditioner to prepare your wooden items before applying a stain. Some woods, such as pine and poplar, don’t take stains very well and look blotchy and uneven. That’s where linseed oil comes in. 

This material helps ensure that your stain creates an even color on the wood you’re working with. All you need to do is combine linseed oil and turpentine and use it to treat the wood. Wipe away any excess liquid and let the oil mixture settle for at least 24 hours before moving on to staining the wood. 

Linseed oil and turpentine should also be on knotty woods. These woods also often result in an uneven stain or paint coat, and like with pine and poplar, the mixture ensures you can paint/stain your knotty wood surface evenly. This allows you to keep the great texture that comes with working with knotty woods while also ensuring the finished product looks professional.

Additionally, if you’re using an oil-based stain (or an oil-based paint) on your wood projects but don’t have time to wait for them to dry, linseed oil can be a huge help. Add a small amount of the oil to the stain or paint before you apply it to the wood’s surface – this will cut down drying time significantly

Finally, linseed oil can also be used on a daily basis as a polishing agent. Make sure to only use it on softer woods, like poplar. It’s an ideal choice for wooden furniture and doesn’t clog up the pores of your wood pieces, which would affect their longevity. If you’re planning on using linseed oil as a polish, you should combine it with water (in a 1:1 ratio). 

Benefits of Linseed Oil on Wood

There are several benefits to using linseed oil on your wooden pieces. These include:

  • Linseed oil is generally food safe. However, make sure to read the ingredients if you’re buying boiled linseed oil from the marketsome brands include additives that you shouldn’t ingest
  • Natural alternative to synthetic products
  • Easy to use for novices
  • Does not form a film (unlike many vanishes)
  • Finish is also waterproof, wear-resistant, and elastic.
  • Affordable option
  • Easy to care for the linseed oil finish in the long term
  • It doesn’t require special care to dry – you can allow it to dry due to natural evaporation. Boiled linseed oil also dries relatively quickly, and each coat will be fully dry within 12-24 hours
  • Helps bring out the natural beauty of the grain in the wood you worked with
  • Penetrates deeply into the wood, protecting more than just the top layer
  • Doesn’t affect the natural color of the wood very much

Drawbacks of Linseed Oil on Wood

While linseed oil is undoubtedly a great material to use on wood, it does have drawbacks that you will need to be aware of. These include:

  • As mentioned above, commercially available boiled linseed oil can often contain small amounts of additives that are not safe, especially if you’re looking for something to use on kitchen items. However, you won’t face this issue if you opt for natural (raw) linseed oil.
  • Natural (raw) linseed oil can take a long time to dry – about three days or more per coat
  • If you live in a cold environment, linseed oil can also take a long time to dry. Additionally, in some cases, it may not dry properly at all, leaving the surface of your wood sticky. The solution to this issue is to make sure you always apply thin coats of the oil and ensure the surface of your wood is fully dry. You can also consider thinning the oil with a small amount of turpentine to reduce this risk even further. Finally, make sure you allow each coat to dry fully before moving on to the next. 
  • It does not offer any light or UV protection, making it an issue if you’re using it on wooden surfaces outside your home. 
  • Can sometimes encourage mildew growth
  • Doesn’t harden enough to be okay for use on outside floors, such as deck floors
  • Can be challenging to remove from wood, especially if you’ve used it for several years and there are several coats worth of oil build-up
  • Can only be applied on bare wood or wood that has previously been oiled. Using it on other finishes, including paint, varnish, and wax, will affect how well linseed oil can penetrate into your wooden object.

Where to Buy Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is relatively easy to find in the market. You can find both raw and boiled linseed oil in most hardware and woodworking stores, so if you’ve got one near your home, you shouldn’t have any issue getting hold of some. 

Additionally, you can also check out your local grocery stores for raw linseed oil. This material is also used in cooking, so if you don’t have a woodworking shop near where you live, you should be able to find some in the same place you buy your cooking oils.

Finally, you can also find linseed oil online very easily. I recommend using LinSheen’s Boiled Linseed Oil from Amazon. It’s available in several different sizes, so you can buy depending on how much you need, and is easy to apply. It is formulated to ensure that it can be used on outside furniture as well, unlike other brands of linseed oil. Additionally, it can be used on other materials beyond wood, including cork, metal, terracotta, and concrete

When Should I Not use Linseed Oil on Wood

As mentioned above, linseed oil cannot be used on wood in all situations. Some situations in which it’s best to opt for an alternative include:

  • When you’re looking for a finishing material for outside floors, such as wooden deck floors
  • If your wood surface has been previously painted, varnished, or waxed. However, you can remove the existing coating and apply linseed oil instead. That said, if you like the current look of the surface, you’ll have to opt for another finishing agent. 
  • If you’re gifting the wooden piece to someone else. As I’ll document below, linseed oil will require refinishing. If you’re gifting a wood piece to a friend or loved one, opt for a finishing medium that is significantly longer lasting so that they don’t have to do much upkeep on the piece. 
  • If you do not have time to let the coats of linseed oil cure properly. You will usually need a minimum of 2-3 coats of linseed oil, and if you need to complete a project faster, you’ll have to look for another option.
  • If your home is susceptible to mildew growth. As mentioned above, linseed oil can encourage mildew growth, especially raw linseed oil, so it’s best to avoid it if you already have a similar problem

How Long Does Linseed Oil Last on Wood

Linseed oil is not a permanent option and will require refinishing occasionally. How often depends on where the linseed oil was usedhigh traffic surfaces such as wood floors will need to be refinished more than low traffic surfaces, such as wooden statues

Ideally, you should plan for maintenance of wooden surfaces finished with linseed oil at least once a year. For floors and other similarly frequently used objects, you will need to schedule maintenance once every 6 months

You can either schedule a day for the maintenance or keep an eye on the color of the wood. The linseed oil coat brings out the natural color of the wood surface, so if it starts to look discolored or dry, it’s a good indicator that you need to apply another coat of the oil. 

While you initially need to apply at least 2-3 coats of the oil to ensure your wooden surfaces are finished properly, when it comes to maintenance, you will only need to apply a single light coat. Once that’s done, wipe away all the excess oil, and let your surface dry completely

Final Thoughts

Linseed oil is a great finishing medium for wooden surfaces, especially if you’re looking for an affordable, low-cost option. However, keep in mind that this material is flammable, especially if you’re using boiled linseed oil. So, make sure you keep cans away from heat and open flames and dispose of all rags and project debris safely

Additionally, make sure you don’t apply overly thick coats of linseed oil to your wooden surfaces. When applied properly on wood, the oil is spread out evenly, making it difficult for it to catch on fire. However, it’s significantly more flammable when concentrated in a single area, like in a rag or can (or a thick coating). 

However, as long as you keep basic safety precautions in mind, you shouldn’t face any issues with this material. And best of all, it’ll ensure your woodworking projects are gleaming like a professional’s without having to break your bank account for expensive products!

Martin Swizz

Hi! This is Martin, I like to research, experiment, and learn new things related to wood carving and other kinds of woodworking.

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