We can all unanimously agree that wood oils make fantastic finishes for wood pieces of all kinds. They are not just nourishing, protective, and preserving, but they also enhance the wood’s natural appeal.
The confusion sets in when it comes to choosing an oil. There are so many options with limited knowledge about their composition or what wood type each one is best for.
Many times we encounter individuals who get unexpected results or even ruin their wood and wonder what happened. It is a lack of distinction between the oils, and one common mistake is Danish oil vs. linseed oil.
What’s the difference between Danish oil vs linseed oil? Danish oil is not the same as linseed oil. It is a blend of tung oil and linseed oil with mineral spirits, whereas linseed oil is an all-natural oil extracted from flax seeds.
There are also variances in their properties, finish, and uses, among other things. Read on as we compare and contrast the two traditional wood oils to learn more and make better choices for your wood.
What Is Wood Oil To Begin With?
Wood oil is a finish, traditionally in natural oil form, extracted from plant matter, nuts, or seeds and applied to wood. This oil packs up in the pores keeping the wood nourished and protected from one or more of the following:
- Drying out and dulling from wind
- Getting waterlogged
- Attack by insects
- UV discoloration
- Stains, heat, and chemical damage
Modern wood oils are a combination of natural oil and synthetic components. These are added to improve the texture, increase durability, reduce drying time, etc.
There are various types of wood oils like teak oil, tung oil, and mineral oil, but our focus today is on two popular oils; Danish oil and linseed oil. How do they compare and contrast? Let’s find out.
Danish oil is often confused with linseed oil and vice versa. Danish oil is sometimes referred to as Chinese oil, but that is incorrect too.
What then is Danish oil? Danish oil is a blend of several oils, resin, mineral spirits, or other solvents. The formula for Danish oil is not definite, and the ratio and components are diverse across brands. It usually contains tung oil and some linseed oil.
The name Danish was adopted because of where the oil was originally formulated and used before its spread, which was among the Danish community.
Danish oil is popular due to its many great qualities. It is a thin oil that is very easy to apply. It penetrates below wood surfaces and does not leave a waxy tacky film at the top.
It also dries considerably fast, usually within 4-6 hours. This is because of its ability to polymerize quickly. Danish oil is hard drying as well. Once it oxidizes, the liquid oil turns solid and meshes with the wood to become one hard homogeneous mass. The polymer bond is tough.
Consequently, a Danish oil finish is among the most durable wipe-on finishes. Not as tough as polyurethane, varnish, or even tung oil, but still very durable.
A Danish oil finish appears satin with a slight sheen. However, the oil is so versatile it can be blended with other oils for a semi-gloss or high-gloss look. If you’re looking for a satin finish to your woodworking project, then I highly recommend this danish oil on Amazon.
It also mixes well with pigments if you’d like to enhance or alter the tint of the wood. However, Danish oil on its own will only darken the original wood color just a bit.
Moving on to its protective capabilities, Danish oil performs very well at repelling moisture. It has excellent water resistance and will not budge even with hot water.
The polymerized oil forms impermeable bonds that water simply can not break. Therefore, it is hard-wearing and resists scuffs, scratching, and denting too.
You can apply danish oil to any wood type, as long as it is bare or untreated. It works on hardwoods like oak and teak to softwoods like pine and cedar. It is also excellent for both indoors and outdoor use.
Because it is durable and waterproof, danish oil is the best choice for outdoor furniture and high-stress surfaces like tables and flooring.
Danish oil, despite having solvents as ingredients, is considered non-toxic and food safe once cured. You’ll find it as the preferred finish for toys, kitchen counters, and dining tables.
You must, however, ensure that it is not just dry but fully cured and no longer emits VOCs before using the finished food surfaces or presenting the toys to kids. The entire curing period can be anything from a week to a month, so patience is critical.
Other uses of danish oil are as a sealer and primer for paint. It promotes adhesion and also seals off knots to prevent color bleeding. To maintain its glamorous sheen, danish oil finished surfaces must be cleaned regularly, and the oil reapplied annually.
Danish oil is highly flammable when wet. Any rags or brushes used in its application may ignite if not disposed of or stored correctly.
Linseed oil is a pure oil extracted from pressed flax seeds, sometimes referred to as flaxseed oil. It is purest in its raw form and edible too. You’ll find it contained in capsules to be taken as supplements and also in many kitchen cabinets as cooking oil.
In woodworking, linseed oil plays a critical role in preserving and rejuvenating wood. It is among the most preferred traditional wood oils. My favorite linseed oil to use for woodworking projects is this one.
Raw linseed oil is the most natural form of the oil without any additives. It is a liquid oil that offers deep penetration and is hard drying.
It goes through very slow polymerization when oxidized, thereby bonding with the wood. Nonetheless, most of the deeply penetrated oil stays liquid, and only what’s on the surface and just below it gets a chance to oxidize.
Consequently, raw linseed oil dries at a snail’s pace. We are talking many days, even weeks depending on the environmental conditions.
Sometimes it will still leave a sticky feeling even after having cured. While its naturalness is its most tremendous appeal, followed by it being a cheap finish, the painfully slow drying time is just a bummer. As a result, boiled linseed oil was invented.
What is boiled linseed oil? Boiled linseed oil is linseed oil with added solvents and not literally boiled as you might have imagined.
These solvents are mainly petroleum-based or metallic dryers, and the whole point is to cut back the drying time. Boiled linseed oil dries within 24-hours time, which is a dramatic improvement from the time it takes raw linseed oil to dry.
Regardless of your choice, they both have the same preservative qualities. It’s a matter of whether you are impatient or chemical averse.
Another option that you’ll pay exorbitantly for is heat-treated linseed oil, also known as polymerized linseed oil. This oil undergoes an expensive heating process that increases the oil’s viscosity and reduces the drying time.
No solvents are added, presenting you the best of both worlds; a chemical-free and rapid drying formula.
Linseed oil preserves wood’s natural characteristics. It gives off a shiny, almost glossy finish while darkening the wood color. But if you’d like more color options for your wood, boiled linseed oil has varieties.
The moisture resistance level of linseed oil is rated as moderate. Also, linseed oil doesn’t offer any protection from UV damage. It is moderately durable but no match for Danish oil. A linseed oil finished surface is still prone to scratch and scuff.
Due to low scoring values in crucial areas, linseed oil is only reserved for indoor use. Its most prominent application is the coating of cricket bats.
It promotes compression strength temporarily, which prevents dents from appearing on the bat when hitting the ball. It should be reapplied every month.
Linseed oil is also preferred for utensils and wood items that come into contact with food due to its purity. Raw linseed oil is the most food-safe oil finish.
Boiled linseed oil contains extremely toxic cancer-causing ingredients. But this off-gas becomes non-toxic once fully cured and stable. So, unless you don’t want to take any chances while applying it, it is a non-toxic option in the long run.
The major drawback of using linseed oil, in addition to slow drying, is that it requires many coats since it penetrates so deep. Luckily, it is among the lowest-priced finishes.
It is best used on woods with low to medium porosity. Extraordinarily soft and porous woods will soak up much of it.
Also, linseed oil feeds mold and mildew. Since it travels so deep, it is not uncommon to find it silently feeding and supporting mold growth within your wood. It occurs a lot, especially in humid climates.
That was a lot of information to take in. Here’s a snapshot of a side-by-side comparison of danish vs linseed oil.
|Characteristic||Danish oil||Raw linseed oil||Boiled linseed oil|
|Components||Tung oil, linseed oil, resins and mineral spirits (heavy chemical presence)||Unadulterated linseed oil (no chemical presence).||Linseed oil plus solvents (heavy chemical presence)|
|Resistance to Elements||Excellent||Moderate to low||Moderate|
|Penetration||Below surface||Very deep||Deep|
|Drying time||Very fast (hours)||Slow (couple of days)||Fast (24 hours)|
|Finish||Satin, slightly darkens wood original color||Glossy, darkens wood original color||Glossy, available in many colors|
|Durability||Hard-wearing and very durable||Moderate to low durability||Moderate|
|Application||All bare wood types, both outdoors and indoor use||Only medium to low porosity woods and indoor use only||Only medium to low porosity wood, indoors use only|
|Uses||Outdoor and indoor furniture, toys, flooring, and kitchen table tops||Low stress interior wood items, utensils, cricket bat||Interior items|
|Toxicity||Food-safe and non-toxic when cured||Food-safe and non-toxic any time||Food safe and non-toxic after curing|
Hopefully, you can now make an informed decision between danish and linseed oil for your wood!
Up Next: Can I Put Polyurethane Over Danish Oil?