Linseed oils on woodwork work great, but there are substitutes (like tung oil, mineral oil, and teak oil) that can perform better for certain specific cases.
Besides them, there are many other fast-drying oils that dry clearer and won’t yellow with time.
By delving deeper into the qualities of these oils, you can better understand how they can enhance your woodworking and finishing.
So, why not learn about their advantages and disadvantages so that you can use them more effectively for your next artwork?
Alternatives to Linseed Oil for Wood
I don’t usually like to put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak. Lately, I found that I’ve been relying too much on Linseed oil for my projects. But due to certain disadvantages that exist with linseed oil finishing, I set out to find some possible alternatives.
Here are all the surprising results I found from all my testing and trials on woodworking projects and my leather jacket…
1- Walnut Oil
Many painters and woodworkers have used walnut oil for centuries, but its popularity has decreased recently. However, you can still elect to use it for your painting and wood-finishing projects if you would like.
Its properties are unique compared to linseed oil – walnut oil doesn’t turn yellow over time and is known to resist cracking- which can help prolong the lifespan of your painting.
However, you must be cautious while storing walnut oil – it should be kept in the refrigerator and away from sunlight. This is to avoid rancidity and stench in your studio due to its storage.
Also, it’s vital to remember that walnut oil intended for cooking should not be used for finishing or painting jobs. Cooking oils include chemicals that prevent drying out, making them unsuitable for finishing different surfaces.
2- Tung Oil
Tung oil, also known as China wood oil, is an outstanding natural finish for wooden surfaces.
The oil is extracted from the seeds of the Tung, and when applied, it dries with exposure to air just like other oils do, leaving a nice smooth sheen that resembles plastic.
Furthermore, the tung oil finish doesn’t turn yellow with time. Instead, it has a brilliant transparent covering that is more resilient and waterproof than linseed oil, making it an excellent choice for DIYers involved in woodworking projects.
Tung oil is also known to be an eco-friendlier and non-toxic alternative, making it an excellent finish for chopping boards used to prepare food.
The bad part, however, is it is harder to work with than many other oil finishes because of the application process; it’s usually more expensive, too.
3- Danish Oil
This is one of my top favorites of all. So, I can be a bit biased over here.
Danish oil is a combination of mostly Tung or linseed oil and varnish. However, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all Danish oil recipe; each manufacturer has his or her version.
The most significant benefit is that it dries quickly, at around 15 minutes. To get the best results and desired effects, you must apply a layer every day for several days. Over time, you’ll end up with a thick, glossy covering similar to wood varnish.
Danish oil penetrates quickly and deeply into wood fibers to protect from within, making it ideal for new or untreated wooden surfaces. You’ll know it’s working by the lustrous finish it leaves behind.
Danish oil is a better waterproofing solution for outdoor surfaces than linseed oil, and it’s also non-toxic and food-safe, making it ideal for indoor surface areas like kitchens.
The drawback of the oil is that it requires regular maintenance and can be time-consuming. Usually, multiple coats are necessary, which might not fit everyone’s schedule. Additionally, it can only be used on bare wood – anything that has a previous coat will need to strip before application. And because it is flammable, you’ll have to take extra care when working with it.
Not for wood or leather, but Winsor & Newton’s Liquin (a semi-gloss medium) can be a great product for your oil paintings. Many oil painters consider Liquin one of the best mediums for oil paintings because it dries rapidly and provides a paint layer with silkiness and shine.
A cautionary note: since it can be toxic, ensure you’re in a ventilated area when using or storing this product. Additionally, for your early painting stages, opt for something that will dry even more quickly than Liquin—turpentine is a good choice.
5- Stand Oil
Stand oil is a type of linseed oil that has been purified by allowing it to “stand” for a while. The name came from the seventeenth century when this method was first used.
Stand oil leaves a lovely desirable gloss on paintings and does not leave any brush marks. It is suitable for fine details and glazing. It can also be mixed with some turpentine oil to make it dry more quickly, which can be a perfect combination for those who want an excellent detailed finish in relatively lesser time.
6- Teak Oil
Although teak oil is technically a mixture of varnish and oil (such as tung oil or linseed), it is mostly linseed oil. So, we can’t call it a valid substitute for linseed.
The benefits, however, of this type of product include that it offers more protection than pure linseed oil and makes the base material more durable.
Furthermore, teak oil is more water-resistant and provides better all-around protection. And because it dries within a few hours, whereas pure linseed oil takes days, Teak oil is one of the best outdoor wood protection products out there in the market.
However, teak oil can be expensive compared to other options. But keep in mind that even though it’s pricey, you’ll use less of it because fewer layers are needed for coverage. So, the cost can be a drawback for many, but it may be worth the investment in the long run.
7- Mineral Oil
Mineral oil, which refers to various oils with many similarities, can be a good substitute for linseed oil on wood. Its primary advantages are that it is less expensive than linseed oil and is simple to use, making it ideal for people just starting woodworking.
Mineral oil also preserves the natural color of the wood, allowing you to fully display its inherent beauty rather than hiding it behind the oil’s muddy hue. You also don’t need to apply as many layers, which dries quickly because of mineral oil.
The major disadvantage is that it isn’t waterproof, so it’s not the best option for use in the rain. It would also have to be reapplied regularly to retain its sheen.
Many people use turpentine as a solvent, but oil painters take advantage of its quick dry time. The thicker paint is often diluted by turpentine, evaporating quickly from the surface.
If you’re looking for fast results, this might be a good option; however, it’s worth noting that turpentine on wood has a pretty potent smell and can make users dizzy. Try wearing a mask or something similar to avoid breathing it in too much.
Also, if you are using this substitute for finishing your wood, it’s recommended not to use it undiluted. Always mix turpentine with linseed to get the best results.
9- Drying Poppy Oil
Poppy seed oil, derived from poppy seeds, is another great linseed oil replacement. It adds to the shine of the work and resists cracking and yellowing, making it a viable option.
On the other hand, poppy seed oil takes longer to dry than linseed oil because it’s a semi-drying oil. If you want an oil that dries quickly, you might want to consider something else. This can still be the right oil if you need maximum gloss and can wait.
10- Hard Wax Oil
Hard wax oil is a combination of oil and wax that can be applied to wood to make the surface shiny and more durable.
Tung oil and carnauba wax are usually used in this finish, which means it should provide the benefits of both finishes: the gloss of oil and the durability/protection of wax.
Hard wax oil is also much easier to apply than just regular wax. It’s a safe product that can treat all sorts of indoor wooden surfaces, including floors, furniture, and kitchen worktops.
You can mix it with different colors or leave it in its natural color so the wood will age naturally over time. Hard wax oil is much more durable than linseed oil.
The Bottom Line
If you’re fresh out of linseed oil, have no fear. Plenty of other oils can be used as a substitute; some of these different types of oils might also contain linseed oil in some ratio.
If you don’t have any of these oil types handy, turpentine can do the job. It’s readily available and doesn’t cost too much. So you can finish your project without relying heavily on those expensive oil finishes.
Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.