is tung oil toxic

Is Tung Oil Toxic? (Applications, How Good Does It Work?)

Working on some new wood projects that will be used around the kitchen? Maybe you would like to make some wooden utensils a butcher or even an end table. Tung Oil has become to be known as one of the best natural oils for finishing wood, but what about toxins and using it on fished wood projects that will be in contact with food?

100% Pure Tung Oil is an all natural, non-toxic, environmentally friendly food safe finishing oil. Pure Tung Oil is usually thinned with mineral spirits or distillates but deemed safe after curing for 30 days as these compounds will have evaporated.

While tung oil is a non-toxic and natural sealer for wood, it has various other applications as well. The oil is made from the seeds of the nut from the Tung Tree and while some may have sensitivities to the smell of the compounds when curing, allergic reactions are very rare.

Uses for Tung Oil

Tung oil has been used for centuries and continues to be used in various applications such as sealing boat decks, patio decks, interior wood floors, instruments like guitars, and antique furniture pieces.

Safe for in the Kitchen

100% Pure tung oil is safe for sealing wood cutting boards and butcher block countertops, and even wooden toys. It’s recommended to let it cure for 30 days before using the cutting boards or wooden utensils.

Once cured wash with warm soapy water and you should be good to start using your new creation.

Safe for Children’s Toys

Wooden toys are making a comeback and they don’t always come pre-sealed or with any kind of finish except some paint. 100% Pure Tung oil is safe on toys, and it’s recommended to let it cure for 30 days before giving it to your children to play with.

Not Just for Wood

Tung oil doesn’t have to be used just for wood products, it’s also an effective sealer for concrete and stone tiled floors or counters, stone features (like a fireplace or decorative wall), shower walls, and the painted rocks your kids worked hard on to paint for you in school.

TIP: Some stains and drying agents have tung oil as an ingredient, but these are not pure Tung Oil, don’t let these confuse you.

Tung Oil Composition

Tung oil is a natural and sustainable product that reacts with oxygen to harden and the major fatty acid composition of Tung Oil is:

Alpha-eleostearic acid82.0%
Linoleic acid8.5%
Oleic acid4.0%
Palmitic acid5.5%

Alpha-eleostearic acid is the main fatty acid component of tung oil, with 18 linked carbon atoms that form a chain (methylene units) that contains three conjugated double bonds per unit. Its unique composition enables it to penetrate hardwoods better than other oils and holds better against aging.

Environmentally friendly and Reusable

Tung oil is a naturally derived substance and is highly water-resistant compared to other oil-based sealers, and easily repaired if damaged after application and curing. It is safe to use on outdoor wood surfaces like decks, chairs, and swing sets and is naturally resistant to pests. It is durable when exposed to the elements and will last years when properly and thoroughly applied.

wood chair

Resealing and Storing Tung Oil

When sealed properly, tung oil can be reused for years. If left in a container with airflow, the oil will harden and become unusable.

Tung oil begins hardening (polymerizing) when exposed to oxygen after a period of time, and containers should be burped of oxygen and filled with a safe gas to replace the air in order to prevent the oil from curing.

Common Thinners used with Tung Oil

The most common natural thinners used in tung oil are citrus solvents, mineral spirits, and turpentine. The 100% pure versions don’t always mean it’s entirely safe, as mentioned earlier some may be sensitive to the smell of the compounds as they polymerize to a hardened state.

Common Additives in Tung Oil

Some companies formulate specialized blends of Tung oil to perform better than others and to maximize the effectiveness of the oil against the elements. Color additives are also common, to compliment the style of the area and surroundings. Natural chemicals like pine oil, zinc can be added to enhance the sealing capabilities and protect the wood better.

Tung oil vs Linseed Oil

Tung oil and linseed oil are both non-toxic solutions to sealing and protecting wood, with similar off-gassing, but tung oil is better when it comes to hardwoods and how well it ages in the weather. Linseed oil is best suited for dry regions or areas of your home, with low humidity levels. Too much humidity causes linseed oil to off-gas more and can weaken the protective seal it creates.

Types of Tung Oil

A common name for tung oil is “Danish Oil”, although it’s not pure tung oil- rather a mixture of tung oil or polymerized linseed oil. Some brands will be labeled as tung oil, but typically contain other chemicals and will specify elsewhere if it’s pure tung oil or not.

Where to get Tung Oil

You can find tung oil at a local building supply store, hardware stores, and even online at retailers like Amazon, or from company’s that specialize in paints and sealers like Real Milk Paint or Sherwin Williams. Companies that specialize in paint, stains, and sealers will have the best variety to suit your needs.

building store

How does Tung oil work?

Tung oil hardens when it comes into contact with oxygen, forming a durable and thick layer over the surface of the material, and binds to it as it soaks in. It’s easy to apply and just as easy to fix any scratches in previously applied layers- you just add more by brushing it over the damage and it fills in the void spaces.

Safety Hazards with Tung oil

While tung oil is non-toxic, rags or cloths soaked with tung oil have been recorded spontaneously combusting. Rags soaked with tung oil should be laid out flat to fully dry in a fire-proof area or container. Once the oil has cured on the material, it’s then safe to dispose of them in the trash.

Disposal of Tung oil and soaked Materials

The best way to dispose of tung oil and oil-soaked rags or paint rollers is to let the oil cure completely in a well-ventilated area that is fire-proof. Since tung oil cures when in contact with oxygen, placing it in a container where it can get maximum airflow will allow it to cure more quickly. After the oil has cured it can then be thrown in your general trash, or follow your area’s local guidelines and laws.

Tung oil is Safe

Overall tung oil is a safe non-toxic sealer for all your wood furniture and items that need some extra protection from the elements and to keep them looking beautiful. Careful practices will keep everyone safe and help keep the environment cleaner. Following the instructions and usage guidelines will ensure your projects come out looking amazing and will hold up against the abuse of life.

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