Danish Oil Advantages and Disadvantages

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As someone deeply immersed in the world of woodworking, I can’t stress enough how Danish oil can be a game-changer for your projects. It’s like a versatile, water-repelling superhero for wood. The best part? It dries in a flash. But hold on, before you dive headfirst into Danish oil territory, there’s a crucial insider’s scoop you need to know. This oil comes with its own set of pros and cons. 

So, before you wield that brush, let me walk you through a guide that spills all the beans – the upsides, the downsides, and everything in between – about this fabulous wood finishing oil.

All About Danish Oil

Danish oil is a famous wood oil blend of oil, thinner, and varnish. Combined, these ingredients glamourize and bring out the natural beauty of the wood, all while giving more surface protection than plain wood oil.

Several types of Danish oil are available in the market from different manufacturers. While that is so, there is no standard or precise mixing ratio between the ingredients.

To ensure you purchase a Danish oil that will do its job effectively and appropriately, try buying from a leading brand that is proven and tested.

final varnished wood surface

Alternatively, you can make and create your own Danish oil by mixing the ingredients with drying agents. If you decide to make your own version, avoid oils that do not dry, much like mineral oil. Also, consider including turpentine from pine trees to give off a great scent. 

Regardless of the oil’s formula variations, these pros and cons will most likely apply to any brand in the market:

An Overview of Danish Oil’s Pros and Cons

staining pine wood with Danish oil

For those that need it, here is a list of advantages and disadvantages:

What I Like

What i don't Like

11 Benefits of Danish Oil

As a consumer, you probably want to know whether or not this oil would be a good choice. To help you out, here are the various benefits of using a Danish oil finish!

1. Waterproof

Danish oil offers numerous waterproof qualities, which makes it a prime option when applying a water-resistant coating on wood surfaces. Its unique properties makes it an excellent choice for wood that requires enhanced resistance to moisture.

Furthermore, its particles have polymerization characteristics, which give the wood a solid texture once dried. That makes the wooden surface impenetrable, preventing water molecules from getting through. 

2. Dries Faster

Compared to other oil finishing, Danish oil dries much faster. While it takes days for other oils to dry completely, this one requires only about eight hours to dry thoroughly.

Unless the weather is humid or chilly, you can expect the drying time to be at least 6 – 8 hours. Like any other finishing product, cold weather can significantly lengthen and prolong the drying process.

Walnut wood oil varnished and gel polish

3. Non-Toxic

You can rest easy knowing that Danish oil is completely non-toxic. That means it is safe for children’s toys and any other household furniture. 

The oil does not contain any toxic additives, ingredients, or substances. Once thoroughly dried and appropriately cured, you can use it on almost any wooden surface. Just remember that non-toxic Danish oil-coated furniture is properly cured and prepared.

4. Food Safe

Fortunately, Danish oil is also food safe. You may apply it to any kitchenware like salad bowls, plates, cutting boards, and utensils without any problems. It won’t negatively react with food.

5. Sheen Enhancer

This natural oil does not just protect the woodwork from the outside; it also keeps it safe and well-protected from the inside. Danish oil treats the wood within, further enhancing its quality and appearance.

Walnut wood slab

The extra sheen and glossiness increase the wood’s natural beauty. It gives the furniture a darker look and low sheen, making it more unique looking and eye-catching.

6. Ease of Application

To apply Danish oil, you don’t necessarily require any particular skill or technique. Preparing the proper materials, correctly using the oil, and following the appropriate Danish oil cure time would be more than enough. 

Three coats of Danish oil should achieve an attractive gloss, but you can apply more if needed. To attain the best possible result, ensure that you follow the direction of the wood grain.

7. Elasticity

Danish oil forms a relatively elastic coating on the wooden surface. That means the oil can endure, withstand, and adjust accordingly to the regular expansion and contraction of wood under various temperatures.

8. Primer Alternative

Unlike other wood finishes that don’t accept a top layer coat, Danish wood oil does. Hence, you can utilize it as a waterproof primer coating prior to covering it with a sealant or top coat. 

Start staining

Danish oil is also a hard-drying oil, making it an even better candidate to use as a primer alternative. You may apply it on bare wood before applying any other finishers. Once the Danish oil coat is thoroughly dried, you can also paint over this oil with any oil-based paint.

9. Affordable

Danish oil is affordable compared to other wood finishes in the market. That is certainly a plus, especially with the abundant benefits it has.

10. Chemical and Scratch Resistant

Among many Danish oil advantages is its chemical and scratch resistance.

Woods coated in Danish oil finish are relatively more resistant to scratches and chemical damage than untreated wood. For indoor or outdoor furniture, Danish oil can easily protect the wooden piece.

outdoor furniture using danish oil

11. No Color Change Over Time

Yellowing over time tends to be a dealbreaker for some carpenters who prefer the wood’s natural beauty. Fortunately, Danish oil can maintain the wood’s original color and keeps it that way even long after the application.

6 Drawbacks of Danish Oil

Like any other wood oil finishing product, Danish oil is also unsafe from any drawbacks. Here are some of the notable Danish oil disadvantages:

1. Regular Maintenance

When it comes to Danish oil, you must maintain consistent and careful maintenance to ensure the wood remains protected. It is undoubtedly a massive flaw since regular cleaning can be time-consuming.

Not keeping up means that the wooden surface will trap dirt and accumulate dust. Letting it stay that way will make the wood appear unappealing and weathered over time.

2. Less Durable

durability of danish oil

One of the main Danish oil disadvantages is it does not give out a durable finish as most would expect. Several wood oils in the market can provide better durability than Danish oil. 

The low durability makes its resistance to scratches wear off over time. Tung oil, paint, and varnish will offer much better durability if that is what you aim for.

 

Danish Oil

Tung Oil

Type of Oil

Blended Oil

Pure Oil

Drying Time

Fast

Slow

Application

Wipe or brush on

Wipe or brush on

Appearance

Satin

Matte or High Gloss

Additional Additives

Yes

No

Odor

Low

Mild nutty scent

Water Resistance

Yes

Yes

Durability

High

High

3. Time-Consuming

When working with Danish oil, you will need all the patience you can spare. With the texture of the finish, you will need to apply more coats of Danish oil to attain proper coverage. 

The time-consuming part is that you must wait for the coat to dry completely before applying another one. Since you’re applying Danish oil coats several times, the process will take days!

4. Applicable to Bare Wood Only

For Danish oil to stick, it must penetrate the wood fibers deeply. You may only apply it on bare wood as the oil would not stick on painted or sealed wood surfaces. 

That is mainly because the wood pores are filled with paint, and the Danish oil would have no room to penetrate.

Note that Danish oil can easily absorb porous woods and surfaces. The main problem is that once the wood oil is inside, its strength will loosen, making it more prone to cracks and scratches.

danish oil coating

5. May Spark Sudden Ignition

You must keep in mind that this oil finish is a highly volatile and extremely flammable liquid blend. When it comes to exothermic conditions, the oil finish is flammable and at high risk of catching ignition and sparks. 

To avoid this, ensure the rags you use are soaked in water. Heat will undoubtedly produce when the oily rag is dry, and a reaction like spontaneous combustion will likely happen.

6. Doesn’t Smoothen the Wood Grain

The oil finish cannot smoothen wood gain naturally. It would help if you did wet sanding after each coating to achieve that smooth surface.

What is Danish Oil Used For?

Danish oil is a flexible and versatile choice for wood oil finishing since you can use it in almost any woodworking project. Even beginners can apply it without much of a hassle.

These Danish oil advantages and disadvantages are the primary considerations before choosing this wood finish for any woodwork task or project. Aside from that, another point for review should be the common uses.

Is it good for wood finish

As such, here are the typical applications of Danish oil wood finish:

Can You Use Danish Oil on Oak Wood?

Yes! This wood finish is an excellent wood oil for oak wood. It can offer superior protection against water damage and even help prevent it from staining.

I suggest you use Danish oil to treat oak household furniture and other wooden items made of oak. Doing so will make it less susceptible to staining, cracking, and discoloration than untreated wood surfaces. 

(How about applying Danish oil on red oak? Is it recommended? Find out next!)

How About on Pinewood?

You may also use Danish oil on pine wood. A relatively durable and hard-wearing finish like Danish oil works well with the tight grains and fibers of pine. 

For the best results, apply at least three Danish oil coatings to prevent staining and better protect against moisture and water damage.

pine wood cons

Can You Apply it On Maple?

Danish oil works well with maple wood furniture, as well. The oil finish protects the wooden furniture and pieces from weather elements and significantly improves their outer appearance. Applying Danish oil on maple wood surface offers better and even penetration.

Can You Put Wax Over Danish Oil?

One of the disadvantages of Danish Oil is that you cannot wax over it. Wax does not offer a protective coat, so it is not an excellent top coating. Instead, it can even attract dirt and dust on the wood surface, making the wood more challenging to maintain.

Three minimum coats of Danish oil should be enough to protect wood pieces — unless you prefer to use it as a base coat or primer.

applying wax

Should You Apply Polyurethane After Danish Oil?

It is unnecessary since the oil finish should sufficiently protect the wood. Though, applying polyurethane does have its benefits.

It can help protect the Danish oil coating and the wood underneath it. Moreover, it makes the oil more durable and practical in outdoor settings. 

How About Painting Over Danish Oil?

It is possible to paint over Danish oil, though there are vital keys to consider before doing so. The oil must be fully cured before you attempt it. 

Residual oil that is not completely dry will eventually seep through the paint and cause some adhesion problems.

Can You Use it to Darken wood?

Yes. Danish oil can help darken the wood surface. Once it penetrates the wood, the oil will enhance its natural color and beauty. 

wood darken

The degree and intensity of darkening will mostly depend on various factors like the wood type, the number of coats, and the porosity of the wood.

How Does Danish Oil Compare to Other Oil Finishes?

In comparison to other wood finishes, Danish oil is instead an oddball. For one, it does not have a precise formulation tied to its composition. Typically, Danish oil is made from blends of linseed and/or tung oil, mineral spirits, varnish, and synthetic resins.

What truly makes this oil stand out is its versatility and water resistance. It is a popular choice on the kitchen and living room wooden surfaces!

Danish Oil vs Linseed Oil

Danish oil dries leagues faster than linseed oil. Moreover, it provides better performance on untouched wood. 

linseed oil

Also, some of the best Danish oil products contain UV filters that can help safeguard outdoor furniture from sun exposure and harmful UV light — which is not offered in pure or boiled linseed oil. 

Below is a quick snapshot of a side-by-side comparison between the two finishing products:

 

Danish Oil

Linseed Oil

Type of Oil

Blended Oil

Pure Oil

Drying Time

Fast

Slow

Application

Wipe or brush on

Wipe or brush on

Appearance

Satin

Matte

Additional Additives

Yes

No

Odor

Low

Strong

Water Resistance

Yes

No

Durability

High

Low

Danish Oil vs Tung Oil

While both oil finishes can achieve the results you are aiming for, some factors make them incredibly different — namely, the drying time, maintenance, and durability.

Regarding drying time, Danish oil stands out since it can dry significantly faster. Additionally, Danish oil coating tends to be harder than tung oil. 

On the other hand, tung finishing oil will undoubtedly take the cake when it comes to being pure and eco-friendly.  

tung oil on exterior

Danish Oil vs Varnish

Varnish is a slow-drying sealant that can create a translucent and protective coating on wood. You can apply it on wood surfaces to enhance its appearance. Now, how can it compare to Danish oil?

Danish oil tends to work better on indoor items, while oil-based varnish would be ideal to use on outdoor woodwork projects or those that encounter high traffic and require optimal protection.

How to Apply Danish Oil

Danish oil provides excellent protection to wood without obscuring the grain or color of the wood. It is the type that hardens in the wood and not on it, giving your wood furniture a much more natural look [1]. It is easy to apply Danish oil. Here are the steps to follow:

Step 1: Cleanse the Wood

Cleanse and prepare the wood surface by sanding it. Use fine-grit sandpaper to achieve that much-needed smooth surface. Strip the wood off any existing finish or paint.

Wood Surface Cleaning

Step 2: Apply the First Coat

Before you apply Danish oil finish on the wood, ensure that you are in a relatively dust-free environment. By that, in a different area where you did the sanding. 

Liberally apply the wood oil as a base coat over the woodwork using a brush or rag. Don’t apply thick layers or coats. Also, remove any excess oil to create a smooth sheen.

Step 3: Recoat As Needed

Wait for the coat to dry completely before applying another coat. Leave it for 6-8 hours to dry.

Step 4: De-Nibble Between Coats

Before you apply the second coat, ensure that you scuff sand the wooden surfaces to dampen the Danish oil. Apply the next couple of coats like the first one. 

Step 5: Apply the Final Coat

Ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s guide throughout the curing process. Danish oil from different brands tends to have instructions specific to their product. 

Allow the final coat to cure completely before using the surface. Uncured Danish oil-coated furniture can be harmful if you’re not careful enough.

applying final coat

Essential Things To Know

Aside from Danish oil’s advantages and disadvantages, here are additional facts you need to know about this finish.

Lifespan

Danish oil layers can last about 1-2 years on average before they are required to be retouched. However, if the wooden surfaces are used less often, it can last up to 3 years. Danish oil may go bad depending on the use and maintenance. 

Number of Coats

Most woodwork projects will need at least 2-3 coats of Danish oil to achieve a flawless finish. The first two Danish oil coatings are to penetrate the wood pores. You will need an extra Danish oil layer for better protection.

Proper Sanding

For the oil to stick correctly, the surface must be sanded properly. After the first coat dries, you must sand the existing coating before applying the next coat. Meticulous application is one of the minor disadvantages of Danish oil.

sanding poplar wood

Sealing

Sealing is not obligatory, but it does help the oil last longer. For decorative pieces and indoor uses, sealing will only do a little. It’s needed chiefly for busy surfaces and outside furniture to give the wood better protection.

Cracking Prevention

Consider applying polyurethane to make the surface more durable and less prone to cracking and scratches.

Curing Time

Like any other wood project, you must wait for the oil to be fully cured before using it. It might take days, even weeks, for the curing period to be complete, but it is incredibly vital to ensure that it will be food safe and non-toxic.

How to Maintain Danish Oil

See below to learn how to maintain Danish oil properly:

Finish to Protect it From Heat & Sunlight

To protect the finish from UV rays, keep it away from direct sunlight and other heat sources like fireplaces and heaters.

Sand & Refinish Once Every Two Years

If the wood has deep dents or scratches, you must sand and refinish it. Sand the wood piece and clean it with a damp cloth before applying the Danish oil.

sanding and refinishing

Recoat Danish Oil As Needed

Over time, the oil will eventually wear off and become dull. You can reapply and recoat to restore the finish and better protect the wood.

Regular Dust-Cleaning the Surface

Dust the woodwork regularly using a dry cloth to prevent dust build-up. For more thorough cleaning, use a damp cloth to wipe it clean. 

How to Remove Danish Oil From Wood (If You Change Your Mind)

Though it requires work and effort, you can remove Danish oil from the wood if you ever change your mind. Turns out, strong adhesion and deep penetration can be both a blessing or a bane.

removing danish oil

To remove this finish, you must sand it off using fine-grit sandpaper. After, use solvents to penetrate the finish and dissolve the particles.

You may then need to use a wood finish remover after that. Removing the oil requires work, but it is possible with the right tools and materials.

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Conclusion

Once you’ve delved into the pros and cons of Danish oil, you might be wondering if it’s the right fit for your woodworking ventures, or if it’s better suited for specific projects. The verdict ultimately rests in your hands and the context of your application. 

While Danish oil may not be the absolute pinnacle of durability, it does offer a range of noteworthy advantages. These benefits alone could be ample to achieve success in many of your woodworking endeavors.

robert headshot

Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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