Does Boiled Linseed Oil Darken Wood? Our Investigation

We love boiled linseed oil for its penetrating properties, how it reaches the wood grain and brings out the best from the material. This is why professionals know where to look when they need a substance that provides more than surface treatment.

But asides from its strengthening qualities, does boiled linseed oil affect the wood’s physical appearance? Should you entirely leave out stains when using this oil?

The simple answer would be YES. Boiled linseed oil changes the color of the wood. But there is much more to the discoloration. You will learn the conditions that make this possible, other alternatives to consider, and if you should entirely leave out stains for linseed oil.

Will Boiled Linseed Oil Change the Color of Wood?

Granted, boiled linseed oil nourishes and protects woods. But when it gets dry, the wood appears darkened and its natural grain looks better. This makes it an excellent choice if you want a finish that helps to highlight the wood’s natural color.

This attribute does not automatically make boiled linseed oil a stain. The wood color may remain the same when you apply the oil. In this case, adding more coats of oil hardly results in a difference. The oil simply fills the wood grain and increases its shine.

Rather than add more coats to get a darker hue, consider adding some stain to the oil to achieve the color. Dark red or umber pigment, for instance, will aid color enhancement.

Boiled linseed oil darkens over time because of oxidation. You may notice the wood getting dark if the furniture is in an area with low light. The absence of light is therefore a necessary condition to see changes in the wood color after applying boiled linseed oil.

There you have it. Linseed oil will slightly darken the wood’s color. It gives it a golden hue that yellows with time. Keep this in mind if you intend to use the oil on bright-colored wood types like ash or maple.

Can You Use Boiled Linseed Oil to Stain Wood?

Boiled linseed oil is more of a finish than a stain and you shouldn’t substitute one for the other. Linseed oil-based stains can give you the benefits of both except that these oils are mostly non-penetrating. They remain on the wood surface and lose their glossy appearance when the wood dries.

Use the linseed oil over the satin to darken the wood’s natural tone. Stain the wood before applying the oil, using an alcohol- or water-based stain so the oil penetrates well.

Here is how to apply boiled linseed oil after staining the wood:

1) Prepare the Surface

You should begin on a clean wood surface so that the oil adheres. Boiled linseed oil won’t stick on a dirty or dusty surface. Use a soap and water solution for cleaning. A commercial wood cleaner is another good option if it is accessible.

2) Application

Now that you have a clean surface, apply the boiled linseed oil using a brush, cloth, or sponge. If you find the oil too thick, apply it in thin layers.

Begin by putting some on the surface then use the brush to get the rest of the oil into the wood grain, following a circular motion. Apply as many layers as you think is enough to saturate the wood.

3) Clean the Excess Oil

Boiled linseed oil has a thick consistency and this increases drying time. To get around this, wipe off excess oil with a clean cloth after saturating the wood. You may still need this step even if you applied the oil in thin layers.

4) Allow to Dry

Allow the wood to properly dry before painting. The temperature and humidity level in the area dictate the oil’s drying time. This usually takes a few hours or days but make sure the wood fully dries. Test it with your fingers and any indication of stickiness means the drying process is incomplete.

Boiled linseed oil enhances the natural tone of wood so you will notice a richer color when the oil fully dries. This is the right time to apply another coat if you wish.

Will Using Boiled Linseed Oil Over Stain Enhance Its Color?

Yes, applying boiled linseed oil after staining wood enhances the color of the stain and gives the wood a deeper color. Linseed oil is a penetrating oil so it reaches the wood fibers and improves its color.

But there are other benefits you get from using boiled linseed oil over stain. Here are a few:

1) Protection from Sun Damage

Boiled linseed oil has UV inhibitors to protect the wood from harmful sun rays. If your project is going to sit outdoors eventually, you can protect it from sun damage by applying linseed oil after staining.

2) Durability

So long as you follow correct procedures during the application, the oil can protect the surface for several years without needing retouching. Surfaces with boiled linseed oil maintain their appearance for a long time before starting to crack or turn yellow.

3) Easy Application

Unlike some other finishes that require expertise to apply, amateurs and professionals alike can use boiled linseed oil. You don’t need additional equipment to apply the oil after staining, just carefulness and patience to allow the finish completely dry.

4) Safety

Boiled linseed oil is a natural product making it a safer option, both for you and the environment. This is also why the product is affordable and the perfect wood finish for DIY projects and home repairs.

What Other Oil Can You Use to Darken Oil?

If you are insistent on using oil to get the perfect wood finish and boiled linseed oil is not available, there are other options to consider. These oils can be a good alternative for darkening and conditioning wood.

1) Tung Oil

Tung oil can leave wood with a dark brown shade but this depends on two factors. The first is the type of wood and the other factor is the type of tung oil.

You can choose between pure and dark tung oil for your woodwork project. As you may have guessed, dark tung oil is the choice of finish if you want the wood darker. Pure tung oil produces a honey-colored shade.

If you are working with white wood like pine or oak, applying dark tung oil darkens the wood color to a brown shade. With dark-colored woods, the result is a yellowish hue since these woods are naturally dark.

To get the effect, you simply need to stain the wood the normal way and apply the tung oil. If the oil is difficult to apply, consider mixing it with solvents and waiting a few hours before applying the next coat of oils.

2) Coconut Oil

Another natural stain option is coconut oil. It darkens wood considerably while serving as a conditioner.

This oil enhances the wood’s natural colors and gives it a darker color. When you apply it properly, it can help revive surface shine and protect it from the elements.

While you can use coconut oil on unfinished wood to stain it, the oil alone might not serve as a good finish. Oils like beeswax and danish when combined with coconut oil provide a more durable finish. The wood also appears darker as danish oil is great for darkening oak.

Apply coconut oil on a clean surface, give it a few minutes to properly soak into the wood, and coat with another preferred oil for a durable finish.

3) Hard Wax Oil

You might be wondering how a clear hard wax oil might darken the wood. Indeed, it can. Hard wax oils combine different oils including linseed and tung oil, with natural wax. These oils have natural darkening qualities and change the color of the wood over time.

You can apply the oil over stained wood or get a product that combines both in one container. For the oil to penetrate the wood grain, the stain has to be water-based.

Tinted hard wax oils are available if you would rather use a single product that acts as both a stain and oil finish. They come in different colors to improve the wood grain’s appearance. Apply as many coats as you want, leaving about a day between coats for drying. You don’t need to sand between coats.


Darkening is a brilliant idea to improve the appearance of your furniture and make your space come alive with contrasting colors. Using boiled linseed oil and a few other materials is an inexpensive way to create this effect even if you are a novice.

Commercial stain products are always available but if you prefer to go the natural way, try out any of the solutions discussed above. They are all inexpensive ways to finish wood, such that the material darkens as it ages.