Painting over Tung Oil – What Should You Remember?

Tung oil is a popular oil that is often used for projects such as flooring, furniture, and cabinets. It is known for its durability and moisture-resistant qualities. While tung oil can be a great option for many projects, there are some things you should remember if you’re considering painting over it.

In this article, we will be looking at everything you should know before painting over tung oil – use this guide as a quick how-to before getting started on your project!

What is Tung Oil?

Tung oil is a natural oil that comes from the seeds of the Tung tree. It is a natural substance that ancient cultures in Asia have known and used for centuries due to its waterproofing and wood-protecting properties. The oil is made up of two main parts – an organic solvent called turpentine, and a resinous substance known as tungstic acid.

When tung oil is applied to a surface, the turpentine will evaporate and leave behind the tungstic acid. This substance will then harden and form a protective layer over the surface. As such, tung oil is often used as a finish for wooden surfaces such as floors, furniture, and cabinets. It can also be used on metal surfaces.

Tung oil is a popular choice for many projects because it is durable and moisture-resistant. It is also relatively easy to apply and does not require any special equipment. However, there are some things you should remember if you’re considering painting over tung oil.

The advantages of using Tung Oil

In the following, we will take a quick look at the key advantages of Tung Oil and why you should consider using it for your projects.

1) A food-safe substance

Many people are hesitant to use harsh chemical substances for finishes on projects such as cutting boards or butcher blocks. Tung oil is a great alternative as it is a natural, food-safe substance that will be completely safe to use in your kitchen.

2) Low environmental footprint

Tung oil is a very sustainable product as it comes from a renewable resource – the Tung tree. In addition, tung oil does not give off any harmful fumes or chemicals, making it a low-impact choice for your projects. All of us must do our part in keeping the planet healthy, and while it is almost impossible to complete your projects without any effect on the environment, choosing products like tung oil will help to offset your impact.

3) Non-toxic

As we mentioned before, tung oil is a food-safe substance that is also non-toxic. This makes it a great choice for families with young children or pets as there is no risk of exposure to harmful chemicals. As long as the substance is completely dried and cured, it will pose no threat to your loved ones.

4) Water-resistant

Tung oil is a great choice for projects that will be exposed to moisture as it is a very water-resistant substance. This quality makes it ideal for finishes on items such as cutting boards, which will often be exposed to water during use.

5) Durable

Tung oil is a very durable substance that will protect your surfaces from wear and tear. Once it has completely dried and cured, it will form a hard, protective layer that will defend your surfaces against scratches, dents, and other damage.

6) Easy to apply

Tung oil is relatively easy to apply even for those who have never worked with this oil before. In the latter part of this article, we will also write a short guide on how to apply tung oil so be sure to read on!

7) Recyclable

Although tung oil is a very durable substance, it can be removed and recycled if you ever decide to change the finish of your project. This makes it a very versatile product that can be used for multiple projects over time.

8) Aesthetically pleasing

Tung oil will give your surfaces a beautiful, natural sheen that enhances the wood grain and color. In addition, it is a great way to protect your surfaces while still allowing them to retain their natural beauty.

Now that we have looked at some of the key advantages of using tung oil, let us move on to some things you should remember before painting over it.

Painting over Tung Oil – Key Things to Remember

  • Tung oil is a very durable substance, but it is not completely impervious to damage– Over time, the tungstic acid will start to break down and eventually wear away. This process can be accelerated by exposure to sunlight or other UV light sources, so be sure to keep that in mind if you are planning on using tung oil in an outdoor space.
  • Tung oil can be difficult to remove– Once tung oil has been applied, it can be very difficult to remove. This is why it is important to be sure that you really want to paint over the tung oil before you begin the project.
  • Tung oil does not dry fast– Pure tung oil can take up to 24 hours to dry completely, and even longer if it is not applied in thin coats. For the tung oil to fully cure, it can take 3 or 4 days. This is something you will need to keep in mind when planning your project timeline.
  • Tung oil can be thinned with mineral spirits – If you find that the tung oil is not drying fast enough for your liking, you can thin it out with some mineral spirits. Just be sure to add the mineral spirits slowly and carefully so that you do not thin the oil too much.
  • Not every paint will work with tung oil– Not every paint will adhere properly to tung oil, so it is important to do your research before you purchase any supplies. Be sure to ask the staff at your local paint store for their recommendations on what paint to use for your project. For example, latex-based paints are generally not recommended for use over tung oil.

Now that you know some key things to remember before painting over tung oil, let us move on to a short guide on how to apply the oil.

How to Apply Tung Oil

Before you begin, it is important to gather all of the supplies that you will need for the project. You will need:

  • Tung oil
  • Lint-free cloths or rags
  • Mineral spirits (optional)
  • Paintbrush (optional)

Once you have gathered all of your supplies, you are ready to begin! The first step is to clean the surface that you will be applying the tung oil to. Tung oil can be applied to bare wood or over an existing finish, but it is important to make sure that the surface is clean and free of dirt, dust, and other debris.

If you are applying tung oil to bare wood, you will want to start by sanding the surface to create a smooth finish. Once the surface is sanded, you can remove any sawdust with a damp cloth.

If you are applying tung oil over an existing finish, you will still want to clean the surface to ensure that the tung oil will adhere properly. You can use a mild soap and water solution to clean the surface, or you can use a commercial cleaner designed for prepping surfaces for paint or other finishes.

Once the surface is clean, you are ready to apply the tung oil. If you are using a paintbrush, you will want to apply the oil in long, even strokes. If you are using a rag, you can apply the oil in circular motions.

It is important to remember that tung oil does not dry quickly, so you will need to be patient while it dries. You should also avoid walking on or touching the surface while the oil is drying, as this can cause smudges or other imperfections.

Once the first coat of tung oil is dry, you can decide if you want to apply a second coat. If you do, simply repeat the process outlined above. Once you are satisfied with the number of coats you have applied, you can move on to the next step.

If you thin the tung oil with mineral spirits, you will need to allow the surface to dry for 24 hours before moving on. If you did not thin the oil, you can move on to the next step after 3 or 4 days.

The final step is to apply a top coat of paint if desired. As we mentioned earlier, not every type of paint will work with tung oil, so be sure to ask the staff at your local paint store for their recommendations.

Once you have chosen the right paint, you can apply it using a brush or roller. Be sure to follow the directions on the paint can for the best results.

And that’s it! You are now ready to enjoy your newly painted surface.

How to fix an uneven or patchy tung oil finish

Now, we did mention that tung oil is not that easy to remove. Ideally, you will want to succeed on your first application so that you do not have to go through the hassle of removing and reapplying the tung oil. However, we understand that mistakes happen and sometimes an uneven or patchy finish is unavoidable. If this happens to you, don’t panic! Here is a quick guide on how you can fix an uneven or patchy tung oil finish.

What you will need:

  • A clean, soft cloth
  • Tung oil
  • Mineral spirits (optional)


  1. If the tung oil is still wet, the removal process will be straightforward– simply use a clean, soft cloth to even out the finish.
  2. If the tung oil has already dried, you will need to remove it before you can reapply it. You can do this by using mineral spirits to dissolve the tung oil and make it easier to wipe away.
  3. Once the old tung oil has been removed, you can start reapplying it. Be sure to apply it in thin coats and allow each coat to dry completely before applying the next one.
  4. Once you are happy with the finish, you can buff it outwith a clean, soft cloth to give it a nice sheen.

Final words

We hope this guide was helpful and that you now feel confident about painting over tung oil. Just remember to take your time, work in thin coats, and be patient while the tung oil dries. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to reach out to us and we would be happy to help.