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Looking for some natural options when it comes to sealing wood?
Once we decided to make the counters in our RV out of wood, I started researching sealing options. We wanted something natural, food-safe, and water-resistant. This led us to Tung Oil.
We’re all about using “greener” products, but the truth is, it can be a challenge when items are out of budget or inconvenient to access. So while we try not to over-stress about using all organic or natural products, we do try to use them when possible. Using Tung Oil seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring a “greener” product into our RV, vs. other sealers that include harsh chemicals and additives. Every little bit helps, right?
For those unfamiliar with Tung Oil, it’s been around for thousands of years and is derived from the seeds of the nut of the Tung tree. Although it apparently doesn’t affect those with nut allergies because it’s a drying oil (don’t quote me on this). Rather than sit on top of the wood to protect it, the oil is absorbed into the wood which helps protect it inside and out.
While I browsed woodworking forums, one discussion that seemed to be brought up quite often was the variance in the quality of Tung Oil brands. I had previously purchased Tung Oil from “big box stores” but had no idea there are extra “ingredients” in most of those products. Apparently not all Tung Oil is created equal.
That’s when I discovered The Real Milk Paint Company and their Pure Tung Oil (Chinawood oil).
They had glowing reviews, a ton of natural and organic products, and I really enjoyed their informative videos. They felt like a brand I could stand behind.
That’s when I reached out to them to see if they would be open to providing us with some products to use, which they did. Gotta love the perks of blogging 🙂
Natural Wood Sealer
We sealed our wood counters over 8 months ago, but have also used the Tung Oil they sent us on various projects throughout the RV including the sconces above our media cabinet, our reclaimed slide-out trim, the planked walls in our hallway and bathroom, the horseshoe shelves, and even our bathroom counter.
Needless to say, we’re kind of obsessed with Tung Oil and it’s now our favorite natural wood sealer. Not only does it enhance the beauty of the wood, but it’s super easy to apply, and smells decent. Oh, and a little goes a long way!
Apparently Pure Tung Oil is generally too thick to penetrate wood surfaces, so Mineral Spirits or Citrus Solvent needs to be mixed in with it. What’s great about using Citrus Solvent vs. Mineral Spirits is that it’s all-natural and smells like oranges.
Side Note: We used the Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent for our Kitchen Counters, but used the Dark Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent for our bathroom counter. The dark tung oil has a slightly darker shade in case you want a warmer wood tone.
- The Real Milk Paint Company Half & Half (Pure Tung Oil + Citrus Solvent)
- Thick Plastic Container
- Painter’s Tape
- Natural Bristle Brush
- Clean Rags
While we don’t have a video showing how we applied the Tung Oil (Half & Half) to our kitchen counters, we do have one showing the same process on our bathroom countertop, which I’ll share at the bottom of this post.
Here are the basics:
Step 1: Clean/Prep
Make sure your wood is sanded, dry and free of dust and debris. It’s recommended not to use sandpaper finer than 150 grit as that can close the pores of the wood and not allow the Tung Oil to penetrate through. Use tack cloths or a vacuum to remove any extra wood dust and tape off any areas you don’t want to be sealed.
We poured a little bit of the oil into a thick plastic container to make it easier to apply. Just don’t use a plastic cup or Tung Oil will eat through it.
Step 2: Apply Tung Oil with a Natural Bristle Brush
You’ll want to use a natural bristle brush to apply the Tung Oil (Half & Half) to the wood. I love Wooster and Purdy brushes and generally can’t stand the cheapo natural brushes because the little bristles come out. With that said, Eric and I used the Wooster brush and a cheapo brush to apply the Tung Oil and found that the cheapo brushes worked pretty decent. Just make sure you remove any loose bristles if you do go that direction.
You’ll want to continue to brush the Tung Oil onto the wood surface until it’s no longer being absorbed.
Step 3: Wait, then Re-Oil
At this point, you’ll wait 40 minutes to an hour, and then see if the wood has any dry spots. If so, go ahead and brush more oil to those areas and then keep repeating this process.
You essentially want to get the entire surface to look “glossy”. This typically takes 3-5 coats. For our kitchen counters, it was 3 coats, but our bathroom counter required more.
Make sure to add the oil to any edges and (if possible) you can also add it to the underside of the wood. This will help the wood absorb the oil and slows down expansion.
Step 4: Remove any Excess Oil
Once the Tung Oil is no longer penetrating the wood surface but is staying puddled on top you can remove the excess oil using a clean rag. You may need multiple rags depending on the size of the surface area you are sealing.
Step 5: Add one More Coat (the next day)
You’ll want to wait until the next day before brushing on more Tung Oil. When you see the oil puddling up you can take a clean rag and wipe off the entire surface again.
Keep an eye on the surface over the next 5-7 days and continue to wipe off any excess oil that seeps up. Then lightly buff the wood surface over the next week.
Tung Oil takes about 15-30 days to fully cure, so while you can use the surface, make sure not to leave anything on it for an extended amount of time until after the 30 days.
As with any wood/butcher block surface, you’ll need to re-oil the surface occasionally.
Watch the Video
Again, we don’t have a video showing how we applied the Tung Oil to our kitchen counters, but you can see the same process used for our wood bathroom countertop:
Our Take on Tung Oil
Are our wood counters perfect? Nope, but we kind of expected that after reading about the extra maintenance required of wood counters. Would we do it again? Absolutely! By the way, you can see the full reveal of our tiny RV kitchen here.
Not only is Pure Tung Oil natural, food-safe, water-proof, and easy to apply, but it helps bring out the natural beauty of the wood. We plan to try more “green” sealing products in the future, but for now, Tung Oil is our favorite natural wood sealer. Just be sure to check the ingredients included on the Tung Oil you use, because not all Tung Oils are created equal.
We’re really happy with the way our counters turned out, and I can’t wait to try more products from The Real Milk Paint Company. We only share products we use and love, and we highly recommend them!
Have you used Tung Oil before, or plan to use a natural wood sealer in your home or RV? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below!