Teak oil vs. tung oil

Updated February 21, 2017

Teak oil and tung oil are products derived from trees and plants. They are used for protecting and refinishing wood, and are primarily chosen based on their high level of moisture-resistance. By adding teak or tung oil to wood structures or furniture, you can prolong the life of the wood and minimise twisting, warping and rotting. While these two products are very similar, they have subtle differences that should be considered before making a selection.


Teak oil comes from the Teak tree, which grows primarily in southeast Asia. Because teak is a rare and endangered tree in many areas, most products labelled as teak oil are really refined tung oil, so be sure to read labels carefully to see what you're getting. Tung is derived from the Tung tree, which is native to China. The nuts and seeds of the tree are harvested and pressed to release the oil, which is often mixed with varnish or other additives to create a tung blend.


Teak oil is one of the most effective wood sealers for outdoor use. It helps to create a protective coating on the wood that is the highly resistant to rain, moisture and humidity. This can greatly extend the life of wood furniture while helping to maintain its appearance and smooth finish.

Tung oil has a very wet, shiny finish that many users consider attractive. It is non-toxic and safe to use around food. Tung also has a pleasant natural odour and tends to dry more quickly than teak oil.


Pure teak oil offers very little protection from sun damage and UV rays, so wood can fade or wear over time. It is also too toxic to use in many food-based applications (such as dining tables), and it can be hard to find. Pure teak is expensive and is usually mixed with tung or other additives, which can reduce its level of water-resistance.

Tung oil often poses a problem to allergy sufferers. It is made from tree nuts, which can cause serious health effects in some people. The process of applying tung oil is also very time consuming and can take weeks to apply successfully.


Both of these materials can be applied to any type of wood product, including indoor furniture, patio furniture, architectural wood work or trim. They should be applied in multiple coats until the wood is not able to absorb any more of the oil. Each should be reapplied every 6 months to a year depending on how much the wood has started to dry out. In general, teak oil is used in outdoor applications while tung oil is used indoors.


While teak and tung oil are used primarily for wood finishing, each of these materials also has a number of other potential uses. Tung oil is added to most paints and stains to help pigments better adhere to an object during application. It is also used on piers and boats to minimise wear and damage to wood.

Teak oil is most commonly used on outdoor furnishings, but is also used in some marine applications. Many modern yachts and warships are treated with teak oil to help protect wood elements from salt water exposure. Teak oil can also be added to some stains and solvents to add moisture-resistant properties.

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About the Author

Emily Beach works in the commercial construction industry in Maryland. She received her LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Building Council in 2008 and is in the process of working towards an Architectural Hardware Consultant certification from the Door and Hardware Institute. She received a bachelor's degree in economics and management from Goucher College in Towson, Maryland.