How to Use Oil on Oak Furniture

Updated April 17, 2017

An oil finish provides less protection for your furniture than a varnish but displays the grain of the wood more clearly. Furniture oil is designed to be used on unvarnished wood. If you wish to stain the wood before oiling, use a water-based stain to allow the wood to absorb the oil treatment. Choose an oil that provides the finish you want for your furniture. Common furniture oils include linseed, tung, Danish, teak and mineral. Some spray polishes also contain a silicone oil that leaves a sleek shine on the surface of the wood.

Clean the wood with a slightly damp cloth to remove dust and grime from the surface. Excess water can cause swelling and damage to hardwood, so use water sparingly on the cloth.

Apply furniture oil to a clean, dry cloth. Rub the oil into the wood with long strokes, following the wood grain. Allow the oil to dry completely. Some oils such as linseed might take several days to fully dry.

Lightly sand the furniture with a fine-grit sandpaper if the surface is rough, and wipe with a damp cloth. Apply a second coat of oil, and allow it to dry completely. New, unfinished furniture might require several coats of oil to achieve the desired finish.


Use linseed oil on projects that have previously been oiled with linseed, but consider using Danish or teak oil for new projects. These oils dry more quickly and offer more protection than linseed.


Allow oil-soaked rags to dry thoroughly before disposing of them. Built-up heat in the oils can cause flammability.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft, lint-free cloths
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
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About the Author

Denise Howard has been writing since 2004, specializing in home and garden, travel, music and education. A private music instructor and professional accompanist, Howard holds a Bachelor of Arts in music, studying both piano and voice.