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Cedar wood treatment

Updated February 21, 2017

Cedar contains aromatic oils that not only repel insects, but help to keep water from rotting the wood. There are two types of cedar, western and eastern red. Western cedar is typically used for outdoor decks and housing trim. Eastern red cedar is used for outdoor furniture and for lining cloth storage closets. Treating the cedar for protection against sunlight damage, which can grey out the wood, is the main course for applying any external conditioner.

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Seals and Stains

Many homes that have cedar as trim work for the exterior of the home may have been painted over. But the paint does not serve to protect the wood. Natural cedar, left to its own finish, will grey out over time when exposed to the elements. Applying a deep penetrating semi-transparent stain will keep the dark wood looking new and fresh. Use a semi-transparent oil based stain for decks and outdoor furniture. This stain does not create a film over the wood surface. Befor using the stain, apply a water repellent preservative to the wood. Do not cover the cedar in a sealant such as polyurethane, which will trap moisture and not allow the wood to breathe. Over time the urethane coating may begin to peel away from the surface. This will leave a splotchy look to the wood as parts of the sealant remain intact.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a natural application that can be rubbed or brushed onto most wood surfaces. Applying many coats of the oil will bring out the cedar's natural colours and grain patterns. Using the oil once a year, to tabletops and chairs, protects the wood from stains and immediately repels liquid spills. The oil application must be allowed to dry before you place anything on the surface. Typically the wood will absorb the oil in a matter of minutes and should be ready for use the next day. Apply five to seven coats over a three-day period. Allow each coat of oil to thoroughly soak into the wood.


Lining a closet with red eastern cedar will keep out clothes-loving insects. The closet enclosure area must be tightly sealed so the aromatic oils are contained. Rejuvenate any older wall panels by sanding the surface to reveal new wood. The fresh exposure will release oils that have been trapped behind any oxidation. If red eastern cedar, which should be a vibrant red, turns a slight brown colour, oxygen has been in contact with it. You can apply a cedar oil treatment to the wood's surface instead of sanding. The cedar oils are available at most large home store outlets.

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