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How to use mineral oil as a wood finish

Looking for options for finishing your next wood project? Here’s how to use mineral oil as a wood finish and what to know about using mineral oil on wood!

We love testing out different wood stains and finishes to see how they perform – so that you don’t have to!

We recently did a test of 6 “natural” wood sealants to see how they compared to each other.

One of those options is mineral oil, a versatile and easy-to-use wood finish.

While mineral wasn’t our favorite wood finish, it is still a readily available, decent option.

In this article, we will explore the benefits of using mineral oil, provide step-by-step instructions on how to apply it as a wood finish, and answer some common FAQs to help you achieve stunning results for your DIY wood projects.

how to use mineral oil on wood projects

What is Mineral Oil?

Mineral oil is derived from petroleum and is a byproduct of creating gasoline. It is processed to remove any impurities. This leaves behind an oil that is clear and odorless.

Mineral oil comes in a wide range of purities, and the most pure kinds are considered non-toxic and food safe, making them a popular finish for cutting boards, wooden spoons, and serving platters.

Benefits of Using Mineral Oil as a Wood Finish

Here are some of the biggest benefits of finishing wood with mineral oil:

  • it will not spoil even in high heat
  • prevents wood from drying out and splintering
  • water and moisture resistant
  • fills in pores of the wood to create a tight, smooth surface
  • highly refined mineral oil is considered to be non-toxic
  • easy to apply and easy to maintain
  • enhances the natural color and grain of wood
  • matte finish
  • odorless
mineral oil cutting board oil with coffee and water spilled on it
mineral oil cutting board oil with coffee and water spilled on it

Drawbacks of mineral oil

There are a few drawbacks of using mineral oil as a wood finish, including:

  • unrefined mineral oil can contain impurities and other potentially toxic contaminants
  • mineral oil dries out fairly quickly and needs to be reapplied – as often as once a month
  • matte finish (which I actually love for a natural look but if you are looking for a glossy finish, this is not it!)
  • darkens the wood – can darken wood pretty significantly so be sure to test a swatch before committing
  • not fully waterproof, just adds resistance
  • does not protect against scratches or other surface damage
  • questionable environmental impacts of using petroleum-based products
bottle of mineral oil cutting board oil

Choosing the Right Mineral Oil

Not all mineral oils are created equally. Here’s what to consider when shopping for mineral oil.

Grades of mineral oil available

Mineral oil is graded based on how refined it is.

Note if a mineral oil is labeled as “food grade”. This is generally the most refined version and the only type of mineral oil safe for cutting boards or other food serving surfaces.

Considerations for different wood types and projects

Even refined mineral oil can have amounts of petroleum in them. For this reason, some people prefer to use a layer of beeswax on top of their mineral oil finishes on food-surface projects such as cutting boards.

Where to buy mineral oil

Mineral oil can be bought at most any hardware store including:

mineral oil cutting board oil on pine and oak
mineral oil cutting board oil on pine and oak

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying Mineral Oil as a Wood Finish

Mineral oil is easy to apply, as long as you prepare the wood, apply the oil evenly, and wipe off any excess.

Preparing the wood surface

It is super important to prepare your wood surface before adding mineral oil.

The surface needs to be cleaned and sanded to a smooth finish.

Applying mineral oil

You can apply mineral oil to wood using a lint-free cloth, paint brush, or in a spray. I personally prefer to use a lint free cloth.

Apply the oil to the cloth or brush and rub it into the wood evenly in the direction of the grain.

Allow the oil to absorb for 15-20 minutes before wiping off any excess.

Wiping off excess oil

Excess oil can pool and leave an uneven or even sticky finish on your wood project. If it hasn’t soaked in after 20 minutes, it probably isn’t going to.

Use a clean cloth to buff off any excess oil for a clean, dry finish.

Drying and curing time

Allow your mineral oil to dry for 24-36 hours in a cool, dry place. They are generally considered cured after 3 days.

Sometimes, excess oil can come to the surface as it dries and cures. Just wipe it away to avoid any staining!

pouring mineral oil onto a board

Mineral Oil as a wood finish FAQs

Is mineral oil safe for food-contact surfaces?

Yes, mineral oil is food-safe and commonly used to finish cutting boards, butcher blocks, and other food preparation surfaces.

How often should I apply mineral oil to my wood?

The frequency of application depends on the level of use and exposure. Generally, it is recommended to apply mineral oil every few weeks initially, and then monthly or as needed.

Can I apply mineral oil over other finishes?

Mineral oil is best suited for bare wood or as a maintenance coat on previously oiled surfaces. It does not adhere well to other finishes like varnish or polyurethane.

How should I prepare the wood before applying mineral oil?

Ensure the wood surface is clean, dry, and free from any previous finishes. Sand the wood lightly to create a smooth surface, then wipe away any dust or debris.

How do I apply mineral oil?

Apply a generous amount of mineral oil to a clean, lint-free cloth or a brush and spread it evenly across the wood surface, following the wood grain. Let it sit for 15-20 minutes, then wipe off any excess.

Can I use mineral oil on outdoor wood projects?

While mineral oil provides some protection, it is not ideal for prolonged exposure to outdoor elements. Consider using a more durable outdoor wood finish in such cases.

Does mineral oil change the appearance of wood?

Mineral oil enhances the natural color and grain of the wood without adding a glossy finish. It provides a warm, natural appearance.

How can I remove mineral oil if I apply too much?

If excess mineral oil remains on the surface after wiping, use a clean cloth to buff it out. If the oil has already dried, sand the surface lightly and wipe away the debris.

Can mineral oil be used on exotic or oily woods?

Exotic or oily woods may require additional surface preparation to ensure proper adhesion. Test the mineral oil on a small, inconspicuous area before applying it to the entire surface.

How should I store mineral oil?

Store mineral oil in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Ensure the container is tightly sealed to prevent contamination.

pouring mineral oil onto a board

Mineral oil is a good choice for enhancing and protecting your wood projects, providing a natural and food-safe finish.

Personally, we prefer to use Tung Oil. But, mineral oil is readily available and not a terrible choice.

By following the steps outlined in this article and keeping these FAQs in mind, you can confidently use mineral oil to achieve beautiful results in your DIY home decor and woodworking projects.

Remember, practice makes perfect, so don’t hesitate to experiment and find the techniques that work best for you.

Any more questions about mineral oil as a wood finish?

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