What Are The Best Natural Wood Finishes?

Staining your project, whether you have refurbished or built something from scratch, is optional. But, finishing it is essential. Without a proper finish, the wood can dry, crack, swell, or just generally deteriorate.

If you want a chemical-free finish on your furniture, you can keep reading for some of the best natural wood finishes.

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Linseed Oil 


Also called flaxseed oil, linseed oil is one of the popular natural wood finishes. It saturates deep into the wood giving it a satin-like finish that will protect it against scratches and changes in humidity.

The oil will tinge the wood with a light yellow color, but the grain will still show through leaving you with a natural look and naturally non-toxic finish.

One great advantage of using linseed oil as your wood finish is that it not only makes a protective film on the surface, but it penetrates deeply protecting the wood through and through.

A couple of downsides are that it may require the wood to be oiled again every now and then, and it’s also susceptible to water rings and stains if the liquid is left long enough.

Best Natural Wood Finishes

Tung Oil


This plant-based oil is made from the seeds of the tung tree and has been used for thousands of years because of many reasons.

Tung Oil is mildly water-resistant, it dries quickly and clear, it’s easy to apply, it dries harder than other natural oils. And best of all, it’s completely non-toxic and even food safe.

One downside is that it does take 5 or more coats to fully saturate the wood for protection and leave a satin shine. If you’re handling a hardwood, you may want to choose to use tung oil instead of something like linseed oil.

It handles dense wood much better, but it’s still ideal for lighter woods too because it dries clear.


Walnut Oil


This natural oil is pressed from the nuts of a walnut tree. Walnut Oil is food-safe and won’t go rancid, leaving a fairly durable satin finish. Just be aware that it can cause problems for people who are allergic to tree nuts.

It needs frequent reapplication depending on how much you will be using that furniture. It’s easy to apply but does dry slowly. It will cure faster in a warmer environment at room temperature.


Best Natural Wood Finishes




Once Beeswax is warmed and melted, you can wipe the wax directly onto the wood. Then you can buff it to the desired sheen. Because the wax cools quickly, most people like to mix it with natural oil too, such as tung oil.

You can even add an antibacterial essential oil too. This addition of oil to the wax will make the finish more water-resistant. And nontoxic! Apart from that, beeswax is one of the best-smelling natural wood finishes.


Carnauba Wax


Obtained from the leaves of a palm tree grown in Brazil, this wax is extremely durable. It is a hard wax and more water-resistant than beeswax, for instance. It will only dull over time instead of flaking or peeling like other waxes might.

The downside of using a wax-like this is that without the addition of oils, you need to be strict about reapplying the wax often. Or else, your wax will wear down and leave your wood unprotected.


Soy Wax


This sustainable wood finish choice is made from the oil of soybeans. So your supply of finish is only limited by the amount of soybeans being grown! The process of using soy wax on your furniture is the same as with beeswax.

It is softer than beeswax, so it uses less oil in the mixture to make it pliant. This finish will be generally water-repellant.


Mineral Oil


Although it sounds natural, this oil is actually distilled from petroleum products. It’s entirely inert, clear, odorless, tasteless, and hypoallergenic.

Mineral oil is mildly water-resistant and repels bits of food and other liquids too. It’s fairly simple to apply but will need frequent reapplication.


Best Natural Wood Finishes


What Are the Pros and Cons of Using Natural Oils as Wood Finish?


Pros of using natural oils:

  • Some dry rapidly: This, of course, does depend on the wood you’re handling and which oil you’re using. But some oils tend to dry very quickly, giving you rapid results.
  • Easy to apply: They don’t require melting or mixing or fancy procedures to apply.
  • Mistakes in application can be easily fixed: Even a day later, you can repair a mistake without needing to strip the whole item.
  • It gives a satisfying luster to the grain: It’s up to you what kind of color you will get in the end, because most oils tend to dry a bit darker than they were applied. This can give a beautiful, raw look to your furniture.
  • Deeply saturates the wood: It will not just be a surface protector. It penetrates the wood and protects it within the porous areas too.


Cons of using natural oils:

  • They are considered to be less protective: This means that the furniture may be more susceptible to dents and scratches.
  • Generally bad at keeping water out: The oils, although they are naturally mildly water repellant, will not be able to keep your wood completely protected from water damage.
  • Some oils can discolor the wood: This usually happens with blonder varieties of wood. The oil, depending on which kind you use, can discolor the wood with often a yellow hue.
  • It requires frequent reapplication: It can be a bother to keep up with the necessary maintenance. Especially if the furniture will be used often and under more wear and tear. This will mean you may need to apply the oil even more often.


Best Natural Wood Finishes


Read More: Where to buy a non toxic bed frame?


Tips for Preparing the Wood and Applying the Finish: 


  • To prepare your wood for the application of your natural finish, you need to start by removing any old finish. This could leave your surfaces grainy and uneven, so you may need to sand them now until it’s smooth again.
  • Now you can apply a wood stain to color the wood how you want.
  • Leave it to dry thoroughly before you move on to applying the finish.
  • If you are going to use a wax finish, you will most likely have it in a paste form which is easy to apply. You just rub it directly on the wood and buff off the excess until it’s at the desired sheen. For extra protection, you can repeat the process.
  • If you’ve chosen to finish your furniture with an oil finish, you can choose whether you want to apply it with a soft cloth, foam brush, or just a paintbrush. All you need to watch for is applying it evenly.
  • Make sure you wipe up any drips as you go. It will mean fewer mistakes to have to repair later.


Read More: Is Wood Stain Toxic?




Using natural wood finishes for your DIY projects and buying furniture finished with natural oils will help you create a chemical-free home and indoor air that is healthy for your family. Whether you buy a natural wood dining table, solid wood bed frame or bedroom furniture, it’s always best to choose a natural oil or wax finish, or a zero-VOC finish to reduce exposure to toxic chemicals.


Best Natural Wood Finishes

About the Author Kamila Flieger

My name is Kamila, and I'm passionate about researching non-toxic, organic products for the home. I believe it's so important to create a safe and healthy environment for our families, and I enjoy helping others do the same.

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