Why Not To Use Pure Tung Oil For Hardwood Floors


Hi Doc,

I have an old house (1914) with beautiful pine flooring. What about stripping, screening the floors and using pure tung oil for a finish? The floor has some type of poly on it now. I have read and been told of the good water resistance of tung oil and the ease of repair to the finish.

I’d appreciate your opinion.




Dear Rick

Well sort of. Pure Tung oil no, it has little water or wear resistance and shouldn’t be used as a floor finish at all. All varnishes are made of various oils, and it’s their ability to harden into a film that will make them water resistant. And Pure Tung has a limited ability to cure or oxidize into a film that will protect the wood. Now don’t get the idea that because the tung oil is absorbed into the wood, it is protecting it. This is not the case, and with water spill the water will go right through this type of finish.

Now that all said the finish you now have on the floor may still be savable, but to find out please read the wood floor maintenance article in the Floored News section of this site. It’s always best in any case to recoat an existing finish with something that’s generically the same. And Oil Modified Polyurethane comes in a satin finish, that will not make your floor look like it has a plastic coating on it. We have a Pro Series article on just how to apply this poly without the bubbles or pits that most people get.

Now that all said if you want to sand the floor to the bare wood, and still use an oil/varnish type of finish, there is a brand out there (Tried and True ) that is truly non toxic, and does form a cured film of sorts. Now, this finish is really made for the furniture trade, and you will have to apply 5-6 coats over 2 weeks to build enough of the film to make the wood glow, but it can be done. Visit their web site at http://www.triedandtruewoodfinish.com and check out the oil/varnish. It is probably one of the more durable of the oil/varnishes and at least it is quite non-toxic to use, so the touch ups will be helpful to the floor, but harmless to you.

Let me know if your want the detailed instructions on how to use this type of finish, the method of floor finishing with an oil/varnish is a lot different that what they suggest on the can.

Oh, and if you want to strip off the poly there is no need to sand, just read the Chemical Stripping Wood Floors article in the Floored News section of this web site.

As always your Most humble servant, Joseph, the Wood Floor Doctor.