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Which Is Better on Red Oak: Tung Oil or Teak Oil?

Kirk Maltbee

Woodworkers and those who appreciate the inherent beauty of wood furnishings and décor know that in order to keep wood looking healthy, some form of protection needs to be applied to untreated wood. Two of these choices are tung and teak oil, each plant-derived and each with their pros and cons. Applying the oil on red oak depends on several factors.

Tung vs. Teak

Choosing between tung or teak oil for red oak wood is based primarily on the location of the wood.

Tung oil is derived from the nuts of Chinese tung saplings; similarly, teak oil is derived from young teak trees found in abundance throughout the jungles of Southeastern Asia. Teak is listed as an endangered plant species, so finding actual teak is difficult, and pure teak is expensive. Generally speaking, refined tung oil is bottled in lieu of pure teak so pay close attention to the label. Depending on the location of the red oak furniture or trim, applying the wrong oil may be disastrous once it has been exposed to the elements.


After applying tung oil on the wood, it leaves behind a wet luster that reflects ambient light and has a pleasant, woody scent. Alternatively, teak oil is somewhat thicker than tung oil, dries at a much slower rate, doesn’t have much of a scent but is well known for sealing porous wood, essentially making it waterproof. Your decision between which oil to use is based on where the red oak you want to coat is located.

Red Oak

Red oak is a very porous wood. Typically, this porous characteristic makes the wood a poor choice overall for outdoor wood furniture, deck flooring or house trim. Indoors, the wood shouldn’t be in high-traffic areas of the home or those with high moisture, such as in bathrooms or around kitchen sinks and stoves. Otherwise, tung oil is an option for those desiring a more natural look to the wood. Teak oil darkens red oak somewhat but will seal the wood grain from outside moisture, making it the better choice for wood that will be exposed to the elements.


Besides moisture resistance and expense, before choosing which oil fulfills your needs in regard to the red oak you want to protect, understand that tung oil may cause adverse health reactions in those allergic to tree nuts. Also, unlike teak oil, tung oil needs to be reapplied to the oak about every six months for it to maintain its luster.