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Precautions for Tung Oil

John DeMerceau

Tung oil is a natural substance obtained by pressing tung tree nuts. It is used as a finish for wooden furniture and flooring, and the natural light or dark finish that tung oil produces is appreciated for its natural appearance and ease of maintenance. Home woodwork enthusiasts and amateur cabinet makers often finish their work with pure tung oil. While it is safe and nontoxic and easy to apply, there are some precautions which should be taken when using pure tung oil to finish wood. All precautions apply equally to light and dark tung oil.

Personal Health Precautions

Tung oil is extracted from nuts. Therefore, if you are allergic to nuts, do not use tung oil finishes or come into contact with liquid tung oil. This finishing compound can cause mild dermatitis in sensitive individuals who are overexposed to it; as with all wood finishes, it is best to wear gloves when applying pure tung oil. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after using tung oil finish or if some spills onto your hands. In addition, wear protective goggles to guard against the liquid splashing in your eyes. While tung oil is considered nontoxic, it is not edible. Keep it out of the reach of children, and do not ingest it or attempt to use it as a cooking oil.

Do not smoke while using tung oil, and don't use it near a source of flame such as a pilot light. Rags soaked with tung oil can suddenly catch fire. Therefore, place soaked cheesecloth, application pads, brushes and cleaning rags in a metal can filled with water. Do not bundle tung oil soaked rags. If you want to dispose of application cloths or rags separately from the water filled can, lay them out flat in the sun so that they are fully dry before disposal. Make sure to store tung oil in a tightly closed bottle, away from heat, flame or electrical equipment that may give off sparks.

Reactions With Other Substances

Tung oil should be kept away from caustic amines, alkanolamines, and inorganic acids. As these types of chemicals may be contained in household chemicals or paint removers, it is recommended to use only paint thinner (mineral spirits) to remove any spills or excess tung oil.

Storage Precautions

Make sure the bottle or other package of tung oil is tightly sealed before you store it. The oil will deteriorate if the bottle is not tightly closed. Store at temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, away from sources of fire or flame. Keep out of the reach of children or pets.