What do you use to apply Tung Oil?

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Forum topic by Triman posted 01-12-2009 09:04 PM 5004 views 1 time favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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50 posts in 3611 days

01-12-2009 09:04 PM

I’m currently using cheesecloth to apply tung oil to some boxes. I then use clean cheesecloth to wipe off the excess and buff. Do you recommend anything that might be better? Also, if cheesecloth is what you use, do you have a good source for bulk? Those little bags at the hardware store start to add up!

-- Bruce, San Jose, Ca

18 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16275 posts in 4247 days

#1 posted 01-12-2009 09:12 PM

I use my tung.

(Well, somebody was going to say it!)

Old socks…tee shirts….terry shop towels that Sam’s sells in bulk….even blue paper shop towels. I have not found the choice to be critical when applying oil finishes.

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View sIKE's profile


1271 posts in 3782 days

#2 posted 01-12-2009 09:57 PM

As long as it doesn’t leave lint…..

-- //FC - Round Rock, TX - "Experience is what you get just after you need it"

View PetVet's profile


329 posts in 3516 days

#3 posted 01-12-2009 09:59 PM

I go to the dollar general store and buy infant socks, usually 3 pair for $1. Stuff them with cotton or cheesecloth or whatever and you have a great “rubber” for applying finishes. Don’t get loose knit cotton though, too much lint.

-- Rich in Richmond -- Experience is something you don't get until just after you need it.

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3676 days

#4 posted 01-12-2009 10:20 PM

Tung oil is very forgiving. I usually use T-Shirt material but any
clean cotton rag will do fine. Socks work well too. Many-times
washed t-shirts don’t give off much lint, so they are

Don’t neglect to spread your used rags out to dry. If you
don’t they will catch on fire.

I used some mattress foam once and the foam chunks started
smoking as they dried out. I doused them in water I think,
but it could have been bad news.

View HokieMojo's profile


2104 posts in 3756 days

#5 posted 01-12-2009 10:31 PM

papertowels to wipe on and old tshirts to wipe off. Make sure the shirsts are washed but dried without fabric softener. That can leave a residue that will affect finishes.

View PKP's profile


95 posts in 3475 days

#6 posted 01-12-2009 11:54 PM

Triiman I use tung oil exculisly on all my boxes, I use lint free t-shirts, you can by a bag of them at home depot in paint supplies area. But the key for me is cut the concentration with mineral spirits. I usally put 3:1 then coat it 2 to 3X Next day i buff with 0000# steel wool , then do a 2:1, couple coats dry and buff, 1;1 couple coats, then pure tung oil final coat. It also depends on type of wood as to how many coats, one thing to watch for is weeping wood, after you have applied the coating go back in an little while to see if you see any small dots appearing on the surface and buff with clean rag. I had this only happen a couple of times with some exotic wood. I also sometimes buff with carnuba wax , but again it depends on the type of wood. Then later I use lemon oii to spruce up the boxes from time to time about every 6 months.

View hObOmOnk's profile


1381 posts in 4156 days

#7 posted 01-12-2009 11:58 PM


I’ve put the word out to my family, friends and customers to save old tee shirts and cotton bed sheets for my finishing.

Why buy when you can reuse/re-purpose?

I’m a chemist (clinical and finishing products) by training, so I make or blend all of my own finishes.
I buy tung oil wholesale in minimum quantities of 5 gallons.
I just bought 70 pounds of bees wax from a beekeeper.

I also exchange supplies and materials with others artisans in a guild.

-- 温故知新

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3750 days

#8 posted 01-13-2009 12:07 AM

I use high quality paper towels such as Bounty. They don’t leave lint like cheap paper towels. You could ask your co-workers for their old cotton t-shirts or go to the local thrift shop and buy some. Or better yet, post on your local freecycle board (you need to register first.)

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View SteveKorz's profile


2134 posts in 3742 days

#9 posted 01-13-2009 05:47 AM

I use any cotton material that is lint free.

-- As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17) †

View jim1953's profile


2735 posts in 3870 days

#10 posted 01-13-2009 06:08 AM

Old tee Shirts work great

-- Jim, Kentucky

View Matt (Upper Cut)'s profile

Matt (Upper Cut)

264 posts in 3842 days

#11 posted 01-13-2009 06:17 AM

Paint shops sell bags o rags, and I use those

-- Matt Gradwohl, Upper Cut Woodworks,

View mmh's profile


3677 posts in 3750 days

#12 posted 01-13-2009 08:33 AM

Don’t kiss Charlie. His tongue is tungged.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View LeeinEdmonton's profile


254 posts in 3610 days

#13 posted 01-15-2009 05:45 AM

I went through all of the above & finally settled on Blue Shop towels. They are not embossed hence no streaks & do not leave lint. They are economical & eliminate the need for a bag of rags.


-- Lee

View drbob's profile


31 posts in 3444 days

#14 posted 01-18-2009 03:18 AM

Just about anything that is lint free and clean.

-- drbob at

View Kelly's profile


2039 posts in 2972 days

#15 posted 05-04-2010 11:18 PM

While this is an old post, the info is yet relevant. So here goes:

I use a brush to apply my tung oil. I’m going to wipe the surface down anyway and it makes it easy to always find my “applicator.” When I putting down a penetrating coat of thinned oil, this seems to work better for me and I seem to waste less oil. In the end, it’s all fair game – if it’ll get the product on the surface, it’s good enough.

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