Mineral oil as a permanent finish

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Forum topic by AaronK posted 01-26-2015 02:37 AM 1038 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1436 posts in 2887 days

01-26-2015 02:37 AM

Topic tags/keywords: finishing

I finished some maple toys with mineral oil and really liked the neutral non yellowing look and smooth feel. I was wondering how it might work as a finish for something like a bookcase that won’t see a whole lot of abuse. I also like that it’s so easily repaired. Obviously it doesn’t provide a whole lot of protection, but again, considering the intended use… Has anyone tried using mineral oil for this with any success?

15 replies so far

View pjones46's profile


986 posts in 2066 days

#1 posted 01-26-2015 03:03 AM

Mineral oil produces a very natural-looking finish to wood, and it is well-liked because of its non-toxic properties. One of the negative issue with using mineral oil as a wood finish is that it must be re-applied periodically because it does not provide as strong of a finish as other types of wood coatings.

Is it the Best Finish? No.

Many people rave about the benefits of using mineral oil as a wood finish. Because of its non-toxic nature, this type of oil can also be used to finish wooden baby cribs, wooden toys that children may put in their mouths, and wooden highchairs that babies may chew. Some of the most obvious characteristics of mineral oil are that it is clear, it does not have an obvious odor, and it produces a natural finish to wood surfaces. However, mineral oil does not necessarily provide a durable and long-lasting finish.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View jerryminer's profile


498 posts in 864 days

#2 posted 01-26-2015 06:55 AM

Yeah. What he said. I don’t consider mineral oil to be a “finish” but rather a “treatment.”

I use MO on cutting boards and wood countertops, but I try to educate clients on its properties. It slowly evaporates and must therefore be periodically replenished. It does not form a film or offer very much protection—-but it does offer SOME, and it adds some depth (and beauty) to the wood.

For something like a bookcase, I suggest you consider a wiping varnish or a “Danish oil” finish. They provide a similar look, but offer more protection and a more “permanent” solution.

View Rick M.'s profile

Rick M.

7727 posts in 1803 days

#3 posted 01-26-2015 07:47 AM

Mineral oil is a waste of time and effort for furniture, wax is a far better choice.


View AaronK's profile


1436 posts in 2887 days

#4 posted 01-26-2015 08:24 AM

So that’s why I used it on toys. My go to finish on furniture has been a wiping oil-poly blend with a buffed wax final coat. That’s nice, but I don’t like the yellowing effect especially on lighter woods like maple. The mineral oil just looks so good. I understand that I’ll have to reapply periodically, but that’s so very easy, that it almost doesn’t matter. I’m just wondering if this is something I’ll regret and have to strip out eventually in order to get a real finish to stick?

I would do wax on top of that, as long as it’s a very light blonde. It offers similar advantages… Any suggestions for something that might be somewhat more protective than plain old Johnsons paste?

View pjones46's profile


986 posts in 2066 days

#5 posted 01-26-2015 05:23 PM

Personally, I use clear lacquer; you can use spray cans if you do not have spray equipment. I hope others will make alternative suggestions for you.

If you use wax over the mineral oil , you will have to go through some work to remove it should you wish to change to a more durable film forming finish.

-- Respectfully, Paul

View AaronK's profile


1436 posts in 2887 days

#6 posted 01-26-2015 06:01 PM

does clear lacquer yellow over time?

View TheFridge's profile


5682 posts in 909 days

#7 posted 01-26-2015 06:48 PM

Depends on the lacquer.

-- Shooting down the walls of heartache. Bang bang. I am. The warrior.

View bondogaposis's profile


3972 posts in 1774 days

#8 posted 01-26-2015 08:21 PM

Mineral oil never hardens. A much better choice would be Tung oil.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Clint Searl's profile

Clint Searl

1533 posts in 1784 days

#9 posted 01-26-2015 08:40 PM

It’s great on shelves if you want oil stains on your books.

-- Clint Searl....Ya can no more do what ya don't know how than ya can git back from where ya ain't been

View bobro's profile


308 posts in 733 days

#10 posted 01-26-2015 08:47 PM

There are siccatives for mineral oils, used in mineral-oil based printing inks.

Whether or not they are the same driers as for linseed oil I don’t know, but you could get a cobalt or cobalt-substitute siccative for oil paints from an art store and try it out.

-- Lao Ma: You are so full of anger and hatred. Xena: Everybody's gotta be full of something.

View pjones46's profile


986 posts in 2066 days

#11 posted 01-26-2015 09:35 PM

Would the cobalt or cobalt-substitute siccative cloud or disguise the grain?

-- Respectfully, Paul

View OSU55's profile


1039 posts in 1412 days

#12 posted 01-26-2015 09:49 PM

I don’t consider anything that doesn’t cure to some type of film a finish. I have some “Platina” shellac which is very light. It’s perfect for anything a child may put in their mouth – no issues with small amounts of shellac ingestion. I’m not so sure there is any issue with ingestion of small amounts of cured lacquer, poly, or other common finishes. Target Coatings EM9000 WB poly is water clear and non yellowing, and I think their WB lacquer, EM6000, is non yellowing but not positive. While NC lacquer yellows with time, I’m thinking pre cat lacquer doesn’t. I’ve always preferred the yellowing that comes with most finishes and don’t have much experience with keeping wood “white”.

View AaronK's profile


1436 posts in 2887 days

#13 posted 01-26-2015 09:50 PM

thanks for the replies.

1. can lacquer go on thin enough that it preserves the look and feel of the grain the way oil finishes do?

2. does tung oil yellow?

Im not really concerned about oil stain on books. There’s really not enough mineral oil on there to get onto the books. In any event, a little oil wont hurt them.

Again, i’m not super concerned about a hardening finish, only one that helps prevent stains. If something is going to scratch hard maple, it will scratch a hard finish, and that’s a lot harder to repair (vs light sanding and reapplication of oil).

Thanks for the recommendation on oil driers. I’ll look into that. I’m guess it wont work, since natural oils have chemical groups on them that facilitate polymerization, while mineral oil has basically nothing there to grip to. Still, worth a shot!

View Wildwood's profile


1854 posts in 1557 days

#14 posted 01-26-2015 10:16 PM

Some wood darken all by themselves over time regardless of finishing materials used and some darker woods actually get lighter in color. I can never remember which species of wood does what!

Mineral oil is not drying and will need reapplication with time and so will MO & bees or carnauba wax mixtures and past wax.

Both pure Tung and Walnut oil are drying oils but also will need reapplication over time. Tung oil will provide better protection than Walnut oil if apply at least 4 to 6 coats. Will need couple days between coats to allow previous coats to dry unless thinned, which do not recommend. So just like MO, apply light coats!

-- Bill

View pintodeluxe's profile


4827 posts in 2236 days

#15 posted 01-26-2015 10:19 PM

Nope, don’t use straight mineral oil. It stays oily far too long, and takes weeks to really dry. Try a blend of mineral oil and waxes such as Howards Butcher Block Conditioner. You will love it.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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