Can You Paint Over Tung Oil? [Detailed Guide]

Randy Charles
Professional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years...Read more

The use of Tung oil started centuries back as it gives a water-resistant finish. Hence, it serves a great purpose in painting most wooden items and is a decorative finish for boats and stone. Moreover, as a drying oil, the versatility of Tung oil makes it a top option for many projects.

For most homeowners and other contractors handling some painting projects, Tung oil has been their reliable working partner.

But can you paint over Tung oil? It is possible to paint over Tung oil once the oil finish has perfectly cured. So, getting the best painting over Tung oil requires completion of the curing period of the oil. This can last between 2 to 4 weeks.

This article handles how you can paint over Tung oil and how to remove the oil from the paint. Also, youll understand how to get a high gloss finish with Tung oil, the finish you can put over oil, and more.

Can You Paint Over Tung Oil

Tung oil offers a background where you may paint. The oil toughens surfaces to create a suitable undercoat for latex and oil-based painting.

Being around for centuries, Tung oil is a hardening of drying oil produced from Tung trees in China and other Asian countries.

The oil toughens through its oxidation reaction with oxygen once exposed to atmospheric air. So if youve been asking, can you paint over Tung oil? The answer is yes since it provides a tough surface.

Can You Paint Over Tung Oil

How to Paint Over Tung Oil

The oil finish serves as a protective and decorative coating for the surface. Its water-resistance capacity creates a highly durable surface for your projects.

But when you apply Tung oil on a surface, you must leave it to dry or cure properly before painting over it. Tung oil takes about 2 to 4 weeks to cure completely.

Here are steps on how to paint over Tung oil

How To Paint Over Tung Oil

Ensure the surface is not sticky

Before painting on the surface, the Tung oil must be dry. Painting over a wet Tung oil will not give you the best result. The paint would hardly adhere to the surface. You can use a mineral spirit to clean and remove the sticky oil on the surface, making it suitable for your painting.

Prepare the surface with steel wool.

Make the surface smooth by scraping it with steel wool. The process will remove excess and clumpy Tung oil finish from the surface. Thus, it will increase the adhesive force of the paint on it.

Use a compatible primer.

First, apply a suitable primer depending on the type of paint over the Tung oil. The primer will ensure the paint adheres properly on the surface.

Apply the paint

Once the primer dries properly, you can proceed to apply the paint over the Tung oil. The oil provides a great undercoat for both latex and oil-based paints.

Does Tung Oil Dry Shiny?

Tung oil doesnt produce a heavy or glossy finish. Instead, it will dry a honey-like color. The dry finish is not shiny because the pure oil distillate and doesnt contain an additive.

The flexibility of Tung oil makes it one of the popular options by most individuals for their projects. It is eco-friendly, has no additives, and is very easy to use.

This makes it an ideal finish for food sections as it does not go rancid. In addition, the pure oil produces a honey-like color when it dries and without darkening over time.

Furthermore, its application as a finish protects the wood surfaces as it leaves them water-resistant. Pure Tung oil has a wide application in different areas that require decorative and protective finishes.

Its durability, longevity, and reliability are top-notch, and it is a good component in the production of oil-based paints. Moreover, the finish is resistant to mold and mildew.

How Do I Get A High Gloss Finish With Tung Oil?

Pure Tung oil wont give a high gloss finish even with multiple coatings. Modified or polymerized Tung oils are the best options for high gloss finishes. However, the quality of sheen with a modified Tung oil depends on the number of coatings applied.

Pure Tung oil doesnt produce any gloss after drying. When you apply the pure oil to a wooden surface, it simply penetrates the wood.

Even with multiple coatings, the coil wont simply build up. Hence, pure Tung oil wont give you a high gloss finish on your projects.

How Do I Get A High Gloss Finish With Tung Oil

The Tung oil must be a polymerized brand to achieve a high gloss finish. The polymerized or hydrolyzed Tung oil contains some additives, usually petroleum derivatives, that will enhance its functionality. Hence, they have increased application speeds and dry faster.

The blending of the additives will increase the gloss and sheen of the Tung oil finish. Also, you will get a tougher and highly durable finish.

But, the oil will no longer be environmentally friendly. You cant describe them as food-safe since some additives can release volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Steps In Getting High Gloss Finish With Tung Oil

Here are the steps to get your desired gloss quality using a polymerized Tung oil.

  • Read and follow the instruction on the can of the polymerized Tung oil, which you can conveniently purchase from improvement stores.
  • Ensure that you thoroughly clean the surface of the wood to be dust-free and allow it to dry properly.
  • Apply the polymerized Tung oil to the wooden surface, allowing the first coat to dry within two to three hours.
  • Using steel wool, wipe the coating on the wooden surface to remove the excess coating and help achieve the gloss.
  • Repeating the coating process about 8 more times, wiping in between each coating with the steel wool.
  • Depending on the quality of gloss your desire, you may exceed the number of coating with the polymerized Tung oil.
  • You should thin the last set of coatings with mineral spirits for uniformity on the gloss of the finish.
  • Moreover, wax polishing the Tung oil top is a good and faster method of getting the high gloss you desire.

What Finish Can You Put Over Tung Oil?

Few coatings of oil-based polyurethane create a compatible and more durable finish over Tung oil. Also, a polymerized Tung oil will form a tough and glossy finish when coated over Tung oil.

Pure Tung oil is a highly thinned varnish that penetrates the wood. It hardly builds up the surface to produce a glossy finish, irrespective of the number of coatings you may apply.

If you must achieve a heavy and glossy finish over Tung oil, it requires using a compatible oil-based coating.

Thus, oil-based polyurethane is suitable for creating a finish over Tung oil. The application process is the same as the Tung oil; you can use a fine brush to scrub it. Then, wipe off the layer with steel wool. You should repeat the process with 3 more coatings taking one for each day. This will give you a glossy and tougher finish that will last longer.

Alternatively, using a polymerized Tung oil will give you the same result. Since the oil base is also Tung oil, the finish will be highly compatible with the oil. Furthermore, the application will be seamless with a quicker drying period. Though Tung oil is water-resistant, coating a tougher finish over it increases its durability and applications.

How Long Does Tung Oil Finish Last?

The drying or curing period for a Tung oil finish depends on some factors. Pure Tung oil takes between 2 to 4 weeks to cure completely.

Coating your wood with Tung oil is more of a treatment than an ordinary finish. It saturates the wood, and you will keep applying more coatings if you desire the best result.

Also, you must sand the surface in between each coating with 0000 steel wool. The sanding should occur within 2 to 3 days after each coat.

How Long Does Tung Oil Finish Last
Tung Oil

The curing of Tung oil depends on the variety of types you are working on. These types include:

  • Pure Tung oil
  • Polymerized Tung oil
  • Impostors brand

Pure Tung Oil

Pure Tung oil is the unadulterated oil produced as a drying oil from Tung trees. This type contains no additives. It could be the most difficult type to use for projects, but its authenticity is without a doubt.

Pure Tung Oil
Pure Tung Oil

For drying/curing, pure Tung oil will take 2 to 4 weeks. Moreover, this period depends on the environments humidity and temperature. While using the pure tung oil, you can recoat the working surfaces after a waiting period of 2 to 3 days. But ensure you are wiping the surfaces intermittently on a 2 to 3 hourly basis.

Polymerized Tung Oil

This type of Tung oil is a modified brand through the addition of some derivatives of petroleum. Also, polymerized Tung oil has undergone heating processes that make it easier to apply on surfaces. Also, it can dry quickly, leaving a more shiny finish.

Polymerized Tung Oil
Polymerized Tung Oil

The polymerized Tung oil has increased penetration on surfaces and its drying period with the heating process. Hence, you could recoat with few hours after the previous one. However, the products have the manufacturers instructions and directions containing drying/curing time. Also, you will see the waiting appropriate recoating time to achieve the best result.

Impostors Brands

While there are modified Tung oil for easy application and faster drying time, some labeled products as Tung oil finishes are not. They are simply wiping varnishes containing oil resins. Using such products may not only disrupt your work but could also be hazardous. So, you should exercise maximum caution when buying Tung oil or their finishes for your projects.

Does Tung Oil Go Bad?

Tung oil undergoes oxidation by reaction with oxygen when exposed to the atmospheric air. So, it can form a denser film by hardening or thickening with time.

With a sealed can, the oil is still fine. Pure Tung oil can last for several years. But once youve opened the can, you must store it under the right temperature while keeping it tightly covered.

You should read the manufacturers instructions for the Tung oil finishes and polymerized types to get the expiration. With a good storage procedure, you might preserve the oil and prevent possible oxidation that could make it go bad before its expiration date.

How Do You Remove Tung Oil From Paint?

Dip a clean rag or clean in turpentine, xylene, or naphtha, and wipe on the surface with the Tung oil. Scrap off the particles with steel wool as the Tung oil becomes soft.

You can easily remove excess or sticky Tung oil with suitable mineral spirits, turpentine, xylene, and naphtha. Excess or sticky Tung oil can occur during your wood project for some reasons. This could be from a more humid temperature affecting the drying process of the oil or when you fail to wipe your surface properly in between coatings.

Remove Tung Oil From Paint
Remove Tung Oil From Paint

Here are the steps on how to remove Tung oil from a surface.

  • Ensure you wear protective gear like goggles, masks, hand gloves, and others. This is because turpentine and other mineral spirits could be hazardous to your health.
  • Dip a clean cotton rag or cloth in turpentine or the mineral spirit.
  • Gently run the clothing on the wooden surface with the Tung oil finish and allow it to sit for some time.
  • Once the finish softens, you can scrape it off using fine steel wool.
  • Clean the surface with a clean, dry cloth after removing all sticky and excess oil finish.


Tung oil is one of the oldest drying oils used widely over wooden surfaces for centuries. It produces tougher and more durable surfaces that could last the test of time. Its aesthetic appeal is also a great addition to its attributes of protection and preservation.

However, people may wonder and ask if you can paint over Tung oil. The oil doesnt only offer you a great painting background; it could also serve as an undercoat for both latex and oil-based paints.

Randy CharlesProfessional Painter

Randy Charles is the owner of, a website dedicated to providing information, tips, tricks, and news about all things paint. With over 10 years of experience in the painting industry, Randy has become an expert in the field and is passionate about helping others learn more about painting. He has written numerous articles on the subject and is committed to providing accurate and up-to-date information to his readers.

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