Tung oil is a popular finish for woodworking projects. It’s known for its durability and beautiful finish.

But does tung oil darken wood? The answer depends on a few factors, such as the type of wood you’re using and how much tung oil you apply.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the science behind tung oil and how it affects wood color. We’ll also share our own experience with using tung oil on different types of wood.

Stay tuned!

Does Tung oil darken wood?

Pure Tung oil won’t darken wood because it has an amber tint (honey-colored). This color often makes the wood grain pop with a warm amber luster. However, dark Tung oil will darken the wood. That’s because it’s been modified with hydrocarbon and pigment and will give wood a chocolate brown shade or darker depending on the wood species.

Will Tung Oil Darken Wood?

Tung oil is a natural drying oil extracted from the nuts of a Tung tree, native to China. This oil for finishing wood has delivered excellent results at sealing the wood and keeping it from water damage, mold, and rotting.

Pure Tung oil has a honey-like texture and color. This color will impart a warm, amber glow on natural wood. However, regardless of the number of Tung oil coats you apply, it won’t darken the wood.

So, if you find a dark-colored wood sealed with pure Tung oil, the dark shade is caused by aging, and prolonged exposure to the elements: not the coats of Tung oil applied.

How Can We Use Tung Oil to Darken Wood?

You already know that layering multiple coats of pure Tung oil won’t darken the wood. But what about layering dark Tung oil on natural wood; will it darken wood?

Darken wood using Dark Tung Oil

Step 1: Prepare the wood surface

It is standard procedure to wash wood and eliminate dirt and debris. Rinse and let it air dry. Once fully dry, sand the surface starting with coarse grit and finishing with a fine-grit sandpaper. Vacuum and tack the dust off the surface.

Step 2: Apply dark tung oil

Apply a generous first coat of dark Tung oil using a natural-bristle brush or a stain pad. Spread it evenly and let it seep into the wood for 10minutes.

Wipe off excess oil and let it dry for about 24 hours. Then, reapply the second and third layers following the same procedure as the first coat. When the wood surface has your desired dark shade, stop and let the surface cure.

Read also: How long does tung oil take to dry?

How to darken wood with Tung oil and stain

Here’s a cheat sheet to darkening wood without using dark Tung oil: Prepare the surface and stain it with your preferred dark shade. Two to three coats will suffice.

Once the last coat is fully dry, apply 3 coats of Tung oil over the stain. You can use pure Tung oil or blended Tung oil finishes; they both guarantee a protective finish.

Is Tung oil a self-sufficient wood sealer?

Tung oil alone is a reliable wood sealer. But you can always apply varnishes, shellac, or polyurethane over Tung oil to protect a heavily used surface.

Read also: How to remove tung oil from wood.

Pure Tung Oil vs Dark Tung Oil

The differences

Pure Tung oil is in its purest form without any solvents or additives. It has a thick consistency and a honey-like color. Check out Pure Tung oil for wood finishing on amazon.

Pure tung oil doesn’t build up to a heavy gloss finish; instead, it penetrates the wood pores and polymerizes to enhance water resistance. It is eco-friendly and food-safe. (Also read our article “Is tung oil finish food safe?” to learn more about its safety considerations in food settings.)

You don’t need to sand in between coats. It is the slowest drying and curing oil of all time. 

However, Dark Tung oil has a dark tint imparted using a PCB-free and non-carcinogenic resinous hydrocarbon. As a result, dark Tung oil has the appearance of concentrated coffee. You can layer several coats to add an appearance of a rich, finished surface.

Since this product is processed, it contains artificial dryers that make it a fast drying version of Tung oil finishes. You also need to sand in between coats. Check out dark Tung oil by Real milk paint dark Tung oil for wood finishing on amazon.

The similarities

Pure Tung oil and dark Tung oil are applied to a wooden surface to keep the wood waterproof. Also, they both accentuate the wood grain. You can apply both using a brush or a lint-free rag. 

Pros of pure Tung oil

  • It’s natural, free from harmful VOCs and distillates.
  • It’s approved by the FDA, making it Food safe.


  • It takes forever to dry and cure into a solid hard film.

Pros of dark Tung oil

  • It’s a fast-drying Tung oil finish.
  • Exude a luxurious dark and rich finish.


  • Prolonged exposure to its fumes can trigger allergic reactions or serious health issues.

Read also: Best epoxy resin for tumblers

How Long Does Tung Oil Last?

Pure Tung oil has doesn’t have a set shelf lifespan as long as it stays in an airtight container. However, modified Tung oil has an estimated shelf life of a year or two. Generally, unopened Tung oil containers can stay usable for much longer than partly used ones.

Tung oil can last for years when applied to decorative wood pieces, like picture frames. However, you may need to reapply once or twice a year for high-traffic surfaces.

Tung oil can penetrate as far as 5 mm into the wood. However, this depth depends on the porosity of the wood species you’re sealing. Dense woods may not absorb as much as highly porous ones.


How to make Tung oil darker

You can tint Tung oil using liquid wood dyes with acetone or denatured alcohol. Or, you can also dissolve oil-soluble aniline dye crystals in odorless mineral spirits. Ensure the wood dye or dye crystals are properly dissolved before adding into pure Tung oil. Stir well and let it sit for about 30 minutes before using.

Will Tung oil darken pine?

Raw pine wood is creamy white to yellow. With its yellowish tint, Pure Tung oil will accentuate the grain pattern of pine, making it pop. But, if you use dark Tung oil, it will darken pinewood into a dark brown shade.

You might want to learn about watco danish oil on pine. Here is an article to help you.

Will Tung oil darken birch?

Pure or clear Tung won’t alter the color of white birch, yellow birch, or black birch. However, Dark Tung oil on birch will slightly darken the white and yellow birch. While black birch will have a darker and richer finish.

What is the best wood darkening oil? 

We recommend using dark Tung oil to darken wood surfaces. You can apply as many coats as you desire. Alternatively, opt for dark oil stains and finish with natural oils.

Does Tung oil come in colors?

Pure Tung oil color is honey-like. Dark Tung oil comes in dark brown colors, like strong coffee. Still, companies like Waterlox TRUETONE® Formula have modified pure Tung oil into 11 different rich colors. 

Will Tung oil darken oak?

Oak is one of the dense grained woods with beige to a brown and red shade. Again clear Tung oil won’t affect their tones, but dark Tung oil will make it a shade darker. 

Does Tung oil darken maple?

No, Tung oil, in its purest form, won’t darken maple wood. Instead, it will enrich the tiger or curly grain pattern of maple. If you’re looking for ways to tint it, consider using dark Tung oil.

What does tung oil do to wood?

Tung oil soaks into the wood pores, saturates it, polymerizes, and seals the wood against water, mold, and rot. While at it, Tung oil enriches the color of the wood and highlights the beautiful wood grain pattern.

Does Tung oil get darker with each coat?

Yes and No. Tung oil doesn’t get darker with each coat. Instead, it deepens the honey-colored tint, giving a soft glow. On the other hand, dark Tung oil will get darker with each coat. Also, dark-colored woods will get darker while light-colored woods not so much.

Related: Dark wood types

Final Verdict: Does Tung Oil Darken Wood

No, Tung oil won’t darken wood. Tung oil enhances wood grain character and seals the surface from drawing-in water. Unless you’re using dark Tung oil, layering multiple coats won’t darken wood.

I hope we’ve shaded light on Tung oil and wood darkening. If there’s something, we have not addressed in this blog post, feel free to leave us a comment below.

Now go ahead and read our article on tung oil finish vs polyurethane to help you make an informed decision on your woodworking projects.

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