Learning how to remove tung oil can help you remove sticky tung oil and dried tung oil finish. It can also help you fix unevenly dried tung oil on your wooden surfaces, giving you a smooth tung oil finish.

Removing tung oil from sap wood because of old age may require a bit of muscle and patience. But, removing a recently applied one may be a little bit easier if you know how to do it.

So, whichever case you are dealing with right now, here’s a detailed guide to help you through the process.

Read along to find out the details about removing tung oil.

How to Remove Tung Oil

You can easily remove the tung oil original finish using turpentine. First, saturate a clean cloth in turpentine, then apply it to the tung oil. Once the tung oil softens, scrape it off using fine steel wool. You can also use naphtha or xylene using the same steps to get the same results.

What You Need To Know About Tung Oil

Tung oil is a centuries’ old wood oil that has been used to preserve wood from water, mold, and rot. Once applied to the wood, it seeps into the wood grain, then forms a hard and waterproof layer.

Since tung oil provides such an impenetrable layer on the wood, it was used to preserve wood ships and boats, exterior woodworking projects, and even underground structures. Besides, most rifle owners preferred refinishing gun stocks with tung oil.

Pure tung oil is non-toxic, making it food safe. This means it is best for finishing wood chopping boards, salad bowls, forks, and tongs, among other items and surfaces coming into contact with food.

Tung oil is made from Tung trees, majorly produced in the tropical climates of China, the USA, Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina.

Read also: Is pure tung oil food safe?

How To Remove Excess Tung Oil Using Turpentine 

Turpentine is a paint thinner that can help you remove linseed oil finish from wood or tung oil. This is for the tung oil or linseed oil that has some partly dried surface and partly fresh side.

You can use turpentine, naphtha, or xylene and use them in the steps below. Exercise caution when using turpentine to remove the tung oil finish.

This is because it can pose serious health and environmental hazards if mishandled.

Tools and materials

  • Turpentine or naphtha or xylene
  • Steel wool
  • Clean cotton cloth
  • Paint stripper
  • Mask or respirator
  • Solvent resistant gloves
  • Protective work clothing
  • Goggles
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Elbow grease

The steps

Step 1: Wear protective woodworking clothing, solvents resistant gloves as well a mask or respirator. Also, ensure you are working in a well-ventilated area.

Step 2: Dip a clean cloth in turpentine or naphtha, or xylene. Saturate the cloth.

Step 3: Apply the paint thinner to the tung oil finish. Re-apply it liberally and let it sit for a few minutes. Once the finish begins to form bubbles, it is ready to lift off. 

Step 4: Scrape off the softened tung oil finish using fine steel wool. Dip the steel wool in more turpentine and continue stripping the entire surface until you reach the bare wood.

 Step 5: Wipe the wood surface using a dry lint-free cloth to eliminate lingering tung oil and turpentine residue.

 Step 6: Dispose of the debris and clean up your workstation.

 Afterward, you can reapply a new coat of tung oil or any other wood stain and finishes.

How To Remove Sticky Tung Oil Using Mineral Spirits

There’s a solution for that sticky situation. Mineral spirits will work as oil thinner in this case, making it easy to remove.

Sticky or gummy tung oil feel on your surface can only occur from a recent woodworking project involving oil finishes.

There’re two possible reasons why your last coat of tung oil hasn’t dried up yet. Either you applied the oil in excess amounts, or the weather in your area is a little cold and humid, or you applied a thin coat.

During the application of this oil, you should work during warm and dry weather. Also, wipe off excess oil after a while of application. This practice will ensure your tung oil dries up fast and nicely.

That said, here’s how you can handle the sticky situation.

Tools and materials

  • Mineral spirits
  • Clean cotton cloth
  • Rubber Gloves
  • Goggles
  • Mask or respirator

The steps 

Step 1: Wear your gloves, mask, and goggles before you proceed. Then ensure you are working in an adequately ventilated space.

Step 2: Soak a clean cotton cloth in mineral spirits. 

Step 3: Lightly rub the soaked cloth over the sticky surface. Make sure to cover the entire wood with mineral spirits. Let it sit for a few minutes.

Step 4: Apply some pressure and rub the sticky oil off using your cotton cloth. Add more mineral spirits to the cloth should it become too dry. Continue rubbing until you have gotten rid of all the stickiness.

 Step 5: Give the wood a final wipe using a clean, dry cloth.

How To Fix Uneven Drying Tung Oil Finish Using the Wood Restorer

This option is best used on unevenly dried dark tung oil finishes. This option involves a mild product but guarantees excellent results within a short period.

In particular, the wood restorer –Howard-Restore-A-Finish, penetrates the tung oil finish and activates the shine of the original finish by blending away those ugly and sticky stains. To delve deeper into the effect of tung oil on wood color, read our article “Will Tung oil darken wood?”

Tools and materials

  • Howard-Restore-A-Finish
  • Steel wool
  • Clean cotton rag
  • Rubber gloves 

The steps 

Step 1: Wear your rubber gloves. 

Step 2: Dip your steel wool in the wood restorer. 

Step 3: Rub the wood restorer onto the tung oil using the wet steel wool. Rub following the grain of the wood.

The steel wool will help to refinish the stickiness from your wood surface. 

Step 4: Wipe the surface using the clean cotton rag. Wiping helps get off the remaining residue.

 And just like that, you are done.

Also Read: How to Remove Black Stains From Hardwood Floors

How To Remove Dried Tung Oil Finish By Sanding

You can sand off tung oil from the wood. However, this method will only work on removing most layers of tung oil from the wood surface. For better results, try using a combination of the methods we have discussed above.

Let’s sand away.

Tools and materials

  • Sandpaper
  • Sanding pad
  • Cotton rag
  • Gloves
  • Mask  

The steps 

Step 1: Wear your mask and gloves. Work outdoors or otherwise in a well-ventilated workspace.

 Step 2: Sand the tung oil using coarse grit sandpaper.

This will get through the three coats of tung oil and break it loose. Wipe the dust in between to manage the working space better. 

Step 3: Continue sanding using finer grit sandpaper.

The moment you get to the bare wood surface, you have removed enough. Sanding further might mess the wood, you have to be careful. 

Step 4: Wipe the surface using a damp cotton rag.

 If you still have tung oil patches on your wood surface, you can get rid of them by wiping using turpentine and steel wool.

Also Read: How to Stop Sap Coming Through Wood Paint

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Pure Tung Oil

Like everything in this world, tung oil has its advantages and disadvantages.

Before using this finishing oil for wood, go through the pros and cons, then decide whether tung oil works for you or not.

Advantages of using pure tung oil

There’re several perks to using pure tung oil on wood. First of all, it is waterproof, alcohol, and acetone resistant when well maintained. Also, pure tung oil is flexible and easy to apply—a simple rub on and off.

If you need to reapply tung oil at some point, it’s an easy process. Last but not least, it’s non-toxic, making it safe for use on surfaces that come into contact with food.

Another advantage of using pure tung oil is its compatibility with stain. This means you can use tung oil on stained wood to enhance the wood’s color while benefiting from all the perks it offers, including being waterproof, resistant to alcohol and acetone, easy to apply, and non-toxic, making it ideal for food-contact surfaces when well maintained.

Disadvantages of using pure tung oil

Pure tung oil tends to give off a mildly annoying smell when it’s freshly applied; it fades away with time, though. You cannot also directly put water-based polyurethane over tung oil finish as it tends to blotch. You will need to sand the surface and it is extra work.

Also, tung oil drying time is longer compared to other faster-drying wood stains. It is also relatively expensive.



Will mineral spirits remove tung oil?

Mineral spirits only soften sticky tung oil and make it easy to be removed. So it’s not as effective as turpentine is.

The best solvent to remove tung oil is turpentine as well as naphtha and xylene. Use whichever of these is available to you.

Does tung oil go off?

Pure tung oil shouldn’t go off. It can last for several years as long as it is stored in the right conditions and in an air-tight container.

However, it begins to cure and hardens if exposed to air, making it challenging to use.

How do you remove excess tung oil?

Use a clean cotton cloth to apply a generous amount of turpentine to the excess tung oil. You can also use naphtha or xylene to get the same results. Once the tung oil softens, scrape it off using fine steel wool.

What next? Read out article on tung oil versus polyurethane for a detailed comparison of the finishes.


Having learned how to remove tung oil, every possible situation won’t have you scratching your head: you are well armed with the know-how. Be it excess tung oil, unevenly dried, or even dried tung oil.

Tung oil should top your options list if you want to protect your wood with such a strong finish and accentuate the wood grain’s natural beauty.

Engage with us in the comments section below if you have a related question you would like me to respond to.

7 thoughts on “How To Remove Tung Oil”

  1. I applied 1:1 tung to mineral spirits on a freshly sanded new fir floor in my trailer. I did 6 coats and then a final coat with a touch more mineral spirits and now it’s hard shiny and bumpy on top but not sticky. Can I fix this

  2. I have applied two coats of mineral spirits mixed with pure tung oil. It has taken a few days, and it is slowly drying. My question to you is is it normal for the surface to be slightly “oily” when I run my fingers over it? Will I know it is dry when there is no shine whatsoever to the touch?

    • Did you wipe all the excess oil off afterwards? When I use tung oil I will wait about 2-3 weeks between coats to allow the oil to cure. And I’m thinning mine out with mineral spirits as well. When it comes to tung oil – patience is key.

      Pure Tung or Linseed Oil can take a LONG time to dry/cure. They take about 2-3 days to dry, up to 10 days to start curing and about a month to fully cure. Polymerized and Boiled versions have shorter curing times. For the first 10 days or so, wipe off any excess oil that leeches to the surface.

  3. Wish I had read this before I went and screwed up my 2 month project. I had no idea of the perks and downs of tung oil I liked it from jump and thought more is better and also didn’t count on any temp variations

      • I have an 8 ft oak table I am refinishing with toung oil and it has been 9 days since I applied my 3 Rd coat and the entire thing is soooooo sticky applied the same as the first 2 why is it not hardening

        • Put more on the rag, apply and wipe off as much of the excess as you possibly can. The previous coats have sealed the surface so you need much less for each subsequent coat. Adding more to the rag will help you dissolve the partially thickened surface oil and allow you to wipe off the excess. Good luck!


Leave a Comment