Is Tung Oil Environmentally Friendly

Is Tung Oil Environmentally Friendly? (Answered)

Tung oil offers an eco-friendly alternative for finishing and protecting wood.

Derived from the nut of the tung tree, this natural oil has a long history of use in Eastern Asia.

Compared to petroleum-based finishes, pure tung oil is non-toxic, low in VOCs, and safe for contact with food.

Is Tung Oil Environmentally Friendly?

tung oil coating on flooring
Image Credit: Hunker

Yes, pure tung oil derived from the tung tree is environmentally friendly and non-toxic.

It does not contain VOCs or harsh chemicals.

When cured, tung oil forms a safe, durable finish that has a low impact on the environment.

Key Points

  • Tung oil is plant-based and biodegradable, making it eco-friendly.
  • Pure tung oil does not contain VOCs or toxic chemicals.
  • Cured tung oil forms a durable, non-toxic finish ideal for wood.

Our Opinion

As wood finishing experts, we believe pure tung oil is one of the best environmentally friendly options.

Derived from natural sources, free of VOCs, and biodegradable, tung oil has a very low impact on the environment compared to synthetic finishes.

When appropriately applied, it provides a safe and durable finish.

We recommend pure tung oil for those looking for a non-toxic wood finish.

What Is Tung Oil?

tung tree nut
Image Credit: Wayne’s World

Tung oil comes from the seed of the tung tree, native to China and Southeast Asia. The oil is extracted by pressing the nuts, much like how olive oil is made. This tree oil has been used for centuries in Asian countries to waterproof boats and preserve hardwood floorings.

Pure tung oil contains no artificial ingredients. It is made through simple mechanical pressing and filtering processes. When applied to wood, the oil penetrates deeply to accentuate the natural grain patterns. Tung oil dries to a smooth, matte sheen that resists water, heat, and scratches.

Unlike petroleum-based finishes, tung oil is non-toxic and emits no VOCs. It is generally regarded as food-safe for use on cutting boards and butcher blocks. Tung oil does not pose a risk for people with tree nut allergies.

Brands like L.Co’s Pure Tung Oil offer high-quality, completely natural tung oil that is contact-safe. When sourced ethically and produced through eco-friendly manufacturing processes, tung oil can be a sustainable choice for protecting woodwork.

Is Tung Oil Toxic?

Like how shea butter is derived from shea tree nut, pure tung oil derived from the tung nut is non-toxic and environmentally friendly. However, some commercially available tung oil products are blended with petroleum-based solvents and chemical additives. These modified tung oils can contain toxins and emit VOCs that are hazardous to human health.

To ensure safety, choose 100% pure tung oil with no artificial ingredients added. Pure tung oil has been used for centuries in contact with food and poses no toxicity risks. It does not contain allergenic proteins found in tree nuts.

Tung oil made through ethical, eco-friendly production methods offers a natural, non-toxic option. Brands like L.Co use mechanical pressing and filtering to extract pure oil with no chemical processing. Their tung oil contains nothing but the crude oil from the tree nut.

With pure, unadulterated tung oil, you can protect and beautify woodwork safely. Pure tung oil has no harsh fumes, emits no VOCs, and leaves behind no toxic residues. When sourced and produced sustainably, tung oil provides a durable, environmentally responsible finish.

Does Tung Oil Have a Small Carbon Footprint?

tung oil wood finish
Image Credit: Woodworkers Journal/

Tung oil has a relatively low carbon footprint compared to many other finishes. Here are some reasons why:

  • It is derived from the nuts of the tung tree, a renewable resource that can be grown and harvested sustainably. Tung oil production does not rely on fossil fuels.
  • Minimal processing is required to extract and refine pure tung oil. Some brands use simple mechanical pressing methods with no chemical solvents. This streamlined process conserves energy.
  • Tung trees themselves absorb CO2 as they grow. Widespread cultivation of tung orchards can offset greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The long lifespan of tung oil reduces the need for frequent reapplication. Less frequent finishing means less energy use over time.
  • Tung oil cures by natural oxidation, without heat or energy-intensive UV curing. This saves energy compared to finishes that require artificial curing methods.
  • With proper care, tung-oiled surfaces do not need frequent stripping or sanding. This conserves energy and materials over the lifetime of the finish.

So while no finish is completely carbon-neutral, pure tung oil’s eco-friendly production and long-lasting performance give it a smaller carbon footprint than many comparable options. Choosing tung oil is a sustainable choice.

Is Tung Oil Sustainable?

Tung oil is derived from the nuts of the tung tree, native to eastern Asia. Tung oil can be a renewable and environmentally friendly finish when produced sustainably.

Here’s why:

  • Tung trees can be grown responsibly as a rotational crop, without depleting soil. The trees themselves absorb CO2 as they grow.
  • Tung oil is extracted using simple mechanical pressing, without any chemical solvents. This is an efficient, non-toxic production method.
  • The oil cures naturally over time, without heat or UV lamps. This saves energy compared to finishes needing artificial curing.
  • When cared for properly, tung oiled surfaces do not need frequent reapplication. Less frequent refinishing conserves materials over time.
  • Tung oil accentuates the natural beauty of wood grains without obscuring them. It allows the innate qualities of the wood to shine through.

Does Tung Oil Have a Long Lifespan?

Yes, when applied correctly, tung oil can provide highly durable protection that lasts for many years. Here’s why tung oil finish is so long-lasting:

Tung oil cures into a tough, water-resistant polymer as it oxidizes with air. This protective film is more durable than many other natural oils.

Fully cured tung oil resists scratching, scuffing and staining. It provides a protective shield against normal wear and tear.

Tung oil penetrates deep into the wood pores, bonding securely at a molecular level. This deep penetration locks the finish into the wood.

Periodic reapplication of tung oil replenishes the surface and renews protection as it wears over time. This easy maintenance prolongs the life of the finish.

Tung oil accentuates the natural patina of wood as it ages. The finish develops a warm glow without obscuring the grain.


Is Tung Oil Safe for the Environment?

Yes, pure tung oil is considered an eco-friendly and non-toxic finish. It is derived from the seeds of the tung tree and does not contain harsh chemicals or VOCs that can be harmful. When cured, tung oil forms a safe, durable finish.

Is Tung Oil Biodegradable?

Yes, tung oil is biodegradable. Since it is plant-based, it will break down over time without leaving behind toxic residues. This makes it more environmentally friendly than synthetic finishes.

What Are the Disadvantages of Tung Oil?

Some disadvantages of tung oil include longer drying times than other finishes, the need for multiple coats, potential yellowing over time, and less water resistance than synthetic finishes. It also requires more maintenance and reapplication than synthetics.

What Is a Natural Alternative to Tung Oil?

Some natural, eco-friendly alternatives to tung oil include linseed oil, walnut oil, and hemp oil. These plant-based oils offer similar benefits as tung oil, such as being non-toxic and providing a protective wood finish.


Overall, tung oil is considered an environmentally friendly finish. Since it is derived from natural tung tree seeds, contains no VOCs, and is biodegradable, tung oil has a low impact on the environment. It provides a durable, non-toxic finish ideal for wood surfaces. When purchasing pure tung oil and applying it properly, it is a safe choice for an eco-friendly wood finish.

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