Does Olive Oil Go Rancid On Wood

In this brief article, we will answer the question, “does olive oil go rancid on wood?”. Plus, we’ll tell you the effects of olive oil on furniture, what oils you can use on furniture, and the advantages of oiling wooden furniture instead of varnish. 

Does Olive Oil Go Rancid On Wood?

The short answer is yes, olive oil can go rancid on wood.

There are two types of oils, those that cure or set (drying oils) and those that always remain in liquid form. The former is best because it is better at waterproofing and protecting wooden surfaces because it doesn’t wash out, and also because oil that always remains liquid, such as olive oil, can go rancid.

Drying oils are bio-based water-repellents applied in wood protection. Chemically, they are glycerol esters of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Contrary to their misleading name, drying oils do not dry, but undergo a polymerization reaction involving their double bonds. After application, the liquid oil penetrates the wood surface and forms a polymeric network by reacting with oxygen from the air. This process is called autoxidation and results in the formation of a solid film. Same as waxes, they are hydrophobic, but because of their ability to crosslink, they could offer the advantage of better mechanical stability, temperature stability as well as solvent stability. Olive oil is not a drying oil (1).

Does Olive Oil Damage Wood?

The answer to this is no and yes. Here’s why.

Contrary to the common perception that olive oil can damage wooden furniture, it actually enhances its natural shine and nourishes the wood. 

Olive oil can be used to varnish and nurture various kinds of wooden surfaces, including tables, chairs, and even storage boxes and crates. In addition to olive oil acting as a hydrophobic agent, it also contains phenolic compounds with antifungal properties that may inhibit the rate of growth in a range of fungi. It is well known that olive oil phenolic compounds are bioavailable and beneficially alter microbial activity and oxidative processes (2).

However, you must limit the use of olive oil on wood, firstly because similar to any polish or wax, olive oil will make wooden surfaces difficult to varnish or paint in the future, and secondly because it can go rancid. In addition, olive oil tends to leach from the wood after treatment. It does not bond to the wood cell wall material, but rather being deposited on the surface within cell lumens. Limited oxygen levels in the wood slow the drying of the oil, keeping it in a liquid form and subject to exudation (2).

Moreover, using too much olive oil will expose the wood to excessive moisture, which is bad for wooden surfaces.

How Should You Use Olive Oil On Wood?

Mix one part lemon juice with two parts olive oil and use a soft cloth to apply it on the surface of the wooden furniture, paying particular attention to problem areas. 

Thoroughly rub the cloth back and work to work the oil into the wood grain. To smoothen scratches in light-colored wood, use a solution made from equal parts olive oil and lemon juice.

Once you’re done and the wood has absorbed the oil, let it air-dry for ten minutes and towel-dry any excess oil in a circular motion.

You can substitute olive oil with linseed oil or vegetable oil, but avoid using virgin olive oil since the results aren’t nearly as good.

Can You Use Vinegar And Olive Oil To Fix Scratches On Wood?

Yes, vinegar and olive oil can work wonders to repair scratched wooden surfaces. 

Simply combine three-fourth parts olive oil and one-fourth part vinegar. Apply it on the scratched furniture and let it rest before wiping the excess with a clean cloth. The acid present in the vinegar causes a chemical modification of the oil that increases the potential for the oil to react with the hydroxyl groups within the wood structure, making them theoretically more viable for wood protection (2).

What Is The Best Oil To Use On Wood?

According to cedar cladding users, craft enthusiasts, and woodworkers, linseed oil is the best and most recommended oil to use on wood.

Other popular options include:

  • Tung oil
  • Beeswax
  • Soy wax. 
  • Shellac
  • Walnut oil
  • Jojoba oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • oiticica oil
  • perila oil

Other possibilities are: chin oil, stillingia oil, safflower oil, hempseed oil, walnut oil, corn oil, rape seed oil, sesame oil, cashew nutshell oil (liquid), bonito oil, lumbang oil, nigerseed oil, grapeseed oil, milkweed seed oil, and many others (3).

Can You Use Baby Oil On Wood?

Surprisingly, yes you can use baby oil on wood!

Simply apply baby oil onto wood using a clean cloth until it stops absorbing anymore, and in less than one-fourth of a bottle of baby oil you can have a glistening matte oil finish.

Like cooking oils and unlike varnish oils, baby oil is non-toxic and emits no fumes, so you can safely apply it using your bare hands as well.

Can You Use Coconut Oil On Wood?

Yes, you can also use coconut oil to polish and moisturize wooden furniture, bringing out its natural shine.

To begin, sand the table and clean it thoroughly with soapy water. After it has dried, use a clean cloth to cover it with coconut oil. 

Let it rest for about 15 minutes, then remove any excess using another clean cloth and scrubbing in a circular motion making wide circles.

Should You Oil Or Varnish Wood?

The simple answer would be oiling wood is better than varnish.

This is because oiled wooden surfaces feature greater durability, and are resistant to dirt, water, and stains. Several processes, such as the growth of fungi, the erosion of the wood surface as well as undesired dimensional changes in the material are all linked to the high interaction of wood with water, which is a result of wood’s inherent hydrophilicity. Drying oils and natural waxes are some of the longest known hydrophobic protectants and are effective water-repellents for the treatment of wood (1).

Also, as compared to varnished surfaces, oiled furniture is easier to revive, and the original finish is much easier to attain –  some mild sanding, a coat of oil, and you’re done.


In this brief article, we answered the question, “does olive oil go rancid on wood?”. Plus, we told you the effects of olive oil on furniture, what oils you can use on furniture, and the advantages of oiling wooden furniture instead of varnish. 

If you have any more questions or comments please let us know.


  1. Janesch, Jan, et al. Superhydrophobic coatings on wood made of plant oil and natural wax. Progr Org Coat, 2020, 148, 105891.
  2. Schwarzkopf, M., Burnard, M., Tverezovskiy, V. et al. Utilisation of chemically modified lampante oil for wood protection. Eur. J. Wood Prod. 76, 1471–1482 (2018). 
  3. Carrick, L. L. Vegetable oil paints, 1950.

Was this helpful?

Thanks for your feedback!