Does Linseed Oil Finish Darken Wood? (Boiled & Raw)

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Wondering if linseed oil darkens wood? What will it do to your project?

What about boiled linseed oil? Does it behave differently than raw?

Let’s explore those questions and more, giving you a clear picture of using linseed oil as a wood finish.


Yes, linseed oil darkens wood, imparting a soft, yellowish hue as it cures. Over time, especially away from sunlight, it may darken slightly more. This oil enhances the wood’s natural color and grain.

Linseed Oil: Types and Benefits for Wood

Origin and Types: Linseed oil, derived from the flax plant, has been a traditional wood finish for centuries. It comes in two forms: raw and boiled. Raw linseed oil is natural and non-toxic, ideal for preserving the wood’s natural beauty. Boiled linseed oil, treated for faster drying, contains additives that speed up the curing process but make it unsuitable for ingestion.

Preservative Qualities: Both types of linseed oil deeply penetrate wood, enhancing its color and grain. They provide protection but differ in drying times. Boiled linseed oil dries faster, making it a practical choice for time-sensitive projects.

Boiled Linseed Oil Advantages: While not actually boiled, this oil’s additives make it a faster-drying alternative to raw linseed oil. It’s preferred for its efficiency and protective qualities, though its toxic nature due to additives should be noted, especially in contexts where safety is a concern.

Will Linseed Oil Darken Over Time?

Applying Linseed Oil

Boiled Linseed Oil on Wood

Over time, boiled linseed oil tends to darken slightly, giving the wood a rich, aged look. This darkening is more pronounced in areas not exposed to sunlight. The additives in boiled linseed oil accelerate the drying process but also contribute to this gradual darkening effect.

Raw Linseed Oil on Wood

Like its boiled counterpart, raw linseed oil also darkens over time but at a slower rate. This darkening is a natural process, often adding character to the wood. Both raw and boiled linseed oil provide a level of protection to the wood, preserving its strength and appearance.

Wood Darkening: Linseed Oil vs. Alternatives

When considering how different finishes affect the darkening of wood, linseed oil stands out for its unique characteristics. It tends to darken wood more noticeably over time compared to some alternatives.

This gradual darkening enhances the wood’s natural grain and color, giving it a rich, aged appearance.

In contrast, finishes like tung oil or Danish oil may not darken the wood as significantly as boiled linseed oil.

Tung oil, for instance, provides a more water-resistant finish while maintaining a lighter color over time.

Danish oil, a blend of oil and varnish, offers quicker drying times and less darkening compared to boiled linseed oil.

Linseed Oil Rag Safety

Just to put an exclamation point on rag safety mentioned earlier, here’s a video on boiled linseed oil rag disposal.

There’s a risk of spontaneous combustion with cloths and rags used for boiled linseed oil. Ensure they are fully dried before disposal – spread them out in an open area to dry. Never just throw them in a pile, as this can lead to a fire hazard. Always handle and dispose of these materials safely.

To Wrap It Up

Linseed oil, whether in its raw state or boiled state, is an inexpensive wood finish that is environmentally friendly and easy to apply.  It will give your project a beautiful, well-protected, and professional finish.

Yes, it will softly yellow over time and perhaps darken a little, which speaks more to choosing the right wood to use it with (not light-colored woods like maple) than choosing not to use it at all.

Don’t let that dissuade you from the beautiful finish it can be for your project.

Last update on 2024-02-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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