How To Remove Danish Oil From Wood

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We like wood oil finishes, and have moved in their direction for our finish of choice and away from some of the other popular finishes like polyurethane, shellac, and varnish.

We like wiping the oil on and in, and we love the warmth and beauty it brings out in the grain of the wood we’ve chosen for our projects.

Key Points:

  • Danish Oil can be removed from wood if you change your mind about the finish.
  • There are solvents and strippers that will help remove the varnish that is a part of Danish Oil and then penetrate the wood to dissolve the oil beneath the surface.
  • Scraping and sanding are also involved in the process.  Removing Danish oil is hard but doable with some effort and patience.

Among the choices for wood oil is a Danish Oil finish.  We’ve written about Danish Oil in past articles, including a comparison of Watco Danish Oil and Waterlox, and a comparison of Danish Oil and Teak Oil, among other articles which you can find by using this site’s search engine (that magnifying glass in the upper right corner of the page.

Among the questions we’ve been asked about wood finishes, though, is whether they can be removed if you aren’t happy with the outcome.  Or if your significant other isn’t happy with it?  If a wood finish can be removed for a do-over, though, how do you remove it, including one like a Danish Oil finish?

We addressed those questions about polycrylic in a previous article.  You’ll find that piece and the “how” of removing a polycrylic finish from a wood application.

Good questions, because all of us change our minds in the course of a woodworking project, even when we’ve gone the extra step of testing the finish on a scrap piece of the same type of wood, we’re using for our project.  We’ll point you in the right direction below, so keep reading.

What is Danish Oil Wood Finish?

Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish, Low VOC, Pint, Natural

Danish Oil wood finish, a product that does not have a consistently specific composition, contains both a penetrating oil and varnish.  It might be based on linseed oil, tung oil, or both.  It may also contain mineral spirits and synthetic resins, and it contains varnish.

It is distinguished from teak oil (a blend of linseed oil, tung oil, mineral spirits, and varnish) in that teak oil is better suited for outdoor use, while Danish Oil can be a blend of tung oil, rosewood oil, or polymerized linseed oil, although there is no clearly defined formula.  The composition of Danish oil will vary, then, from brand to brand.

The varnish in Danish Oil will give the wood surface good protection, while the linseed oil or tung oil will penetrate deeply into the wood fiber and provide that beautiful appearance wood oils can.  It’s easy to apply with just a soft cloth, and 2 – 3 coats on raw wood will be enough.

Subsequent coats will enhance the protection it affords to wood. 

It will take 8 – 10 hours to dry fully, and your piece can be used after drying.  Danish Oil is suitable for both interior and exterior use and provides a tough, durable, and water-resistant finish that will work well in kitchen worktops, furniture, trim, and doors.

It dries to a hard finish and will build up well over multiple coats.  That hard finish will provide resistance to liquid spills, which is why it might be a good choice for use in kitchens and bathrooms.  It’s water, food, and alcohol-resistant, as well as food-safe and odorless.

Allowing it to dry thoroughly before the project is put into use, it will be resistant to flaking, chipping, and cracking – both indoors and outdoors.

Danish oil also works well as a floor finish for these reasons.  It will provide a wonderful shine to them without being slippery, and it will dry hard enough to protect the floors from liquid spills and wet shoes.

Danish Oil will dry to a satin or semi-gloss finish and will tend to darken wood slightly

Among the well-known brands of Danish Oil are Watco and Colron, and each will provide the same combination of beautiful appearance and protection for the wood. 

Removing Danish Oil

But what if you go through the application process and decide you don’t like it?  Maybe it darkened the wood more than you expected, or you were hoping for a matte finish and got a satin finish? What pain do you have to suffer in order to remove it and start the finish process over again?

We’re sorry to tell you there will be some work involved in removing it from your project.  It’s not impossible, though, but some elbow grease will be a part of the process.  So will some type of paint stripper, although it won’t be a paint thinner.  A paint thinner might help, but you also want a solvent that will penetrate the wood and loosen the grip the oils have on wood fiber.

Danish oil is hard to remove, to be honest.  It adheres well to a porous surface and penetrates well into the wood.  So, you want a stripper solvent that will also penetrate the wood well to dissolve the oil from wood.

First, though, clean the wood surface you are about to strip.  Oil spills and stains should be removed, as should dirt and grime.  You want a “clean surface,” if you will, before you remove it.

One Toxic Chemical To Avoid

Methylene chloride was once a common chemical stripper used to remove finishes of various kinds from wood.  However, it has gone out of favor because of the health risks associated with its use.  While some of the bulletin boards we checked about it noted it was still possible to find it, more states are banning its sale and use. 

One posting was from a person who had consulted a doctor about it, and the doctor told this person it was among the worst chemicals he had researched and strongly recommended against its use.  As best we know, a license as a professional furniture stripper is required for its purchase in many areas of the US now.

Chemical Strippers To Consider

Sunnyside Corporation 634G1 Paint & Varnish, Gallon, 2 Minute Remover Advanced Gel, 2 Pack

One stripper we found that is considered a good product to use for removing varnish, for instance, is Nitomors Varnish Remover.  It’s actually an all-purpose remover that will work with paint and lacquer, too.  It is easy to apply and is thick enough to be used on vertical surfaces as well as flat surfaces.

Another to consider, one that is eco-friendly, is Citrastrip, using natural essences for removing finishes.  It’s citrus-based and has a strong but not unpleasant orange smell, and you don’t have to wear a mask to use it.

Scrape After Application of Strippers

Allowing the stripper you’ve chosen to sit for a while will allow it to penetrate into the wood deeper and loosen the oil that has bonded with the wood fiber.  So don’t wipe it off quickly.  Follow the instructions for the product you are using when it comes to sitting time and let it do its thing.  

Then, use a scraper to remove the stripper residue from the wood surface, being careful not to gouge the wood.  This will remove the top layer of varnish from the Danish Oil and give you access directly to the wood.  If the instructions suggest a second application, again let it sit for a while to penetrate the wood, and scrape gently again.

Sanding After Stripping

You will then need to grab your sandpaper, and we’d suggest medium-grit sandpaper, and put your muscle to work.  Gradually move up in grit to give the wood surface a smooth finish and prepare it for the new finish you have chosen, whatever that may be – paint, a different oil, etc.

If you have chosen to use a stripper as a part of this process, you will want to wait a full day before applying the new finish so that the wood has a chance to dry completely.  If you’ve removed the Danish Oil with just sandpaper and muscle and are down to the natural wood with a smooth surface, you’re good to go with paint, stain, or another oil.

Do not be confused with oil removers like Murphy’s Wood Cleaner or Murphy’s Oil Soap, for instance, or even mineral spirits or paint thinner.  These products are for removing oil stains on wood surfaces from spills, for example, and not for removing something like Danish Oil.

Video Demo of Citristrip

 Never heard of Citristrip?  Here’s a video that shows you how to use it and what it will do for your project.

If you are considering using Danish Oil for your project finish and go the extra step of testing it on a scrap piece of the same wood you are using in your project, it will go a long way toward being happy with the choice.  If you don’t like how it looks, too dark or too glossy, no harm is done to your project, and you can select another finish.

But, if you skip this step and then don’t like the way it turned out, you now know the work ahead for you to remove it and start over again.

Testing and waiting a day to see the results can save you all that headache.

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