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Quick Guide: How To Use Linseed Oil The Right Way

linseed oil
Linseed oil is extracted from seeds from the flax seed. Photo: Shutterstock

Linseed oil, like flaxseed oil, comes from the seeds of the flax plant.

However, in North America flaxseed oil is used to describe when used for human consumption and is typically used as a dietary supplement.

Linseed oil is used to describe the oil when it has been processed and used as a paint binder or as a wood finish.

This type of oil goes through a refinement process and may contain additives that improve its paint-cleaning properties.

Never drink linseed oil.

There are two types of linseed oil that are commonly sold, raw and boiled.

Raw linseed oil

“Raw” means exactly that… pure oil which has been squeezed from flax seed and packaged without any other ingredients.

This type of oil is known to have a very slow drying time, taking weeks to fully dry.

It is commonly used to protect items where drying time is not a consideration. It is not a product that should be used on indoor furniture because it simply takes too long to dry.

Boiled linseed oil

Boiled Linseed oil is not actually boiled. Instead, it has been processed with solvents to speed up its drying time.

It is called “Boiled” because it mimics the characteristics of some types of boiled oils.

This oil is less than half the price of a commercial preservative. If you are going to coat a half mile of wood fencing, this method is a much cheaper option.

Boiled linseed oil drying time

The secret to drying is to have minimum volume and maximum surface. So apply a light coat and if it is runny wipe off the excess.

More thinner coats are better than thick coats!

Boiled linseed oil should take 24-72 hours to dry. Make sure you leave it to dry in the shade, not the sun.

If it’s still tacky, you can dry it faster with a fan and wait longer.

Linseed oil uses

Linseed oil revitalizes old dried wood and gives it a new life and is a common item in a lot of woodworker’s shops. It’s a great way to polish or finish off your furniture.

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It can also be used for the following:

Linseed oil can be utilized as a wood furniture finish.

Once cured, the oil adds a nice glow and protects the wood from sun and water damage.

How to apply linseed oil

You can easily create your own high-quality wood conditioner by mixing 40% of boiled linseed oil with 60% of mineral turpentine.

First, wipe a couple of coats on the wood and wipe off all the excess oil with a clean cloth.

Let it dry until it is no longer tacky (24-72 hours).

Repeat the process three times for best results. More coats fill in more pores and give it a shinier look.

Remember,  more thinner coats are better than thick coats!

You can also use the oil on the following:

  • Screwdrivers, Chisels, nails
  • Wooden ladders
  • Doors and drawers
  • Household taps
  • Car trimmings, bumper bars
  • Wooden boats, canoes
  • Baseball bats, Hockey Sticks, Archery Equipment
  • Fishing rods
  • Guns
  • Concrete: Boiled linseed oil is an effective and affordable concrete floor sealant that helps to reduce winter damage.
  • Leather: Mix one part white vinegar with two parts linseed oil and shake it well.

Use a cloth to work the oil into the leather in a circular motion using a soft cloth.

Rub it in thoroughly and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then buff with a soft cloth to bring a shine. You may need to buff once more before sitting on the furniture.

Boiled linseed oil for food items

Any finish you put over any wooden item that will be subject to food will be non-toxic when cured.

However, it’s not 100% safe.

In general, experts don’t recommend using a film finish because they generally do not last when being washed frequently.

Because of the chemical dryers, boiled linseed oil should not be used for food-contact items.

Use food grade linseed oil instead!

Food grade linseed is sometimes called Flaxseed oil.

Flaxseed oil can be used as an ingredient in your dishes and even for drinking.

It’s loaded with healthy omega-3s, fatty acids that have been associated with healthier brains and hearts, decreased inflammation, and healthier skin and hair.

Caution – Never use it as cooking oil.

The oil has a very low smoke point which will turn the healthy fat into dangerous chemicals.

Cooking with linseed or flaxseed oils is bad.

Linseed oil paint

Alkali refined linseed oil, also called “ARLO” for short, is the most popular oil medium that artists use.

This oil dries more slowly than its cold pressed counterpart which is particularly useful for artists who paint quickly using wet on wet techniques.

It yellows less and forms an excellent film.

However, many books often state the cold pressed type is better because it is extracted from the linseed without the use of heat, making it higher quality.

Editor’s note  Linseed oil rags should be disposed of properly. Always read the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding proper disposal of rags.

Dampened rags can burn your house down in minutes if it’s not handled properly, so be careful.

Some experts say spread the soaked rags flat on your driveway until they are totally dry. To be even safer, you can fill a metal can with water, put the rags in, and then seal it up tightly.