Is It A Good Idea To Use Old Motor Oil To Preserve Wood?

You can use old motor oil to preserve wood even though it is not the best idea. Instead of creating a protective layer, this product continues soaking into the wood every time it is applied. Wood requires a preservative that can harden to prevent water penetration. 

But, you can apply used motor oil on outdoor wood where oil drippings and toxins are not an issue. 

How Does Used Motor Oil Protect Wood?

Used motor oil is only applicable for outdoor wood. It is because once applied, oil seeps deeper into the wood. The continuous application makes the wood to be oversaturated, leading to leakage. When you use it indoors, it creates an unnecessary mess. This oil also contains some toxic ingredients which do not dry off quickly. It is a good option for protecting outdoor wood despite being annoyingly messy.

 Used motor oil has been popular for preserving wood and outdoor wooden furniture since the 1900s. But, the substance has limited use, especially in environmental conditions. When used in hot and dry areas, it could cause a fire outbreak since both the oil and wood are highly flammable.

What Can You Use To Protect Wood Other Than Used Motor Oil?

Oil finishes are the best wood protectors that are most commonly used for kitchen utensils and furniture. The oil used must be eco-friendly, unlike used motor oil. It should also be non-toxic and food safe since there are children and pets in most households. Using toxic oil for wood protection would be hazardous to them. Some of the most common non-toxic and eco-friendly oils used for wood preservation include;

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is derived from petroleum that is food-friendly and non-toxic. It is used to describe most clear oils. Some people use it to protect wooden kitchenware such as chopping boards, wooden bowls, and other wooden utensils. Mineral oil is also present in baby oil and other products as the main ingredient, safe to use. Studies and tests carried out have proven that mineral oil is safe for skincare use. It is the best choice for use, especially on frequently used kitchen items.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is a wood finish oil derived from plants. Just like mineral oil, it is clear with a quick-drying property. It also penetrates deeply into the wood compared to other oils hence offering maximum wood protection. This oil is derived from Tung seeds which were first discovered in East Asia and have since become a staple finishing ingredient for most artisans. Tung oil is food safe, eco-friendly, and non-toxic hence suitable for use on indoor wooden furniture.

The main problem with Tung oil is that it is difficult to find. For this reason, sellers and craftsmen combine it with water, and the end-product does not work as well as the original oil. Marketers also tend to mislabel other products that are nothing close to it. Most people prefer using Tung oil as it does not yellow the wooden furniture or varnish-like other products such as linseed oil.

Danish Oil

Danish is a wood-protecting oil commonly used by craftsmen. Danish oil is ambiguously used to refer to different oily wood finishing oils. It comprises different oils such as Tung oil, linseed oil, and other ingredients like drying agents, thickeners, and thinners. Danish oil is a term craftsman used to generalize oil-based wood protectors and finishes.

Linseed Oil

Linseed is also commonly known as flaxseed oil. Linseed is a hand-rubbed type of protective wood oil and works by saturating deep into the wood grains offering protection from water and scratches. This product is eco-friendly as it is derived from flaxseed plants and processed in many ways as it can be used while raw, boiled or when polymerized. The purest form of linseed is when raw. When in this form, it is impossible to use it for wooden furniture protection as it takes very long to dry to the extent of weeks and months. 

When boiled, it produces some hazardous compounds hence cannot be used for indoor furniture.  Linseed oil is great when is polymerized since it becomes non-toxic and food-friendly with fast-drying components.

There is no better or bad wood oil as they all serve the same purpose of protecting and preserving wooden surfaces. The only difference is that some have specific roles and uses. The table below shows a summary of the best wood oil available and its effect on wood. 

Boiled linseed oil

Danish oil

Tung oil
Ease of useeasyEasyeasy
Food safeYesYesYes
Drying time24 hours4-6 hours24 hours
Change of wood colorDarkenSlight darkeningDarken
Use on outdoor furnitureNoNoYes
Use on indoor furnitureYesYesYes
Water protection rating2star3-star rating2-star rating

How Can You Waterproof Wood?

There are three main methods used to preserve wood for the long term by making it waterproof. One thing you should consider when deciding on the method to use is whether the wooden piece is located indoors or outdoors. The type of grain wood, whether light or dark, should also be used when deciding on this. These methods include;

Using Stain-Sealant Combos

Combos are especially great for large projects. It involves combining different stain sealants to achieve the desired color pigment and wood protection. Most of them come with binders such as water, oil, or alkyd bases. Using these combos is a short-term waterproofing option that requires reapplication at least once per year. They are also best used on interior furniture since they peel out when used on outdoor wooden surfaces, especially if they were not given ample time to dry off. 

Applying Sealants

 Some of these sealants include lacquer, urethane, and vanish. They come with the perfect waterproofing ability to protect your wooden furniture. Before applying them, you should ensure the wooden surfaces are cleaned and sanded. Give it time to cool and dry off and if the desired look and feel is not achieved, resand and recoat the wooden surface using your sealant. 

You can either brush or spray the surface, provided you do not shake the sealant before application. Shaking it causes the formation of air bubbles which may never disappear even after the sealant.  Bubbles can infiltrate water which could cause the wooden furniture piece to rot. 

Use Of Warm Hand-Rubbed Oil For Wood Finishing

The most common hand-rubbed oil finishes are Tung oil from Tung seeds and linseed oil. These two substances are used as the main ingredients for other oil finishes. They help enhance the look of wooden furniture while still playing a major role in protecting them from heat and moisture. Sometimes they are blended with other ingredients to enhance their drying time and eliminate their sticky nature. Tung oil and linseed oil are available in the market as pure products, and upon purchase, you can mix and customize them. 

Can You Use Old Engine Oil To Preserve Outdoor Wood?

You can use old engine oil to preserve outdoor wood, including wooden fences. It serves as both stain sealant and wood preservative. Using engine oil as a wood preservative option began way back in the 1900s where farmers would reuse it from other equipment. They used to apply the oil on their barns to stop boring bees and termites from causing damage. They then realized that wood with engine oil lasted longer compared to that without any oil. 

Like any other thing, using engine oil to preserve wood comes with its pros and cons. For instance, the first disadvantage is that it produces an unpleasant smell. It would be better if the smell disappeared after some time, but the foul odor can last forever.

Engine oil has a lot of toxins. Spilled oil does not cure or dry. Hence, it leaves your wood oily for a very long time. When used on fences, oil drips on the ground when it rains, causing bare patches on the contaminated ground.

Engine oil is highly explosive, especially when used in hot and dry environments. For this reason, your wooden pieces protected with engine oil can easily catch fire since they never dry out. Also, exposure to heat causes the oil to release harmful toxins that are not eco-friendly.

The only advantage of using old engine oil to protect outdoor wooden surfaces is that it is the cheaper option. It also gives you a chance to use old engine oil that is difficult to dispose of by finding an alternative.


You can use old motor oil for wood protection despite it not being the best option. It does not dry out from the wood entirely, meaning it could remain soaked in the oil forever. You also cannot use it for indoor purposes as it could spill on the floor, especially when the wooden piece saturates in oil, creating a mess in the house. Motor oil has toxins making it hazardous to the environment and also for your health.

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