Mineral Oil – Commonly Used as a Wood Finish

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A common question that comes up when talking about mineral oil is whether or not it is the same thing as mineral spirits. The answer is “they are related, but they are not the same thing.” Mineral oil and mineral spirits are generally used for two different purposes.

What is Mineral Oil?

There are two types of mineral oil: food-grade and non-food-grade. The difference between the two is related to its purity. When mineral oil is labeled as “food-grade,” it can be found for sale in regular grocery stores, and it is safe for ingestion. Many times, people use mineral oil (in small quantities) as a type of laxative. When mineral oil is considered to be non-food-grade, it means that the oil contains certain ingredients that are harmful to humans if eaten or swallowed. The Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) is the organization that oversees and determines whether mineral oil falls into the “food-grade” or “non-food-grade” category.

In addition to using mineral oil as a type of laxative, many choose to use it as a finish for items made of wood – including wood dishes, bowls, cutting boards, kitchen countertops, dining room tables, and any other type of furniture. The primary reason for a mineral oil wood finish is often is due to the fact that it is “food safe” and not dangerous if ingested.

Mineral oil produces a very natural-looking finish to wood, and it is well-liked because of its non-toxic properties. One of the only negative issue with using mineral oil as a wood finish is that it must be re-applied periodically because it does not provide as strong of a finish as other types of wood coatings.

How to Apply Mineral Oil

The first step to applying mineral oils is to ensure that the surface to which it will be applied is sanded, clean and dry. The oil should then be applied by pouring it onto a clean cloth and wiping it on the wood’s surface. The oil must be given ample time to soak into the wood, and then it should be sanded. After the first coat is complete, at least one more layer should be added. Many people choose to apply several layers until their desired finish color appears.

Is it the Best Finish?

Many people rave about the benefits of using mineral oil as a wood finish. Because of its non-toxic nature, this type of oil can also be used to finish wooden baby cribs, wooden toys that children may put in their mouths, and wooden highchairs that babies may chew. Some of the most obvious characteristics of mineral oil are that it is clear, it does not have an obvious odor, and it produces a natural finish to wood surfaces. However, mineral oil does not necessarily provide a durable and long-lasting finish, and it therefore must be re-applied to surfaces that see a lot of use and/or a lot of moisture.


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