How to Protect Cedar Furniture with Oil


Choosing to protect cedar furniture with oil is a personal preference. Not every furniture dealer or maker will advise customers to choose this finishing option. Cedar, like teak, does not necessarily require a finish when used outdoors. Applying a rubbed linseed or tung oil finish to indoor furniture (trunks, chests) is quite common but does not produce a glass-smooth result. Oil finishes are used for the warm sheen they provide but are not very helpful in protecting the wood from water damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Linseed oil
  • Mild detergent
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Sponge
  • Dry, clean cloth rags
  • Steel wool pads
  • Wipe the surface of the furniture with a mild soap and water mixture. Use a very small amount of mild dish detergent, no more than a drop or two, to a gallon of clean water, which removes surface dirt that can interfere with oil finishes. Wipe the soap mixture off with a clean wet sponge or rag.

  • Apply linseed oil with a clean cotton cloth. Pour the oil onto the cloth, and apply it to the furniture with a back and forth motion that moves with the grain.

  • Let the oil stand for about 15 minutes. Refer to the manufacturer's directions for the exact time.

  • Wipe away the excess oil using a clean cotton cloth. Allow the furniture to stand for a few hours. Again check the manufacturer's directions for exact times; product instructions may vary due to additives and drying agents mixed with the oil.

  • Rub down the newly oiled surface using a steel wool pad; rub with the grain. Apply the next coat of oil. Follow the previous procedure of allowing it to penetrate, wiping away excess oil and allowing the oil to dry. Buff the surface with a steel wool pad.

  • Apply a total of three to four coats of oil for best results. Maintain the oil finish by applying a single coat every year or two. Clean the surface of the wood using a mild detergent as mentioned before, and apply the coat of oil.

Tips & Warnings

  • Do not use wax or furniture polish on top of an oil finish. 
  • Do not apply coats of oil too often or the buildup of the oils will harden and sit on top of the wood instead of penetrating the wood.
  • Boiled linseed oil can become gummy and sticky, trapping dirt and grime on the surface of the wood. Use modern products that contain drying agents for a better application experience.

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  • Photo Credit furniture image by Luisafer from
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