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Linseed Oil Wax and Linseed Oil Varnish: The Difference Explained.

Updated: Apr 16

Two traditional linseed oil based finishes with very different characteristics.

Two finishes that are quite popular are the natural Linseed Oil Wax and the Linseed Oil Varnish. For many interior applications, both can be the appropriate product choice.

Both highlight and celebrate wood as a material, as well as offer excellent surface protection.

The decision between which to pick for your project, the wax or the varnish, really comes down to personal preference and the type of finish that is best for the specific application.

There are significant differences between the two, so it is important to review the benefits and limitations in order to pick the best option for your project.

Linseed Oil Wax application on white oak flooring.
Viking Linseed Oil Wax on new interior white oak flooring.

Let us start with the wax:

The natural Viking Linseed Oil Wax has two ingredients: Viking Purified Raw Linseed Oil and apothecary grade beeswax. It is 100% petrochemical free; it is appropriate for cutting boards, butcher-block counter-tops, carved utensils, as well as flooring, trim, furniture, etc.

The wax is a softer finish in comparison to the varnish that creates a lovely matte, moisture-beading finish. It is very forgiving and easy to spot-treat damage or high-wear areas as needed.

It is designed for interior application only.

Application is easy. Simply wipe onto a clean, dry, bare wood surface. Let it soak in and buff off any excess before end of day.

Maintenance involves a gentle cleaning to remove any dirt, rinse/wipe-down to remove any soap residue, and let dry fully. If you have a damaged area and need to scrub more aggressively, some light hand sanding may be helpful once fully dry if the wood grain has raised slightly.

Apply a thin maintenance coat of wax and follow the initial application directions above.

Applying Linseed Oil Varnish onto a exterior porch floor.
Application of a 3rd coat of Le Tonkinois Linseed Oil Varnish on an exterior porch floor.

Now for the Linseed Oil Varnish:

The Le Tonkinois Linseed Oil Varnish is a combination of tung oil, linseed oil, and a drying agent. It is a simple formulation based on very traditional varnish recipes. It is not 100% petrochemical free. Some solvents are required for clean-up in order to break down the tung oil.

The Linseed Oil Varnish is formulated specifically for the marine industry and appropriate for interior and exterior applications.

The Linseed Oil Varnish is a much harder finish and involves multiple coats to build-up the surface protection. It is a more expensive product combination and requires more labor in comparison to the wax.

The Linseed Oil Varnish achieves a high-gloss finish. The Gelomat Additive can be used in the last coat to create a semi-gloss, satin, or matte finish.

Apply even coats across a clean, dry, bare wood surface. Apply at least 3 coats minimum and allow for 24 hrs between coats.

It is possible to gently sand between coats but not necessary for adhesion.

Maintenance is much easier than a conventional poly or petrochemical modern varnish product, which often needs to be fully removed and sanded before proceeding. When Linseed Oil Varnish requires maintenance, gently clean with Linseed Oil Soap, rinse/wipe-down to remove any soap residue, and let dry fully. Apply a maintenance coat or two of varnish onto the old coats of Linseed Oil Varnish to maintain the surface build-up.

Since there is significantly more surface build-up with the varnish, it is more resistant to damage and high traffic. That said, if damage does occur, it can require extra labor to address.

If the damage is superficial, the scratches will disappear when Purified Linseed Oil is rubbed onto the surface. If the damage is more severe, you may need to do some light hand sanding and reapply a coat or two of varnish to maintain protection. The imperfections may be preserved slightly in the finish and remain visible.

On some level, that is just the story of a well used floor and can contribute to the beautiful aging process but an understanding of how a harder finish behaves over time vs. a softer finish is important to keep in mind.

Questions? Reach out via and visit our Wax and Varnish product pages for more information on application suggestions.

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