What is Hardwax Oil?

   | | Finishing | 11 comments

What is Hardwax Oil? I do get asked this quite a lot. It is a relatively new product or concept so it does need explanation. Most people are familiar with Waxes, often associated with furniture, which you rub in to the surface of the wood. Most are also familiar with Oil, such as Danish oil, with which you brush or rag on and the oil soaks in. Neither of these finishes produce a strong hard wearing film on the surface.

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Hardwax Oil is an oil based finish that soaks in, lightly colors the wood and forms a protective film on the surface of the wood. Its for the home owner that wants a more natural wood finish while also having some sort of protective layer on the surface.

My view: It’s a lacquer that smells different, takes longer to dry and isn’t as resilient as lacquer.

Sorry to the Hardwax Oil evangelists, but I don’t think it gives a more natural finish at all. Yes it looks different, but so does shellak, solvent and water-based lacquers. All of which can be bought with matt sheens just like hardwax oil.

With that being said, I do think that hardwax oiled floors can look stunning (as can other finishes). I have had many customers happy with a hardwax oil finish. But here’s my real beef with hardwax oil; it looks great the day after it’s done, but how good does it look after a few weeks or a few months? One of the commonly reported problems with hardwax oils is that in heavy traffic areas (read: door ways), the surface wears very quickly and can become much more heavily matted and scratched in those areas, fairly quickly. Whereas, a polyurethane lacquer will keep its sheen (or low level sheen, matt) for a very long time.

Also, liquid spills can soak in and permanently mark the floor. I see this all the time! Floors that have been hardwax oiled a few years ago have patches all over them, where someone has spilled something and it’s soaked in.

All this doesn’t mean to say you shouldn’t buy or use it. I just want people to know some of the drawbacks.

A lot of customers come to me pre-sold on the idea of hardwax oil. I don’t know who is selling them the idea or where they are getting their info. It seems they just hear the word natural and they just glaze over like nothing else matters. End of rant! 🙂


Comments

    1. Just the same way you would lacquering a lacquered floor. I just really recommend that you try to use oil on an oiled floor and lacquer on pretty much everything else. The reason is that although it can go down well and look fine, even for a long time, it doesn’t bond very well between the two different products.

  1. Thanks for showing me how to do the floors great video guys only thing is how can you tell difference between oil or varnish floor .
    Quality way you make it look so easy well done ….eddie

  2. oil based poly has been my go to for years..minwax duraseal has been my favorite, whats your thought on some of the new waterborne products? ive tried 2 different ones this week and had good luck with both..minwax and varathane..the minwax acted more like oil and actually changed the color a bit, where the varathane didnt seem to, but layed out really nice…Jim

    1. The question is, what do i consider oil. Americans refer to everything not waterbased as oil based. In the UK we call oil based polyurethane “solvent based’ polyurethane.

  3. Hi Ben, question for you. I have had termite damage in a few boards of my oak floor. I have replace them and found to be the oil modified polyurethane that I used on the fixed portions of the floor are not the same sheen as the rest of the floor. If I were to do a buff and coat on the balance of the floor to make it match can I get away with only doing one coat? The was installed 2 years ago.

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