Teak Oil Not Drying? (What You Need To Know)

It’s happened to all woodworkers at one time or another. You’ve finished your beautifully refinished wood craft, and it is perfect! Except for one thing… that oil finish doesn’t look like it’ll be drying anytime soon.

Have you just thrown hours of work down the drain? Or is there a simple fix? And just why is that teak oil not drying?

There are usually three main reasons why teak oil doesn’t dry;

  1. Not Enough Drying Time: Teak oil can take around 2 to 4 hours to dry, depending on the brand of oil.
  2. Too Much Oil: If you layer on the teak oil too thickly, (and don’t wipe off the excess oil), it will struggle to dry evenly.
    3.The Oil Has Gone Bad: When teak oil is stored properly, it can keep for years. But if it is improperly kept, then it can go bad. And oil that has gone off won’t fully dry or cure.

Nevertheless, sometimes you can do everything right, and still that oil finish stays sticky to the touch. So keep reading to discover what you can do to turn tacky teak into a fantastic finish.

teak oil not drying

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Does Teak Oil Dry Sticky?

No, a dry teak oil finish shouldn’t feel sticky to the touch.

Teak oil isn’t a natural oil. Instead, teak oil is a blended solution. It is created by mixing oils, (typically tung oil or linseed oil), with various additives such as naphtha or petroleum distillate.

Once dry, teak oil will give wood a shiny smooth texture. In other words, a dry teak oil coat should not feel tacky and gummy to the touch.

How Long Does It Take For Teak Oil To Dry?

It takes teak oil 2 to 4 hours to dry. But it can take up to 10 hours for it to cure (depending upon the teak oil brand you are using).

You can get teak oil to dry more quickly by turning up the dry heat. Even something as simply as leaving that furniture piece outside on a sunny day can speed things up.

Drying And Curing (Different Or The Same?)

Drying and Curing mean two different things when it comes to oil finishes (although they can tend to be used interchangeably).

When teak oil dries, we are describing its change from a liquid to a solid film. This occurs when the solvents in the oil evaporate.

However, when teak oil cures, we are describing how the oil changes from a liquid into a hard UV-resistant protective resin. This occurs when a chemical reaction happens in the oil finish.

Generally, the process of oil drying is typically much faster than it takes for it to cure.

Teak oil might be water-resistant, but it is not completely waterproof. Which means that it is going to need an extra top coat to help it along. Learn more in our post: Can You Varnish Over A Teak Oil Finish? (Best Practice Revealed)

Okay, So Then Why Is My Teak Oil Sticky?

There are a lot of different reasons why teak oil struggles to dry; poor application, over-application, room temperature, humidity… the list goes on.

But, as a general rule of thumb, issues with teak oil not drying fall under one of four categories;

  1. Incorrect Application of Teak Oil

There is no secret to applying teak oil. Just a few simple steps are involved;

  • Step 1. Clean The Surface

Wipe down the wood surface to make sure it is free of dust and dirt before you start.

  • Step 2. Brush On The Oil

Apply the oil onto the surface using a clean cotton cloth or a brush. The main key here is to try and avoid applying the oil on too thickly.

  • Step 3. Let It Soak

Give the wooden surface time to soak in that teak oil (around 15 to 30 minutes).

  • Step 4. Wipe It Off

Before applying extra coats, you need to wipe off any excess teak oil. This is an important step to making sure that teak oil can dry evenly later on. Any pooling oil sections left on the surface will take an age to dry. And that is what can cause that tacky unevenness to appear later on.

  1. Excess Teak Oil (How To Wipe Off Teak Oil Correctly)

Wiping off all oil overspill is key to making sure it can dry quickly. However, simply running a cloth over the surface – to quickly mop up the oil – isn’t going to cut it here.

Instead, you will need to put a bit of elbow grease into it and rub that finish in. You do this by moving the cloth in small circles, going over the still-wet finish section by section.

Rubbing the finish into the wood will remove the excess oil, and it will give the wood a strikingly burnished look.

  1. Cold Temperatures / Humid Weather

Teak oil dries faster in warm weather. But low temperatures, (anything below room temperature), and high-humidity weather can slow that drying process down.

  1. Old Teak Oil (Does Teak Oil Go Bad?)

If teak oil hasn’t been properly stored, (i.e. its been exposed to air or water has got into the container), then it will go bad.

Worse still, bad teak oil can lose its ability to resist and prevent mold and mildew.

To properly store teak oil you should keep it in a tightly closed container in a cool dry place.

How Do You Remove Sticky Teak Oil?

If the oil isn’t dry, then wiping down the woodwork with mineral spirits is your best option.

A lint-free clean rag dipped in mineral spirits is all you need to get the job done. You can get mineral spirits from any good hardware store.

Run the rag over the finish until you’ve removed all of the surface oil. The mineral spirits will thin the teak oil out, and the cloth will wipe it away.

Can You Use Mineral Spirits On Wood? Yes, mineral spirits can help restore the look of grubby wood furniture. It can also clean wood furniture safely – even when used on clear varnish or polyurethane finishes.

Final Thoughts

Tacky teak oil isn’t the end of the world, and it is pretty easy to fix when you know how.

If that teak oil finish refuses to dry, then it is likely due to excess oil having been left on between coats. Other factors such as room temperature and weather humidity come into play too.

However, if it has been a few days, and the oil still feels sticky, then you can wipe it off using a clean rag dipped in mineral spirits. Once you’ve removed the teak oil coat, you can start again and reapply it.