What natural oil is highly transparent and does not darken the wood? I want it for wooden toys for children. The goal is to protect the wood while keeping the wood grains visible or even make them more contrasting. I use mainly cherry wood or walnut.

So far my best finding is coconut oil. But even that oil darkens the wood considerably. Linseed oil makes it dark and has too yellow-greenish pigment. Tung oil is way too dark and stinks. Rapeseed oil has not a pleasant scent either.

Alternatively, what natural healthy substance you can recommend for that goal - I do not have to stick to oil.

  • 1
    There are no oils that don't darken wood. Wet wood with just water, which of course is completely colourless, and you'll see why. "Alternatively, what natural healthy substance you can recommend for that goal " Why does it have to be natural? Are you worried about toxicity during the finishing process or the safety of the completed item? If the latter, all finishes should be considered safe once cured.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 27, 2019 at 11:49
  • @Graphus I see that water also darkens wood but I do not know why. Yes, I am worried about toxicity. What about wax? Does it also make the wood darken? Commented May 28, 2019 at 11:58
  • "Yes, I am worried about toxicity. " Yes but to you as the person applying it or in the end product? There's really no need to worry about finished items in use, but there's virtually always something toxic in finishes. Even very safe raw materials like wax and shellac (both safe enough to be edible) generally are made suitable for application with something that is toxic. In the case of shellac it's usually an alcohol or denatured alcohol product, with wax it's generally a petroleum distillate or turpentine. While turpentine is a natural byproduct it's as toxic as the synthetic alternative.
    – Graphus
    Commented May 28, 2019 at 18:33
  • @PrzemyslawRemin Wet things (especially porous ones) reflect less light than when they're dry which allows more light to get to the pigments and so forth that make the color...which makes the object look darker. (van.physics.illinois.edu/qa/listing.php?id=21080)
    – gnicko
    Commented Jun 6, 2019 at 20:43
  • So does bee’s wax darken the wood and how dark say on a piece of oak. Commented Jun 2 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


Paste wax is a good alternative to oil and will darken wood a lot less than an oil will.

  • Hi, welcome to SE. Any typical paste wax will be made a paste using petroleum distillates (or possibly worse by the standards of the OP, turpentine) which they obviously don't want to work with because of their sensitivity to odours. That aside, do you think wax is a viable finish for wooden toys given it wears off so easily?
    – Graphus
    Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 6:47
  • @Graphus your taking a lot of liberty interpreting the OP's comment about the unpleasant small of Rapeseed and Tung oil to mean that they have a sensitivity to odors. I've worked with paste wax for many applications, and it can have a much more pleasant aroma, often citrus. The question is about not darkening the wood, which I answered. And yes, it's a great finish for toys. Wooden toys will benefit from natural skin oils if they are handled often enough to wear off the wax. Pure beeswax would be be great on all fronts.
    – Paul Davis
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 15:41
  • "your taking a lot of liberty interpreting the OP's comment... to mean that they have a sensitivity to odors" I don't think it was much of a stretch given the body of the Question (rapeseed has an unpleasant odour?!) and their later clarification. "I've worked with paste wax for many applications" I have too, since the 90s, and every one I've handled has a pronounced solvent odour.
    – Graphus
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 16:40
  • 1
    @Graphus the question is about finishing that do not darken wood. That is the question I am answering. If you think the OP should be clarified to include finishes that will not darken wood and do not have an unpleasant odor, then it would be helpful if you suggested that as an edit to them. FYI it feels unpleasant to engage with you regarding this question, as you are pushing very hard about odor, but not the OP. Please be mindful of how your interactions make the community a welcoming and positive place.
    – Paul Davis
    Commented Jul 1, 2019 at 17:44

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