Linseed Oil

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Dear NH,
I have put four coats of linseed oil on unfinished oak chairs. They are now gummy. What can I do?
GW from Atlantic Beach, FL

Linseed oil is not meant to be applied in multiple coats. Doing so can cause gumminess since the oil may never completely dry. Linseed oil dries through oxidation, a reaction with air, not solvent evaporation, so thick coats don't set properly. A single coat gives as much protection as you can get, which is why linseed oil is not the first choice for modern furniture refinishing. It also doesn't offer much in the way of abrasion resistance.

You'll need to remove the linseed oil and start over. Try furniture refinisher, a solvent that should strip the oil off with little effort. It's applied with fine steel wool. Use eye protection, solvent-resistant gloves and, of course, read the label instructions. This is a very stinky and flammable product so it should be used outside if possible or with maximum ventilation.

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