European Hardening Oil vs. Oil-Based Polyurethane Finish

European hardening oils – what’s the difference between these and other types of hardwood floor finish? What are their unique advantages? Should you use one for your next wood flooring project?

We have the answers to these questions and more.

What is European hardening oil?

European hardening oil is also known as natural oil finish.

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A European-style oil finish is primarily composed of cold-pressed vegetable oils and aromatic WOCA European Penetrating Oil Finishhardening oils. This type of oil penetrates the surface of the wood floor and, as it cures, it hardens to form a very protective surface that actually becomes part of the wood.

It is relatively easy to maintain compared to other types of hardwood floor finishes.

European-style hardening oils are different from non-hardening oils in that they contain very high amounts of solid particles – they can be composed of as much as 91% solids. This type of finish is also environmentally friendly and can contribute LEED points to your projects.

How is a hardening oil different from an oil-based polyurethane finish?

There are a few notable differences that set European hardening oils apart from standard oil-based polyurethane hardwood floor finishes:

#1: Easy to maintain and touch up small blemishes

Unlike urethane floors, which require being sanded down in order to repair, hardening oil finishes can be quickly and easily spot repaired.

With a penetrating oil system, there is usually never a refinish. Instead, floors are simply cleaned and
re-oiled. However, the penetrating oil may need more frequent maintenance and care depending on the location of the application.

European hardening oil finishes are easy to touch upWith a European hardening oil finish, you may ultimately need to “refinish” more frequently than you would with a urethane finish. However, spot-treating a floor with a European hardening oil finish is significantly less expensive and labor-intensive than refinishing a floor with a polyurethane surface. Click here to browse our selection of European hardening oil finishes.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that European hardening oils take a longer time to cure than oil-based polyurethane finishes do.

#2: Penetrates the wood

Whereas a polyurethane finish sits on top of the wood, creating a wear layer, European hardening oil penetrates the wood and bonds with it on a molecular level to create a very protective surface that is actually part of the floor.

As it cures, the European oil finish hardens to form a very strong protective surface. This means that a floor finished with this type of product is less susceptible to normal wear-and-tear and minor damage.

Because it penetrates the wood and does not simply form a surface on top, a European hardening oil finish truly allows the wood to breathe.

#3: Accentuates the wood’s natural beautyDistressed hardwood floor

Although a European hardening oil finish bonds with the wood on a molecular level, it does not alter the wood’s appearance.

Rather than covering up the wood or changing its appearance, which a polyurethane finish typically does, European hardening oils actually penetrate the wood and simply enhance its natural beauty.

This makes European hardening oil perfect for achieving a rustic look in your floors. Apply it to a reclaimed hardwood floor and you’ll be sure to wow your clients!

Over time, this type of finish will produce a patina that ages with the wood, so it never acquires the dull, outworn look that can occur with urethane and other surface finishes.

Browse our selection of European hardening oils and learn more

European oil is a great choice when you want your floors to be durable while maintaining their natural beauty!

Click here to read more about penetrating oil finishes for hardwood floors.

Rubio Monocoat and WOCA are two companies that we highly recommend if you are in the market for a European oil finish.


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