Is Citrus Solvent Natural?

We use Citrus Solvent mixed into Tung oil to make a really great wood sealer. It works great on wood floors.

Citrus solvent is a “natural” substitute for the more toxic turpentine. Citrus solvent dilutes the Tung oil and allows it to seep deeper into the wood. The solvent also acts as a drying agent because it evaporates quickly, thus helping the tung oil to harden faster.

And yes Citrus solvent is derived from the citrus fruit.

However in many ways Citrus Solvent (d-Limonene) is similar in toxicity to turpentine because they are in the same family of chemicals.

This is one of those cases that just because they are natural doesn’t mean they are harmless. Try rubbing a lemon in your eye! Or rub orange all over your hands. You’ll see how it will dry them up in no time.

So even though it can be a nasty skin, eyes and respiratory irritant, once it evaporates, it’s gone.

During the application process, like all products containing mineral spirits – they should be applied with good ventilation until dry.

And as with other wood finishing solvents, avoid direct contact with the skin and don’t use it where the fumes are concentrated. Good ventilation, plastic gloves and maybe a carbon filtered mask with eye protection couldn’t hurt.

Not that we use this stuff. We find that the occasional tung oil application isn’t enough to cause chronic exposure and we apply the citrus solvent/ tung oil mix without any protection. If we get citrus solvent on our skin we wipe it off because it feels uncomfortable (oily and a little hot) but it doesn’t cause any damage to our well worn workers hands.

This isn’t to say some people can’t have severe reactions, but that applies to many things, like peanut butter or shell fish for example and is a rare exception.

The bottom line is that citrus solvent is MUCH healthier than turpentine for example, both in the use and in the production. And besides, it leaves a nice citrus smell! The citrus solvent/tung oil combo is definitely a key material in this New York green contractor’s bag.

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Salvaged Mahogany wood with a tung oil finish

About the author: Gennaro Brooks-Church

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