Written by Terry Smith
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Best decking oil [UK]: Top decking treatment like Liberon, Cuprinol, Ronseal, and Sadolin compared
This article was last updated on April 23rd, 2022 at 5:57 am
Following on from the best decking cleaner and the best decking stain, it occurred to me – not everyone wants a painted look (hence so many opting for my teak oil page). Many are still opting for a more traditional oiled finish. Interestingly its worth knowing that oiling wood is an age old method of protection and the best decking oil is every bit as good as the best decking stain for protection and waterproofing. In fact, if you prefer the natural look of timber as I do, then this is a cracking way of bringing your deck back to life and considerably cheaper too!
Before we get started looking at the best decking oil though, I wanted to share an absolute golden tip for any decking oil worth its weight in gold: You want to make sure your timber is bone dry before applying decking oil and DO A TEST PATCH FIRST. If you’ve read my comments about treatment absorption on my best shed preserver article, you’ll know that timber that’s dried right out, and in directly sunlight that is literally warm will suck up so so much more treatment. I can honestly tell you that I double the times between my maintenance schedule when compared to treating damp wood using this tip – I wouldn’t dream of sealing in damp conditions – you literally trap in the moisture 😀 The other golden tip is that I often use Creocote for decking – it’s an oil based alternative to the old bullet proof creosote – it’s slightly darker but saves a fortune:
Don’t panic, it’s a bit lively looking for the first week or two and then it’ll settle down to the colour you can see above 🙂
You really want the timber to have dried right out for a few days (hopefully absolute scorchers) first. Yes, you will use more oil for this treatment process but it’s realistic to think you won’t need to do this for four or five years following this advice. The best decking oil SHOULD be penetrating timber as deep as possible. Don’t underestimate the importance of this advice – I’ve had literally dozens of thanks emails from the shed preserver article. Decking oil is no different – you’re welcome 🙂
PRO TIP related to decking oil: Another tip, not quite as hot as the last one but still important; mix your oil together if you have multiple containers. I have actually had difference colour from the same brand which wasn’t amusing. Solve the problem by mixing all together. A bit like if you need many tins of paint to ensure the same colour, or not as the case was at my last house and I was left wondering why I had different shades on the exterior – for a long time I thought it was patchy until the annoying but painful truth dawned on me 😀 Anyhow, let’s take a look at the best decking oils:
Our top picks for best decking oil in the UK
Best best decking oil in the UK overall: Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Oil Natural 5L and Liberon DOCL5L Decking Oil.
Large quantity: Decking Oil 25 Litre 25l Clear Softwood Treatment
Best lasting decking oil and treatment: Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil
What you get in this article:
Decking oil is either an oil based, or very surprisingly water based treatment designed with a singular main focus of protecting your decking from organic growth, dirt and grime for as long as possible. From there the focus then switches to aesthetics, or how easily it can be applied.
You must have been surprised to see oil decking is actually water based in some cases! If you look at the Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil you’ll be shocked but it is the case. About ten years ago EU ruling stopped the use of solvents and in that same breadth changed my beloved Cuprinol 5 star, as well as almost all solvent based treatments to water based 🙁 Now I know that is for the good of the environment but how were these products to keep up?
Well with decking it’s simple, having an actual oil based deck oil will absorb deep into the timber, like the old days of painting on linseed oil everywhere. Now the biggest advantage beyond the treatment is the aesthetics, as you’ll see from a few pictures I’ve borrowed and credited, the look you’ll achieve can be quite exceptional so with this guide you’ll be able to find the best decking oil in the UK for you!
Prepare my deck for decking oil with a petrol pressure washer?
So in reality if you’ve already used a decking paint or decking stain (or a paint) then you’re going to need something powerful enough to strip that off. I highly recommend using a petrol pressure washer. My Wilks 750 tears stain off wood leaving it completely exposed. You can use scrubbers and sanders but if you take a look at the couple of really short clips, you’ll see just how fast that tears it up 🙂 After cleaning off the shed I hit the decking!
Give it a goo while to dry – you can’t just rush in. I left my timber to dry for nearly a week as it had been thoroughly soaked and was damp for a fair while in places the sun doesn’t reach much. Obviously if you’re directly exposed to sunlight your timber will be ready to go much faster. I do warn though, don’t get too close or you risk ripping the grain and making it furry!
The pressure washer route takes about an hour on anything up to 10m2 if you keep at it. The result though is wood back to new, like the day it was installed.
What you should know when buying decking oil
After reading this review to find decking oil might actually be made of water you’re probably not surprised to learn there’s a fair few confused people out there asking the same questions. So I’ve picked the most common to try to help people make the most informed decision on their oil.
How much coverage can I expect?
Coverage varies wildly but as a rule the water based decking oils give far more coverage. The highest coverage per m2 is the Osmo Decking Oil Anti-Slip-Clear 2.5 Litre 430D. You can get a staggering 24m2 our of one litre no less. By contrast, the top picks Ronseal Decking Oil and Liberon Decking Oil will give you significantly less, around 6-8m2 per litre. However you have to factor in the price per m2 overall before you start comparing these just on coverage alone. The Omso is vastly more expensive and in my humble opinion no where near as good as the likes of Liberon, a company renowned for making wood oil for over a hundred years!
And remember what we discussed about bone dry timber. This will absorb huge amounts more than timber that has a higher moisture content. So if you’re timber is indeed bone dry throw the manufacturer guide lines out the window and probably halve them! I always but more than I need and can always find a good use for it.
How long does it take to dry?
Touch dry on decking oil ranges from 15 minutes up to 6 hours. This huge range is down to the heat of the timber treated, how much sunlight, and the ambient temperature. On a cloudy day they’ll al take nearly two to three times as long to dry as a sunny one. If you’re looking for the quickest process then you’re going to choose the Liberon Decking Oil or the Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil as these can be recoated as soon as the treatment absorbs allowing for a much quicker job. However, you still need to et these dry over night and a few days beyond for best and most hard wearing results.
What is the best for protection long term?
There are two types of decking oil beyond water based and oil based. Some have a biocide while others don’t. The Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil has the best one to my knowledge and therefore should give the longest results on average but you still need to factor in the potential issues you’ll face with sunlight breaking down and forcing your oil to seep out the timber.
Assuming you’ve read your way through this review, you’ll be in a much better place to pick which oil is best for your decking!
I hope you’ve enjoyed our review of the best decking treatment. We have also highlighted a fair few quality product that’ll help you along the way with your decking maintenance and should leave your decking in tip top condition for years to come. Remember maintenance is always much cheaper than replacement long term!
Here’s my review of the best decking oil treatments
Lets take a look at the features of the top decking treatments available in the UK:
1. Decking Oil 25 Litre 25l Clear Softwood Treatment
Unusually for me when it comes to treatments, preservatives, or paints I will kick off with a Ronseal or Cuprinol product as they are generally the best. And to be fair they are the best, not just a bias, but the Decking Oil 25 Litre 25l Clear Softwood Treatment from RYE OIL LTD is just too cheap to ignore for the reasonable high quality. It doesn’t flake or peel, I haven’t found any blistering issues either. So all good and definitely worth a look
If you’ve ever heard ‘Oil is oil’, that saying is absolute rubbish just so you know, there are plenty of other oils for decking with a lot thinner in viscosity and charging far more per litre! What you can expect from this oil is a lovely shine, a golden shine at that, and no peeling or fading. A genuinely good product and it dries a slightly clean tan colour which is priceless information (how many times have I been disappointed by the colour oil dries in the past?):
So thanks for sharing this S Goddard and here’s another lovely example:
Now I know many like a modern black or slate grey finish for their ultra modern home, but to me this is how decking should look. What a lovely golden shine.
In terms of application you’ll need to do all the usual prep work and cleaning first. The better the prep, the better the finish and that applies to all oils in this review. You can read above for the correct prep for oil decking. I would say you’ll get a solid 80-100m2 out of a 25 litre container. This assumes a couple of decent coats and you’ll want to apply it with a reasonable size brush, I think a 2 and a half inch is about perfect, three gets a bit gloopy, four is miles overkill. A 2 and a half inch brush lets you have a bit of control and lay on this oil neatly. Leet your first coat really soak in. Then lay on another and let that dry. It’ll take time, it’s oil after all but the results are worth it.
- Excellent value for money
- Quality oil with decent viscosity
- Doesn’t flake or peel
- Applies beautifully with a decent two inch plus brush
- Will absorb deep into timber in the right conditions I’ve explained
- Wants a few days to set thoroughly
2. Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Oil
It didn’t take long did it? 😀 Here we are with old trusty Ronseal – the Ultimate Protection Decking Oil. It’s a bit of a presumptuous name, but then, if I was making such a super product then I would also be quite within my rights to show off too! I reviewed this first time about three years ago. Nothing has changed, it’s still the best decking oil on the market. As I mentioned earlier, they are also making the best decking stain and best decking cleaner too. Arguably they are making the best fence paint as well. They are really working had on timber protection in the garden and around the home. The research and development is paying off to the point I sway from Ronseal to Cuprinol being the best, rather than just flat out answering Cuprinol. It’s getting closer everyday!
Here’s the first thing I’d do after buying Ronseal Ultimate Protection Decking Oil – a test patch. Not rocket science is it? Oils always dry up difference and you can never truly trust them until they dry. I’d say this particular oil dries very light. Here’s an example from someone that used it on their decking entirely:
In terms of application you follow that golden rule of bone dry and a very nice day as you want the oil to absorb deep into the timber so forget the rainproof in 90 minutes gimmick – if you think rains a couple of hours away shelve this project. Then give it a good few hours to dry, the manufacturer recommends four, and lay on your second coat. I think at a push you can get two coats of about 20m2 out of a 5 litre tin but all really depends on how much oil you can get in your timber.
When I compare it to the first pick which was value, I definitely prefer the lighter look myself when compared but that certainly is a personal preference thing.
- High quality oil
- Leaves a light golden shine
- Pretty well priced
- Brushes on lovely
- Other oils give far more coverage per pound
3. Liberon DOCL5L Decking Oil
Next up is the age old trusted Liberon DOCL5L Decking Oil. Hard to pick a fault with Liberon decking oil if I’m honest. What you get is quality from Liberon every time. It’s one of the most directly searched decking oils online. And that’s no surprise when you look at the quality of the deep oily finish it leaves. It’s nice and full like the first pick in this article when compared. It’s not a light golden or yellow. I first discovered this product back in 2016, and then shortly reviewed it later in 2018. Nothing has changed in those three years – it’s still easily one of the best decking oils out there. And that’s not the grand sum of Liberon’s history by the way, these guys have been in business making oils for wood for over 100 years! One word comes to mind: assurance.
The best reason to use Liberon other than the super quality is just how easy it is to apply. You can normally do a whole patio in a few hours. The next best bit is you’ll have a golden shine for a whole year and only need to lay on one more coat to get things back up to scratch. If you follow that pattern your decking will look brand new for as long as you can keep up the maintenance. You could potentially go a couple of summers but why bother when this can be laid on in no time at all?
The manufacturer reckons you can get nearly 50m2 out of a single 5l can. I have to say that is at best hopeful. Especially if you’ve really dried out your decking, or it’s the first treatment. At two coats that suggests you can get 25m2 out of one tin. When I used this a while back I did a 14m2 deck area and had a bit left in the bottom of the tin. Applying it was probably the best bit though – because of the ability to re-coat quickly (manufacturer says 15 mins), I left it about an hour between I had that decking all sown up in a morning and was ready for the deck chair the very next day. So when you compare it to Ronseal in terms of getting the job done, Liberon is much more favourable.
One thing you’ll notice is the busier areas will fade first, sorry for pointing out the obvious but it was more in relation to the manufacturer comments with regards to UV filters – you have no worry at all about this product failing through sunlight, the wear and tear is the only issue with oils. Wood has naturally occurring oils which seep out – as will this oil, or any other you choose from the review for that matter.
- Very easy and fast process to apply this decking oil
- Super easy to re-coat
- Excellent value for money
- Top rated product all over the internet for years
- Trusted brand
- Hard to pick fault but you could argue ‘expensive up front’
4. Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil
The Cuprinol 5122415 Uv Guard Decking Oil is just another quality product. You can be absolutely sure of the quality of this oil – absolute top quality, it that old game, whatever Ronseal do, Cuprinol try to do better and vice versa, fighting hard for our custom. And the big winner is us. When you compare al decking oils, if not for the age old quality of Liberon it would again be the game of Ronseal vs Cuprinol and a couple of brands doing their best to offer a mid range product at super value for money (that’s exactly the situation for decking stain and decking paint by the way).
When this product first fell in my hands some years ago I was impressed, but back when I was younger this used to be solvent based and practically bullet proof – you can thank the EU for that change! 😀 It still appears to be the same formula and gives the same beautiful deep shine. The Natural oak clear version in this review gives that slightly dark and rugged shine I love. You get that from Liberon and the first pick when comparing finishes. The Ronseal in this review is much lighter but check the pictures I provide on the links to be sure and always do a test patch, you never know what odd ball your random batch of oil or how your specific timber will react with it.
As usual though, Cuprinol are always trying to steal the edge: the have included anti fungal chemicals in their formula, it contains Benzisothiazolone and as a result theres a much longer list of safety warnings when compared to other decking oils. Personally this is my favourite but it’s not the cheapest – Cuprinol reckon you can get 40m2 but as with all other oils in this review I feel these numbers are stretched. You’ll need longer to apply it as well. It’ll take about six hours to dry bu just like all oils is very dependant on how warm and how much sunlight. You can re-coat as soon as the first layer is absorbed. Don’t get all rushed though. You don’t want this treatment to start pooling or it’ll take an age to set/absorb.
Overall it’s a cracking product and the one I’d like to use the most:
- Sensibly priced for what it is
- Anti fungal so will protect longer term
- Applies easily with a brush or roller
- Lovely sheen
- Many don’t get the recommended coverage from a tin
5. Osmo Decking Oil Anti-Slip-Clear 2.5 Litre 430D
On the surface Osmo Decking Oil Anti-Slip-Clear 2.5 Litre 430D looks expensive, but if I told you it’l give half the coverage as the first pick which is 25 litres you would be surprised. The truth is a little goes a long way with this product. Some get as much as 50m2 with two coats and still remark how well waterproofed their decking is.
When you look at the finish you can’t help but feel this is going to be sub standard, however when you really get into this product you realise it’s the real deal. The anti sip formula really is anti slip, you’ll notice the difference day one when its wet, just how much more effective this is. The clear satin look is lovely too. You’ll definitely want that test patch though to make sure its the finish you’re looking for. Apart from that you can expect a decent bit of protection from dirt and grime too. It’s formula will give a decent wearing finish.
Obviously application of such a thin oil is insanely easy. You’ll shoot around your deck with a pad in practically no time at all.
Given it doesn’t flake or blister it’s definitely earnt it’s place on the review list but you do have to question is it better than good old Liberon or Ronseal when you compare the costs and thickness of finish carefully?
- Looks stunning
- Huge coverage per tin
- So quick to apply
- Some reports of total failure protecting
6. Creosote Creocote Substitute, 20L Drum Postsaver Dark Brown Oil Based Timber
New to the list is the Creosote Creocote Substitute. I am forever using this to treat my sheds – if you check my article on how to clean up a shed, you’ll see exactly the finish you can get and the trade are using them so I think it’s a good shout to bring them into the reviews too!
This is a particularly good value decking oil – no thrills. A nice finish and you can see water beading after 2/3 coats. The manufacturer recommends two but I noticed this seems to dry much much better with a thing coat – so three thinner coats works much better than two stodgy thick ones.
The result is a beautiful deep golden protection. That’s actually not why this made it onto the best decking oil picks though – the real reason is the price – it’s an absolute bargain for deck oil and actually works! If you consider the price of your Cuprinol and Ronseal, this is about a third of the cost so a real steal! Here’s a look at before:
The finish is quoted as matt and I think that’s fair, it’s not one of those really highly glazed looks you can get from decking finishes. The water beads off no problem and a year on it still doesn’t need work – I reckon I’ll get three years out of that even though the sun beams straight at it!
In application terms you can use a garden sprayer – but be warned, put some sheeting down, that method is definitely messy and you want to protect your lungs too ( I didn’t feel great after one whiff and quickly pulled out the mask) – in hindsight, and next time, I’ll probably use a soft broom or brush, it’s strong stuff and obviously that translates into serious protection but be prepared for the smell.
7. Nourish & Protect DOCL005 Clear 5 L Decking Oil
Next on the list is Nourish & Protect DOCL005 Clear 5 L Decking Oil. This is a cracking deck oil clear version that protects and penetrates wood deep. Once you’ve laid on two coats and it’s dry, water will just sit on top and cannot get into your decking at all. That’s no gimmick sales patter, this is a top notch product and you may not be aware but Barrettine are a commercial product manufacturer and supply many of the quality wood preservatives and sealants directly to trade. You name it, they make it, from linseed oil putty to mastic. In general their products are top notch and they have an excellent reputation for sensible pricing and value so you can buy with confidence. The fact this product is rated 4.8 on Amazon makes it the highest voted decking oil overall in the UK!
Being genuinely oil based it’ll really suck into your timber when applied, so don’t rely on much more than 4m2 per lire with two coats. It’s much like the Ronseal when you compare them, you’ll get a solid 20m2 out of a tin but comes with the added benefit of having a fungicide like Cuprinol to repel organic growth – you essentially get the best of Ronseal and Cuprinol rolled into one – and that is exactly why this product is so high rated even with a higher price tag than both these competitors.
The last piece of good news is the different colours – follow this link and you’ll be able to find the colour you’re looking for, be it lighter or darker. However, don’t trust in the picture on the product, still give yourself a chance of maintaining sanity and do a test patch 😀
Drying time is pretty sensible. Touch dry won’t take long at all if your timber was bone dry, but give it 24 hours after the last coat before you walk on it or put anything heavy down. It seems to darken a little for the first few days but brightens up as it fully cures.
- Super quality decking oil
- Doesn’t flake
- Anti fungal preserver
- Long lasting quality finish
- Leaves an excellent finish on timber
8. Decking Oil Clear Matt Finish UV Guard 20 Litre 20L
For the last review I decided to throw in a another wildcard value for money option. The Decking Oil Clear Matt Finish UV Guard from Smith and Allan has some excellent reviews online with regards to the quality of sheen and depth of finish. There’s also been plenty of chatter with regards to being nicely waterproof and the formula is genuinely oil based which is another bonus – to top that they also have a fungicide. It shows all the signs of a quality decking oil, just like the Ronseal option.
You can expect a slightly darker look for the first few days so don’t panic whilst it’s drying – it’ll eventually come up much clearer and shinier.
Seeing as I know cases from a couple of years now using this oil, I’d say it’s not a bad punt if you want a decent oil at very sensible money. In terms of value it is almost like for like when compared to the first pick with the litre cost being the same as well as the amount of coverage. This isn’t a bad shout at all, if you’re willing to take a punt then you’l get a bargain – I guarantee you won’t be buying this container for anywhere near the same price next year once this seller is established on Amazon.
- Great value
- Quality anti fungus properties
- Easy to apply and can be thinned for a garden sprayer
- Oil based
- Relative unknown so a bit of a punt