The Ultimate Wood Finish? Rubio Monocoat Review & Color Test
Looking for a fantastic wood finish that celebrates the wood and only requires one layer? We discovered Rubio Monocoat and fell in love with it! We also tested out 6 of the Rubio Monocoat colors on 7 different types of wood species because why not! Check out our full color test and review below.
So we’re serial DIYers in this household, and my husband, Tyler, has a love of woodworking as well. With that comes the decision on how to finish the wood so that it’s protected and not left raw. FYI it’s a very long rabbit hole if you consider every type of wood finish from lacquer, polyurethane, stain, paint, wax, or oil.
For most projects, we love to see the natural grain and have a more matte finish to celebrate the wood’s beauty. This led us to Rubio Monocoat’s oil-based hard wax wood finish. (Spoiler alert, we freaking love this wood finish and will probably use it on almost every application now!) Being the nerdy DIYers who love to know our options and are definitely visual people, we had to do a color test.
Read on below for our Rubio Monocoat review and the color tests we did with 7 typical woodworking species and 6 different colored finishes.
What is Rubio Monocoat Finish?
Firstly, you’re probably asking what type of finish is Rubio Monocoat, exactly? Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C is a natural penetrating hardwax oil wood finish that only requires one single layer to protect and finish the wood. The oil is made from linseed, which is a seed from a plant and most of us know it as flax or flaxseed more commonly. It protects wood from heat, water, and wear making it more durable and long-lasting.
Rubio Monocoat’s products are a special oil base with no water or solvents. So it’s a great way to DIY sustainably as it emits 0% Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) when used, unlike other stains and paints. This means no chemical substances are evaporating into the air when used. VOCs can be harmful to people, causing allergic reactions or breathing problems, and harmful to the environment by affecting the ozone and increasing the greenhouse gas effect. Rubio Monocoat accomplishes this through their molecular bonding process, which is fascinating if you’re nerdy like us!
Rubio Monocoat is committed to 0% VOCs and has independent labs review and certify their products. You can view all of Rubio Monocoat’s certifications here.
Design Considerations For Finishing Wood
If you’re finishing or refinishing a piece of furniture or wood floors, then there are a couple of design considerations to think about.
- Are you trying to tone down any orangey-ness in the wood? If so, opt for a color that counteracts or offsets this.
- If refinishing, are you trying to hide any damage you can’t sand out/remove? If so, maybe consider a darker color to help hide it.
- Are you trying to match another furniture piece or flooring in your home? If so, do a few test samples on your chosen wood species and compare them first.
- Also, look at it at different times of the day when the light levels are different.
Okay, now onto the fun color tests of the Rubio Monocoat finishes on different wood species!
Rubio Monocoat Example Finishes On Wood Species
Because every wood takes finishes differently, we wanted to test how each finish looked on some of our favorite wood species. While Rubio Monocoat has 55 colors, we are showing our 6 favorite finishes on 7 wood species along with the unfinished wood in between each finish.
A lighter wood naturally that’s heavy with straight grain and typically a more coarse, uneven texture. If using heartwood, then the color is a light to medium brown. The lighter Rubio Monocoat finishes all look fairly similar. It is known for its durability, rot resistance, and strength.
If you want to keep the more raw wood look, then we’d recommend going with Natural or White 5% for the White Oak.
Red Oak is very similar to White Oak, but with a more reddish tone to it. Similarly, it has a straight grain and coarse and uneven texture. Red Oak used to be very popular for cabinets and other uses but has gradually fallen from favor.
Walnut is a naturally darker hardwood with a medium to dark brown tone, and straight grain, though it can be irregular. This is one of the most common woods used to make high-quality furniture due to its natural color and strength.
Personally, we don’t see why you’d apply the Natural or White 5% that white-washes the Walnut. You likely already paid a premium cost for this dark wood look, so we personally love using the Pure to keep the original tones.
Another lighter wood, Curly Maple is all about the wood grain and can come from various different types of maple. It has a beautiful wavy rippled or “curled” texture that runs in a horizontal pattern perpendicular to the wood grain. These ripples have a distinct iridescence to them that catches the light.
Love the look of pretty much any of the finishes on this Curly Maple. They all bring out the ripple pattern nicely, except the Natural dulls it a bit.
Alder tends to have a light tan to reddish brown tone and can redden with age. It has a fine, uniform texture with a typically straight wood grain. Alder is a softer hardwood and isn’t very decay resistant so it needs to be finished. Alder is typically sold in two different varieties. Knotty or Rustic Alder has a multitude of knots while Clear Alder is free of knots.
In this test, a Clear Red Alder was used for the uniform wood grain. We loved all the darker finishes on the Alder, but this wood actually looks great with the lighter finishes too!
Sapele is naturally a more golden to dark reddish brown with an interlocking grain and finer uniform texture. It’s in the same family as Mahogony, but it is a more sustainable option. Its grain also tends to have an iridescent shimmer to it.
Again, applying the Natural and White 5% really wash out the beautiful tones of the Sapele. Personally, wouldn’t use this finish on a final product, but to each their own if it’s the look they want!
Elm has a light to medium reddish brown tone to it with a coarse, uneven texture and interlocking grain. We’ve found there are a lot more variations in color in each wood board you typically buy with a large color difference between the heartwood and the sapwood.
Many Elm Varieties were wiped out by the Dutch Elm Disease years back, but some varieties of American Elm proved resistant and are considered one of the most sustainable types of lumber available in the US due to their rapid seed production and growth.
This is the wood we used on our live edge floating wood shelves for our kitchen. We loved the Pure finish as it brought out the warmth and richness of the wood and kept it closer to its raw wood look without too much shininess.
Color Test Variations
Fair warning, depending on what screen you’re looking at, the color of the finishes will look slightly different. Some screens are color calibrated and some aren’t.
Also, these images were taken in natural daylight on an early Autumn morning. So the color could look different in your home depending on the color/temperature of your light bulbs and time of day.
What We Learned About The Rubio Monocoat Finishes
As with any product, there are things to know and learn to achieve the best final look. Here are a couple of items we learned that are good to know in advance!
Pure Versus Natural Finish
I’ll be honest, this one confused us at first. Naming colors and finishes is always difficult for companies, and choosing the correct wood finish for a “clear” natural wood look can be challenging. But it’s simply a matter of understanding what the finish is made with and the natural tones of the wood species you’re using.
Neither Rubio Monocoat’s Pure or Natural are technically “clear” as the linseed oil has a naturally occurring color. This is true for any oil-based finishes you would purchase. Yes, even those ones called out as “clear” from a home improvement store like Home Depot or Lowe’s will add some color to the wood if it’s oil-based.
Rubio Monocoat’s Pure is non-pigmented but has the natural rich coloring from the linseed oil. The Natural is pigmented with yellow/white tones to neutralize or offset the richer tones created by the linseed oil. There’s also a White 5% that adds more white tones.
Once you select a wood species, you can pick a color that offsets the enriching/darkening caused by the oil-based finish. Here are a couple of examples:
- With White Oak you might use the Natural or White 5% to keep it lighter without the richer look from the Pure.
- Natural or White 5% for Red Oak would also offset the orange/red tones of the wood.
- With a darker wood like Walnut, the Pure will likely only slightly darken it and keep it close to the raw wood color.
Every wood species has natural variation to it, so it might require some experimentation.
Hand-buffing Vs. Buffing Tool
If you’re going to be doing a lot of large surfaces frequently with this wood finish, then we highly recommend getting an orbital buffing tool.
We used a drill with a buffing pad attachment when we finished our live edge floating wood shelves for our kitchen. It worked, but it wasn’t the easiest solution and you’d need a corded tool for any large surface areas. We’ll likely be getting an orbital buffing tool to help with our endless wood DIY projects.
However, with the shelves, we could have honestly hand-buffed it all with a rag. If you’re doing smaller surface areas, like these sample pieces, then you simply need a rag or cloth to hand buff the oil into the wood.
With finishing floors, you’ll likely be using a heavy electric buffer. These heavy buffers can leave slightly less color. So if you do a sample test, then try to use the same tool you’d use on the floor to buff it. That will more accurately replicate the final color you’ll have on the entire floor.
It’s most important to use whatever buffing method on both samples you do and the final wood piece (furniture, floor, shelf, etc.). That way it’s more representative of the final outcome. Rubio Monocoat has a lot of how-to and tutorial videos on its website to show application methods, but the process is pretty simple.
Just mix the color with the hardener in a 3 to 1 ratio, then spread it on your wood. Trowel it around and then buff it in. The surface should feel dry when you’re done. You don’t want to leave it wet. Then simply wait for it to harden in the next few days. The beauty of a hardwax finish is it is so easy to apply, and it doesn’t matter if you are applying it in a dusty shop or outside.
Clean With Mineral Spirits Before Applying
Lesson learned is to always clean your wood material prior to applying a finish like Rubio Monocoat. It helps ensure all that dust from sanding or planing the material is fully off and there are no tiny particles left behind affecting the final finished look.
Use mineral spirits and a rag to wipe each side or any area getting the applied finish. This helps clean off any of that dust and microscopic particles.
Make sure to read the manufacturer’s label on the mineral spirits on how to properly store/dispose of the used rags. The product we use mentions “spontaneous combustion” as a possibility when drying out, so we always keep the used rags in the middle of the concrete floor to dry out and not close to anything else!
Let the wood pieces wiped with the mineral spirits dry out overnight to ensure it’s fully dry before applying the Rubio Monocoat.
Rubio Monocoat Maintenance
Whether you use the finish on floors or furniture or whatever DIY project you’ve built, proper care and maintenance are important.
Let It Cure Fully
Firstly, make sure you don’t use any liquids or clean it prior to it fully curing. This will vary depending on which product you use. If you use the Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C, then it’ll cure 80% in 2 days and fully cure within 5 days, according to the company. It cures quickly because it contains an accelerant and hardener as well as the oil and color.
However, the Rubio Monocoat sample sizes can take up to 3 weeks to fully cure as the samples only contain what they call “part A”, the oil and color without “part B” which is the accelerant and hardener.
Clean It Properly
Generally, everything inside needs to be dusted or wiped off eventually. A water-dampened cloth or mop can be used to get dirt and grim off. If you need a deeper clean, then using a mild natural soap can help, and Rubio Monocoat has a specific soap concentrate they recommend.
However, they do say to be careful using typical household cleaners on any Rubio Monocoat finishes as the chemical makeup of the cleaners can compromise the finished surface.
Refresh The Surface When Needed
Sometimes wood can dry out and start to look “thirsty” over time. This is because of natural changes to the wood with changes in temperature, light, and moisture. There are a ton of products out there and even some DIY recipes to “revive” the wood. Rubio Monocoat, of course, has a product called Renew that they say can be used to restore the look and wood protection.
If maintained, then there should be no reason to re-sand and reapply like you’d have to do with polyurethane. Not unless you want to change the color, of course!
Rubio Monocoat – Where To Buy
You can buy the Rubio Monocoat finish from several places.
- Directly from the Rubio Monocoat – Their website allows you to get any color and purchase sample sizes. You’ll have to pay shipping costs if the order is under $49. But as most of the products are around that cost, it’s not typically an issue. We’ve mainly used their interior Oil Plus 2C product and love it!
- Buy from Amazon – great fast, shipping, but not every color is available or can be bought in sample/smaller sizes. Amazon does carry a lot of Rubio’s maintenance products though.
- Purchase from a local dealer – Only found in a few cities and not every dealer has every color and size available.
Rubio Monocoat Colors
There are 55 Rubio Monocoat colors and it’s pretty much any color you’d ever imagine putting on would. Here’s a visual guide for all their color samples that makes a visual person like me so happy to see!
How long does Rubio Monocoat last?
According to the company, the finish will last a lifetime with proper maintenance. The first time for maintenance would likely be between 2-5 years.
Rubio Monocoat seems expensive. Why?
At first glance, it does seem a little pricey for such a small amount. However, with other finishes, you apply a lot and sometimes multiple coats. Rubio Monocoat only requires one layer and a fraction of the liquid with their application process. We only used a 1/10th of the 350 ML Oil Plus 2c container when we did our live edge floating shelves. A little goes a long way!
Is The Oil Plus 2C Easy To Apply?
In our opinion, yes! Simply measure the recommended ratios of the oil and the accelerator into cup to mix. Use an applicator tool (plastic blade) to spread the mixture out over the wood. Then either hand-buff or use a buffing tool to rub the oil into the wood surface. Super easy and not really messy!
There are extensive videos and application instructions on their website.
Can I Use the Oil Plus 2C on exterior pieces?
Rubio doesn’t recommend using their Oil Plus 2C on exterior applications as it won’t hold up. They have a product called Hybrid Wood Protector in 22 colors for exterior applications.
More DIY Projects
Hope this Rubio Monocoat review and color test helps you think about design considerations, wood species, and make a choice on your final wood finish. Honestly, all the finishes are gorgeous and it’s hard to decide which to choose sometimes!
Now you’ve seen all these beautiful color tests and finishes, make sure to check out our DIY project archives! We’ve recently used Rubio on our Modern Platform Bed Frame and Headboard with Floating Nightstands builds.
Whether you’re looking to DIY furniture like a hanging daybed or for the perfect balance of DIY and sustainable living with a stacked rain barrel system, we’ve got a ton of resources for you because we’re always working on another DIY project!
What’s your favorite color? Hope this helped you visualize how some of the Rubio Monocoat finishes look on different wood species. Let us know in the comments what you think of the product and colors.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I will earn a commission if you purchase through these links. Please note that I’ve linked to these products purely because I recommend them and they are from companies I trust. There is no additional cost to you.