There’s just something about wood cutting boards and spoons that conjures up feelings of rustic tradition and simple living, isn’t there?
Properly cared for, wooden kitchen tools can last many years — long enough even to pass down to your children and grandchildren as family heirlooms.
Yet many people mention using mineral oil and beeswax for this task…
Is this the best or safest choice?
“What is the best way to maintain wood cutting boards and utensils?” Robin S. asks.
Robin wants to keep her wood utensils in beautiful condition — without her food coming into contact with harmful chemicals and by-products.
And I bet you do, too!
So, I’m going to show you how to care for them on today’s #AskWardee. It’s easy and healthy.
The Question: How To Care For Wood Cutting Boards
Robin S. asks:
What is the best way to maintain wooden cutting boards and utensils? I want something that doesn’t go rancid, and I’ve read about a mineral oil and beeswax combination, but I’m not familiar with mineral oil. What does the term ‘mineral’ mean? What exactly is it? Is it non-toxic? Is it truly food-safe? Are there organic and conventional varieties? I like to know all the details about something before I use it, but I feel like I’m in over my head. What do you use to maintain your wooden cutting boards and utensils? Thanks so much!
First, let’s talk about safety. Since it often comes up: is wood a safe, sterile choice?
Actually, yes. In fact, a study at U.C. Davis suggests:
…[F]ood can be prepared safely on wooden cutting surfaces and that plastic cutting surfaces present some disadvantages…
The whole study is fascinating! I found it notable that they discovered disease bacteria were not recovered from new wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist (though could be easily cleaned). The big difference came in when comparing old wood and old plastic. The old wood acted like new wood, while old plastic surfaces that were knife-scared were impossible to clean and disinfect manually.
Thus… wood can provide a safe surface to prepare food, whether it’s new or old!
What is the best way to maintain wood cutting boards, though — and how often?
How To Clean Wood Cutting Boards & Utensils
With proper care, wood cutting boards and utensils can last many, many years — while plastics get worn out and must be tossed. So it’s not just beauty that reigns here — wood is more frugal and functional as well. 🙂
To clean after most uses, scrub with hot water and soap, then air dry or towel dry.
If preparing raw meat, however, clean afterward by dousing with hydrogen peroxide to prevent bacterial contamination. Then rinse and air or towel dry. I do not like to leave my cutting boards air-drying sitting on a wet towel — the point of contact with the towel is a place where the wood blackens.
If you used the cutting board for quick jobs with clean foods (such as veggies), a simple rinse with water is all that’s needed. I skip the soap at times like these because I don’t think it’s necessary and to use soap would strip the oil seasoning more quickly.
Never soak a wood cutting board or utensil in water; most will warp and crack. (Dunking is not the same as soaking — it’s not prolonged.)
How To Care For Wood Cutting Boards & Utensils
To prevent cracking or dryness, many people rub a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax on their boards and utensils periodically.
Robin asked what mineral oil is. It’s is a byproduct of the petroleum refining industry. Ick! I don’t want that on our food.
Instead, I use a common kitchen oil that doesn’t go rancid and is 100% edible — coconut oil.
You can melt a little beeswax in it to firm it up and create a salve consistency, but I don’t think it’s necessary. I just use straight coconut oil.
The method is:
- Wash and dry the wood cutting board (or utensil).
- Rub it all over with the coconut oil. Use your hands, fingers, or a cloth.
- Leave it out overnight so the oil can soak in.
- Remove any excess with a cloth.
How Often To Oil Wood Cutting Boards & Utensils
How often you should rub down your boards and utensils depends on usage. If your kitchen is busy and your wood board and utensils are often being washed (which strips the oil), then oil them more frequently.
You’ll know to do it because the wood may start warping or cracking or looking dried out.
A good rule of thumb is once a month or so (and more frequently if needed). Simply do it one evening after dinner. By the next morning, they’ll be ready for another month’s use.
Do it with all your wood or bamboo cutting boards or utensils.
It’s actually quite a fun, relaxing job. While oiling your cutting boards and utensils, you visit with family or listen to a podcast like #AskWardee!
Oil Anything Else That’s Wood, Too!
I have other wooden “utensils” in my kitchen that get this treatment, too — rolling pins, Sweet Mary’s butter mold, cheese press, prepper pro (a kraut pounder) and my olive wood mortar and pestle, to name a few. Since I use these less often than the boards and utensils, I don’t oil them as often. But when I do… I follow the same steps and it works wonderfully to keep them smooth and supple.
- Wilderness Family Naturals Coconut Oil
- Free Traditional Cooking Video Series
- Sweet Mary’s butter mold
- Prepper Pro Kraut Pounder
- Cheese Press from Homesteader’s Supply
- Olive Wood Mortar and Pestle
- Mineral oil is a by-product of the petroleum industry
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I share tips and resources, plus answer your questions about Traditional Cooking!
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How do you care for and maintain your wood cutting boards and utensils?
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