Wood is porous, which means that it absorbs water and other liquids you spill on it. A buildup of liquid in a wood cutting board has a number of consequences.
Wood that expands and contracts to accommodate moisture will warp or crack. Of course, any damp environment has the possibility of growing mold and other bacteria. Therefore, you need to treat the cutting board so that it does not absorb water.
One of the safest ways to treat your cutting board is with a natural oil that can repel liquids. We've been making butcher block cutting boards for a long time, so we know a thing or two about taking care of them. Here's our list of the best oils for your cutting board.
Mineral oil repels water, so it can prevent absorption. However, you need to be aware of what kind you buy as multiple substances can be labeled "mineral oil."
The type you want is food grade mineral oil, it's non-toxic and completely food safe.
For best use, apply a generous amount of mineral oil to your cutting board with a non-static cloth. We've found a quality microfiber cloth is ideal. Thinner materials, like common dish rags and paper towels do a poor job of evenly applying the mineral oil. Plus, paper towels will leave residue behind.
After application, allow the oil to remain on the cutting board for 2-4 hours. Afterward, buff off any excess with a clean cloth. Repeat monthly, or as often as needed when your board becomes dry.
Another tool for maintaining your wood cutting boards is fractionated coconut oil, which is the oil that is left after fat has been removed from regular coconut oil. This is different from the type of oil found in grocery stores. Because fat can become rancid, this type of oil is shelf stable and food safe.
Like mineral oil, coconut oil fills the pores of wood and keeps it moisturized. When wood is properly moisturized, it will not absorb bacteria or crack.
To use coconut oil, spread a teaspoon on the surface of the cutting board and rub it in with your hand in line with the grain. Repeat three or four times, then let the cutting board dry for six hours. Do this monthly or when the board looks dry.
Beeswax is natural, food safe, and great for protecting wood cutting boards.
To treat your cutting board with beeswax, warm it until it is soft and easy to apply. We've found submerging the sealed container of beeswax into warm water does a great job of softening it.
Start by applying an even coat of beeswax across the surface of the cutting board. We recommend using a dense microfiber towel.
When applying the wax, be sure to use consistent pressure and move perpendicular to the wood grain. Perpendicular movement helps ensure the beeswax is worked into the wood.
After applying the beeswax, buff off the excess with a clean cloth. Wait at least 24 hours before using the cutting board so the wax has enough time to set into the wood.
Combining Beeswax With Mineral Oil
One of our favorite ways to protect, replenish, and shine a cutting board is to use mineral oil and beeswax. Start by applying the mineral oil per our previous instructions.
After allowing time for the mineral oil to settle into the wood grain, apply a layer of beeswax per the above directions.
The end result offers a deep shine maintained by two layers of protection. You'll also find your cutting board is easier to clean, with liquids practically rolling off its surface.
Do Not Use Cooking Oils On Your Cutting Board
You should not use any type of cooking oil on your board, such as olive oil, vegetable oil, or regular coconut oil. These oils are chemically different from those listed above. The problem is cooking oils will turn rancid when exposed to air.
There's no better way to ruin a cutting board than to allow rancid oil to settle into the wood grain.
Also keep in mind that excess moisture is bad for wood. Never soak your cutting board or let it sit in water for extended periods. This includes putting it into the dishwasher.
Properly Caring for Your Cutting Board
Keeping your board oiled will maintain it for many years. Although wood cutting boards require more care and effort, they are a functional and beautiful addition to your kitchen. They will keep your knives sharp and also make an attractive serving platter.
The Hardwood Lumber Company manufactures custom wood cutting boards in a variety of styles. We also have the supplies you need to keep your cutting board in optimal condition. Browse our website for the oils you need to keep your board in top shape.