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submerging cutting board in mineral oil

by Adrian A
posted 11-04-2012 10:33 PM

42 replies so far

View MNgary's profile


236 posts in 1322 days

#1 posted 11-04-2012 11:05 PM

Haven’t dunked them in a bucket, but I frequently put on a very heavy coating then wrap with Saran Wrap overnight—especially when restoring one that hasn’t been maintained.

-- I dream of the world where a duck can cross the road and no one asks why.

View pintodeluxe's profile


3889 posts in 1718 days

#2 posted 11-04-2012 11:45 PM

I use Howards Butcher Block Conditioner because it is so much nicer to work with, and leaves a soft satin finish that doesn’t feel oily. It is a mix of natural waxes and mineral oils, and it is good stuff. It is available at Home Depot.
I don’t think I will ever go back to plain mineral oil.
Good luck.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View pmayer's profile


658 posts in 1970 days

#3 posted 11-05-2012 12:17 AM

A guy that I know soaks them in a large container of a mineral oil based home brew concoction that contains beeswax. It works great. If you just soak it in mineral oil, I would put one coat of butcher block conditioner over the top of it for the wax benefit.

-- PaulMayer,

View waho6o9's profile


5967 posts in 1481 days

#4 posted 11-05-2012 12:34 AM

Emmet’s Good Stuff, and then saturated with mineral oil until
absorption stops. Wait a few days and saturate again with Good
Stuff and mineral oil.

Yeah buddy.

View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#5 posted 11-05-2012 12:35 AM

I tend to make a lot of cutting boards so trying to find a process more efficient.

Howard’s is just to expensive for me to use for the amount of cutting boards I make.

I normally do a mineral oil beeswax mixture as my last coat. Its all the mineral oil soaking that is time consuming.

View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#6 posted 11-05-2012 12:37 AM

Waho I bet that works great but sounds time consuming to so in a production environment

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Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#7 posted 11-18-2012 06:53 PM

No other expert thoughts?

View waho6o9's profile


5967 posts in 1481 days

#8 posted 11-18-2012 07:09 PM

Try a can AdrianA, if it saves you time and seals well, you’re ahead of the curve.

View krisrimes's profile


108 posts in 1439 days

#9 posted 11-18-2012 07:16 PM

I still have yet to make a cutting board, but I was thinking that when I got around to doing one, filling one of those square flat plastic totes with mineral oil and soaking it in that. The only downside I could see is the glue possibly being affected? I’m not sure what effect soaking a glued up piece overnight would have on the glue even if it is waterproof glue.

View Charlie's profile


1095 posts in 1191 days

#10 posted 11-18-2012 07:48 PM

oil isn’t water :) I don’t think I’d submerge a cutting board in anything long term. And as far as wrapping it in Saran wrap…. I guess I’d ask why? I don’t think mineral oil evaporates… does it? I cook. Therefore I actually USE cutting boards. Some pretty big ones. I have 2 hard maple boards now. They got oiled every day for a week. Then every week for 2 months, then every month for a year.After that it’s kinda whenever they need it. The wax/oil mixtures are nice. Gives the board a different feel and easy to apply. But understand that I keep a microfiber cloth that I use for oiling in a quart-sized freezer bag in the cupboard with a small squeeze bottle of mineral oil.

Boards NEED re-oiling. Fairly regularly if you’re cleaning them. I never use soap on my wood boards. They get rinsed in hot water (NOT submerged) while being scrubbed with a plastic scrubby pad and then they are stood on end to dry so that air can circulate all around them.

The wood kills bacteria on its own. A wood board is actually cleaner than a synthetic one. (This was scientifically proven during the course of trying to find out how to disinfect a wood cutting board like you can with synthetics. The DISINFECTED synthetic boards had more bacteria than a wood board that had NOT been disinfected.)
If they get grungy, they get dampened and then scrubbed with kosher salt and a scrubby pad, rinsed with hot water, stood to dry and then re-oiled… sometimes they only need a light oiling. You can tell by looking at them when they need oiling. Usually the centers get lighter than the edges when dry.

The oil is just keeping light liquids and juices from deeply staining the wood. And it keeps the wood from completely drying out and cracking. You use mineral oil (not walnut oil or olive oil or any other food oil) because mineral oil doesn’t go rancid and ALL food oils will. A cutting board made to look pretty and not get used or only RARELY get used, needs almost no maintenance at all. A board meant to be USED will need to be oiled occasionally and cleaned with salt occasionally. That’s the nature of a real wood cutting board. Just ask someone who actually uses them every day or nearly every day.

And my cast iron cookware never sees soap either. Scrubbed with extremely hot water, dried, then put on a burner to heat up and evaporate ALL the water, then oiled while warm, wiped and put away. Makes them some of the best non-stick cookware I own and no chemical coatings to come off on your food or… sorry….I know that’s not a wood cutting board, but the idea is the same. If a piece is meant to be used and to last, it needs to be taken care of correctly :)

Ask a cook! hehehe (who also just happens to do woodworking…)

View a1Jim's profile


113256 posts in 2482 days

#11 posted 11-18-2012 07:54 PM

There are other finishes out there other than mineral oil(not really a finish) Folks always think that poly is not food safe and I know this is not the prevailing thought about poly,but if you think about it the only ingredients in poly that’s harmful is it’s thinner once it dry’s you good to go,.Folks talk about and swear that poly will be cut off when chopping on a cutting board but that really doesn’t wash either because most of the finish is in the grain(if thinned down and you do not apply 10 coats of poly) and if a very very small about ends up in your food,it would not be harmful.

-- Custom furniture

View Charlie's profile


1095 posts in 1191 days

#12 posted 11-18-2012 07:59 PM

I guarantee you will be eating poly if you use it on a cutting board. I mean USE the cutting board. Some of the cutting boards I’ve seen LJers making are absolutely gorgeous and I’d have a hard time using something so good looking. :) SHELLAC would make a better finish on a cutting board than poly. You eat shellac all the time anyways.

No sir. Don’t try to finish a natural wood cutting board with any kind of film finish if the board is actually meant to be used.

Apologies if I sound adamant, but I admit to having a real bias in this regard. So… just my opinion. Nice thing about opinions. We all have ‘em. Hope mine isn’t ruffling feathers as I appear to be trying to jam it down throats as the only valid opinion. :)

View Dallas's profile


3449 posts in 1392 days

#13 posted 11-18-2012 08:02 PM

Here is what I found on a customer edge grain counter top in an RV I did:

The customer wanted a butcher block type edge grain counter top so I agreed to make it for them with the provision that I would use mineral oil as the finish.
The counter top was built in Florence, South Carolina, (about 300’ above sea level… this is important!).
I soaked it in a watering trough over night and let it sit for a day to dry, then repeated.
The day time temps were in the 80-90° range and the overnight temps were @ 75-80°.

I would swear that I probably soaked a half gallon of mineral oil into the wood.

3 weeks after putting his galley together, we got together and took a trip up to Eastern TN, – Western VA and back down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Every morning we wiped up puddles of mineral oil on the counter. I don’t know if it was temp differences, altitude differences or just the natural swelling of the wood in the humidity.

When we got home I dismantled the counter top and soaked it again, this time placing it in one of those vacuum storage bags. I used a shop vac, Crapsman, I think, and left it running overnight.
The next morning I took it out and set it in the sun to dry.
The next day I put a mixture of bee’s wax and mineral oil in the bag and let it sit overnight with a vacuum.

He’s been using it for the last 8 years and has been to West Yellowstone, MT. (Altitude 8600’), and up into Alaska with no problems.
He did go down to Quartzite , Az for an RV convention one year and had a small problem, but nothing like the first problem.

This was just my experience, I wonder if yours would differ much?

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View a1Jim's profile


113256 posts in 2482 days

#14 posted 11-18-2012 08:18 PM

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

3766 posts in 2865 days

#15 posted 11-18-2012 08:35 PM

Experts are folks with a briefcase who are more than 6 miles from home.
I abhore poly for anything other than floors or table tops.
I good coat of mineral oil will do just fine. Soaking is a bit of overkill. A weekly application if the board is used regularly will do just fine.
Oiling is kinda like watering plants. Just enough is just enough.
I’m sure that I’ve probably pi$$ed a bunch of cutting board makers. Oh well…..


View Dallas's profile


3449 posts in 1392 days

#16 posted 11-18-2012 08:39 PM

Didn’t Pi$$ me off Bill! I agree totally.

-- Improvise.... Adapt...... Overcome!

View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#17 posted 11-18-2012 09:01 PM

When I sell a cutting board the last thing I want is for it to crack. Especially when a customer pays over a hundred dollars. They don’t expect to treat it like extreme fine China. If it does crack its on me to replace it which means I could end up losing money after a rebuild.

Because of this I try to soak a board in mineral oil till it won’t soak no more. Then I melt in beeswax for another layer of protection. This should keep the wood stable for at least a month or two. By that time the wood has “settled” and if nothing happens by then the board will most likely last a very long time.

I try to get it to that point. But my process takes a good week long.

View CharlesNeil's profile


1275 posts in 2775 days

#18 posted 11-18-2012 10:47 PM

There is no known CURED finish that is not food safe. There are alot of opinions and Myths, but thats a fact. Mineral oil is NOT a finish, it never dries and offer little to no protection , Take a piece of wood soaked or wiped with mineral oil and wipe it with something as simple as a water base dye and see if it is absorbed or not, then imagine its a meat / poultry by product . The issue and opinion is that a poly or any film finish would be cut into small pieces from use and consumed. That is entirely possible in a film. the key is to use a thin finish and apply it liberaly and let it soak in and then wipe it back , so as to not leave a film. I do it 2x times, and use the dickens out of mine, and no issue, . The opinion here is mine, how ever to use mineral oil is not wrong, it just doesnt do anything, it never dries , but it does make the wood look good because it stays wet, and glossy. My point to this is that no one is wrong, so do as you wish, but if you can find me one single professional finisher who has actually tested all this, who can show me any data or test that show’s where the human body can
redissolve any known Dried /cured finsh, other than shellac, I would love to see it. As a matter of fact if you do some research and find the FDA’s approved list of finishes , it would amaze you. I will stay with my “poly” ( thinned Arm R seal or Water lox )” , you use your mineral oil, lets just be happy in what ever floats our boats .Just please be sure to use a little bleach and antibacterial cleaning products

View a1Jim's profile


113256 posts in 2482 days

#19 posted 11-18-2012 11:03 PM

As far as I can tell this backs up what Charles says

-- Custom furniture

View Charlie's profile


1095 posts in 1191 days

#20 posted 11-18-2012 11:11 PM

read this please

View a1Jim's profile


113256 posts in 2482 days

#21 posted 11-18-2012 11:20 PM

Very interesting I never would have guessed that big of difference,another great case for wood boards.

-- Custom furniture

View CharlesNeil's profile


1275 posts in 2775 days

#22 posted 11-18-2012 11:23 PM

yes Charlie I have read that, as a mater of fact we made 25 for a high end eatery after that was published, I do wonder however which woods they used,

View Charlie's profile


1095 posts in 1191 days

#23 posted 11-19-2012 12:48 AM

I bow to the finishing experts when it comes to finishing. I am but a gnat on the windshield before them. My opinions are expressed from the standpoint of a cutting board USER for a very long time. Not a cutting board maker. I prefer to receive my boards untreated so I know what’s been applied to them. I would flat out refuse a board that had been finished (as opposed to simply being oiled) with any kind of film. OK, if I received one as a gift I’d graciously accept it and use it for a cheese board or something. Just not a real cutting board :)

Maybe a bit of an elitest attitude and if you call me on it I’d probably agree.

This is NOT intended in any way to besmirch the fine boards I’ve seen here. I’m a cook. A chef? Nah…. I’m a cook. I’ve worked with chefs. Some very good ones. Over the course of many many years and in many places. NONE of them will use a plastic board or a glass board, although many have used a rubber cutting mat. This is when they’re using THEIR knives. If they’re using YOUR knives, they’ll use whatever you have. :)

And there’s no argument from me that mineral oil is not a “finish”. It’s merely a treatment. Mixed with beeswax (or butcher’s wax) helps, but it’s still just a treatment. A wood board is an item that requires maintenance and care. Just like a cast iron skillet. Plastic boards are “easy” and don’t require anything other than cleaning and they can be run through a dishwasher.

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 2670 days

#24 posted 11-19-2012 01:23 AM

What Charles said…............ and has said, over and over (and Jim) ........ But, do you guys know what mineral oil is actually meant for, do you?

View MT_Stringer's profile


2397 posts in 2136 days

#25 posted 11-19-2012 03:41 AM

I was watching “How it’s Made” on TV one night and they had a sgment about a company that made cutting boards…from the sawing of the trees to the finished product. At one point after the board had been milled, they showed and said “then the boards are dipped in vegetable oil”. It showed the boards being dipped one at a time and then moving on down the line. Just sayin’. I thought that was different.

-- Handcrafted by Mike Henderson - Channelview, Texas

View Dusty56's profile


11748 posts in 2593 days

#26 posted 11-19-2012 04:14 AM

“Mineral Oil

Mineral Oil is the most traditional finish for a butcher block. Used for years by butchers around the world to keep their blocks in good shape. All of our cutting boards come standard with mineral oil. Countertops, island tops or workbenches can be purchased with this finish as an option. When applied, Mineral Oil seals the pores of the wood blocking the penetration of moisture. This of course extends the life of the Butcher Block. While Mineral Oil is a great finish, it does require maintenance. This is highly dependent on the environment and the amount of use the surface gets. The owner of an oiled block should be sensitive to the color and feel of the block. When the block begins to look dry the block should be re-oiled. We do NOT recommend any oil made of vegetable or animal fats. These types of oils run the risk of going rancid and can be a health issue. Mineral oil remains safe throughout its life.

Pure mineral oil can be purchased at your local drug store.” as quoted from >

-- I'm absolutely positive that I couldn't be more uncertain!

View pierce85's profile


508 posts in 1467 days

#27 posted 11-19-2012 05:02 AM

CharlesNeil – I do wonder however which woods they used

You can find the 1994 published article here:

The woods tested included “ash, basswood, beech, birch, butternut, cherry, hard maple, oak, and American black walnut.” From my quick read, the advantage of using wooden cutting boards over plastic seems to be due to absorption. That is, bacteria on wooden cutting boards were quickly absorbed beneath the surface while bacteria on plastic cutting boards remained on the surface because they had no other place to go. The study concluded (p. 21):

In these preliminary studies, we encountered unexpected difficulty in recovering inoculated bacteria from wood surfaces, regardless of wood species and whether the boards were new or used and untreated or oiled. This may be similar to the findings of Kampelmacher et al. and Ruosch, who contaminated wood surfaces and needed destructive procedures to recover bacteria that had gone beneath the surfaces to which they had been applied. Inoculated bacteria were readily recovered from plastic surfaces, regardless of the polymer and whether the boards were new or used.”

Moral of the story, just don’t cut too deeply into your wooden cutting board. ;)

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Lee Barker

2169 posts in 1755 days

#28 posted 11-19-2012 04:37 PM

Just a small improvement for those who like mineral oil on cutting boards:

Warm it up. NOT in the microwave oven! Double boiler kind of situation. It penetrates better and faster.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View juniorjock's profile


1930 posts in 2670 days

#29 posted 11-19-2012 06:33 PM

Many moons ago, when we were on vacation, as soon as we entered the condo we noticed a foul smell. We looked and finally traced it to a drawer in the kitchen that had a wooden tray for silverware. Someone had obviously used vegetable oil on the tray. During our stay, that tray spent the time out on the porch.

View VillageWood's profile


44 posts in 2225 days

#30 posted 11-19-2012 07:24 PM

Thanks pierce85, I had seen that study before and lost the link. I always mention it to buyers of my cutting boards at craft shows but I would love to be able to offer the link along with the maintenance instructions I provide my clients.

As to the original question, none of my boards go to a show without two prior coats for mineral oil. The ones that don’t sell immediately get re-coated regularly. And as mentioned above, I provide buyers with a set of care and instructions that is a synopsis of what Charlie mentioned.

View killerb's profile


150 posts in 1303 days

#31 posted 11-21-2012 11:23 AM

Interesting stuff. I agree about the thinned wipe on. Never was a fan of laxatives. To each his own on a lot of this . I did enjoy reading the FDA guidelines. Seems to reinforce the thinned wipe on finish. bob

-- Bob

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2968 posts in 773 days

#32 posted 05-19-2013 12:56 PM

Bill White…. Your “expert” remark is an instant classic. I am soooo stealing it.

-- Support woodworking hand models. Buy me a sawstop.

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314 posts in 552 days

#33 posted 12-17-2013 08:03 PM

I just use vegetable oil on my cutting boards that I actually use in my kitchen. Was taught this by a woodworker 30 years ago. Have always done it and always will. Never had one go rancid yet, but as I say this is with the cutting boards I use. I could see vegetable oil going rancid if the cutting board sat around exposed to stuff and was never used.

View knotheadswoodshed's profile


185 posts in 1077 days

#34 posted 12-17-2013 08:15 PM

more years ago than I care to think about, one of my first jobs was with Chicago Cutlery, all of their knife handles
were soaked in mineral oil. another job was with a meat processing company doing sanitation after the meat cutters went home, all the equipment was washed down then spray with mineral oil.
So to answer the OP’s question, I dont see any problem with it.

-- Randy - "I dont make mistakes, I make design change opportunities"

View JBJ's profile


4 posts in 1251 days

#35 posted 04-21-2015 03:03 PM

Well Adrian, wondered what you decided and how you made out? Lots of good information from our LJ members. I am also thinking of soaking a new cutting board using mineral oil overnight on a cookie sheet or shallow tray. I’ve used mineral oil in the past and sometimes the boards seem to dry out prematurely. I warm up the oil and apply over the course of 2 days or so.

View nerdbot's profile


28 posts in 266 days

#36 posted 04-21-2015 10:02 PM

Adrian, check out mtmwood’s channel on youtube. He’s the guy known for making really intricate cutting board designs and he does the “bucket of mineral oil” method. If I recall correctly, he dunks it once for a few minutes (not overnight), then lets it drip dry, and then finishes with a thick wax coating for shipment.

In my limited experience, I found the thinned salad bowl finish the most durable so far. However, I’ve only made about 15 or so end grain cutting boards, in batches of 3-4 at a time, improving the process on each batch. The first boards I made were just under 1.5” thick, and finished with about 6 coats of mineral oil. I kept one of those boards for myself, and the wood was starting to split ever so slightly at the glue joints after a couple months of use. I also found 6 coats of mineral oil was way too much, we were wiping the excess off the boards for days.

The last batch I made this past holiday, the boards were just under 1.75” thick, and I used a combination of the thinned varnish and topped it with mineral oil/wax. The surface seems to be much more durable, the grain was hardly raised at all, and after a couple months of use, none of the glue lines have split. Again, I’m sure some of the improvements are because I got better at making them, but I’m skeptical that’s the only reason.

View Shadowrider's profile


115 posts in 114 days

#37 posted 04-21-2015 11:20 PM

I use pure tung oil cut with turpentine about 50% for the 1st 2-3 coats. Those 1st coats get up to a couple of days to dry before the next one goes on, it just depends on if it looks like it’s dried. I then switch to just the pure tung and keep going until it just doesn’t take anymore. Probably not what one wants to do if they are selling them since it takes so long. I’ve only done it for my own and they bead water very well so I’m thinking they are sealed. A recoat every so often keeps them going nicely.

View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#38 posted 04-22-2015 01:08 AM

JBJ, I didn’t want to spend the expense of making a big bucket. But after watching a few people that do it for a living, they soaked their boards, for about a minute, then let it air dry.

So I layed out a towel and put on a heavy coat. Did about 3 times over 3 hours. Then did a warm beeswax mineral oil paste on top. Which is just awesome. Makes the wood bead up the water.. its very nice.

View Charlie's profile


1095 posts in 1191 days

#39 posted 04-22-2015 01:45 AM

I use pure tung oil cut with turpentine about 50% for the 1st 2-3 coats. Those 1st coats get up to a couple of days to dry before the next one goes on, it just depends on if it looks like it s dried. I then switch to just the pure tung and keep going until it just doesn t take anymore. Probably not what one wants to do if they are selling them since it takes so long. I ve only done it for my own and they bead water very well so I m thinking they are sealed. A recoat every so often keeps them going nicely.

- Shadowrider

You use turpentine on a cutting board???
Very bad mojo…. very bad. Not food safe and yeah I know it evaporates but it’s leaving behind a residue that you definitely don’t want to eat.

Pure tung oil… yes.
Turp…. no.
Get yourself some pure citrus solvent if you’re going to thin the tung oil. It’s made from orange peels and stuff and works just like any other solvent, but it’s safer.

I’ve said it before….. wood cutting boards…. mineral oil only.
No wax. The paraffin can actually HOLD bacteria and bacteria-feeding particles.
Nothing goes on that board that you wouldn’t put in your mouth.
Severely soiled? Clean it with kosher salt and you can use a half a lemon to scrub the salt around.

Mineral oil after cleaning.

After normal use… a plastic scrubby pad and hot water.

The wood will have no bacteria within about half an hour.

I don’t normally butt in with an opinion this strong (especially after being absent for a few months) but I use wood cutting boards almost every single day. Save your fancy finishes for furniture.

Mineral oil…. ONLY….

New board…. wipe mineral oil on heavy about 3 or 4 times in one day. Wipe off excess. When it ain’t shiny, do it again.

After that…. once a day for a week
Twice a week for a month
Once a week for 3 months
Once a month for 6 months

After that… whenever it needs it.

There are a LOT of guys on here that know more about woodworking than me. And a lot that know more about finishes.

But I know cutting boards. Been using wood cutting boards for DECADES.
Because all that plastic or corian or …... not-wood…crap dulls your knives. My knives are worth more than any cutting board. I have a couple of corian boards. We use them as serving boards. A cutting board that gets used as a cutting boards needs to be wood and it needs to be treated properly. I’ve got a hard maple board that’s inch and half or so thick…. maybe 40 years old. About 2×2 ft and heavy as hell. But it looks nearly new.

I’ve rambled enough…. :)

How’r y’all doin’, by the way?

View mrjinx007's profile


2210 posts in 672 days

#40 posted 04-22-2015 01:54 AM

I dip mine in ThompsonsWaterSeal. It works great and you can leave it outside. Just kidding. I use mineral oil, pour it on and used a torch to slowly heat it up for a few minutes at a time. After 5-10 minutes of that, put on the bees wax. Wipe dry and for the next few days wipe out the oil ooze.


View Adrian A's profile

Adrian A

161 posts in 1807 days

#41 posted 04-22-2015 02:00 AM

I agree with most of what you say except for the wax. I guess you dont use chapstick on your lips.. cause that wax.

And by the way.. the so called “Safe” mineral oil is made from CRUDE OIL. Yes Black Gold.

Beeswax is used in many forms of things we eat or swallow. Pills… M&Ms, etc etc etc…

WebMD even says it has some good benefits

I do not believe you should be using a lot of beeswax. for one cutting board it only takes a few paper thin slivers with a quarter cup of mineral oil. We arent talking alot here.

View WoodChuck_SF's profile


7 posts in 137 days

#42 posted 04-22-2015 04:34 PM

I’ve heard lots of good things about Emmets Good Stuff. Not sure I’d want to submerge a piece in oil.

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