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Forum topic by Betsy posted 05-08-2016 10:45 PM 899 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3391 posts in 3866 days

05-08-2016 10:45 PM

Topic tags/keywords: cutting boards vegetable oil mineral oil coconut oil

I’m addicted to the show How It’s Made. I’m watching an episode now from December 2010. There’s one section of the episode that deals with wooden kitchen items. One item is, of course, a wooden cutting board. Must admit the set up they have for gluing and clamping is pretty impressive, but the part that worries me is they soak their boards in vegetable oil.

I understand and believe that using vegetable oil on cutting boards is a no-no as it goes rancid over time. Of course, the rancid oil does not smell overnight – I don’t know how long it actually takes to turn rancid. The pessimist in me says the company uses vegetable oil because it’s cheaper and the likelihood of someone returning a cutting board is minimal so it’s a money maker.

My recommendation to my customers is to use nothing but food grade mineral oil or a combination of mineral oil and bees wax. I know that mineral oil or a combination with bees wax will not go rancid so I feel “safe” recommending it. I admit to just not feeling comfortable suggesting anything but mineral oil. I don’t argue the point with customers if they say “I’ve always used such and such” and had no problems. I usually just say something along the line that I am not comfortable about any oil but mineral but if they have done their research and/or simply feel comfortable with a particular oil – go for it – but that mineral oil is my preferred oil.

The issue of nut oils did come up a couple of months ago at a show when a customer asked me about “refined” coconut oil and if that is okay to use. Watching this HIM episode nudged me to look at this issue. Low and behold there is a refined coconut oil that can be used on boards. Still – I’d stick with recommending mineral oil.

So after all of the above – what do you all tell your customers when they ask what they should use to keep their boards well oiled? And what do you tell them when they throw out the “I’ve always used such and such” argument?

What say you?

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

12 replies so far

View Texcaster's profile


1277 posts in 1643 days

#1 posted 05-08-2016 11:41 PM

I’m guessing any organic oil will eventually be a problem.

I don’t use any kind of oil or boards requiring a glue joint. My boards are sized to fit in the sink and get scrubbed with the dishes. I set aside suitable closed grain timber for cutting boards and give them to friends and neighbors to make up for any noise I make. The only recommendations I make : wet both sides when cleaning and keep one side for fruit and veg, the other for meat, onions and garlic.

-- Mama calls me Texcaster but my real name is Mr. Earl.

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3866 days

#2 posted 05-09-2016 12:47 AM

That’s an interesting approach – no oils. Now I must admit that my father made a board for my mother when they first got married – almost 80 years ago. My brother still uses that board and while it looks every bit it’s age and despite not having a drop of oil applied in my memory – it still works, it’s not warped or cracked. So no oil might be okay for some. But I think I’ll stick with mineral oil.

I’ve taken a gander at your projects Bill – they all look great!

Thanks for your input.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View lew's profile


12019 posts in 3725 days

#3 posted 05-09-2016 01:05 AM

Mineral oil or mineral oil/beeswax.

I recently spoke to culinary instructor who was sold on coconut oil. He said it has great antibacterial properties. It certainly would be “food safe”but I don’t know whether it would go rancid over time. He uses it on his wooden rolling pins.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Blackie_'s profile


4883 posts in 2482 days

#4 posted 05-09-2016 10:59 AM

Never wash a custom bade wooden cutting board with soap-n-water. vinegar is whats best to use when cleaning a cutting board.

-- Randy - If I'm not on LJ's then I'm making Saw Dust. Please feel free to visit my store location at

View bonesbr549's profile


1533 posts in 3037 days

#5 posted 05-09-2016 12:28 PM

I don’t know when I was a kid, I made my first cutting board in shop class. Mom used mazola oil because thats what she had and we did not have the money for something special just for a cutting board. She used that for years and it never went rancid or killed anyone or even made anyone sick.

I think its muchado about nothing personally. I don’t use that anymore as it’s sentimental but again. I think we fret about too much.

Just my opinion.

-- Sooner or later Liberals run out of other people's money.

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3547 days

#6 posted 05-09-2016 01:41 PM

The finishing of cutting boards is always a big topic,here’s what Charles Neil said (the best finishing expert I know)about the subject in another post.

“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 liberally 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, however to use mineral oil is not wrong, it just doesn’t 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 finish, 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 whatever floats our boats .Just please be sure to use a little bleach and antibacterial cleaning products”

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View Betsy's profile


3391 posts in 3866 days

#7 posted 05-10-2016 02:27 AM

All interesting thoughts. I need to look at that FDA list – may change my mind on finishes.

Randy – I’d like to know more of your thoughts about using soap and water on a custom made board.

Thanks for the responses guys.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Lucas Mood's profile

Lucas Mood

19 posts in 1046 days

#8 posted 05-12-2016 01:03 AM

One of the books I have says walnut oil. “It’s safe, won’t go rancid like some vegetable based oils, and, since it’s non-film-forming, it’s easily repaired by simply wiping on another coat.”
This seems to be supported by lee valley –
For the record, I’m with you in suspecting that the use of vegetable oil is likely more of a business decision than a best practice.

View billibobbabootle's profile


2234 posts in 869 days

#9 posted 05-12-2016 01:19 AM

I don’t think companies divulge all of their secrets.
I’m wondering if the product is actually vegetable oil, or some other form/mixture of it.

When I made a cutting board in the 9th grade, are instructor had us wipe down the board (at home) with vegetable oil then put it in the oven for 45 minutes, don’t remember the temp. I guess to cure it, not really sure what that was supposed to do, but I had the board for a long time and it never went rancid.

View MrRon's profile


4722 posts in 3213 days

#10 posted 05-14-2016 09:51 PM

One of the simplest treatments for wood butcher blocks and
cutting boards is the application of melted paraffin wax (the
type used for home canning). The wax is melted in a double boiler
over hot water and liberally brushed on the wood
surface. Excess wax, which has solidified on the surface, can
be melted with an iron to absorb it into the wood, or it may
be scraped off. Refinishing is simple and easy. Other penetrating
finishes (sealers, drying and nondrying oils) may also
be used for butcher blocks and cutting boards. As mentioned
in the subsection on eating utensils, vegetable oils may
become rancid. If a nondrying oil is desired, mineral oil may
be used. Film-forming finishes are not recommended for
butcher blocks or cutting boards.

Courtesy of Forest Products Laboratory. 1999. Wood handbook—Wood as an engineering material. Gen. Tech. Rep. FPL-GTR-113. Madison, WI: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory. 463 p. – See more at:

View a1Jim's profile


117063 posts in 3547 days

#11 posted 05-14-2016 10:02 PM

AS Charles stated in his post,wax ,mineral oil and other oils are more of a treatment rather than a true finish.
I know Degoose a long time member and maker of hundreds of cutting boards says he dips his boards in Grape seed oil.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View rustfever's profile


751 posts in 3280 days

#12 posted 05-15-2016 12:46 AM

Regarding cutting boards….......You might want to read the research completed by the University of California, Davis.
This is an eye opener.

-- Rustfever, Central California

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