What oil do you use for your cutting boards?

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Forum topic by Cole Tallerman posted 05-02-2013 05:03 PM 4104 views 3 times favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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Cole Tallerman

392 posts in 2387 days

05-02-2013 05:03 PM

Hey all. So after making a few cutting boards, I found out here that I need to do many more coats of oil than I have been doing and let it sit for a good while. I’ve been doing 2-3 coats but wiping off the excess oil (which I now realize is wrong). My plan is to take a large plastic container like one of those ziplock ones for storing food, fill it up with oil and leave my boards in there for few hours. My question is this. What affordable oil do you use? I have been using this . for the amount of oil I need I think this will come out to be quite expensive. Any suggestions?

Also, will my soaking idea work? Will I need to flip the boards over? Can I cover the container while it is drying?

Any input is appreciated!

14 replies so far

View BinghamtonEd's profile


2298 posts in 2571 days

#1 posted 05-02-2013 05:51 PM

I use a mixture of mineral oil (from the grocery store) and beeswax (for the craft store) warmed up until it all blends. I’ve put some of this blend in small glass jars to go with my boards when I gave them as gifts. I would think that if you soaked the boards in a container like that, they may absorb more than you want, and may be leeching oil for quite some time.

-- - The mightiest oak in the forest is just a little nut that held its ground.

View Kreegan's profile


1452 posts in 2349 days

#2 posted 05-02-2013 05:58 PM

I’ve only made a couple, but I used plain ole mineral oil from Target. I wiped it on till it didn’t seem as though it were absorbing anymore, approximately 3-5 coats I think. Be careful with other kinds of oil as they can go rancid.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2488 days

#3 posted 05-02-2013 06:51 PM

I’m gonna jump in here again as a cutting board USER as well as a cutting board maker. I’ve only made a few and they’re VERY utilitarian.

Oiling: Don’t submerge them in oil. To start off a brand new, never-been-oiled board, put a heavy coat of oil on it an all sides and then let it sit. When the wet shine is gone, do it again. Do this 3 to 5 times or so.

#1: ONLY OIL for at least a year. If you seal it, it won’t take oil. Makes sense, right? (pure mineral oil… the drug store/grocery tore/Target stuff is probably ok. Read the label) Why mineral oil? Because it won’t go rancid. Nut oils and other exotics from nuts or beans or seeds or animals can all go rancid.

After the initial heavy oiling, oil it once a week for 2 months, then twice a month for 2 months, then once a month for 3 or 4 months. Then just as needed.

When is “as needed”?
After you scrub the board or if it starts looking/feeling too dry. You’ll know.

You can WIPE it with a hot sponge. You can use the plastic scrubby side of the sponge too. NEVER soak it in the sink or run water on it. Dry it immediately and let it stand so it gets air on all sides to thoroughly dry.

If you manage to REALLY get it gunked up and stuff dries on or whatever… Put a couple tablespoons of salt on it. Table salt, Kosher salt, doesn’t matter, then add a couple tablespoons of hot water. Hot tap water is fine. The water just makes the salt kind of pasty. You can add a little more water if it’s too clumpy. Now scrub it with the salt. The salt acts as an abrasive AND a disinfectant…although real research shows the wood will disinfect itself within about an hour… wipe off the gritty stuff with a damp sponge or cloth, dry it, let it air dry, and then oil it. I keep a microfiber cloth in the cupboard in a ziploc freezer bag right next to my bottle of mineral oil.

I use a cutting board EVERY DAY. My dad made them whenever we needed a new one (which wasn’t often) so I’ve been around them for 60 years. Wood cutting boards are awesome and I just told you basically everything you need to know to make them last for DECADES (literally) of daily use.

Nobody has ever gotten sick from my cutting board (or my cooking) and I cut raw chicken all the time on wood cutting boards. And raw beef, pork, fish, veggies, fruit….etc.
HOWEVER! I never cut 2 different raw meats on the same board in the same session. So I never cut raw chicken, wipe the board, and then cut beef. I like to do a salt scrub after cutting any kind of raw meat and that means the board has to be wiped and then left standing to dry completely.

That’s why I have several boards! :)

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2488 days

#4 posted 05-02-2013 06:54 PM

oh, and NEVER EVER EVER bleach a board. No liquid bleach, no Comet, no bleach.

Chlorine dissolves organic matter. You’ll REALLY screw up a wood board bleaching it and it’s really not necessary.

View jasoncarpentry's profile


148 posts in 2856 days

#5 posted 05-02-2013 08:10 PM


I’ve heard that white vinegar or Borax can be used to disinfect a board. Your opinion?

-- Jim in Tennessee

View MasterSplinter's profile


3 posts in 2052 days

#6 posted 05-02-2013 08:32 PM

A good quality Tung Oil is meant for food products and children’s toys specifically. You can also use hemp oil or linseed oil. Don’t use that cheap home depot stuff. Here’s a video tutorial and some other good information. This is for the person that really wants a quality butcher block… Hope this helps.

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2488 days

#7 posted 05-02-2013 11:26 PM

Vinegar is a pretty decent cleaning agent, and it will kill some kinds of bacteria, but for the kinds of salmonella that form biofilms (think slimy) it doesn’t touch the bacteria. Vinegar apparently can’t break up the slime. Borax is a good cleaning agent as well, but as a disinfectant, it’s not as good as vinegar.

If you make (or use) wood cutting boards, you should read this.

In a nutshell, it was a study that began as a means to research effective cleaning/disinfecting procedures for cutting boards. Wood, various plastics, and rubber. What they found was that something in the wood killed off bacteria. A used plastic cutting board (with knife cuts) proved to be impossible to clean by mechanical means.

I love tung oil. PURE tung oil. Not the stuff they CALL tung oil that may not have any tung oil in it at all or has been “improved” by adding petroleum distillates in some form, but REAL tung oil.
HOWEVER…. tung oil is a drying oil and will eventually build up a polymerized surface into which oil won’t penetrate well if at all. Wonderful for a counter top. Not so great (in my opinion) for a cutting board that’s meant to be a daily driver.

Some of the LJers are building beautiful cutting boards that I suspect are rarely used for fear of damaging them or are used more as serving boards. That’s fine. I have absolutely no issue with that at all. And in fact once I get my wife’s garden shed built, I may be trying something myself with an idea for a cutting board. If successful, I’m not sure I’ll USE it :) because it will be too pretty.

I will also admit to be a bit opinionated in regard to cutting boards. As a WORKING surface, I don’t need pretty. I need fairly smooth and fairly heavy. My big boards are about 20×24 inches, inch and a half thick and made of hard rock maple. They’re edge grain boards, and I’d really like an end grain board, but they work great and aren’t hard on my knives.

You can put what ever you want on a “pretty” board and I mean absolutely no disrespect for the beautiful boards being made. My comments are mainly geared towards hard working everyday boards.

mineral oil, salt, a good scrub and very little water. That’s really all you need.


View a1Jim's profile


117328 posts in 3779 days

#8 posted 05-02-2013 11:30 PM

Here’s a thread that covers the subject very well.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View srzsrz's profile


37 posts in 2069 days

#9 posted 05-03-2013 04:47 AM

I use mineral oil. The sort sold by drug stores as a laxative.

Unlike tung or linseed oil, it does not polymerize. It merely soaks into the wood. That means you need a lot, and you need to keep applying it over and over for quite a while until it stops soaking in.

But the advantage is that you get a very good surface for cutting. There is no viscous polymerized pseudo-film that can get grubby from mixing with food ingredients.

I’ve heard in the past that one way to get more mineral oil into a board faster is to simply submerge the board in it for a while. I suppose that might work.

I’ve also heard people worry about oil seeping out of the board later. I’ve never had a problem with that. If it does, just wipe it off. Food grade mineral oil is perfectly food safe, that’s why it’s called food safe mineral oil. It is a laxative, but for that you need more than the amount that seeps out of a cutting board.

If you don’t want to go to drugstores to buy family sized bottles of laxative, you can try ordering direct from the manufacturer, STE oil Unlike most industrial manufacturers, they seem happy to sell you anything from 4oz to a boatload (literally a boatload), and they have fixed advertised prices for quantities up to 5 gallons.

View jasoncarpentry's profile


148 posts in 2856 days

#10 posted 05-03-2013 12:50 PM


Thanks for your words of wisdom. The research paper is excellent! And I’ll second what you said about bleach. I worked for Olin Corp. for 7 years and learned (sometimes the hard way) that commercial “bleach” is about 3% sodium hypochlorite, or NaOCl. And it’s classified as an “omnicide,” which means it’ll kill just about anything. Unfortunately, as you pointed out, it can also degrade wood fibers, and even chew up some metals.

I keep a 1:10 Clorox solution in the shop to clean off wood that I pull out of my humid crawl space. This is a 0.3% NaOCl solution, which is plenty strong to clean off the mold, mildew, etc. And I wipe it on (not POUR it on) the wood, and follow up w/ a water wipe. NaOCl is an unstable compound, and will degrade to NaCl, among other things. So if you’re not careful, you can end up not only w/ degraded wood fibers, but also w/ “salty wood” which can cause all kinds of problems when you apply glue, finishes, etc.

That’s probably more info. than you wanted to know, but hey, I guess I’m just a “Chemistry Nerd”!

-- Jim in Tennessee

View robert triplett's profile

robert triplett

1566 posts in 3307 days

#11 posted 05-04-2013 02:50 AM

I use the heated mineral oil and then a third coating of oil and wax. I think it is a good way to waterproof the board, for a short time. It doesn’t last with a lot of use. I have had 2 customers say that mineral oil leaches Vitamin E from the body and they would not use mineral oil. Of course I’m in California! My friend uses mineral oil and a final finish with the Johnson’s cutting board oil. He wipes the board with it again when it is purchased. I did the drying film thing but didn’t like how the wood looked when it was cut on, but that was a face grain board. And that’s my 2-cents!

-- Robert, so much inspiration here, and now time to work!!!

View waho6o9's profile


8523 posts in 2779 days

#12 posted 05-04-2013 03:38 AM

Emmets Good Stuff works well.

View zzzzdoc's profile


550 posts in 3205 days

#13 posted 05-13-2013 08:01 PM

I like a mineral oil / Beeswax finish. Looks good, easy to care for.

-- Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away and you have their shoes.

View pintodeluxe's profile


5798 posts in 3015 days

#14 posted 05-13-2013 09:12 PM

Try Howards Butcher block conditioner, available at Home Depot. It has a yellow color in the bottle. Works great.

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

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