Mineral oil over varnish (Behlen Salad Bowl Finish)?

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Forum topic by gtbuzz posted 05-12-2013 03:29 PM 7314 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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427 posts in 2466 days

05-12-2013 03:29 PM

I just made a cutting board for mother’s day and finished it with Behlen’s Salad Bowl Finish, which I believe is an oil varnish blend. I wanted to part off a little bottle of finish so she could refinish herself once the board is starting to look a little dry, but I’d rather not have her having to deal with trying to apply a varnish, mostly due to the smell and the mess if it gets spilled.

Since the varnish is a reactive finish, can mineral oil be used to freshen it up in lieu of more Salad Bowl Finish?

12 replies so far

View Fred Hargis's profile

Fred Hargis

4999 posts in 2518 days

#1 posted 05-12-2013 04:51 PM

I just looked up the Behlen’s MSDS for the Salad bowl finish and it’s actually mostly tung oil and naptha, along with a couple of other minor solvents. She can probably use mineral oil, but there doesn’t seem to be any varnish in the Behlen’s stuff.

-- Our village hasn't lost it's idiot, he was elected to congress.

View Finisherman's profile


227 posts in 1874 days

#2 posted 05-12-2013 10:11 PM

Since it doesn’t cure like tung oil or varnish, mineral oil won’t do anything to protect the surface and the detergent used to clean the cutting board will quickly remove it. No finish will stand up to repeated washings. Be prepared to renew the salad bowl finish often. Finally, since you’ve already applied thee salad bowl finish, then the pores of the wood are sealed and the mineral oil won’t be able to penetrate the surface at all, or at least, not very much.

View pmayer's profile


1028 posts in 3090 days

#3 posted 05-12-2013 10:33 PM

I have done this as a test and it hasn’t caused any problems, but it only makes it look somewhat better and it doesn’t do a great job hiding the scratches. I also believe that over time this will cause problems with the adhesion of the salad bowl oil given that the mineral oil will get underneath it. I haven’t actually seen this happen, however.

I am not a fan of salad bowl finish on cutting boards. We have tried it a few times and they look pretty beat up after a while, compared to boards finished with a mineral oil/wax blend that look great after a refresh coat.

I have not heard of mineral oil going rancid. With vegetable oils this is a problem, but not mineral oil. This is one of the reasons that mineral oil is the de facto standard base for butcher block oils.

-- PaulMayer,

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2311 days

#4 posted 05-12-2013 11:22 PM

#1 don’t use detergent or soap on a wooden cutting board. #2 To clean a wooden cutting board, simply put a tablespoon (or so) of salt on it (table salt, Kosher salt, doesn’t matter) and just enough hot water to make the salt pasty. Scrub with a plastic scrubby (like one used for pots and pans), NOT a metal or steel wood pad. Salt and hot water. That’s it.

Dry immediately and stand on edge so air can get all around until completely dry.

After cleaning, wipe it with a microfiber cloth with mineral oil. (I keep one in a zip-loc bag in the cupboard).

Once a board is THOROUGHLY oiled, it doesn’t need a LOT of oil to refresh it, UNLESS you use soap or detergent on it. Boards that get cleaned with soap/detergent will eventually crack or warp because you’re driving out all of the oil, sucking up water, drying again and then oiling. Swell, shrink, swell, shrink a lot and to a high degree of movement. Those boards will get trashed.

Wood is like human skin. When it’s dry, it will absorb the first liquid it can when it comes in contact. If that first liquid is water, then that’s what it’ll absorb. Using detergent strips the oil and lets the water in (because you’ve removed the oil). Mineral oil does not go rancid. Vegetable and nut/seed oils can. Tung oil will polymerize before it ever goes rancid so it’s still ok as a choice. (PURE tung oil. Not that abomination they sell in the big box stores that may have no tung oil in it at all).

Safest: Mineral oil
Cleaning: SALT and a tiny bit of hot water. That’s it. No detergents

I rant about this whenever I see these threads and I apologize to those that have heard it before, but I have DECADES of experience with wood cutting boards (I am a passionate cook as well as a wood worker and artist…hehehe). Seriously. So forgive me if I’m a bit passionate about them.

View gtbuzz's profile


427 posts in 2466 days

#5 posted 05-15-2013 02:43 PM

Thanks to everyone for the feedback. Honestly, both sides of the argument seemed to be valid to me, so that’s why I posted. I hadn’t seen the MSDS data, so I had just assumed that what I heard was true, that this is a varnish, but it looks like the finish is just described as “varnish-like”... whatever the hell that means.

Figured the best way to put this to bed was to just coat it with mineral oil and see what happened. Fortunately for me, that seemed to go off without a hitch. I was able to get 2 lighter coats on over 2 days without much problem. The wood definitely didn’t seem as thirsty as other CB’s I’ve made and finished using mineral oil, but that makes sense. The finish now is close to what I would have expected had I just finished with mineral oil (definitely less sheen than the Salad Bowl Finish alone), but it does seem to have just a touch more depth in the wood. I could just be seeing things though.

In the end, I’m not sure if I liked the Salad Bowl finish or not. I definitely think it gave the wood a little more pop than mineral oil alone, but the finish did end up a little uneven in areas. Perhaps I let it sit too long after flooding. Probably more experimentation is required. What a good “excuse” to spend more time in the shop instead of on the honey do list.

View Tennessee's profile


2873 posts in 2539 days

#6 posted 05-15-2013 02:50 PM

Remember, folks why the FDA banned wooden cutting boards out of restaurants years ago…exactly what Charlie said – “Wood is like human skin. when it is dry, it absorbs the first liquid it comes in contact with.”
So if she washed it with detergent, she might leave some in the pores. If she ever cuts a possible bacterial product, like even cheese, it might fester in the wood and transfer to the next food. I know, there are hundreds of stories of successful cutting boards out there. Just not in my house.
I think they look very nice and some are downright beautiful, but neither me nor my wife cut up any kind of food on anything short of polypropolene.

-- Tsunami Guitars and Custom Woodworking, Cleveland, TN

View Charlie's profile


1100 posts in 2311 days

#7 posted 05-15-2013 03:29 PM

Tennessee….. whoa!
Just FYI, in the experiment on how to best clean cutting boards, it was found that plastic cutting boards, once they’ve been used and have minor scratches in them, were impossible to disinfect. Bacteria would linger and grow.
Wood, on the other hand, had no live bacteria after a very short period of time. It was a surprise to the researchers as they expected wood to be impossible to disinfect and plastics to be cleaner.

And the FDA did not ban wood cutting boards. In fact the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food Code states that “hard maple or an equivalently hard, close-grained wood” may be used for cutting boards and other restaurant food equipment.

The danger with ANY cutting board is in cross contamination. NEVER cut raw meat on a board and then use it to cut vegetables for a salad. Never use the same board to cut raw beef after you’ve just used it to cut raw chicken (never mix raw meats on the same board in one session). This is a great reason to have more than 1 cutting board. I do have a corian board. If I just need to cut a small amount of raw meat I might do it on that board and then it can go in the dishwasher because it was free and I won’t get upset if anything happens to it. I don’t like using it because plastics are horrible on knives. My regular boards are hard rock maple. They are large and heavy (like 2 feet square).

Like I said, I have DECADES of experience using and caring for wood cutting boards. If I’m going to cut raw meat, I give the board a light oiling first. Simply to prevent deep penetration of meat juices. (it absorbs the first liquid if dry….remember?). There are plenty of guys here who can BUILD a board better than I can. :) But my experience USING them, and taking care of them, I think gives me the credentials to to be a strong supporter of wood boards. :)

View Dallas's profile


3599 posts in 2512 days

#8 posted 05-15-2013 03:49 PM

+1 Charlie!

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

View ChefHDAN's profile


1067 posts in 2874 days

#9 posted 05-15-2013 05:53 PM

Tennesse – Charlie is correct and there are several NSF approved wooden cutting boards and food contact products that are perfectly fine for use in all kitchen preparations. The local health departments are permitted to interpret the USDA food code in some instances and sometimes a jurisdictional choice is made to tell food operators that they are not to use wooden boards because they are perceived to be un-cleanable. BUT, moisture is one of the principle requirements for bacteria to propagate and the polypropylene boards when deeply scored trap that moisture and incubate the bacteria, this does not occur with wood boards and they are perfectly acceptable to be used.

Below is the board that is always out for prep in my kitchen, it’s too damn big to easily wash in the sink so I only use it for non-protien and then place a poly board ontop for protiens and then run the board in my dishwasher, and when it gets deeply scored I replace it.

-- I've decided 1 mistake is really 2 opportunities to learn.. learn how to fix it... and learn how to not repeat it

View Matt Vredenburg's profile

Matt Vredenburg

189 posts in 3439 days

#10 posted 09-03-2017 06:06 PM

Nice summary guys. Thanks for sharing your insight and experiences regarding cutting board finishes. I have to say it’s confusing but the insight provided above helps in making it less confusing. Thanks!

-- Matt, Arizona

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4205 posts in 2334 days

#11 posted 09-03-2017 06:52 PM

This thread as been active since 5/12/13

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View builtinbkyn's profile


2365 posts in 965 days

#12 posted 09-03-2017 08:11 PM

A good way to clean wood salad bowls and even cutting boards is to wipe them down with coarse salt and some lemon juice. Then rinse with water and dry.

-- Bill, Yo! Brooklyn & Steel City :)

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