The Care and Feeding of Your Wooden Kitchen Tools

Care and Feeding of Your Wooden Kitchen Tools

Long term relationships often get taken for granted. I noticed that my wooden cutting boards and bowls were looking over-worked and sad. They just needed a little TLC. And look how beautiful and happy they are now!

My salad bowl, cutting board and cheese board were dry and thirsty, they needed a drink! Once they were oiled they came back to life and looked young again.

This is an overnight job, so the perfect time to do it is after dinner once the dishes are washed. If you take the time once every 6 weeks or so, all the wood in your kitchen will stay vibrant for years. Doing this will not only make your wooden dishes and utensils look nicer, but it will prolong their life. And isn’t it satisfying to do a job that has immediate, positive results?

The Care and Feeding of Your Wooden Kitchen Tools


Use food-grade Mineral Oil or Butcher Block Oil*. Place a small amount on a paper towel and rub into the wood. Once the wood is shiny gently wipe off any excess. Leave the boards, bowls, and utensils sitting out overnight to fully absorb the oil. In the morning simply buff them with another paper towel or soft rag.

But don’t wooden tools harbor bacteria?

It seems intuitive that a plastic cutting board would be safer and harbor less bacteria than a wooden board. But the research shows differently. Apparently wooden cutting boards that are cared for and oiled regularly are not as bad as you would think. The worst kind of cutting board for trapping and allowing transference of bacteria is an old plastic board because bacteria can live and multiply in the scarred surface.

According to the study, by Dean O. Cliver, PhD. at UC Davis,

We soon found that disease bacteria … were not recoverable from wooden surfaces in a short time after they were applied, unless very large numbers were used. New plastic surfaces allowed the bacteria to persist, but were easily cleaned and disinfected. However, wooden boards that had been used and had many knife cuts acted almost the same as new wood, whereas plastic surfaces that were knife-scarred were impossible to clean and disinfect manually, especially when food residues such as chicken fat were present. Scanning electron micrographs revealed highly significant damage to plastic surfaces from knife cuts

“Manual cleaning” in our experiments has been done with a sponge, hot tapwater, and liquid dishwashing detergent. Mechanical cleaning with a dishwashing machine can be done successfully with plastic surfaces (even if knife-scarred) and wooden boards especially made for this. Wooden boards, but not plastics, that are small enough to fit into a microwave oven can be disinfected rapidly, but care must be used to prevent overheating. Work surfaces that have been cleaned can be disinfected with bleach (sodium hypochlorite) solutions; this disinfection is reliable only if cleaning has been done successfully.

The best solution to ensure no bacterial cross-contamination occurs is to keep all your kitchen tools clean and maintained and be sure to keep your cutting boards for meat and poultry SEPARATE from cutting boards used for fruits and vegetables.

*Food-Grade Mineral Oil or Butcher Block Oil can be found in some grocery stores, definitely at specialty kitchen shops and I even saw it at my local hardware store the other day



  1. Gale | 10th Apr 15

    Good reminder to oil my wood tools.

    • Anna | 10th Apr 15

      We all need that reminder every once in a while. Thanks for following us!

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