Wooden kitchenware is safe to use and will last for many years with proper care and maintenance.
- Clean products after each use with hot soapy water and dry well
- Store them in a dry location
- Do not let wooden products soak
- Do not put wooden products in the dishwasher
- Do not use bleach on wooden products
- You can use white vinegar or a paste made from baking soda and water to disinfect wooden products
To preserve wooden kitchenware be sure to oil regularly. An oil finish helps to prevent the wood from cracking or pulling apart at the seams by sealing the wood and maintaining a more consistent moisture content. When the moisture content of wood increases the wood expands, and conversely when the moisture content decreases wood contracts or shrinks. This expansion and contraction from changing moisture content can cause glued joints to fail or the wood to split or crack. The wooden products that are used regularly should be oiled around once per month and can be oiled less frequently if only used occasionally. Use an oil that is food safe and tasteless such as the USP-grade mineral oil or woodbutter. USP-grade mineral oil is a popular choice as it is the least expensive pure food-grade oil you can buy (do not use vegetable or olive oil because it can turn rancid). Apply the oil using the following steps:
- If the surface is rough buff with fine sand paper (220 grit) or a scotch bright pad.
- Ensure your product is clean and thoroughly dry.
- Apply the oil or woodbutter using a clean, soft cloth or paper towel, in an even layer over the wood.
- Allow it to soak into the wood for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the excess with a dry, clean cloth.
Wooden Products are Safe
Wooden products have natural antibiotic properties, and when it comes to cutting boards, can be safer then plastic as proven by several university studies, including one from Dr. Cliver, U.C. Davis. When you cut on a plastic cutting board the knife blade creates grooves on the surface. Bacteria remain in the grooves even after washing with soap and water. The bacteria can then colonize resulting in unsafe contamination of your food. Plastic cutting boards should be disinfected in the dishwasher or a diluted bleach solution.
Cutting on wooden boards however, especially end grain cutting boards, only results in thin scratches. Any bacteria that remain on the surface or in scratches after washing are drawn down into the wood where they cannot colonize and eventually die. This is because bacteria cannot colonize in low moisture environments and the typical moisture content of dried wood is 6-11% depending on the relative humidity of the air. This is why it is important to dry your wooden kitchenware well and store it in a dry location.
Side Note: glass, stainless steel, or sealed stone surfaces do not retain bacteria after being washed. These surfaces however are very hard and will quickly dull the edge of any knives used on them.
As a general rule it is good practice to use different cutting boards for raw meat and cooked products or produce. Having a designated cutting board for raw meat ensures that cooked foods or produce will not be contaminated.
If you are interested in making your own wooden cutting board check out How to Make an End Grain Cutting Board. Happy food preparation!