Caring for wood in the kitchen may seem like a mystery, but it's actually pretty easy. We have wood cutting boards, salad bowls, a few wood plates and utensils, and a butcher block top on the baking center/floating island, and it only takes a little effort to maintain them with a daily wipe down and beeswax paste.
For cleaning, we scrape off all stuck on bits of flour or whatever, then we rub them down with hot soapy water but avoid submerging in water. If wood items soak in water, they tend to crack when drying, so avoid that especially with good cutting boards or plates/bowls. For the same reason you should never put wood items in a dishwasher. To remove odors, I spray on undiluted white vinegar and let the pieces sit overnight without wiping off the vinegar, but you can also use lemon juice.
Our boards and butcher block get a weekly rub down with a homemade beeswax rub, which helps repel water but does not make them waterproof. Cleaning removes this coating, which is why you need to make this a weekly activity. It only takes a few minutes, and it adds a layer of protection as well as luster and a light beeswax aroma.
*Walnut oil, almond oil, and pure tung oil make good food-safe finishes if you prefer to avoid beeswax or mineral oil, but should not be used if you cook for someone who has tree nut allergies. Avoid olive oil or other kinds of vegetable oils that turn rancid quickly.
Beeswax Paste for Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks
- 1 cup pharmaceutical grade mineral oil inexpensive and available at drugstores, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.
- 2 ounces pure beeswax
- Pour the mineral oil into the pan and add the beeswax. Melt over low heat just until the beeswax has completely dissolved, stirring as it melts. Once the mixture is blended, remove from heat. Allow to cool for a couple minutes so it's not too hot for the glass, then pour into the glass jar and allow to finish cooling completely. Add the lid, label it, then store in a cool location.
- Scoop some onto a smooth clean cloth or towel (not terry cloth). Wipe on clean wooden surface, adding more as you go. There will be some excess on the surface, and that's ok. Allow it to rest for about 30 minutes or overnight, then smooth the excess. Reapply weekly to protect wood.
More Make Your Own
- eBeeHoney.com (my source for beeswax)
- Local Harvest - Beeswax
- What's Cooking in America - Cutting Boards
- Finewoodworking.com - Food-Safe Finishes
- Wikipedia - Tung oil
Thank you Andrea! We actually found a product for our cutting boards, but to be able to make your own is wonderful. Thank you for the tip!
Thanks for the wonderful tip Andrea! Will give this a try 🙂
Thanks for the info Andrea, Was really helpful.
Thank you for the recipe. I both enjoyed and appreciate your blog on the subject of how to make your own beeswax mineral blend for cutting boards and wood items. I have a beekeeper right down the road from me and can obtain beeswax easily. I definately will feel more confident that the beeswax mineral blend for my cutting boards will be completely natural and sanitary given the recipe now to make it myself.
Great idea! I usually use mineral oil, but I like the idea of beeswax so much better.
We appreciate your common-sense approach to maintaining cutting boards and salad bowls!
Richard Woodbury says
Can the homemade beeswax paste be used exclusively? You mentioned that it will repel water but not make the board waterproof. Should the board be treated with mineral oil first then the paste/oil mixture?
Hi Richard. Food-safe finishes such as mineral oil or beeswax will not technically make the wood waterproof, just water resistant. If your cutting board or butcher block is brand new untreated wood, you might want to put down a coating of mineral oil first, then maintain with the beeswax paste.
Thanks for the really fast reply. I made my first batch of past and it turned out great! Do you recommended a place to buy the best pure beeswax? Maybe organic?
Hi Richard. I recommend finding local sources of organic beeswax. You can check LocalHarvest.org for that sort of thing. But if you can't find anything local, they have plenty of good mail order sources.
Ramone Bartel says
Look up Zumbeedo out of Arkansas. Nick has an Etsy page as well. Great guy, awesome beeswax and service! Tell him Ramone from Bartelwoodworx sent you. ?
what do you use to smooth the paste? thanks
Hi Paul. I assume you mean to spread the paste on the board. I use a clean cotton cloth, which is usually just old cut up shirts.
What a good idea. Wrote this recipe down. Great site.
Neil Ensign says
Thanks for posting the recipe. I have butcher block counter tops and the beeswax/mineral oil is working. I was using just mineral oil before and felt like I needed to reapply every day.
I've been making this oil for my husband's keyboard business. http://atreus.technomancy.us/ We love it. Thanks for posting it. I put the mineral oil and beeswax directly in the glass jar that I want to store it in and place it in a saucepan with cold water in it. I let the water come to a soft boil and let the oil and beeswax melt directly in the jar.
Thanks Alisha, glad it works for you. Cool keyboards, too. 🙂
Francine Fowler says
Is it ok to store in a plastic or stainless steel jar? Thanks!
Hi Francine. Definitely yes to plastic. I don't use stainless steel jars for storage, so I don't have a definitive answer, although I cannot think of a reason why it wouldn't work. Let me know if you try!
Christene Gutierrez says
Hi. I made the rub with refined coconut oil--I don't use mineral oil for anything-- and beeswax. Didn't measure but since it solidifies at room temp pretty quickly I assume it had quite a bit of beeswax relative to coconut oil. But it is a soft paste, lovely to work with. I used it for my new butcherblock countertops, and for a hand lotion when done! I added cinnamon essential oil also, bc it's fall, which I assume will dissapate but it smells great in here. Thanks for the idea. I returned my rub/paste to the coconut oil jar it came from after my first coating straight out of the pan. I read warmed oil soaks in better, which makes sense.
Just curious how your countertops are holding up using this paste? Also, was that your initial treatment for them? No prior oiling, etc?
Judge Gary J Dean says
I purchased a "Real Butcher Block" from a closed market. The old butcher recommended using parafin wax to not only protect the board, but also to help keep knives sharp.
Buy an old clothes iron at a thrift store to heat the parafin canning wax on the block. Then just"iron" the surface every 2 or 3 weeks or so, and use fresh wax as needed.
Really gives a heavy duty protection for both block and knives. ?
Thank you! I actually used your recipe on an old spinning wheel I repaired for the historic site I manage The oil smells wonderful and my hands a now super soft. Plan to use it on all the wood items/utensils in our c.1820 kitchen also.
Mark W. says
Would recommend placing the cutting board in the oven at a low temperature. No more than 200*F. Only for a short time. This will open the pours in the wood, and allow the beeswax sealer to penetrate deeper. This will have it last much longer.
I've done this with mine for years, and has worked fantastically.
Is it possible to mix tung oil, beeswax and a mild scent for a butcher block conditioner
Hi Ron. Yes, you can make a mixture of those ingredients. The beeswax also has a mild scent that is pleasant.
Make your own wax for wood and cutting boards
Mineral oil USP from a pharmacy 8 oz
Coconut oil 4 oz
Beeswax refined 1/4#
Paraffin wax 1/4#
Cedar wood oil or peppermint 1 oz
Place in hot water bath, stir to dissolve - then let solidify, if too firm, add more coconut or mineral oil or decrease waxes. The peppermint to cedar wood oil and acts as antibacterial and has a nice aroma.
We bought Cinnamon Bark essential oil to add to mineral oil-wax mix, to knock the garlic-onion scent back a little, and have also rubbed in lime or lemon zest after oil-waxing.
We don't put vinegar on our end grain wood chopping boards because acid might break down strength of wood fibers.
To clean, I tilt the board at the sink, wipe quickly with lightly soaped brush, then wipe clean water with damp sponge then rub face and edges immediately with a clean dry absorbent kitchen towel, then tilt against backsplash with air space behind. One of my 14" X 18" boards is 30 years old and both boards still look new.