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
- What's Cooking in America - Cutting Boards
- Finewoodworking.com - Food-Safe Finishes
- Wikipedia - Tung oil