To seal a wooden cutting board, that is, to close its natural pores, you need food-grade mineral oil. There are also other options for sealing wooden cutting boards like linseed oil and beeswax.
Mineral oil is the most effective and easiest to apply. Wooden cutting boards look stunning and have plenty of benefits to offer; however, they can harbor bacteria if not cared for properly.
With adequate care, including monthly oiling, your wooden cutting board will last for years. Otherwise, it can develop cracks and splits and will begin absorbing unpleasant smells and liquids.
Keep reading to learn more about sealing wooden cutting boards and why it’s an essential part of wooden board maintenance.
How Do You Seal a Wooden Cutting Board?
Wooden boards have natural pores. And, if they’re not sealed with oil on a regular basis, the dryness and cracks can increase. This can harbor bacteria and make the board unseemly and unhygienic.
A wooden board that’s not properly maintained will begin to absorb stains, develop splits and cracks, and lose its natural shine.
By caring for wooden boards the right way, you prolong their lifespan and maximize their use. Sealing with food-safe oil is recommendable at least once per month.
There are several options you can choose from; mineral oil and beeswax are some of the most commonly used.
Here’s how to oil the board:
- Apply several drops onto the board, enough to cover it equally. Rub it into the board using a clean cloth or paper towel. Rub into the grain direction.
- Remove any surplus oil and then leave the board to dry out.
- Oil it a second time and repeat until necessary (usually when the wood stops absorbing oil).
- Wipe away surplus oil with a cloth or a paper towel.
- Repeat the same procedure on the other side.
- Leave the board overnight to dry by putting it to stand on one end. In the morning, wipe off the board to remove any surplus oil.
If you chose a mineral oil for the sealing of your wooden boards, make sure you always pick a food-safe option. Resealing may need to be repeated once a month or biweekly if you use the board regularly and wash it with soap. This is because soap tends to dissolve the oil sealing.
Avoid using vegetable oils like olive oil for the sealing. These oils are prone to rancidification and result in the board releasing unpleasant smells.
Why Do Wooden Boards Need Sealing?
Wooden boards need sealing to prevent the board from drying and cracking. If you have wooden cutting boards, sealing every few months or monthly, depending on how often you use it, is highly recommendable.
You’ll know when the board needs oiling when it becomes lighter as the sealant is fading away.
After the application of the chosen oil, leave it for 15 to 30 minutes. Anything that the board hasn’t absorbed, should be wiped away with a clean cloth or a paper towel.
In addition to sealing your wooden boards, a regular cleaning with soap and warm water and sanitization are pivotal.
Clean your boards after every use. Sanitize the board periodically, especially after prepping raw meat.
Sanitization can be easily done using ingredients you probably already have at home. Mix four parts of water and one part of white vinegar. Spray the entire board with the mixture and leave it for five minutes before you wipe the board clean.
Which Are the Best Options to Seal Wooden Cutting Boards?
Wooden cutting boards, but also other wooden kitchen utensils, need sealing. This is to avert cracking and drying caused by regular use.
When choosing a sealing finish, take into account that there are two types, that is, drying and non-drying. The former requires one application to soak into the wood’s fibers; the latter doesn’t dry into the fibers and needs to be reapplied more frequently.
Here are some of the most popular ways to seal wooden cutting boards with non-drying options:
- Food-safe mineral oil
An inexpensive and popular method, this oil is easy to apply on wooden surfaces.
It’s also resistant to water and will prevent any juices from fruits, veggies, and meat to enter the wood’s pores.
Being non-drying oil, it’s odorless and won’t leave behind unpleasant smells. However, as it’s a non-drying type, you’ll need to apply it more often.
- Beeswax and non-drying oil
If you want an attractive finish for your wooden cutting boards, beeswax and non-drying oil, like the mineral one, make an excellent mixture that will soak deep into the wood’s fibers.
The board will become less water-resistant and better looking. Mix beeswax and oil at a 1:5 ratio or buy a ready-made mixture.
Reapplying the mixture may be necessary as the oil is non-drying.
- Carnauba wax
This wax has a similar texture to that of beeswax. But, this one takes longer drying, but it offers amazing liquid repelling properties.
Blend the wax with a non-drying oil before application. This option is the best one for boards used with foods that have a lot of juices.
Here are some of the best methods to finish your wooden cutting boards using drying options:
- Pure tung oil
Tung oil is a thick oil that dries and hardens in the wood fibers.
As a result, the board becomes stronger and very resistant to water. Unlike the non-drying oiling options, this drying oil doesn’t require frequent application.
- Linseed oil
This food additive is approved by the FDA and is one of the safest oils you can use on wooden cutting boards.
As it’s a drying oil, it requires a period of drying between five and seven days before the board can be used.
However, this oil is less water-resistant than some other options, so it may not be the best choice for boards used with foods that release a lot of liquids.
- Walnut oil
Long-lasting and durable, this oil creates a protective and water-resistant coating.
The drying period requires at least four to five days, which may not be suitable for those who can’t wait for that much. Walnut oil is a dark oil so it will cause the board to go darker.
How to Maintain the Wooden Cutting Board after Oiling?
Always wash wooden boards before sealing. Rinse them under running water. Use dish soap and a sponge. Wait for the board to dry, some 30 minutes or so, before you start oiling it.
After rubbing the oil on both sides in a horizontal direction, set the board to dry.
This may take hours or days, depending on the oil you’ve chosen. The non-drying options tend to dry within three to four hours while the drying ones may need up to seven days.
You can check if it’s dry by running your fingertips.
If it’s not dry yet, you’ll notice residue on the tips of your fingers. When the board starts looking dry, repeat the process. The frequency depends on how often you use the board. Usually, once per month is enough.
To seal a wooden cutting board, you need to oil it with an appropriate oil. As wood has natural fibers, if it’s not protected and oiled regularly, it will begin to dry and crack. And, it will lose its natural shine.
If not sealed, the cracks become the ideal breeding ground for bacteria. This increases the risk of cross contamination and food-borne illnesses.
When you care for your wooden cutting boards the right way, you prolong their lifespan and maintain their optimal shape.