Everyone wants their board to look their best. No one wants a lingering odour or stain. There is a variance of instructions out there that, while well meaning, will actually damage and stain your boards. Below is a list of the do’s and don’ts of what to use on your wooden boards and bowls and utensils.
- ‘Shower not a bath…’
- This means you can hold it under running water and scrub but do NOT immerse or soak the board in water
- Causes boards to warp and crack or in the case of the more durable end-grain it will cause the blocks to expand and break the glue joints.
- Luke warm or warmish – hot will take off the finish faster. Scalding will scald!
- Super hot water will remove the conditioning oils from the wood.
- Soap is fine. You can use a mild phosphate free version. You don’t need a lot.
- Will break up gunk on surface and help remove surface oils and a bit of the finish or seasoning.
- Similar to lemon juice – but lemon juice is better as a cleaner.
- Use caution when mixing certain ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda = Sodium Acetate
- when used in combination with salt is a very good cleanser
- you can use a piece of lemon and use it as a scrubbie to rub in salt to the board (then rinse)
- this will remove the conditioning and any oil build up on your board. A good way to remove a rancid oil like a nut oil that you may have put on your board.
- Is the naturally abrasive part of the mix of salt and lemon (scubbie) YES
Baking Soda – NEVER
- Sodium Bicarbonate will interact with the oil
- Will stain and dehydrate your board.
- these stains will be PERMANENT in the wood. (dark green to grey)
- this is a chemical reaction with the natural oils in the wood.
- the severity of the staining that will be caused varies a lot with the species of wood and what environment it grew in.
- In the case of lemon juice and baking soda, the new product is carbon dioxide gas, water and salt. NO
Abrasive cleansers – NEVER
- Will scratch the wood AND seriously dry them out AND possibly stain wood.
Bleach – NEVER
- Will dehydrate (dry) the wood
- if you use – use in a very diluted solution.
- Chlorine bleach will also change the colour of the wood
- All bleaches will weaken the fibers of the wood
- Bleach used as an antimicrobial does not work on an organic surface – such as wood.
Sponges and soft bristled brushes
- Are fine to use on wood
Scrubbies – plastic
- Are great!
Metal scubbies or wire brushes
- Use gently but yes, you can use them.
- Using a piece of lemon and coarse salt has the same effect, possibly even better because you will be breaking down the oils gently as well.
Conditioning – Oils and Waxes
In general end grain boards that are well conditioned or oiled will repel water and be super easy to clean with a soft sponge. This process is often called ‘seasoning‘ and is a similar process to how to treat cast iron pans. It is a little counter intuitive but if you regularly oil your board and don’t scrub off the build up of finish then you board will do the work of cleaning for you. Smells and stains will not penetrate fibres that are moisturized.
Here is a picture of a well seasoned end grain board.
There are many block and board conditioners on the market. Look for ones that have a combination of both a good quality wax, and an oil that will not go rancid in the type of wood that your board is made of. (most vegtable and nut oils) If you can find a local provider and support them. Many bee-keepers make wood conditioners and sell them at farmers markets. #shoplocal
Larch Wood Cutting Board Conditioner is made from Beeswax and Light Food grade Mineral Oil
- is a great conditioner for boards and utensils made of Olive wood.
- is a great conditioner for walnut wood products
- Coconut is a good one – will take a long long time to go rancid.
- Jojoba – also good – expensive but we are testing
- Rice oils – also good – also expensive
- Hemp oils – still product testing in Canada 🙂
- Food grade Mineral Oil – penetrates deeply and doesn’t stay on surface.
- Tung Oil – a more permanent finish – not for regular use.
- Linseed Oil – not all versions are food grade safe.
- Rapeseed Oil – or Canola – will go rancid