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Vintage wooden rolling pin: How to clean?

I recently inherited my grandmother's solid wood rolling pin, well loved and well worn. Unfortunately, she stopped baking years ago and the rolling pin was stored in a dirty cardboard box amongst a collection of grimy banished kitchen tools. I've read not to wash wooden rolling pins--to treat them like I treat my wooden cutting boards--but what to do?

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  1. Some people wash wooden cutting boards and let them dry; others don't. Depends what has been cut on them,-- and what wood they're made of. I don't soak them, but I do wash my wooden cutting boards with detergent and water when they need it. However, if you don't want to do that, perhaps tackle it with steel wool, first coarse and dry to get the main junk off, then wet if you need to get the rest of it cleaned. Fine steel wool should take off any remaining residue. And if you need to, I wouldn't worry about a little water. Just leave it out to dry thoroughly. Or...someone else might have a better idea.

    1. Bah - go ahead and wash it. Actually, if you're worried about it's cleanliness, scrub it with an SOS pad. Dry thoroughly and rub with a little veg oil or shortening. JUST a little. If it's an old, worn rolling pin the surface should already be quite smooth and it will pick up additional grease when you roll out pastry. And there's no better way to season a rolling pin than to use it A LOT. Which I'll bet your grandmother did.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Nyleve

        I agree,I would definitely wash that pin! For something as dirty as you've described, I like the steel wool/sos pad ideas recommended in the posts above. I have several wood cutting boards, wood spoons and two wood rolling pins that I've had for years and I wash them with a soapy sponge & rinse with a wet towel (NEVER immerse in water!!!), then dry completely with a towel. Depending on how much use they get and how tired they look I apply mineral oil (the mfrs. advise against using cooking oil because it goes rancid). Just make sure than in addition to towel drying, you let that pin air dry for a while before you oil it.

      2. I also think washing is just fine - I've washed my wooden rolling pin numerous times, with no damage. You can also run a cut lemon over the surface after washing, and rinse again - the acid cleans out any lingering nastiness, and, in contrast to steel wool, you avoid any risk of scratches.

        1. How neat! My mom's mother was a terrific baker and I always wished I had something of hers - I would especially have loved to have received her rolling pin! Sometimes I feel like I'm channeling her when I'm baking.

          Anyway, I agree with other posters here. I'd go ahead and wash it. I can understand that you might not want to scratch up the patina so I'd just use a sponge first and see how that goes. Chloe103's suggestion about the cut lemon was also good. I wash my cutting board regularly and then go over it with a lemon to get any lingering funky oders out of it. But I always make sure to dry it real well so it doesn't split or warp. I have a big straight wood pin with no handles that I once washed and let air dry and it developed a crack at one end.

          1 Reply
          1. re: flourgirl

            Thanks to all for the wonderful suggestions--my grandmother's rolling pin has been restored to its original glory! Now if only I could bake like she did....

          2. Thank you, everybody! This question and the six replies helped my girlfriend and me a lot. We had no rolling pin and Pat wanted one made from hardwood. I looked long and hard but could not find one. Yesterday, our elderly neighbor gave us a new one, made by Ekco. It is wonderful. Somehow, she tracked one down. Pat had been wondering how to clean it properly, and now we have the answers ;-) How nice of you all. We didn't want to scratch it and now we know not to soak it and that we must immediately towel it dry after the rince. The idea of rubbing it with lemon juice was quite interesting and we will do it after we use it for awhile, then rinse it again and dry it again.

            Thank you, Jack and Pat

            1 Reply
            1. re: Jack Stanford

              Good rolling pins have ball bearings, which are (used to be anyway) metal. They could rust if you get them wet, rendering them worse than useless, so be careful. Never immerse a rolling pin in water for this reason.

              It was Fred Bridge himself who warned me about this.

            2. Wash with soap or a scrungie or sos, you need to clean it good since it has set. Any other problems maybe a light steel wool to even it out. You want it smooth, especially since it hasn't been used. I would oil lightly with food grade mineral oil just to add some moisture back in since you used soap and steel wool. Then most of the time I just use a light rinse of water, dry and air dry before storing. Not long just a few minutes. Nothing fancy. I don't use soap, unless I roll something oil based or meat based then I make sure to try to use my ceramic pin but sometimes I forget. I never soak but do use water and soap. No dishwasher, however I have been know to on an occasion. It still works great and probably 30 years old. So I can't complain.

              1. I have a brand new French, wood rolling pin. I purchase this from a store and it was not wrapped. Just for sanitary purposes, would I be okay rubbing a lemon against it and wiping it and allowing it to dry? Can anyone share some tips they use when acquiring a store-bought wooden pin. Thx

                3 Replies
                1. re: cityhopper

                  I don't think lemon would help much if you're worried about sanitation. If I were you I'd just wash it well, i.e scrub with a plastic scrubber and some normal dish soap and hot water, dry well with a clean cotton towel, and then let it finish drying well in the air. You could do the lemon of course--it won't hurt anything, as long as the pin is dried fairly quickly.

                  In any case, if you plan to use it to roll pie crusts or anything else that goes in the oven, even if it got some germs on the dough (doubtful) the baking would eliminate that issue.

                  1. re: cityhopper

                    Thanks for the tip, johnb.

                    Should I be concern with using a wooden rolling pen when rolling dough containing vegetable shortening? I read (online) somewhere that veggie shortening can stick on the pin and become rancid.

                    1. re: cityhopper

                      I should have said before to use minimal soap and be sure to rinse well afterward--if you can get the pin nice and clean without soap so much the better--the plastic scrubber is a good tool to accomplish this.

                      As to vegetable shortening, I see no particular problem. There is some type of fat in most things you might roll out--this is part and parcel of the life of a rolling pin. Again, the key is to get it good and clean, and dry, before putting it away. A bit of fat/oil on the wood will not bring any harm--wood needs a bit of oil anyway to stay healthy.