Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Dec 26, 2010 10:52 AM

Submerging cutting board in mineral oil

Just curious about how much oil can a cutting board absorb? I know about the general maintenance, but was wondering about it as my board seems to be drinking in the mineral oil like crazy. Has anyone tried dipping their board in oil for a few days? Would anything happen to the board? I don't think that it'd warp like water... I know this is completely impractical, but maybe someone's done this?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I haven't don that but I wouldn't recommend it. I've heard that if you over oil a board it can leak oil out for a long time.

    1 Reply
    1. re: smkit

      junkers: Cutting boards are actually very porous--even dense hardwoods have a lot of interstitial space. I have had hardwood chunks impregnated with epoxy resins, and it is AMAZING the volume the wood can hold.

      I would be leery about protracted submersion or soaking. Not because of leaking, but because any swelling of the wood is likely not to be uniform, no matter how you do it (e.g., less dense pieces will swell more than harder ones, stressing the joinery more.

      I'd just continue wiping it down uniformly until it stops being quite so thirsty.

    2. With a "new" board one of the big factors can be not knowing how long it has sat in storage since it was finished. Be patient, it may soak up a lot of mineral oil to begin with but you don't want it "bleeding" oil to the point where you can't use it. That point would be difficult to assess if it was submerged.

      1. I would not use mineral oil on anything food related, but chose a natural option. Soybean? Almond? Why are you oiling the board? Preserving it I assume.

        7 Replies
        1. re: CCSPRINGS

          Mineral oil for a board that is food related is exactly what you should use. Both soybean and almond would give you a rancid board, never use either.

          1. re: Mother of four

            Your right Mother of Four, I use food grade mineral oil and a little melted beeswax on mine, I read an article somewhere that said that it was the best way to maintain cutting boards. It seems to work so I will stick with it.

            1. re: juli5122

              I overlooked the spoilage aspect of my oil choices. Mineral oil, "food grade" or not is a by product of crude oil refinement has no place in the kitchen or on the body in any way.

              1. re: CCSPRINGS

                Mineral oil is sold in pharmacies for digestion. It is made to go down the ol' tube ; ) With that said there are some health concerns, but with the amounts we are talking about that might come from contact with a treated board, I doubt it will be an issue. Almost every board manufacturer will recommend mineral oil.

                1. re: smkit

                  Yes that is true but in this day and age of health and whole food, no mineral for me. I was always shocked at the concept of using it for constipation.

                  1. re: CCSPRINGS

                    With that said. I think orange oil is less susceptible to going rancid. I have in the past used a mixture of mineral and orange oil to prep my boards. It's natural, so if someone is concerned about it, they may want to research that option.

                    And yes, mineral oil as a laxative is going out of style as a treatment.

            2. re: Mother of four

              While I doubt that the tiny traces of mineral oil which transfer from board to mouth and skin are a significant health risk, there are natural options which would be far less prone to rancidity.

              Coconut oil has an incredibly long shelf life and one of the oils least prone to rancidity. This would make an excellent combination with the already mentioned all-natural beeswax.

              Any chance of rancidity can be further protected against with the addition of a little Vitamin E oil which is an antioxidant regularly used as a natural preservative in food.

              Lastly a drop of Grapefruit Seed Extract can be added to your oil which is antibacterial. Be sure to use only a tiny bit though as it has a soapy flavor you wouldn't want to pass on to your food.

          2. I have about a dozen wood cutting boards. I wash (not soak) in hot soapy water, rinse and let dry. They're all perfect. And many are 20+ years old. No oiling.

            4 Replies
            1. re: c oliver

              The idea though is to get a single board to last 20+ years, with regular to heavy use. Rotating a dozen boards is another effective (though not very cost efficient) way to preserve your cutting boards.

              It's not that you absolutely have to oil a wooden board - I've seen some old boards that never got oiled and don't have too many problems (though I do personally have an older cheap wooden board that warped badly after a couple years of use, no oil applied). Oiling a board just gives it the best chance at not warping or cracking. There's no guarantee either way.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                Basically I use two boards all the time. Three are little ones for cutting lemons etc. But, yeah, mainly just the two workhorses.

                1. re: cowboyardee

                  Yep. There is no guarantee one way or the other, but like you said, oiling should keep the board around longer. However, there is a cost aspect too. Obviously for people who buy >$150 cutting boards, they would want to apply more preventive measures. For people who buy their cutting boards for <$20, they may not see if as worthwhile for investing time and money for upkeeping the cheap boards.

              2. All my boards are soaked in an oil bath for a short duration and allowed to dry on a rack for the next 12 to 24 hours depending on the temperature. For home use, when the cutting area looks a little lighter than the surrounding area, apply mineral oil. Yes you can apply to much and I do have customers who have applied so much that after a period of time the oil will drip out the bottom. In this case, less is more. Apply to all surfaces, top, bottom and sides.

                If you use oil use mineral oil. There is a lot of alarmist writings which signal the dangers of using mineral oil in or on everything citing study after study showing mineral oil is the cause for everything from cancer to the common cold. For those I will tell them mineral oil is used in places they have no idea about. Remember when coffee, eggs and other products were deemed as dangerous?

                On the flip side, using organic oils is equally as bad. The oils turn rancid.

                12 Replies
                1. re: BoardSMITH

                  Coffee and eggs are food. Mineral oil is a crude oil by product. That is why soy candles are gaining popularity and paraffin is losing interest. Mineral oil is used in commercial soap, lotion,baby oil,moisturizer and insecticide among other places. I chose safer alternatives when available.

                  1. re: CCSPRINGS

                    I can understand your points but I'm not aware of any animal or vegetable oils that don't come with their own host of problems when used in this manner.

                    1. re: CCSPRINGS

                      I don't know that soy candles are gaining in popularity but I do know that throwing "soy" into any product name will appeal to certain people regardless of whether there's an actual benefit to its use or not.

                      1. re: ferret

                        Ferret. Yes, you are correct. The benefits of ingesting something does not translate to burning something. Soybeans have some health benefits when eaten, but that is not the same as burning them. Let's take extra virgin olive oil for example. Extra virigin olive oil is fairly healthy for consumption due to the high monounsaturated fats, but all bets are off when you are burning it or bring it above to its low smoke point. For this reason, many other oils are actually healthier than extra virgin olive oil for high temperature cooking.

                        As for oiling cutting boards with oil, mineral oil is just as good if not better than oil which can go rancid.

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Who am I doubt someone with a user name of "Chemicalkinetics"? I just put that wax stuff on it. I believe it was T Boone Pickens who said, "Oil's overrated."

                          1. re: ladybugthepug

                            I used to use mineral oil, but I have since moved to beeswax. That said, the orignal poster has a specific question and I don't want to drag the conversation out too far. What "wax" stuff do you use?

                            P.S.: Chemical kinetics is a study. It does not has to do with synthentic chemicals. It was my favorest class:


                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              The stuff that John Boos sells for their cutting boards (seems like they might have SOME idea as to what they're talking about). Just looked at the tube and it says "Ingredients: Natural Bees Wax and Mineral Oil". Overpriced? I'm sure - but I guess it beats ruining an expensive cutting board.

                              What I like about this post is that it didn't take very long for people to get off track - always amusing.

                              1. re: ladybugthepug

                                I have a good story. Just bought an inexpensive cutting board about a month ago. It has since warped and it is beginning to delaminate. Ouch. What should I have done, put mineral oil on it?. Haha.

                                Ladybug, what do you mean soy candles are off topic?

                                1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                  Sorry I missed this one earlier. Actually, yes, you should have put mineral oil on it.

                                  A little knowledge about wood is very helpful in understanding the dynamics of what is taking place in a cutting board. When a tree is cut the moisture level is quite high, if left to its own drying cycle the log splits as it shrinks as the moisture evaporates. This is what happens to a piece of firewood. Wood used for the purposes of lumber is kiln dried with the ends treated so the moisture leaves the wood at a controlled rate uniformely (or as uniformly as possible) to minimize cracks, spliting and warping. During the drying process the moisture level is brought down to about 7%. Boards are then milled to size. The drying process puts a lot of stress into the wood and changes in moisture level cause the board to stress relieve and move. The constant changes in humidity are enough to make furnature designers take wood movement into account, (if you have panel doors on your kitchen cabinets they are loose or pined in the center if they are solid wood to allow them to expand and contract as the humidity changes) so just imagine how the moisture level in an unsealed cutting board changes on a day to day basis. Left untreated, it's bound to crack or have joint failure.

                                  The purpose of oiling the cutting board is two fold, one it protects the wood to some extent from these changes in moisture, the oil replaces the water in the woods structure, and the oil doesn't evaporate as quickly which keeps the board more stable. The other thing it does is protect the board from absorbing other liquid material such as onion juice that would then flavor all your food, or beet juice that would turn the board red, fluids from meat or fish, etc.

                                  A relatively large end grain cutting board is probably only going to absorb 2 - 4 tablespoons of mineral oil, virtually all of this is going to be in the cellular structure of the wood. If you're not a production shop, there is no need to soak a board in mineral oil. If you have a hang up on mineral oil melt some beeswax to treat the board after you put some mineral oil on it, this will help seal the board from moisture entering and mineral oil from exiting. This is not a one time treatment.

                                2. re: ladybugthepug


                                  I see. Mineral oil and beeswax mixtures are great. You can also buy them separately and use them accordingly. I bought my beeswax from an art store :)

                                  Mineral oil is the most basic treatment. If you mix beeswax to mineral oil, then this mixture lasts a bit longer. The more beeswax is in mixture, the more it becomes a solid. Therefore, some are like lotion and some are like hard wax:



                                  If you like, you can coat the very top layer of the cutting boards with pure beeswax, it gives it a durable surface and makes the wood grain more beautiful with a sweet scent. Here, the third photo is after applying beeswax:


                                  In responding to the original poster, I would say apply sufficient amount of oil and then seal off with beeswax.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Do these products add _any_ taste or smell of their own?

                                    1. re: Jay F

                                      I have not had use those already-made product. I know some of these ready-to-go product add lemon oil or orange oil and other stuffs to make it smell even better, so it may add some taste to it.

                                      As for me, I only use mineral oil, tung oil and beeswax. There is no smell or taste from mineral oil. Beeswax does not have much of a taste, but it has a fragant to it.