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Butcher block care

Just got a lovely heavy maple butcher block cart for the kitchen. Care instructions that came with it suggested mineral or lemon oil to maintain the wood surface. But the lemon oil we bought, intended for wood care, says that it's harmful if swallowed, so concerned about using it for a chopping block. Maybe the potential transfer to any food product is so minimal it's not a concern?

Curious what oils/treatments others use for heavy-duty wood blocks in the kitchen.

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  1. Clean with a bleach solution, wipe a very light coat of canola or veg oil.

    1. Pure tung oil diluted with 6 parts citrus solvent..


      1. You can get food safe mineral oil and/or a combination of bees wax and mineral oil at any big box home improvement store - it is in the paint area, which is the last place you'd look for it.

        I do a heavy mineral oil treatment if the wood is dry. Let that soak in and then a layer of the bee's wax mixture and buff that in.

        1. For wood,

          I use a combination of lemon and (coarse) salt to clean the wood and after that, once in a while, mineral oil.

          1. Food grade mineral oil, obtained from a cutting board manufacturer, is best. Vegetable oils will turn rancid.

            I use Catskill, which is the brand of my board.

            1 Reply
            1. re: GH1618

              You can obtain food grade mineral oil more easily and cheaply by buying it at a pharmacy, where it's still widely sold as a laxative.

            2. Mineral oil or mineral oil and beeswax. I had always used only mineral oil, and while it certainly worked and seeped into the wood fine, once I used the combination wax and oil, I see the wisdom in it. The finish is much smoother and I like the burnished tone the wax leaves behind. I happened to run across tubes of Boos Block Board Cream for 50% off at Williams Sonoma and bought it on a whim, now I'm sold.

              Please, do not use vegetable oil on your boards or blocks, it will eventually turn rancid and there is no removing the rancidity once it sets in.

              1 Reply
              1. re: janniecooks

                I make "spoon butter," which is 2 oz. beeswax melted with 1 C. mineral oil. Melt together, stir until blended, cool in a pretty jar. I use it on my wooden spoons, wooden-handled tools, and every now and then on my cutting boards.

              2. Thanks so much for all the great input, everyone! Much appreciated.

                1. Do NOT use vegetable oil or olive oil!

                  Ingestion safe mineral oil can be obtained at any drug store or super market with a health care section. Mineral oil in large quantities is a laxative, you can't extract enough out of a cutting board or butcher block to matter. When new, treat your butcher block with mineral oil several times so that it soaks in. You can even heat it slightly in the microwave so lower the viscosity and make it soak in more readily. Then if the butcher block is used and cleaned regularly, you shoul use a combination of mineral oil and beeswax, you can buy this already mixed or make your own. You should do this once a week the first month and the once a month for the next couple of months, and then as needed depending on the use and cleaning practices. The beeswax adds a bit more moisture resistance to the wood.

                  1. hmmm... our recent cutting board purchase said specifically not to use lemon oil... I'd just go with the usual mineral oil. Maybe the manufacturer thought you would just buy the piece for show? (Kinda like a friend of ours, who has a "show kitchen" that never gets used, 'cause he lives on takeout.)

                    1. <But the lemon oil we bought, intended for wood care, says that it's harmful if swallowed>

                      Then it isn't pure lemon oil for sure.

                      <Curious what oils/treatments others use for heavy-duty wood blocks in the kitchen.>

                      There are really two main approaches. (1) Oil it and minimize water, and (2) Don't care and take your chance.

                      If you want to oil the wood block, then you don't need anything special. The most popular approach is to use mineral oil, and you can buy it from typical drug store like CVS.


                      I personally like to use tung oil and beeswax. It is a bit more expensive, but less maintenance.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        DING! DING ! DING! for TUNG OIL! Our hickory floors, our counter tops, and our slate hearth!

                        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                          Hey chem -

                          Do you mix the beeswax with the tung oil (as you might with mineral oil) or do you apply a coat of un-diluted beeswax after applying coats of tung oil?

                          1. re: cowboyardee

                            <or do you apply a coat of un-diluted beeswax after applying coats of tung oil?>

                            This one.

                            For mineral oil, I do mix the mineral oil with beeswax to form a thicker mixture. For tung oil, I first apply tung oil a couple times and wait for it to dry, and then I apply beeswax for sealing the cutting board. I have tried different approaches from (1) melting beeswax and then apply it using a towel, to (2) using a hairdryer to heat and melt the beeswax on the board, to (3) using a clothing iron. I like the clothing iron method.

                        2. The joy and longevity of "pure tung oil" is that it drys and becomes a semi-permanent effective sealer. With gentle cleaning such as vinegar or Spic & Span, it does not dissolve and get washed away as quickly as oils. Harsher cleansers, ie bleach and ammonia, will dissolve it quicker, but not as quickly as the mineral/vegy oils.

                          Using beeswax adds another layer of protection, but also a barrier to future "soaks" of pure tung oil.
                          We stay away from that on our wood surfaces.Tung oil will polish out if you insist on a more gloss finish, but some elbow grease is needed.

                          1. Just in case anyone else is reading this - any of these choices will also make a HUGE difference with any of the cheap thinner wood cutting boards you can get at somewhere like bed bath and beyond (or like store). When you buy them they are so dry and prone to warping - you'll barely recognize the wood after you give them a good oiling. Well worth the effort.