Which is the Best Finish for Cutting Board? A Look Into Food Safe Wood Finish

Posted on March 15th, 2023

Choosing the best finish for your cutting board is a critical decision for anyone who values both functionality and safety in their kitchen. 

With numerous options available, it can be overwhelming to determine which finish will provide optimal protection while ensuring that your cutting board remains safe for food preparation. 

In this blog post, we'll explore the world of food-safe wood finishes and uncover the top contenders for the best finish for cutting boards. 

From understanding what makes a finish food-safe to examining the different types of finishes available, we'll provide valuable insights to help you make an informed decision. 

Let's dive in and find the perfect finish to elevate your culinary experience.

What is Food Safe Wood Finish?

A food-safe wood finish is a protective coating applied to wooden surfaces, particularly those used for food preparation, to enhance durability and safety. Unlike traditional finishes, which may contain harmful chemicals or additives, food-safe finishes are specifically formulated to comply with health and safety regulations, ensuring that they do not pose any risks to human health when in contact with food. These finishes typically consist of natural ingredients, such as oils, waxes, or resins, that create a barrier to moisture and bacteria while preserving the natural beauty of the wood. 

The primary purpose of a food-safe wood finish is to seal the surface of the wood, preventing moisture from penetrating and causing damage, such as warping or splitting. Additionally, it helps to maintain a hygienic environment by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and fungi. Understanding the characteristics and benefits of food-safe wood finishes is essential for anyone involved in woodworking or culinary pursuits, as it ensures the safety and longevity of kitchen utensils and surfaces.

The Importance of Food Safe Wood Finish

Wooden cutting boards and utensils are kitchen essentials, but without proper protection, they can harbour bacteria and degrade quickly. Investing in a food-safe wood finish is essential for several reasons:

  • Hygiene: Food-safe finishes create a protective barrier, reducing the risk of bacterial growth and contamination on kitchen surfaces. By sealing the wood, these finishes prevent food particles and liquids from seeping into the pores, making cleaning easier and ensuring a hygienic food preparation environment.
  • Durability: Sealing the wood enhances its resistance to moisture, stains, and scratches, extending the lifespan of cutting boards and utensils. With a food-safe finish, wooden surfaces are better equipped to withstand the rigours of everyday use in the kitchen, maintaining their structural integrity and appearance over time.
  • Safety: Non-toxic finishes ensure no harmful chemicals leach into food, prioritising the health of consumers. Choosing a food-safe finish means you can confidently prepare and serve meals without worrying about potential health hazards from chemical exposure.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: These finishes enrich the wood's colour and grain, enhancing its natural beauty. Beyond functionality, food-safe wood finishes also contribute to the aesthetic appeal of kitchenware, elevating the visual appeal of wooden cutting boards and utensils.
  • Maintenance: Simplifies cleaning and upkeep, requiring only occasional reapplication for optimal performance. With a food-safe finish, maintenance becomes more manageable, as the protective layer helps repel stains and simplifies cleaning, reducing the time and effort required to keep wooden surfaces in top condition.

In the next section, we'll explore the different types of wood finishes that are safe for food contact.

Wood Finishes That are Food Safe

When selecting a finish for your wooden cutting boards and utensils, prioritising food safety is paramount. Fortunately, several wood finishes are specifically designed to be food safe, providing both protection and peace of mind in the kitchen.

1. Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a versatile and widely used food-safe finish for wooden cutting boards and utensils. It is a lightweight, odourless, and tasteless oil that penetrates deeply into the wood, nourishing and protecting it from moisture and bacteria. Regular application of mineral oil helps maintain the wood's natural beauty and prolongs its lifespan. Additionally, it is easy to apply and requires minimal maintenance. While mineral oil is an excellent choice for food-safe finishes, it may need frequent reapplication to maintain optimal protection.

2. Beeswax

Beeswax is a natural, food-safe finish that provides a protective layer to wooden surfaces while enhancing their appearance. When combined with mineral oil, beeswax creates a durable and water-resistant finish that seals the wood and prevents moisture penetration. It also adds a subtle sheen to the wood, enhancing its natural colour and grain. Beeswax is easy to apply and can be reapplied as needed to maintain optimal protection.

3. Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is a natural and food-safe finish derived from walnut kernels. It offers excellent protection against moisture while enriching the wood's colour and grain. Walnut oil penetrates deeply into the wood, nourishing it from within and creating a durable, water-resistant surface. It dries quickly to a satin finish that highlights the natural beauty of the wood. Walnut oil is easy to apply and can be reapplied periodically to maintain its protective properties.

4. Carnauba Wax

Carnauba wax is a natural, food-safe finish derived from the leaves of the carnauba palm tree. It is known for its durability and water resistance, making it an ideal choice for protecting wooden surfaces in the kitchen. Carnauba wax creates a hard, glossy coating that enhances the wood's natural beauty while providing long-lasting protection against moisture and wear. It is easy to apply and buff to a high shine, giving wooden kitchenware a luxurious finish.

5. Shellac

Shellac is a natural, food-safe finish made from the secretions of the lac bug. It is known for its versatility and ability to create a durable, glossy surface on wooden surfaces. Shellac forms a protective coating that seals the wood, preventing moisture penetration and bacterial growth. It dries quickly to a clear finish that enhances the wood's natural colour and grain. Shellac is easy to apply and can be buffed to a high shine, giving wooden kitchenware a smooth and lustrous appearance.

6. Hampshire Sheen Finishing Wax

Hampshire Sheen Finishing Wax is a premium finishing wax renowned for its exceptional quality and food-safe properties. Specifically formulated for wooden kitchenware, this finishing wax provides a durable and lustrous finish that enhances the natural beauty of wood.

This finishing is meticulously crafted using high-quality ingredients, including natural waxes and oils, to ensure optimal protection and durability. It penetrates deep into the wood, nourishing and sealing it from within, while also providing a water-resistant barrier against moisture and bacteria.

Applied in thin layers and buffed to a smooth, glossy finish, Hampshire Sheen Finishing Wax brings out the richness of the wood's grain and colour, leaving behind a stunning, long-lasting shine. With its easy application and maintenance, it is the perfect choice for preserving and beautifying wooden cutting boards, utensils, and other kitchenware.

Check out our Bowl with Painted Butterflies, which features our food-safe Hampshire Sheen finish.

Maintaining Food-Safe Wood Finishes

Wooden kitchenware, treated with food-safe finishes, requires proper maintenance to ensure longevity and continued safety. Here are some essential tips for preserving food-safe wood finishes:

1. Clan Regularly

Cleaning wooden surfaces with a mild dish soap and warm water after each use is crucial. This practice helps remove food residues and bacteria that may accumulate during food preparation. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners that can damage the finish or strip away its protective properties.

2. Dry Thoroughly

After washing, it's essential to thoroughly dry wooden items with a clean towel. Moisture left on the surface can seep into the wood, leading to warping, cracking, or mold growth over time. Ensuring that wooden kitchenware is completely dry before storage helps maintain its integrity and prolongs its lifespan.

3. Reapply Finish

Periodically reapplying food-safe finishes, such as mineral oil or beeswax, is necessary to maintain their protective barrier. Over time, the finish may wear off or become less effective, especially with frequent use or exposure to water. Replenishing the finish helps seal the wood and prevent it from drying out or absorbing moisture, keeping it safe for food contact.

4. Avoid Extreme Temperatures

Wooden kitchenware should be protected from extreme temperatures, such as direct sunlight or hot surfaces. Exposure to heat can cause the wood to expand, contract, or even crack, compromising its structural integrity. Additionally, extreme temperatures can accelerate the breakdown of the finish, leading to premature wear and potential safety hazards.

5. Use Cutting Board Oil

Specialized cutting board oils or conditioners are designed to moisturize and protect wooden cutting boards and utensils. These products penetrate the wood's surface, nourishing it from within and creating a food-safe seal. Regular application of cutting board oil helps maintain the wood's natural beauty while enhancing its resistance to moisture, stains, and odors. Choose a product specifically formulated for food contact and follow the manufacturer's instructions for best results.


Is Wood Stain Food Safe?

Wood stains are primarily designed for decorative purposes and may contain chemicals that are not food safe. It's crucial to opt for finishes explicitly labelled as food safe to ensure they meet strict safety standards. Hempshire Sheen, for example, is a food-safe wood finish that provides both protection and aesthetic appeal to wooden surfaces, making it an excellent choice for cutting boards and kitchenware.

How to Seal Wood for Food Use?

Sealing wood for food use requires the application of a food-safe finish to create a protective barrier. Mineral oil and beeswax are popular options for sealing wood as they are non-toxic and do not turn rancid over time. Simply apply a generous coat of mineral oil or melted beeswax to the wood surface, allowing it to soak in and dry thoroughly before using the item for food preparation. This sealing process helps prevent moisture absorption and bacterial growth, prolonging the lifespan of wooden kitchenware while ensuring food safety.

How to Make Wood Food Safe?

Ensuring that your cutting board is food safe involves more than just applying the right finish. Here are some essential steps to follow:

  • Choose the Right Wood: Opt for hardwoods such as maple, cherry, or walnut, which are dense and have tight grain patterns that resist bacteria.
  • Sand the Surface: Sand the cutting board thoroughly to remove any rough spots or imperfections that could harbour bacteria.
  • Apply the Finish: Use a food-safe wood finish, such as mineral oil or Hempshire Sheen, and apply multiple coats according to the manufacturer's instructions. Allow each coat to dry fully before applying the next.
  • Reapply Regularly: To maintain the integrity of the finish and ensure ongoing protection, reapply the finish regularly, especially after washing the cutting board.

Related: Top 10 Wooden Gift Ideas for Wood Lovers

Wrapping Up

Selecting the best finish for your cutting board is a decision that should not be taken lightly. By choosing a food-safe wood finish and following proper application techniques, you can ensure that your cutting board remains both beautiful and safe for food preparation.

At Oakley Wood Craft, we specialize in creating artisanal products made from reclaimed wood, ensuring each piece is both sustainable and unique. Our commitment to quality extends to the finishes we use, including Hampshire Sheen, a premium food-safe wood finish. From cutting boards to utensils and kitchenware, we carefully craft each item to enhance its natural beauty while prioritizing food safety. With our expertise in woodworking and dedication to sustainability, we strive to provide our customers with high-quality, eco-friendly products that add a touch of rustic charm to any kitchen.

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For inquiries and personalised orders, feel free to reach out to us at 07368 608053 or via email at [email protected].

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