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Cutting Board Blog

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    #1: Always popular, the John Boos R03 reversible maple cutting board. Extra large with 24" x 18" surface.

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    #2: Awarded "Best Cutting Board" by America's test kitchen, the Proteak Model 107 teak cutting board.

  • Acacia Cutting Board

    #3: Beautiful end grain acacia wood, with the look of walnut but only 1/3rd the price.

  • Olive Wood Carving Board

    #4: Authentic Spanish olive wood with dazzling wood grain. Popular as a cheese board.

  • Hinoki Cutting Board

    #5: For the knife afficionado, hinoki is regarded as the best wood to use for cutting. Exclusively imported by CuttingBoard.com.

  • John Boos Walnut Cutting Board

    #6: Exquisite American Black Walnut made by John Boos, the most famous name in cutting boards and butcher blocks.

  • John Boos RA02 Board

    #7: Premium 2-1/4" thick American Maple with side handles. Also by John Boos.

  • Cutting Board Maintenance Kit

    #8: Our exclusive all-in-one cutting board maintenance kit, with mineral oil, wood wax and applicator cloth.

  • John Boos Mystery Oil

    #9: John Boos Mystery Oil, made for butcher blocks, countertops and cutting boards.

  • Bartow Vegan Board Oil

    #10: Bartow Board Tonic, a plant based wood oil that is food safe, non-toxic and vegan friendly. Great for salad bowls and utensils.

What Type of Oils are Safe to Use on Your Cutting Board

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There is much conflicting information regarding which oils and substances are appropriate for use to safely maintain cutting boards or butcher blocks. This following list will help identify which products you should use to both sanitize and keep your board looking beautiful for years to come.

Safe and Recommended

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil (sometimes called liquid paraffin) is a non-toxic, non-drying product derived from petroleum that is colorless, odorless, and flavorless. Its properties prevent water absorption, which makes food-grade mineral oil (as determined by the Federal Drug Administration) a popular choice for wooden kitchen items such as wooden spoons, bowls, and, of course, cutting boards and butcher blocks. The key word here is food-safe, as there are types of mineral oils that are not safe for human consumption; these are often used as lubricants for machinery or found in auto or hardware stores. 

Bottle of mineral oil

If you are worried about selecting the right mineral oil, product labeled as “white mineral oil” are considered food safe, as these are refined to a certain degree past other oils. Always make sure to carefully read the product's labeling if you are unsure about its proper use. The safest route of course is to buy a mineral oil specifically blended for use in cutting boards such a Howard's Cutting Board Oil or our own brand of Food Grade Mineral Oil.

Regular application of mineral oil will prevent cutting boards from becoming dry and brittle, which can cause a cracked board. A board that is treated with oil also prevents liquids from penetrating the board, which is often the source of germs and bacteria.

Beeswax

Beeswax is also a popular choice for cutting board maintenance. Its a natural wax produced in the bee hives of honey bees and has a variety of applications. Use beeswax to hydrate, shine, and waterproof a cutting board. 

You can buy conditioners in readily available bottles such as Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner or melt 1 part beeswax and combine with 4 parts mineral oil in a pot to make your own blend. 

(Updated 3/24/15): We now carry a pure plant based, vegan cutting board wax, made from rice and coconut. This is a good option for those allergic to bee pollen or propolis (beeswax) or simply those that are strict vegan.

Coconut Oil (Refractionated)

Vegan Cutting Board Oil

Coconut oils have recently become highly popular for a variety of purposes, especially in beauty, because it is rich is saturated fats that are good for skin health. Unfortunately, all fats exposed to air eventually go rancid and coconut oil is not immune (even though some bloggers claim otherwise). However, a select group of coconut oils are refined using a refractionation process, which is a fancy way of staying that the oils have been steam distilled. During this distillation process, coconut oil is separated so that the long-chain triglycerides (LCT) are removed and only the medium chain triglycerides (MCT) are left. This leaves an almost pure oil that will NOT go rancid, is shelf stable and is superior to most other oils for treating not just cutting boards, but your kitchen utensils, salad bowls, countertops... you get the idea.

Bartow and Son's Vegan Board Oil is a coconut based cutting board oil that is food safe and has added lemon oil essence for antibacterial purposes. Note that not all MCT coconut oils should be considered food safe!

Carnauba

Also known as Brazil wax, this wax is derived from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil. Sometimes called “the queen of waxes,” carnauba is prized for its glossy finish and water resistance and is often used in automobile waxes, polishes, cosmetics, and even dental floss. Like beeswax, commercially available cutting board creams and oils often contain a mixture or carnauba, beeswax, and mineral oil. (See  Bamboo Goo)

Baking Soda

What can't baking soda be used for? You can safely use baking soda to remove stubborn stains from a cutting board or butcher block. Sprinkle baking soda over the offensive spot and rub with a cloth, brush, or sponge dipped in hot water. 

Lemon Juice

If your board begins to smell, one of the easiest tricks is to cut a lemon in half and run it across the entire surface. The ascorbic acid in the lemon both reacts with and oxidizes organic material (bacteria and fats) that are the cause of smells and stains. The natural lemon oil also forces any soluble materials to be removed as well.

Use With Caution

Tung Oil 

An oil derived from the tung tree originating in southern China, it is very popular in woodworking for creating a satin look with a slight golden tint. However, there are two reasons to be cautious: 1) some people are terribly allergic to tung oil as it is made from a nut tree. 2) The name “tung oil” is often used by paint and varnish manufacturers as a generic name for a product that contains a small amount of oil or provides a similar finish. Be cautions of tung oil varnishes and paints that very likely contain toxic chemicals not meant for human consumption. If you use tung oil, look for 100% pure tung oil.

Linseed Oil 

This oil is obtained by pressing the flax plant. Raw linseed oil is safe for human consumption. However, boiled linseed oil is heated and treated with chemicals that make it toxic for humans. Linseed oil is prized among woodworkers for its water-repelling properties and luster after being applied. However, as an organic oil, rancidification is a possible drawback. Rancidity is a common problem with all organic oils caused by hydrolysis and/or autoxidation of fats. For us humans, this means a rank, unpleasant smell or taste lingering in the board. Having said this, linseed oil does not go rancid as quickly as other oils, and some people say it doesn't go rancid at all. This could very well be a case of using linseed oil only if you know the source and quality.

Walnut Oil

Extracted from English walnuts, walnut oil is similar to linseed oil with a few added drawbacks and benefits. First, it comes from a nut, so be cautious for allergic family members or guests. It is also very quite expensive, and like linseed oil, will eventually go rancid. The one benefit is that walnut oil smells great!

Coconut Oil (Refined, Virgin or Non-Processed)

An edible oil extracted from the meat of matured coconuts, coconut oil is an increasingly popular substance used to maintain cutting boards and butcher blocks. Because of its high saturated fat content, it is slow to oxidize and is therefore resistant to rancidification. That said, there are reports of boards that have been treated with coconut oil beginning to smell after a long period of time.

Coconut oil has a plethora of uses: as skin moisturizer, soap, for cooking and frying, and even burning for candle light. It is also nut-free despite its name!

(Updated 3/24/15): CuttingBoard.com now is an exclusive carrier of safe coconut cutting board oil. This is a specifically refined coconut oil that does not go rancid and has no coconut flavor, scene and is pure liquid at normal temperatures. This oil is good for those that would like to use a purely natural or plant based oil on their cutting board or block.

Bleach

All of us are familiar with the disinfecting properties of bleach. It quickly reacts with microbial cells to denature and destroy many pathogens. High levels of bleach are toxic to humans, however. The good news that that a diluted bleach solution is safe for you and your cutting board. Add one teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water and flood the board. Rinse with hot water afterward and then towel try. By no means use undiluted bleach on your cutting boards or butcher blocks, as this is an unsafe concentration and could also discolor your board. Most importantly, never soak your board in any bleach and water mix. 

Not Recommended

Vegetable Oils

Olive oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil, should never be used to maintain a cutting board or butcher block. As touched on above, these oils experience rancidification – a process that yields a rank smell and unpleasant taste. As a cutting board touches your food, substances that can turn rancid should be avoided. Food should always be tasty!

Varnish

A transparent, hard, protective finish or film used in woodworking, varnish is also called a shellac or lacquer. While these products protect wood and provide a beautiful finish, they are inappropriate for maintaining a cutting board. Most varnishes are made from a solvent that preserves the liquid in the container and evaporates as the finish dries, leaving a binder or resin that protects the wood's surface. This residual resin will chip and peel off when exposed to sharp objects like knives. This is problematic for two reasons: 1) the substances in the varnish can be toxic to humans and 2) having little bits of varnish in food can ruin taste and aesthetic appeal.

Rubbing Alcohol

When cutting boards and butcher blocks are not properly maintained they can become dry and crack. Rubbing alcohol, while a great disinfectant, is extremely drying. Using it on wood would is counterproductive to maintenance. To disinfect use a diluted bleach solution or soap instead.

For more information on how to safely upkeep and sanitize your cutting board, read our guide on how to oil and maintain a cutting board here.

Sources:

http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/...

http://greenhomeguide.com/know-how/article/selecti...

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