by paul wheaton


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    organic care of wooden spoons, cutting boards, etc.

    In a nutshell:

    • go easy on the soap
    • not dishwasher safe
    • do not set in the kitchen sink
    • a few times a year, rub with walnut oil!

    now for the verbose details

    I live with a lot of other people and I share my wooden spoons, wooden cutting boards, wooden spatulas, wooden bowls and a variety of utensils with wooden handles ... a whole lot of wood stuff used in the kitchen with food.

    A while back, some of my wooden ware was starting to crack and look a bit worn and a rather helpful woman pointed out the they needed proper care. So she popped out and bought "mineral oil". What the hell is "mineral oil"? So I researched it thinking that she was about to put something toxic on the stuff I put my food on.

    Well, it turns out that mineral oil is a pertroleum product. Exactly like the stuff used in cars. Only completely different. :) While it is considered to be something safe to ingest, it is also recommended for use as a laxitive. And, frankly, I just don't like the idea of eating petroleum products.

    So I went on my of my obsessive research journeys.

    The next most popular thing to use is linseed oil (flax seed oil). Some versions of it are laced with nasty chemicals. Other versions go rancid. My research shows one or the other and nothing in between. I don't want to eat nasty chemicals and I don't want to eat something rancid.

    I found a lot of support for .... using nothing! It's free. It's easy to apply. It works pretty good. I have to admit, I am powerfully tempted by this idea. I suppose you could find that some pieces crack and you could just say "that stuff was crap anyway" and then you end up with a lot of good kitchen wood that never needs any oil. Not a bad strategy. My only real concern here is that when you live with other people, sometimes they put wood stuff in a funky kitchen sink - which makes me CRAZY as I imagine all sorts of gross things getting into my lovely wood (shudder). And if I had been oiling the wood once in a while, it seems like it would help me to get less freaked out when I find that somebody has done the funky sink trick. Plus, sometimes I have a wood thing that I really like and I don't want it to crack.

    Until this investigation, I had never heard of tung oil. Wow! What a an amazing finish! It apparently comes from a "tung tree nut". While the finish is amazing looking, it apparently takes a lot of work - including getting the first few applications to penetrate the wood - which could involve stuff like turpentine! (ick!) .... and I'm not too sure about how edible/food safe this stuff is.

    While I find a lot of people using all sorts of edible oils and saying "works for me" I have to wonder about if this stuff turns rancid and they don't seem to notice - or maybe it doesn't bother them. I wonder if they get colds easily - and if they were to switch out their woodenware and not treat it if they would not get colds as often. Just a thought.

    Walnut Oil

    Now we're talking!!! Walnut oil polymerizes when it comes into contact with the air. "Polymerize" is a word I've been studying a lot lately with my reasearch on seasoning cast iron. This is where a liquid oil gets its molecules re-arranged into something hard and inert - rock-like. Paint-like. It is still the same edible molecule. If you bust off pieces, you can eat it. Most oils will polymerize with heat and time (the seasoning process of cast iron). Some oils make a stronger surface than others. Walnut oil may not be the best choice for cast iron, but according to my research, it is the best choice for woodenware. Once polymerized, it cannot turn rancid. All you need to do is buy a little walnut oil and rub it on. Warming it slightly first will help it to penetrate the wood.

    It can be a little tricky to find, but never fear! Here is a link to some good walnut oil.

    I've now been oiling my wood a few times a year with walnut oil and it has worked out really well.

    To visit with me and others about this, click here.


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