Oil your wooden cutting board like a pro! Step-by-Step guide and expert tips

An oiling process is as crucial in keeping wooden cutting boards which serve as valuable tools in any kitchen.

It is important because it keeps the board moist to avoid fissuring/splintering and promotes bacterial deterrence.

If this is the case, then the following comprehensive guide can help to answer all of your questions concerning the oiling of wooden cutting boards.

Why Oil a Wooden Cutting Board?

Wooden cutting boards require occasional oiling to keep them in good condition.

Here are some of the key reasons to regularly oil wooden boards:

Preserve and Protect the Wood:

This oil forms a shield which goes down, way down in the wood grain. This enables a constant, smooth feel preventing drying and cracking with frequent use.” Oil keeps the board intact.

Inhibit Bacterial Growth:

Oils fill up the gaps and holes on the woods, thus prevents bacterial attachment. Sanitation and hygiene involve oiling the wooden cutting board correctly.

Restore Dried Out Boards:

Old and very dry boards may even have been used frequently without oiling. Oil generously is able to revitalize old, dry, and unattractive boards. Cracked and faded areas absorb the oil for revitalization.

Enhance Appearance:

The wooden board looks good when the oil on it is fresh. Oil is an effective maintenance product that preserves a natural appearance, graining, and the organic feel of fine wood boards.

Benefits of Oiling a Wooden Cutting Board:

Here are a lot of benefit to oiling:

Extended Lifespan:

With repeated use over time, cutting blades will slowly slice into the surface of the wood. Regular oiling builds up protective layers that resist this gradual damage from ordinary use. This extends the usable lifespan of a quality wooden board.

Safe for Food Use:

Food-grade oils like mineral oil safely penetrate wooden boards meant for food use. Since they don’t turn rancid, correctly applied food-safe oils will not contaminate or endanger foods prepared on properly oiled and maintained boards.


Oiling a wooden board takes just a few minutes every month or two. Taking proper care of wood boards with regular oiling is easy and economical compared to continually having to replace overly worn boards that weren’t maintained correctly.

Types of Oil to Use on a Wooden Cutting Board:

Choosing the right oil is important to safely maintain wooden cutting boards used for food preparation:

Food Grade Mineral Oil:

Mineral oil specially prepared to food-safe standards is by far the most common choice for oiling wooden boards.

Completely tasteless and odorless, food grade mineral oil provides ideal penetration and protection. It does not turn rancid or contaminate food items.

Walnut Oil:

Pressed from walnuts, food grade walnut oil is another excellent choice for seasoning and protecting wooden boards.

Along with a subtle and attractive fragrance, walnut oil impart moisture resistance with deep penetration into the wood.

Beeswax Conditioner:

Beeswax can be combined with a small amount of food grade mineral oil as a rejuvenating conditioner for older, dried out wooden boards.

 The beeswax fills deeper cracks and gaps while the mineral oil remains beneath the surface to maintain protection without a slippery feeling.

Step-by-Step Guide to Oiling a Wooden Cutting Board:

Oiling a wooden cutting board doesn’t require any special skills. Just follow these easy steps:

Clean and Dry the Board:

Use hot water and mild dish soap to thoroughly clean the board first. Rinse away all soap residue. Dry the board completely with clean towels. Allow both sides to air dry until there is no remaining moisture.

Apply a Thin Coat of Oil:

Pour a small amount of food grade mineral oil or other approved oil onto the board.

Use a clean cloth or paper towels to gently rub the oil across the entire surface area of the board. Apply thinly and evenly. Allow 10-15 minutes of penetration time.

Wipe Away All Excess:

After allowing time for the wood to absorb the oil, wipe the entire board surface with clean paper towels to soak up any oil sitting pooled on the outer surface.

Remove all excess oil for an end result that is just lightly moistened with oil, not dripping wet.

Let Air Dry:

Allow the oiled board to air dry for several hours without use. As the oil cures, repeat the oil application process for a second thin coat.

For overly dried boards, several thin applications allow for better penetration without excess pooled oil.

Maintain with Repeated Use:

Once a wooden board has a protective base layer of cured oil, continued use and ordinary washing will maintain appropriate moisture content.

Reapply a thin coat of oil periodically to reinforce oil barriers damaged by extensive use over time.

Tips for Maintaining a Well-Oiled Wooden Cutting Board:

Proper care between oiling maintains boards for longevity, safety, and attractive appearance:

  • Allow oil to fully cure for 24 hours before first use
  • Always thoroughly air dry boards after ordinary washing
  • Scrape away debris with non-metal utensils to avoid board damage
  • Avoid soaking or submerging boards during cleaning
  • Reapply oil whenever dryness or light cracking appears
  • Consider using separate boards for fruits/veggies and raw meats
  • Routinely sanitize boards with vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, or lemon juice

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Oiling a Wooden Cutting Board:

Improperly oiling a wooden cutting board can create problems. Avoid these mistakes:

Using Low Quality Oil:

Stick to food-grade mineral, walnut, or beeswax oils to ensure safety. Other oils like vegetable or olive oil can turn rancid over time. Random commercial oils may contain other ingredients not ideal for penetrating wood.

Over Oiling:

Excess oil left to pool on the surface can become gummy and trap debris, bacteria, and odors over time. Apply thin coats, wipe away all excess oil, and allow proper curing times.

Insufficient Drying Time:

Oil needs adequate time to soak deeply into the wood grain before use. Using an oil-treated board too soon can transfer excess oil to food items. Always allow at least a few hours for drying and absorbing.

Irregular Oiling:

Sporadic or infrequent oiling leads to drying, cracking, and shrinking over time. unclear Establish a routine for periodic reapplication per usage frequency and level of wear and tear.

Faulty Cleaning Techniques:

Allowing debris to build up, failing to air dry after washing, or soaking can all damage a well-oiled board. Follow cleaning best practices between oil applications.

Alternative Methods for Treating a Wooden Cutting Board:

While oil is the most common wood protection method for cutting boards, some alternatives options exist:

Beeswax Conditioner:

A beeswax paste can fill deeper cracks and gaps in worn boards. Combined with a small amount of food-safe mineral oil, beeswax is an excellent rejuvenating conditioner for overly dried wooden boards.

Boiled Linseed Oil

As a woodworking solution, boiled linseed oil offers enhanced protection compared to standard food-grade oils.

However due to some safety concerns, governmental health agencies caution against using boiled linseed oil on cutting boards or surfaces coming into contact with food.

Board Cream Polishes:

Specialized board creams contain gentle cleaning agents combined with oils and waxes for maintaining wooden boards. They provide an easy alternative to the hands-on process of periodically hand applying oil.

Commercial Board Conditioners:

Various commercial wood prep solutions at specialty kitchen stores promise advanced water resistance and longevity for wooden boards. Evaluate quality assurances before trying unfamiliar wood treatment products.

Can You Use Coconut Oil to Oil a Wood Cutting Board?

Technically yes, coconut oil can be used to treat a wooden cutting board. However, it carries some significant drawbacks:

Turns Rancid Over Time:

The natural oils in coconut oil slowly oxidize and become rancid, much faster than mineral oil. Rancid oil leaves behind foul odors and unpleasant tastes.

Not as Effective a Protectant:

The viscosity of coconut oil reduces how deeply it penetrates into the wood grain compared to thinner mineral or walnut oils. This leads to more rapid drying and greater need for reapplication.

Impact of Flavor Transfer:

Coconut oil adds a strong fragrance and subtle sweet flavor. This aromatic oil can infuse foods prepared on the board, interfering with dishes where coconut traits are undesirable.

So while coconut oil can technically lubricate a cutting board surface, it does not last or protect nearly as well as traditional food-grade mineral oil or walnut oil.

Stick to dedicated wood preparation oils for reliably safe, effective treatment of wooden kitchen cutting boards.


How often should you oil a wooden cutting board?

  • Light home use: Oil every 2-3 months
  • Heavy home use: Oil monthly
  • Commercial restaurant use: Oil weekly

How long does it take for oil to dry on a cutting board?

Most food-safe oils take 6-8 hours to become touch-dry to handle. Allow oil to cure for 24 hours before first use to allow for maximum penetration.

Can you use vegetable oil on a cutting board?

It’s not recommended. Vegetable oils can turn rancid over time. They may also lack the viscosity to adequately penetrate the wood grain. Stick to mineral oils labeled for use on wooden kitchen items.

What happens if you don’t oil a wooden cutting board?

Without occasional oiling, wooden boards will eventually dry, crack, shrink, or warp. Deep knife scars on the surface collect debris and bacteria. Neglected boards become unsightly, unsanitary, and unsuitable for food prep.


Caring for wooden cutting boards with periodic protective oiling preserves their appearance, sanitation, and usability over time. Make oiling an ongoing routine based on usage frequency.

Allow proper penetration and drying between thin applications. Pair with other sound cleaning and storage habits for exceptional longevity of this essential kitchen prep tool.

Invest a few minutes every month or two and your favorite wooden board will provide many years of reliable service.

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