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How To Properly Care For Your Wooden Kitchen Utensils

When it comes to kitchen utensils and tools, nothing beats classic woodenware. From stirring spoons and cutting boards to dough bowls, wooden products add an air of rustic charm and comfort to your kitchen, and often these high-quality, handcrafted items are passed down from generation to generation. Wooden utensils are also ideal because the wood has natural antibacterial properties, protecting your food from bacteria, germs, and mold. But because these items are made from actual wood, that means that the level and type of care they require is different from most other kitchen tools. Wooden kitchenware is meant to last for an extremely long time, but it won’t if you don’t take proper care of it. From wooden spoons to cutting boards, here is a guide for how to properly care for your wooden kitchen utensils so they’ll stay looking good as new for a long, long time.

Never put them in the dishwasher.

The biggest no-no in wooden kitchenware care is to never clean them in the dishwasher. The heat, detergents, and forceful water will cause wooden items to warp or develop cracks or splits in no time at all. So always wash them by hand according to the following instructions.

Hand-wash with hot water and soap right after using. 

wood utensils
Teerapong Mahawan / EyeEm/Getty Images

To clean your wooden utensils, simply wash them under hot water with a gentle soap. You can use a sponge or a nylon scrubbing pad if you want to be really sure you’ve removed all the leftover food particles. You’ll want to clean them almost immediately after use.

Wipe off excess moisture with a hand towel.

After washing, remove the excess water from your wooden utensils by patting or blotting them with a clean hand towel. This prevents the wood from soaking up too much moisture, which will in turn cause the wood to expand and accelerate cracking and warping. 

Let them thoroughly air-dry.

After washing and then wiping your wooden utensils dry, don’t put them away right then. Leave them out so they can thoroughly air dry. Otherwise, water droplets trapped in gaps in the wood won’t dry completely and over time, the accumulation can also warp or crack the wood. So always make sure your wooden utensils have thoroughly, completely dried out before putting them back in their proper places. 

Don’t let them soak overnight.

After cooking, sometimes it’s tempting to let dirty dishes and utensils soak overnight and deal with them the next day. That’s a big no-can-do for wooden utensils. Similar to why it’s not recommended to wash your wooden utensils in the dishwasher, letting them soak and remain dirty with food particles overnight allows the wood to soak up the water, expanding the wood and accelerating its deterioration, and food particles can seep into tiny cracks in the wood, allowing bacteria to proliferate and present a health risk. So it’s well worth your time and energy to always wash your wooden utensils after use; they’ll last a lot longer. 

wood utensils
Louis Hansel/Getty Images

Routinely treat with mineral oils. 

To keep your wooden utensils glowing and in the best possible condition, about once a month rub them with mineral oil.  These food-safe oils are quickly soaked up by the wood, and help the utensils better repel water and retain their natural vibrancy, even with prolonged and excessive use. Beeswax compounds also work well for this purpose. So set aside the time to give your spoons, cutting boards, and bowls a good mineral oil rub every once in a while. Only use approved mineral oils like this; don’t use olive or canola oils as those are food-based and can give your wooden utensils an unpleasant, rancid smell.

Buff out rough spots with sandpaper.

Sometimes, especially in wooden utensils that have been used for a long time, you may find that your wooden utensils develop rough spots, where the wood is no longer smooth. Deal with these by sandpapering the spot until the roughness of the wood is smooth to the touch, and then rub with mineral oil. Good as new!

Stain Treatment

Colorful food items like berries may sometimes stain your wooden cutting boards or other wooden utensils, but don’t worry, there are ways to get rid of those stains. One strategy is to wash the item right away with hot water and soap to try and scrub the stain out; for more aggressive stains, you can also try using half a lemon and baking soda, scrubbing them right on the stain and then washing. But sometimes, those darn stains just don’t come out, but as long as you’re properly cleaning and drying the board, the stains shouldn’t present any kind of health risk from bacteria. Over time and with continued cleaning, many stains will naturally fade on their own. 

How to Deal with Smells

If you find that wooden items like cutting boards are starting to develop a smell, there are several ways to get rid of it. One is to rub a slice or half a lemon over the surface of the cutting board and let it air dry. You can also mix baking soda and water together, rub the resulting paste on the surface, and then let it dry before washing off. Rubbing with white vinegar has also been shown to erase smells. However, the lemon method seems to be what works best for most people, especially as it then leaves your wooden utensil smelling lemony fresh. 

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