You’ve just finished a wooden cutting board, a set of wooden bowls, or any other food-contact item, and you’re looking for the best food safe wood finish. However, the finishers on offer can be overwhelming.
Food-grade finishes for wood can be difficult to find. Many of the finishes available contain toxic ingredients and chemicals that can be harmful to one’s health; therefore, they should be avoided.
Any wood product that comes into contact with our food or our mouths should be finished with a food safe sealer.
As a result, the best food safe wood finishes for your project are:
- Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C
- Linseed oil
- Coconut oil
- Food grade miniral oil
- Paraffin wax
- Walnut oil
- Carnauba wax
- Pure tung oil
Each type of food-safe wood finisher has its own properties that you can discover in this article. Based on this, whether you are looking for a cutting board finish or a food safe finish for your project, you can make the best choice.
Be sure to read all the way to the end because there are a few very useful tips scattered throughout this article.
Disclosure: At zero cost to you, I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post. I earn from qualifying purchases as an Amazon associate. Products featured are selected based on quality, performance, and reputation, regardless of affiliate relationships.
Are All Wood Finish Products Food Safe?
I think it’s good to start with answering the question whether all wood finishing products are safe.
Unfortunately, not all wood finishing products are created equal, and therefore not all food safe. Many of the commercially produced products on the market are mixtures of thinners, solvents, metal compounds, and dryers to name a few.
If you want to finish wood that will come into contact with food, it is wise to take your time when choosing and to read the label carefully. That way, you can be sure that what you’re buying is a truly food-safe wood finish.
Also, when using them, always follow the prescribed instructions when it comes to the application of the product, and then dispose of the rags properly.
Don’t let this put you off, though, finding a food-safe stain or cutting board finish is easier than you might think. Not all surface sealers are food safe, but the options I’ve listed in this article are non-toxic wood finishes.
This article will be the perfect guide for you to find the best food-safe wood finisher for your project. So be sure to read more.
When to use a food-safe finish?
If you’re working on a project involving wood that will make contact with food, you’ll need to know how to finish it correctly.
This will ensure that the finished product is not only food-safe but also that it can be stored for years and has the desired appearance.
Of course, raw wood can be beautiful, and while you have used a food-safe type of wood, it will not last long and can be dangerous.
If fungi and bacteria settle in unprocessed wood, they can contaminate food. You can learn more about it in the article, “The Complete Guide To What Kind Of Wood Is Food Safe” I wrote earlier.
To finish the wood to prevent problems, you must use a good wood finisher. If the item you are finishing also comes into contact with food, you should opt for an adapted food-safe stain.
However, in addition to contact with food, there are other situations where it is better to choose a food-safe wood finisher, I list them below:
- Cutting boards
- Butcher’s blocks
- Wooden Toys
The best Food Safe Wood Finishes
Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C
I’ll start this list with the Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C, because I think it’s simply the best food safe wood finisher out there.
This food-safe wood finisher outperforms all other options because it has both the benefits of oils and the benefits of surface sealants.
Moreover, this linseed based product can also be obtained in a wide range of colors and still be food safe. The colours, as well as other features of this fantastic and unrivaled product, can be found on this technical sheet.
Applying Rubio Monocoat Oil Plus 2C is super easy and penetrates like all other oils. The big difference with all other products in this list is that the molecular bond of the oil creates a top layer that is equal to a surface sealer.
The product can be applied quickly in just 1 layer and no overlaps are possible so that an even look is obtained. It is also the easiest to maintain wood finisher on this list.
This is the best food safe wood finish that I can recommend to anyone looking for a cutting board finish or any other food safe application.
This oil is a natural oil that is made from linseed and needs no refinement. Linseed oil for wood comes in three varieties: raw linseed oil, boiled linseed oil, and polymerized linseed oil. Although it is always linseed oil, it is critical to select the appropriate type for your project (some types are food safe, others are not). In my article Raw vs Boiled Linseed Oil, A Simple Explanation, I explain the differences between the two.
It offers your wooden surface protection against sun and water. In addition to finishing kitchen utensils, it can also be used perfectly for wooden objects that are stored outside.
The disadvantages of linseed oil are that regular maintenance is required and that linseed oil can take months to dry. That is, as long as the linseed oil has not dried up, you will have to handle the object with care.
Beeswax is a non-toxic wood finish that can be applied to a wide range of food surfaces. It is very easy to use and reasonably priced.
One disadvantage of beeswax is that it must be stored in a cool place. Heat will melt the wax, causing it to vanish and leaving the wood unprotected. It is critical to remember this if you use beeswax.
Coconut oil is a refined vegetable finish that moisturizes and revitalizes your wooden pieces. Coconut oil is ideal as a cutting board finish or to use on butcher’s blocks because it prevents the wood from splitting, cracking or drying. The oil penetrates deeply into the fibers of the wood, leaving an attractive food-safe finish.
The downside to coconut oil is that it is a very drying oil and needs to be reapplied every few weeks.
Food Grade Mineral Oil
Because this food-grade, odorless oil does not dry, it must be applied on a regular basis to protect the wood from damage.
A food-grade mineral oil is ideal for rehydrating your wood without leaving an oily residue on the surface. As a result, this oil is frequently used on countertops, butcher blocks, and as a cutting board finish. The disadvantage of this type of oil is that it requires a lot of maintenance to keep this non-toxic wood finish looking good.
Paraffin wax is derived from petroleum, but don’t let that put you off because it’s frequently used in the production of jams and other preservatives, making it safe to eat. Because paraffin wax is excellent for sealing leaks and waterproofing wood, it is used to make whiskey barrels. This wax is a non-toxic wood finish and has no effect on the taste of the liquid in the vessel. This oil does not dry out and must be applied on a monthly basis to properly protect the wood.
This food-grade finish is derived from nuts. However, this should not affect allergy sufferers, but we recommend using this product with caution if you have a nut allergy. Walnut oil protects the product from water and alcohol and is easy to apply. This oil dries quite quickly and also provides a healthy protective layer on your wooden products and gives them a smooth, satin finish.
Carnauba wax is a plant-based, food-safe wood finish. It is also known as palm wax or Brazilian wax.
Carnauba wax is ideal for larger DIY projects due to its glossy appearance and beautiful finish. This wax necessitates the use of a polishing machine to achieve a nice, glossy finish. Smaller projects will have a duller finish because polishers can be cumbersome and create more mess than anything else.
This non-toxic wood finish can also be mixed with beeswax to make the wood water repellent. It is well-known for its gleaming appearance and lovely finish.
Pure Tung Oil
Tung oil is extracted from the tung tree’s seeds. Because of the natural properties of tung oil, they ensure that this oil is food safe. This is a well-known drying oil that has been used for centuries in China to waterproof boats and hardens wooden projects, as well as for food contact products.
More about waterproof wood finishes (Non food safe) in my article, What Is The Best Waterproof Wood Finish (4 Options)
It is a multipurpose oil that is both user and environmentally friendly. Tung oil penetrates the wood more deeply than any other food-grade finishes discussed in this article. Therefore, this is a great cutting board finish.
This oil protects the wood from moisture, oil, alcohol, and general wear and tear. It is more durable and provides longer-lasting protection than shellac. The only disadvantage is that tung oil takes longer to dry.
Apply this oil in thin layers, allowing the oil to dry for a day between layers.
How to Select a Food-Safe Wood Finish?
With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the one that best suits your project. So you will have to make a choice between oil that penetrates into the wood or a wax or wood finish to seal the surface of the wood.
Oils are super easy to apply, you pour them on, spread them over the surface, and they just soak into the wood. Although it seems that oils by this method of soaking into the wood seem to be the best choice, however, they provide less protection. On the other hand, there are the surface sealers which lay a film layer on the surface, creating a protective layer. These in turn are more difficult to apply.
The choice can be determined by the frequency of use. If you have a wooden item that is used regularly and is subject to daily wear and tear, it is recommended that you use a surface sealant. Penetrating oils are perfect for items that need less protection.
If you decide to use penetrating oil, there are two options. You can use an oil that needs to be reapplied regularly, or there is the option of an oil that only needs to be applied once. You can make that choice by checking whether the oil is a non-drying or drying wood finish.
You can create a strong protective layer with drying oil. Keep in mind, however, that once cured, it will not be as strong as a surface sealer.
When you apply the oil, it begins a process known as polymerization, which means that the oil begins to harden as soon as it comes into contact with oxygen and the wood.
Non-drying oils remain wet because the oil does not harden and will wash away over time. Because the wood will leave a residue on anything it touches, use a tasteless, odorless option if possible when using this on wood that will come into contact with food. To keep the wood moist, reapply the oil on a regular basis.
In the list above I have discussed drying oils, which include Rubio monocoat, walnut, linseed, and tung oils, as well as non-drying oils such as coconut and mineral oils.
|Type of wood finisher
|Rubio monocoat oil plus 2C
|Non drying oil
|Food grade Mineral oil
|Non drying oil
|Pure tung oil
How to apply a Food Safe Wood Finish?
Now that you know all about food-safe wood finishes, let’s take a look at how to apply them to your finished wood project in this section.
First up are the penetrating oils, then I discuss the wood finishers who apply a protective layer to the wood. For applying the oil, you can use the same method for both the drying and non-drying variants.
Always remember that the rags used for an oil finish must be disposed of properly. Later, you discover the shocking consequences these seemingly innocent canvases can have if you don’t do it.
Applying an oil finish
When applying wood finishes, it is recommended that you always use nitrile gloves to protect your hands. Oils are best applied with a lint-free cloth.
To apply the oil, you can pour it directly onto the wood or onto the cloth first.
When you apply oil, better distribute it in the direction of the wood grain. This ensures that the oil is more easily distributed and can be absorbed by the wood.
Leave the oil on for about 10 minutes and then remove the excess with a lint-free cloth.
After the first coat has dried, which can take anywhere from a few hours to a whole day depending on the oil used and the environment you’re working in, you can apply another coat.
For a smoother finish, sand the wood with sandpaper before it dries. But don’t forget to use your cloth to remove the dust.
Remove greasy rags.
I previously stated that to avoid problems, you better know how to dispose used rags properly.
You need to know that, when the oil begins to dry, heat is produced. Although it may look innocent at first, it can have serious consequences.
Thoroughly soaking your cloth after work can result in the heat that accumulates when thrown in a trash can. If the oil is left on the cloth for a long time (between an hour and a few hours), it can spontaneously ignite and catch fire.
The soaked rags can be easily handled by opening them after use and hanging them up so that the heat generated by the circulating air can be dissipated over time. Allow it to dry for a day or two before discarding the cloth.
Surface Sealer Application
Surface sealers take a little longer to apply than oils, but with the food safe sealer application tips below, you’ll be done in no time.
Apply wax with a clean, lint-free cloth or brush. As with the oil, applying the wax along the grain of the wood is beneficial.
Make sure the surface sealer is applied evenly across the entire surface and that the end grain of the wood is not overlooked. It’s normal to need more sealer to finish the end grain. The food safe sealer will be absorbed more easily by the cross grain.
Allow the sealer to dry for about two hours after you’ve applied it.
To apply a second and smooth finish, it is best to sand the wood carefully. When you do this, use a 220-grit sandpaper or finer, being careful not to break the seal.
After wiping off the excess dust and dirt, you can apply the final coat.
Porous woods may require several coats of finish for good coverage and protection.
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