If you’ve purchased a wooden cutting board, you’ll need to apply a finish to prevent the board from becoming damaged with use. The first step is to choose your preferred finish. Cutting-board finishes come in 2 categories: drying and non-drying. Drying oils require only a single application and soak deep into the wood fibers. Non-drying finishes do not dry or harden in the wood, and so will need frequent reapplication.[1] Cutting boards made from plastic do not need to be finished.

Part 1
Part 1 of 3:

Selecting a Non-Drying Finish

  1. Mineral oil applies easily onto the surface of a wooden cutting board. This option is water resistant, meaning that juicy foods like tomatoes or raw meat won’t leak fluids into your cutting boards. Mineral oil is actually derived from petroleum, but is completely food safe. Since it’s a non-drying oil, it won’t leave an aroma behind.[2]
    • You can purchase mineral oil at any kitchen store or woodworking store. Many large grocery stores also sell mineral oil.
  2. Beeswax and oil form a liquid mixture which soaks deep into the woodgrain. This is beneficial to your cutting board, since it makes the wood look attractive and repels water. But, like other non-drying oils, it will require frequent reapplication.[3]
    • You don’t need to mix beeswax and oil yourself. Mixtures of beeswax and oil (most often at about a 1:5 ratio) are sold in woodworking stores and catalogs.
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  3. The texture of carnauba wax is similar to beeswax, but the wax itself dries harder than beeswax and is excellent at repelling liquids. Like beeswax, carnauba wax is typically blended with non-drying oil. If you’re planning to cut lots of water-retaining foods on the cutting board, carnauba wax may be your best choice.[4]
    • Carnauba wax may be a little tricky to find. Check woodworking stores. If they don’t stock the wax, find an online woodworking catalog and order the wax from the website.
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Part 2
Part 2 of 3:

Choosing a Drying Finish

  1. Tung oil is a thick substance that will dry and harden in the fiber of the wood. This gives strength to the cutting board and will make it highly water-resistant. Unlike non-drying finish options, tung oil does not need to be frequently re-applied.[5]
    • You can purchase tung oil at most woodworking stores and through online woodworking catalogs.
  2. Linseed oil is an FDA-approved food additive, meaning that it’s among the safest finishes you can put on a cutting board. You can purchase linseed oil at any kitchen-supply store or woodworking store. Many large supermarkets or home-supply stores will also sell it. Linseed is a drying oil, so you’ll need to let it sit out for 5–7 days before using the cutting board.[6]
    • However, linseed oil also has a few disadvantages. It takes a long time to set, meaning that the cutting board will need to sit out for a few hours after you’ve applied the oil. Linseed oil also isn’t very water resistant.
    • Never apply boiled linseed to a cutting board. This processed oil contains metallic drivers and isn’t safe for consumption.
  3. Walnut oil is a durable, long-lasting finish that will provide a water-resistant coating to your cutting board. The curing time, though, is quite long. You’ll need to wait at least 4–5 days for the oil to dry.[7] You can purchase walnut oil at any woodworking store or online catalog. Keep in mind, though, that walnut oil is very dark and will darken the color of the wood you apply it to.
    • Depending on how light or dark you’d like your cutting board to be, this could be a positive or negative aspect of using walnut oil.
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Part 3
Part 3 of 3:

Applying and Maintaining the Finish

  1. You don’t want to apply finish over bits of food or dirt on the cutting board. So, rinse the board off under running tap water. You can also rub it down with a small dollop of dish soap and a clean sponge.[8]
    • After you rinse it clean, let the board dry for about 30 minutes before applying finish.
  2. Pour out a small dollop of finish onto a clean cotton rag. Using the rag, rub the finish onto the cutting board in long horizontal strokes. Make sure to cover the entire surface of the cutting board so there are no gaps in the finish.
    • Once the first side is finished, turn the cutting board over and rub another 2 in (5.1 cm) dollop onto the second side.
  3. Different types of oil will take different amounts of time to dry. Non-drying oils will dry in 3–4 hours, while drying oils may take up to 7 days to dry completely. You can tell when the finish is dry by running your fingertips over the wood. If the finish is dry, your fingers will come away clean. If it’s still wet, you’ll have an oily residue on your fingertips.[9]
    • While the cutting board is drying, leave it in on your countertop or another safe place where it won’t be disturbed by kids or pets.
  4. The frequency with which you’ll need to reapply non-drying oils will vary based on how often you use the cutting board. Most users will need to reapply the finish about once a month. This includes all non-drying oils like mineral oil and wax mixed with oils.[10]
    • If you neglect to reapply non-drying finish, your cutting board will dry out and fluids from the foods you cut will penetrate the wood.
    • If you finished the cutting board with a drying oil, you won’t need to reapply the finish.
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Things You’ll Need

  • Finish
  • Clean cotton cloth
  • Dish soap

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wikiHow Staff
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Updated: May 19, 2023
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