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What is the Best Oil for Chopping Boards?

Written by Whittle Waxes


Posted on April 18 2024

If you’re like our family, you use your chopping board a lot. We estimate we’ve probably used ours more than 800 times over the last 4 years. That’s a lot of chopping and the wear and tear is really starting to show!

Of course we always give the board a good wash after use, but it still has plenty of scuffs and stains so we’ve been starting to worry about it becoming unhygienic. It definitely needs to be sanded down and re-oiled, so that has led to the inevitable question: “What is the best oil for chopping boards?”

If you’ve googled that question, you’ll see there are a lot of options and opinions out there. I decided to have a good look around to see what the experts are saying.

Here is what I found.

Let’s start with what to definitely avoid!

What Oils NOT to use

Vegetable Oils

Never use vegetable oils (i.e. olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil) to maintain a cutting board. These non-drying oils will never harden and protect the wood. They will remain sticky, attract bacteria and become rancid. We’re talking an unhealthy dose of unpleasant odours and tastes!


Many sources advise against using varnish (also called shellac or lacquer) or polyurethane finishes on chopping boards. Not only can some of these finishes be toxic to humans but they also create a film on the wood which will flake and chip over time. Knife damage and exposure to water makes this flaking worse and this creates the ideal environment for bacterial growth.

Instead of using a finish that builds up a film, what you really want is an oil that will soak into the wood. There are a number of oils that are recommended, but sometimes the names of these products can be misleading, so make sure you always read the label.


Oils that can be used

Mineral Oil

Mineral oil is a popular choice for cutting boards because it is inexpensive, non-toxic, colourless, odourless, and flavourless. Note that only heavily refined mineral oil (sometimes labelled ‘white mineral oil’) is considered food safe, so make sure it says ‘approved food-grade mineral oil’ on the label before using it on your cutting board.

The main downside to using mineral oil on cutting boards is that it doesn’t polymerize (in other words it doesn’t combine with the wood surface during the drying process). This means the oil gets pulled out of the wood during washing and therefore needs to be reapplied often. It also doesn’t offer as much water resistance as some other oils, which is why some popular woodworkers suggest we should Stop Using Mineral Oil for Cutting Boards.

Tung Oil

Tung Oil is a very popular finish for cutting boards as it is food safe, durable, eco-friendly and easy to clean. One note of caution is that many products labelled ‘Tung Oil’ are in fact blends – so you need to make sure what you are buying is pure tung oil.

The only slight downside of pure tung oil is that it is as thick as honey which means it takes a while to apply. It takes a long time to soak into the wood and dry, and often needs many coats. Blended finishes are thinner and easier to apply, but are also likely to contain toxic chemicals that are not for human consumption. If it’s definitely 100% pure tung oil then it’s a great option.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is well-known for giving timber a beautiful finish, as well as making the wood water-resistant. Standard linseed can take several days to dry which is why many prefer to use boiled linseed.

However, the downside of boiled linseed is that it is heated and treated with chemicals which make it toxic to humans. So make sure it is ‘food grade linseed oil’ that you are using.

If you’re applying linseed to a new timber product, you’ll need to apply at least 3 coats (often more), and also be aware that a linseed oil finish will yellow over time.

Danish Oil

Danish oil is made from either tung oil or polymerised linseed oil mixed with solvents. It is a hard-wearing finish that is resistant to water, making it a good choice for timber flooring and kitchen cabinetry. 

One note of caution: before using it on food preparation surfaces, be aware that there is no specific formula for Danish oil which means that some manufacturers may use toxic solvents in their product. It also doesn’t completely seal the wood and therefore needs to be reapplied periodically.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oils are rich in saturated fats and, unfortunately, all fats exposed to air eventually go rancid. Coconut oil that has been distilled (removing long-chain triglycerides) have a much longer shelf life and therefore can be used on cutting boards.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is similar to linseed oil but it is extracted from nuts and therefore needs to be used with caution on food preparation surfaces in case anyone has an allergy to nuts. It is also expensive and will eventually go rancid.

Hardwax Oil

I will no doubt be accused of being biased but, in my opinion, hardwax oil is difficult to beat when it comes to oiling chopping boards. Why? Let me briefly mention some of what hardwax oil has to offer:

  • It is non-toxic and certified food safe – with a food-safe certificate to prove it.
  • It is water repellent – no moisture damage means nowhere for bacteria to breed.
  • It is durable – it will last many years before it needs recoating.
  • It is micro-porous – that means the oil integrates with the timber – no cracking!
  • It is easy to apply – just sand the board and apply 2 coats (see video below)
  • It is eco-friendly – made from natural ingredients like beeswax and carnauba wax.
  • It looks beautiful ­– it accentuates the natural beauty of wood (4 sheens available).

When a product like hardwax oil ticks so many boxes it’s difficult not to be biased. We have just recoated our cutting board with Evolution Hardwax Oil (as shown in the video below). It was super-easy to do and I know the board will be good to go for at least another 4 years (probably longer).

It’s no wonder that hardwax oils are rapidly growing in popularity around the world, not just for food-safe items but also for kitchen tops, bathroom vanities, furniture and timber floors.

Learn more


Watch our short video How to Oil a Cutting Board


See also What is the Best Wood Oil for your Project?



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