March 06, 2017

The Care and Cleaning of Wood Boards and Bowls

Over the years we have accumulated a number of wood boards and bowls.  At the house in the country, we must have 6 to 8 large wood bowls plus as many or more boards.

Some boards are utilitarian only.  We use them just for chopping meat, vegetables, or cutting bread.  Others are more decorative, or perhaps more precious to us and so are used as serving pieces.

We have a set of rectangular boards that we use at the table as placemats.  There are live-edged boards with the bark still on.  Meats and cheeses are served from the nicer boards.
A stack of bowls each one made from a different type of wood.

My favourite bowls are the ones made from Black Walnut.  The colour is so deep and rich.
A bowl made from Birch

All of the various woods that the boards and bowls are made from are beautiful.  The graining is different in each one.
The oddly shaped board is Olive Wood.  It is leaning against an Acacia Wood board.

Steps to Caring for Wood

* The best way to wash bowls and boards is to use a little dish soap on a medium hard scrub brush with a little water.  I rarely put my wood utensils directly into a sink of water.  Lightly scrub the board to remove any food particles.
Rinse under warm, running water.

*After cutting meat, chicken, or fish on a board I wash it as above and spray with a little bleach diluted with water.  I scrub the diluted bleach into the board and then rinse well under the tap.
The board is Olive Wood with the bark still on.  The brush handle is Bamboo.

*  Place any freshly washed wood items in a dish rack to dry completely before storing.

*  About every three months it is a good idea to "butter" your boards and bowls and wooden utensils.  That's right, I said "butter".  We use a board and bowl butter that we purchased at Lee Valley Tools.  It is not the kind of butter you put on your toast.  In fact, it is actually a wax with orange oil that is specially formulated for cleansing all food contact surfaces.  It is non-toxic.

I like to scoop some out with a knife and then rub it into dry, never wet wood with my fingers.  The warmth of my hands helps to soften the butter a bit making it easier to move it around.    I think it is good for my hands as well.  In the winter the air in our houses is very dry from heating.  The dry air is neither good for us nor our wood utensils.

Always rub with the grain of the wood and pay extra attention to the end grain.  Once the wood is buttered, leave it for about 5 minutes and then polish with a soft cloth.  I sometimes skip polishing if I know the item will be stored for awhile.

* Alternatively, after washing and drying completely, I pour olive oil on the board and rub it in with a soft cloth.  I leave the bowl out to air dry before storing.
This pretty little board is made from Olive Wood.  It seems appropriate to rub it with Olive Oil

Some Things that are Not Good for Wood

* Avoid placing anything made of wood into the dishwasher including knives with wood handles.  Dishwasher detergents are too harsh, the water too hot, and the drying cycle also too hot.  They will dry out too much which may cause the boards and bowls to warp or crack.

* It is never good to soak wood in a sink filled with water.  It is okay to submerge wood, but after a quick wipe, rinse it under running water to remove any soap bubbles and pat dry or air dry before storing.

What to Look for When Buying Wood Boards and Bowls

* Generally, round, wood bowls are made from a single piece of wood that has been turned on a lathe.  Check for signs of cracking.  A small crack can become a lot bigger as time goes by and then the bowl will leak.

*Other bowls have been carved or chiselled from a single piece of wood.  This type of bowl is made by hand and can be more pricey because of the labour involved.

* Some bowls are made from wood blocks that have been glued together into a larger block.  The big block is then attached to a lathe and a bowl is formed.  Quite often different types of woods with varying colourations are used resulting in an interesting result.

* Boards can be made from a single piece of wood or strips of wood that are glued and sometimes dowelled together.

* The board made from a single slab of wood will be more likely to warp than the wood strip board.

*I have seen boards made of blocks of end grain.  I haven't had any experience with this type of board.  From what I have seen they appear to be quite sturdy and interesting patterns can be formed with the end grains.

*Although boards made from wood strips don't warp as easily, the glue between the strips can dry out and open up.

* The board above is made from strips of wood. The glue has dried up and the strips of wood are now separating.  Fortunately, it was not an expensive board.

* Whether to purchase boards made from wood strips or a single slab is really a personal choice.  Wood strip boards tend to be less expensive than slab boards.  We have both types and enjoy them all along with their individual little foibles.

Caring for our beautiful wood utensils, boards, and bowls will ensure their long life.  They can be quite an investment if you are purchasing them so we want them to last as long as possible.  They may even become family heirlooms someday.


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  1. So much great information! I had no idea how to care for my wood bowls the proper way. I really love your "what to look for" section too. Thanks for linking up at the Home Matters Link Party! We hope to see you again next week:) #HomeMattersParty

    1. Thank you, Sara. I am glad my post was helpful.

  2. Great tips! I'm careful with water, but never know what else to do with wood pieces. Pinning this for reference :)

  3. I'm glad this was helpful, Eilis.

  4. Great tips. Beautiful wood. Thanks for linking to Monday Social.


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