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How to Seal a Wood Cutting Board

Updated April 17, 2017

Wood is a popular material for cutting boards, butcher blocks and countertops. It is preferred over other cutting-board materials because it is less likely to collect and grow bacteria. Sealing a cutting board will prevent water and other liquids from seeping into the board and eventually causing it to split or crack. Openings in the wood invite bacteria to hide and grow. You can seal a cutting board with a lacquer material, but a penetrating oil is preferred, as lacquers can peel off over time.

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  1. Wash a new or used cutting board in hot, soapy water, placing the board in water briefly. Dry the board thoroughly with a clean cloth. Air-dry the board for several hours.

  2. Apply about 1/4 cup of sealing oil. Use a clean, no-lint cloth to cover the board with the oil. Cover both sides, all side edges and the handle. Leave the oil on the board for about 15 minutes.

  3. Wipe the oil from the board with a clean, no-lint cloth. Always wipe the board in the direction of the grain of wood rather than against the grain. Use clean cloths as necessary to continue wiping and rubbing the oil into the board.

  4. Apply three coats of oil to a new cutting board. Let the board air-dry a few hours between each application. An older board may also need more than one coating of sealing oil.

  5. Reapply sealing oil at least monthly, depending on how often the cutting board is used.

  6. Tip

    Sanitise the cutting board after several uses. Spray or wipe on a solution of one part distilled vinegar to four parts water. Leave the solution on the board a few minutes, then wipe off. Wash the board with soap and water, then air-dry before the next use. Bleach can also be used to sanitise wooden countertops, butcher blocks and cutting boards. One part bleach to five parts water is a common recommendation. Always store a cutting board on its end, not laying flat. The air can circulate around a standing board to dry thoroughly. In addition, a board that lays flat can collect dust on its top surface and pick up germs on the bottom surface.


    Vegetable oil, although a popular material for coating a cutting board, is not recommended. Manufacturers of butcher blocks, cutting boards and other wood items used for food commonly warn that vegetable oil will eventually become rancid. A rancid cutting board will have an unpleasant odour and may transfer a bad taste to food.

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Things You'll Need

  • Sealing oil (food-grade mineral oil, coconut oil, walnut oil or almond oil)
  • Hot, soapy water
  • Clean cloths

About the Author

Larry Davis

Larry Davis has worked in the safety and environmental field since 1975, writing for "Chevron Review" and other professional magazines. He wrote monthly columns for "Heavy Equipment News" and has written safety programs and training materials. He holds two bachelor's degrees, a master's degree in safety and earned his doctorate in safety engineering, studying under professors from the University of Iowa and Texas A&M University.

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