If you’re hoping to chop up your food directly onto the surface of a wooden countertop, cutting board, salad bowl, etc. Then you’re likely going to want to invest in a mineral oil finish or other 100% food-safe oil to keep you, and your surfaces protected.
The reason being is that the formula used for these oils meets the quality-control standards and can comfortably be used in the kitchen, ensuring that no harmful chemicals or VOCs are present. To dive into more details on this, we’ve compiled a super detailed guide in the following article.
What Makes a Wood Finish Food-Safe?
The good news is that even though only a few wood-finishing products are technically labeled as “non-toxic when fully cured”, almost all of them are considered to be food-safe nowadays. In fact, all finishes made after 1972 are considered to be ‘food-safe when cured properly. This is why there aren’t a ton of modern wood finishes that are restricted from being used on tabletops or counters in homes or even restaurants. With that being said, basically, a wood finish is deemed to be “food-safe” once it cures properly.
The important thing to remember with food-safe wood finishes is that film-forming wood finishes are toxic in liquid form. But they become non-toxic after the solvents evaporate and the finish has dried to a hard, fully-cured film on the surface of the wood. This is why most furniture manufacturers will finish tabletops and kitchen counters with lacquer and other fast-drying materials that are typically odorous and toxic.
Once the solvents are able to evaporate, and the off-gassing stage passes, the finished product is no more toxic than any other item you’d typically find in a kitchen. One of the biggest drawbacks that people face is the curing time, as the process can be somewhat lengthy, but nevertheless worth it. Curing times can vary based on the type of finish and your home’s humidity levels, but around 30 days is considered the standard for most food-safe finishes.
Do I Need A Food Safe Countertop?
Essentially, if you plan on having food on or anywhere near your kitchen counter, then you’re definitely going to want a food-safe sealer. Though, it becomes even more vital depending on the intended use. For example, if you’re planning on using your countertop as a cutting board, then you will absolutely need a food-safe sealer, such as an all-natural oil or wax.
But, if you aren’t planning on using your countertop as a cutting board, then a film wood sealer would be more than sufficient. Such as shellac or polyurethane. The reason for this is that once film sealers fully dry and cure properly (usually takes about 30 days) they are not toxic to people or food. But you won’t want to use these film sealers as a cutting board/butcher block because you can easily cut and inject pieces of the finish into your food. So, take into account what you’ll be using the wooden surface for, and choose accordingly.
What’s the Best Type of Finish for Food-Safe Sealing?
When it comes down to choosing the best type of finish for food-safe sealing, there are a few things that you’ll want to consider beforehand. You can safely use wood finishes such as polyurethane, shellac, lacquer, or varnish on wood food utensils that won’t be subject to damage.
Though, for cutting boards, and salad bowls, where using the film finish might damage these items, it’s best to go with a quality oil or wax finish that will instead penetrate through the wood’s surface. At which point, these sort of items would be considered ‘safe’ once the carrier solvents on them completely dry.
Can I Just Leave the Wood Bare?
While it is possible to leave your wooden surfaces bare, and unfinished, you’ll be running the risk of potential stains, spills, and moisture build-up. So, it is widely recommended to apply a quality finish to any piece of wood that might come into contact with any of the aforementioned risk factors.
Although, it’s not entirely uncommon to leave things like drawer boxes, the inside of cabinets, chests, backs of pieces intended to go against the wall, seat supports, and the undersides of table tops unfinished. Just take into account how much exposure the item will get, and if there’s any potential for damage within the general area.
10 Best Food Safe Wood Countertop Sealers
1. Thirteen Chefs Food Grade Mineral Oil
Thirteen Chefs Food Grade Mineral Oil is a pure USP-grade cutting board oil that is lab-tested to meet food safety standards and can even be used as a butcher block conditioner or knife oil. As not only does it protect marble, bamboo, and soapstone, but it also helps to prevent rust on stainless-steel and metal knives.
Plus, it’s incredibly easy to apply, as it comes with a push-applicator cap and easy squeeze-bottle design. With the simple use of a rag, you can apply a generous coat to all your wood surfaces, let sit for 4 hours, and have the desired result in a short matter of time. Most importantly, the Thirteen Chefs Food Grade Mineral Oil helps to maintain the integrity of the wood by hydrating, sealing and penetrating deeply into the wood to protect it from the effects of water. Which can lead to intense drying, and cracking over time.
All in all, the Thirteen Chefs Mineral Oil is an incredibly reliable food-safe wood countertop sealer, for an incredibly reasonable price.
2. Howard Products Food-Grade Wax
Howard Products Food-Grade Wax is another wonderful alternative to help enhance the overall beauty of your kitchen, while also protecting the surfaces from any harmful chemicals. Thanks to its wax application, this sealer is remarkably easy to use as you simply rub the wax on, let it absorb into the wood, and buff away any excess that remains.
It’s a thick, smooth blend of beeswax, carnauba wax, and food-grade mineral oil to help revive, seal, and protect the surfaces both in, and outside of your home. It also helps to delay tarnishing and oxidation of bronze, copper, brass, and even wrought iron, leaving you with a soft sheen, and smooth finish. All things considered, a more than worthy addition to our list of best food-safe wood countertop sealers.
3. Watco Butcher Block Oil & Finish
Watco’s Butcher Block Oil & Finish is the optimal solution for protecting interior wood surfaces, such as bolder blocks, cutting boards, salad bowls, and more. It’s an incredibly rich sheen that’s easy to use and allows for safe maintenance on indoor wooden items.
This Watco finish is a non-toxic formula completely safe for food contact once fully cured, and dries to the touch in about 2 hours, covering up to 50 square feet of space (ready to use after 72 hours). Plus, this application was manufactured by Rust-Oleum, which is a world-renowned paint brand, specifically for outdoor finishes. So, you should have peace of mind knowing you’re investing in the best of the best.
4. HOPE’S Pure Tung Oil
Hope’s Pure Tung Oil is the ideal choice for those looking for a long-lasting natural oil that’s specifically designed to cure all fine woods. Unlike other finishes that form a film on the wood’s surface, tung oil penetrates deep into the fibers of the wood, creating a flexible, non-oily solid that becomes integrated with the wood.
As designed, it’s particularly resistant to moisture, alcohol, oil, and everyday wear, lasting far longer than the average mineral oil or waxed-based product. Plus, since tung oil is considered non-toxic when dry, it’s the ideal solution for those looking to food-safe a cutting board, butcher block, countertop, wooden bowl, wooden utensils, and more.
5. Tried & True – Danish Oil
Tried & True Danish Oil is a premium polymerized linseed oil wood finish that offers ridiculously easy application, and fast cure times. Danish Oil is a product used by professional woodworkers around the world as it’s completely safe for skin contact, food contact, and indoor applications. Also what is great is that there is no need for wearing gloves or keeping the windows open for ventilation.
All Tried & True products are made with 100% renewable ingredients, primarily from trees, bees, and seeds, without the use of any heavy metals, solvents, petrochemicals, or synthetic additives. Plus, with just 1 gallon of their Danish Oil, you’ll have up to 1000 square feet of coverage.
6. UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil
UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil is a multi-purpose oil that can be used for just about anything, from food, to automotive, beauty, construction, and many other applications as well. Specifically, UltraPro’s white mineral oil is food-grade and exceptional for use as a food-safe lubricant for an industrial slicer, knife, blade, tool, and machine.
Though, it also helps to treat and protect wooden butcher blocks, cutting boards, bamboo and so much more as well. UltraPro food-grade mineral oil is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless mixture of saturated paraffinic and naphthenic hydrocarbons. Plus, their white mineral oil contains vitamin E to protect the quality during handling and storage procedures. As if all this wasn’t enough to convince you, it’s also NSF approved, and proudly made in the USA!
7. Bulls Eye Shellac (FILM SEALER)
Bulls Eye Shellac is the perfect food-safe wood countertop sealer as it not only helps to bring out the natural beauty of the wood grain, but it’s also all-natural, non-toxic, and easy to use. It’s undeniably one of the best protective sealers for crafts and household projects and is a classic finish for wood trim, paneling, and furniture.
Not only that, but it dries incredibly fast, and can even be recoated in less than 45 minutes. It’s also easy to clean up with the simple use of alcohol, mineral spirits, or ammonia. The finished product will leave your wood with a lustrous glow that won’t darken or yellow over time. Though, keep in mind that this is a shellac sealer, and will be toxic until it fully dries. Wear proper respirators when applying and make sure you are in a well-ventilated space.
8. Varathane Diamond Water-Based Interior Floor Polyurethane (FILM SEALER)
Varathane Diamond Water-Based Interior Floor Polyurethane offers next-level protection for your wood that’s just as hard, clear, and beautiful as a genuine diamond, not a real diamond but it is pretty good stuff. It’s specifically designed to enhance the natural beauty of the product, while still offering reliable protection against daily use. It is designed for floors, meaning it is made to handle heavy objects, daily scuffing, and more. Choosing a floor polyurethane is a good idea because it is always made to be more durable.
Not only does it resist stains, and household chemicals, but it also illustrates a crystal clear finish that will not yellow, and is extremely water-resistant once cured. As if all this wasn’t already enough to convince you, this solution is also entirely water-based, so not only is it low odor, but it’s also environmentally friendly, and fast-drying.
Using polyurethane on a wood countertop is common, but remember since it is a film finish it must cure before it is considered food safe. Also, it cutting on it may not be the best idea. Polyurethane is durable, but sharp knives will damage the surface and also will eventually cause pieces to chip away. You don’t want to eat any polyurethane for a number of reasons.
9. CLARK’S Cutting Board and Butcher Block Finish Wax
Another extraordinary alternative is CLARK’S Cutting Board and Butcher Block Finish Wax. It’s an all-natural design that’s specially formulated with beeswax, carnauba wax, mineral oil, lemon oil, and orange oil, and even comes available in an orange/lemon scent, or rosemary/lavender scented option as well.
With this amazing finishing wax, you can apply the protective oil to your butcher blocks, cutting boards, salad bowls, wooden utensils, countertops, or even bamboo surfaces with full confidence. Simply rub on the wax, let it sit and harden for a couple hours, and just buff away any excess wax. Plus, CLARK’s Cutting Board and Butcher Block Finish Wax comes with raving reviews, and a world-class customer service team. So, there’s really no going wrong with this food-safe wood countertop sealer.
10. Bayes High-Performance Food Grade Mineral Oil
Capping off our list of the ten best food-safe wood countertop sealers is Bayes High-Performance Food-Grade Mineral Oil. It’s a unique formula that uses the highest quality food-grade mineral oil to help preserve all wood cutting boards, utensils, and kitchen items for years to come.
The entire process is very simple as well, as all you’ll need to do is wash the wood with mild soap and water, allow it to dry, and thoroughly apply the protectant with a clean cloth. At which point you simply need to allow it to soak in for 2-3 minutes, and then just wipe away the excess oil with a clean dry cloth. It’s also recommended to repeat this treatment (at least) once a month in order to maximize the lifespan of the product.
This choice is also non-toxic, eco-friendly, and contains zero harsh chemicals, making it great for both the environment and your home.
As you can see, there’s a number of great quality food-safe wood countertop sealers on the market, all of which present certain advantages and disadvantages. Now all that’s left to do is give more than one of them a try to see which you prefer to work with.
Regardless, you should be fully equipped with all the necessary knowledge to ensure you choose the safest food-safe wood countertop sealer, good luck!