10 Best Oils for Wood Cutting Boards and Butcher Blocks

Why Oil Your Cutting Boards & Chopping Blocks?

3 quick answers:

  1. To prevent the wood from drying out, cracking, splintering and warping
  2. To prevent water and elements that attract bacteria from entering the wood’s pores
  3. To give an attractive sheen to the wood and make its colors pop

In short, oil your cutting board or butcher block to preserve the wood’s surface, to ensure food safety, and make its colors pop and shine.

The obvious next questions: which oils to use, which oils not to use, and how and when to oil your board?

Use only food grade oils to nourish and preserve your cutting board and butcher block

Food Grade Mineral Oil

Food grade mineral oil is the most recommended and widely used oil for boards and blocks.

It’s non-toxic. It’s safe, colorless, odorless, and flavorless.

There is a cornucopia of other types of mineral oils. Many are often used as lubricants for industrial purposes. These are clearly not food grade.

Use only food-grade mineral oil on wood (boards, bowls, spoons, etc.) that are in contact with food.

Here are three popular mineral oil choices cited in our article about cutting board care:

Thirteen Chefs Food Grade Mineral Oil

Boos Block Mystery Oil


Howard Cutting Board Oil


Butcher Block Oil

Butcher block oil has a heavy viscosity and consistency, thereby offering deeper and penetrating protection.

Cutting board oil by comparison is lighter and more fluid.

To summarize, the key differences lie in their composition and viscosity.

Butcher block oil, because its thicker, will fill and seal the larger pores and grain found in butcher blocks.

Cutting board oil, being more fluid, has a quicker absorption rate suitable for less dense woods.

A popular butcher block oil:

Watco Butcher Block Oil

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is another popular choice for cutting board owners.

However, coconut oil is rich in saturated fats.

And all fats when exposed to air will, in just a few days, become rancid and smell.

This applies to the fats in coconut oil as well.

The good news is that fractionated coconut oil doesn’t have that problem of rancidity.

What is fractionated coconut oil?

Fractionating is basically a distilling process.

Long-chain triglycerides (LCT) are removed from the coconut oil so that only medium chain triglycerides (MCT) remain.

The end result is a superior, almost pure oil, with a much longer shelf-life.

In short, fractionated coconut oil will protect and nourish your board—and will not become rancid.

Popular fractionated coconut oil brands include:

Verdana Organic Coconut MCT Oil

Carrington Farms Organic Coconut Oil



Beeswax is a natural, food safe wax that’s produced in the hives of honey bees.

It has superior water-repelling properties—more so than what mineral or coconut oil provides.

And, like the oils mentioned above it will also make your boards colors pop and shine.

Many cutting board owners will actually apply beeswax on top of an application of mineral or coconut oil to provide an extra measure of water-resistance to their boards.

Popular beeswax brands include:

Howard Feed-n-Wax

Wood Works Bees Wax Paste


Food grade carnauba wax

Surprised to learn that carnauba wax, also known as Brazilian wax, can be food safe?

Well, it is—if it’s food grade!

Carnauba wax is derived from the leaves of a palm tree native to Brazil.

You may only be familiar with carnauba as a car wax, but when it’s food grade it’s also often used in cosmetics, dental floss—and even candies.

Like the other products mentioned above carnauba wax adds a glossy finish and water resistance to your cutting board.

Popular carnauba wax brands include:

Clark's Cutting Board Wax

Howard Wax-it-All



Remember: a regular application of any of the products mentioned above will prevent your cutting boards from becoming dry and brittle, which can cause cracks to form.

And a treated board will also prevent liquids from penetrating your wood board, which is often the source of germs and bacteria growth.

Oils not recommended for your cutting boards

Tung Oil 

Tung oil is derived from the tung tree—a nut tree. So the primary reason to avoid using it is that some people are allergic to nuts.

Beyond that, applying tung oil can be an onerous multi-step process. Read our teak care guide.

More importantly, most store-bought tung oil contains a variety of toxic chemicals. So make sure, if you want to use tung oil, it’s 100% pure tung oil.

Linseed Oil 

Linseed oil is made from pressed flax seeds.

But It is not a health drink or tonic—so don’t drink it! Not raw linseed oil, or “boiled linseed oil.”

Boiled linseed oil is the more common version of linseed oil found in stores. And it’s not really boiled—it’s heated and treated with toxic chemicals, and is highly flammable.

On the other hand, If you apply raw linseed oil to your cutting board be prepared for it to take weeks if not months to completely dry.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is obviously derived from walnuts, so again, people allergic to nuts should stay clear of it.

Beyond that it’s extremely expensive.

Its only benefit, which all oils provide—preventing water and other elements from penetrating the wood—is that it smells pretty darn good.

In summary: all non-distilled organic oils, including all vegetable oils (olive oil, corn oil, sunflower oil, etc.) will become rancid over time.

When to oil your boards or blocks

The frequency of oiling your cutting boards and butcher blocks will vary depending on how often you use them and the conditions they’re exposed to.

A good rule of thumb is to oil your wood surfaces once a month or whenever the wood looks dry and thirsty.

In drier climates or during heavy use, you may need to oil your boards and blocks more frequently.

You can read about a simple test to determine when it’s time to oil your board or block in our cutting board care guide.


  • !Should we oil our bathroom items, if so which oils should we use! My two year old bath bench still looks wonderful.

  • How about oiling shower benches??

    Nancy Comella

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published