Is food grade mineral oil really food safe?

I just received a beautiful bamboo cutting board as a gift and I've been looking into how to cure it or season it before use. Every where I look suggests using food grade mineral oil to first cure the bamboo cutting board and then re-apply once a month to maintain a good luster.

Now my dilemma is this: is mineral oil, even supposedly food grade mineral oil really safe?

Here is the definition of mineral oil found on Wikipedia:
"A mineral oil or liquid petroleum is a liquid by-product of the distillation of petroleum to produce gasoline and other petroleum based products from crude oil."
Food Grade Mineral Oil
Now does that sound safe to consume to you?

Me either.

Is there a natural health alternative to mineral oil in curing a wood or bamboo cutting board?

I'd like to start a discussion on the use of mineral oil in curing wood cutting boards, so for any of you real food experts or natural health guru's what do you think? And what do you use to cure or maintain your wood cutting board?

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I'm still not entirely convinced food grade mineral oil is as food safe as it claims but the consensus is that it is the best option out there for protecting wood cutting boards. If you can't find food grade mineral oil at your local store eBay has many options available below.

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35 Responses to Is food grade mineral oil really food safe?

  1. I use olive oil for mine. It works great, and naturally has anti-fungal properties. Good luck with your lovely cutting board!
    Garden Variety Mama would like you to read..Balsamic Carrot and Apple SaladMy Profile

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thank you, I hate to say it but I am waiting to use it until I find an alternative to mineral oil. I’ve heard some people use olive oil like you said but others say that can get rancid – have you had any problems with it getting a bit funky?

      • slankekur says:

        What about cold pressed linseed oil.
        The small molecules in cold pressed linseed oil saturates the dry wood – and then linseed oil treated surfaces both water repellent and permeable. It is very important for wood durability as wood enemy number one is a persistent high humidity level, the consequence is fungal attack.

    • Kevin D says:

      I hate to tell you guys this, but anyone recommending olive oil, peanut oil, or any other vegetable oil are 100% WRONG! Those oils all will go rancid in your cutting board and cause micro organisms to grow in your board. The oil you should be using is Castor Oil (USP food grade mineral oil). It is completely safe and the BEST oil to use on all wood cutting baords 9including bamboo).

      • Chris
        Twitter:
        says:

        Thanks Kevin, I agree about the olive, peanut or vegetable oils that’s what I’ve been reading as well. I’m still not convinced that mineral oil is completely safe considering what it is made out of.

        What do you think about walnut oil? I’ve heard some use that does walnut oil go rancid?

  2. Is mineral oil a particularly fine oil, so that it can penetrate the bamboo easily? Is that why it’s recommended? If so, then let’s look for fine edible oil to use instead. I’m up for the challenge!

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      Thanks for stopping by, mineral oil is supposed to be the best to use because it isn’t food based so it won’t go rancid like vegetable oils or olive oil. I wonder does coconut oil go rancid?

  3. Jen says:

    This is a tough one! I’ve tried olive oil, and coconut oil, but then I read vegetable oils allow for the growth of microorganisms in the wood or bamboo. That doesn’t sound good. So I’ve settled back to mineral oil, which I agree is nasty! I know small amounts will get into the food I chop on it. I try really hard, after oiling, to wipe off all the excess, and I let it soak in for a day or so before using. I basically try to have the cutting board as dry as possible before using it. We minimize exposure to any toxins in every way possible, so hopefully this minimal exposure isn’t too harmful.

  4. Chris
    Twitter:
    says:

    Exactly Jen – there must be a better alternative to mineral oil. I’ve read some people use a mixture of mineral oil and natural beeswax to season a wooden cutting board so maybe that would be a little more natural – although you have to rub the heck out of it to get the beeswax to permeate the wood. 🙂

  5. E. Keith Owens says:

    Once every couple of weeks I pour olive oil onto a paper towel and give it a light wipe.Maybe once a year I will rub it down good with table salt and a scotch bright pad to smooth it then light olive oil.It looks better now than it did years ago and has never had any odor from the oil.Personally Id rather not use mineral oil of any kind on it. After all mineral oil is a petroleum based product regardless of whether its marketed as food safe or otherwise.

  6. Ian says:

    I’d be hesitant to use a petroleum based base on anything likely to come into contact with food but we are probably talking only about trace amounts.

    If you can’t taste it then the amount is probably not worth worrying about.

  7. Mads says:

    What would happen if you don’t use any oil at all? (i.e. not cure the cutting board)

    We have never used any oil on our wooden cutting boards, but I don’t know about bamboo cutting boards.

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      I would think the oil helps seal the wood to prevent food from getting stuck between the cracks and getting bacteria infested. The bamboo is supposed to be naturally anti-bacterial so perhaps it isn’t as important to cure it. Plus the oil helps protect the wood so it looks nicer longer. 🙂

  8. Ian Jones says:

    Mineral oil definitely doesn’t sound like a good option- I would always try to steer clear of it myself. Particularly after reading the definition of it it’s not something I’d want near my food. It’s a difficult dilemma though and I haven’t been able to find a good alternative- there doesn’t seem to be too much information about this on the internet. Although it’s not ideal, the best option I’ve found is to use olive oil as this doesn’t have any negative side effects. I’ll have to try the tip about the salt though as it’s not something I’ve heard of before.
    Ian Jones would like you to read..Revealed: England’s Cricket SecretsMy Profile

  9. Linda Taylor says:

    @ E. Keith Owens,

    I agree with you.I do same procedure like you do..Usually I do it once every two weeks.Pouring it in the paper towel first and wipe it in my cutting board.Its proven no odor…And about the mineral oil I never tried using it and I never heard from my family nor my relatives use it.So I can’t answer it if it is safe or not..

    Linda Taylor

  10. frisør says:

    It works great, and naturally has anti-fungal properties. Good luck with your lovely cutting board!

  11. Hi Chris!
    I make and sell cutting boards and footed plates.Personally wont put ANY petroleum product in my body.Petroleum products are for putting in your car!
    I use walnut oil on all my cutting boards I have that found it doesn’t go rancid like many veg oils do.It brings out the rich colour of the wood and it has a delicious smell as well,my customers comment on that often.On the shop policies page of my website at the bottom I have my care instructions for cutting boards if you would like some tips on that. :})
    this is the link http://www.etsy.com/shop/twistedtwigster/policy
    twisted twigster would like you to read..Oak Footed Plate – Serving Tray – Cutting BoardMy Profile

  12. Kevin says:

    I generally use it for my skin care and used olive oil for food, I think it is more better option!

  13. Wiseowl says:

    I agree with Kevin D re Castor Oil, only I am at a loss to know why he added USP food grade ‘mineral’ oil. Cold Pressed Castor Oil is an amazing oil with many uses including your chopping boards… Here is a link:
    http://www.castoroilhome.com/

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      Good point, I admit when I read his comment I missed the castor oil and just saw his mention of mineral oil. I’m not familiar with castor oil so I’ll definitely have to look over that site more thoroughly. Since it is plant based will it go rancid if you use it on a cutting board?

  14. Gramps says:

    Hey, started making butcher blocks a few years back and ran into the same problem. Asked around work and a few butchers I knew and they all said that they would never use any sort of petroleum by-product on their blocks. Got a bit mixed results but the best answer that was given to me and the one I use on all my blocks for years and have had no problems with is coconut oil.

    Coconut oil stays solid at room temp. Also has natural anti-fungal/bacterial properties.

    Works awesome. I’ve seen almost every other oil go rancid….Never seen one seasoned with coconut oil go rancid.

    Hope this helps.

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      That’s very good information, thanks for sharing. I’d much rather use coconut oil than mineral oil as long as it won’t go rancid over time. Since it does have the anti-fungal /bacterial properties I would imagine it would help protect the board from any bacterial issues which is pretty important for a cutting board.

  15. Gramps says:

    Also to note adding a bit of beeswax as a top coat also helps plug those wood pores for bacteria and gives the wood a more natural duller look.

  16. Good question. I preserve my board with olive oil.

  17. Josh Grund says:

    Interesting, all these time I thought olive oil was the best to be used in wooden boards in fact I’ve also seen people using only olive oil so the thought of olive oil going rancid never occurred to me. The post certainly is very informative, wooden boards are used very often so preserving it with the best oil is very important.

  18. Tabitha says:

    As someone above mentioned, why not leave as is? Unless your board is an expensive, aesthetic thing of beauty, why not do as I? I keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol in the kitchen. If you are concerned about trapped food like chopped eggs causing problems, just spray and rub a bit, and it will be cleaner than when you first received it.

    Fascinating about the coconut and castor, however.

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      That’s an option too Tabitha. 🙂 Wood cutting boards do last longer if you condition them and I think it helps keep the bacteria away, but you are right you can always just clean it well after each use. You can also try cleaning it with hydrogen peroxide – that will get rid of any bad bacteria as well.

  19. Keith says:

    I just learned that there is a food safe linseed (flax seed) oil called Danish Oil from “Tried and True” wood finishes. I have used mineral oil on wooden knife handles, but I would not use it on the cutting board. I will try the linseed oil.

    • Chris
      Twitter:
      says:

      That’s a good find, however I still think flax seed oil could be a problem long term. The Omega 3 oils can start to break down and go rancid so that may not be a good option for cutting boards.

  20. Peter says:

    Thanks for all the info folks. I am very concerned about the safety of the oils as well, and will go one step-further in being sure it is organic and non-gmo. I just checked the vendor that sold me the cutting board and they said food-grade mineral oil, so I wonder if there is a plant-based mineral oil that is safe. I also use coconut oil extensively for cooking and will check out its chemical properties. I will post the question to some of my internationally renowned vegan pals who are healthy as any toxicity of any kind is unacceptable in any area of my living or functioning space.

  21. Taib says:

    Just wondering if there are any updates on what is a friendly oil to use on the chopping boards. It sounds like the walnut oil might be a good option. How does this go with some people’s allergens.

  22. Amy Escobar says:

    Take a look at this highly refined coconut oil. It’s supposed to be liquid at room temp. I’m thinking of getting this and then doing a top coat of beeswax. Let me know if you end up buying this, I’d like to hear your experience!
    http://www.cuttingboard.com/vegan-coconut-cutting-board-oil/

  23. Jennifer Eide Bibler says:

    Why bother with oils that are potentially unsafe or go rancid? Use BEESWAX to preserve your wood! There are beeswax products available that are sold specifically to preserve wooden food items such as bowls, spoons, tongs, and cutting boards.

    • Steve says:

      I have asked a variety of health conscious board & utensil makers over the years. Top two: Beeswax and/or hemp oil.

      Never mineral oil food safe or otherwise.

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