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Food Safe Wood Finish – 5 Best Finishes for Cutting Boards

food safe wood finish

Finding and using the right food-safe wood finish is an absolute necessity for carpenters. However, many of them contain toxic drying agents dangerous for health. On the contrary, there are some non-harmful alternatives as well.

Well, the demanding ones are always those that are easy to apply, non-toxic, water-resistant, and food safe. So, such alternatives are always available that always meet all the criteria mentioned above.

So, it is always the need of time and carpenters to use those food-safe wood finishes that are applicable in the best possible ways. Well, there are 5 best wood finishes that I am going to tell you about. You will get the best products but there are some essentials you need to know before purchase;

There are four different types of projects you need to consider while using a food-safe wood finish:

  1. Utensils
  2. Cutting boards and butcher blocks
  3. Furniture like tables, and counters, etc.
  4. Toys

Anyone who is planning to use a wood safe finish for any of the above four categories. They really need to consider using a food-safe wood finish.

Before getting started, let me tell you that all food-safe wood finishes are not the same. They differ from each other and all may not be pure. Some of them contain solvents, thinners, dryers, metal compounds, and some other wood-finishing ingredients. You need to read all the labels carefully and go through the instructions written on the container.

Let’s get started:

Five Best Wood Finishes:

1. Spar Varnish

Spar Varnish review

If you want to get the best food-safe finish, then you should think of this product. You would find it useful for both interior and exterior surfaces. It not only protects the wood but beautifies it at the same time.

It is a UV-protected varnish that stays flexible after it cures. The better part is that it is easy to use and clean. It shortly is the best varnish for outdoor furniture as it easily stands in extreme weather conditions.

  • Provides strong weather and sun resistant finish
  • Durable and flexible
  • Ideal for both interior and exterior use
  • None as such

2. Shellac

Shellac review

If you are looking for something compatible with all clear wood finishes, then this is the right product. The product has water-like consistency; it is easily applied with a brush. Moreover, you can easily use de-waxed shellac as a sealer/base coat.

The product thus adds great value and is ideal for sealing all sorts of interior wood including floors. Amazingly, it dries super fast and can be sanded or recoated in minutes. Moreover, it doesn’t fade with age. It comes with super easy cleanup and easy use. However, it doesn’t repel water that may be a bit inconvenient.

  • Easy to use and apply
  • Good value for the money
  • Best base coat/sealer
  • Doesn’t repel water

3. Beeswax

Beeswax review

It is a very common practice to use this as a finish and polish for wood. The beeswax is honey-scented and chemical-free which makes it very popular. The usage is easy, you only need to melt it and get started.

However, it provides quite an amazing look to the wood with an extreme level of protection. As it is non-toxic, so one can easily rely on this product. Similarly, it provides a warm and aesthetic look to where it is applied. With an absolutely divine smell, the beeswax provides you every reason to go for it.

  • Provides smooth and beautiful surface
  • Non-toxic and easy to use
  • Nice honey-scented smell
  • It hardens quickly so you may mix some oil to extend its working time

4. Pure Tung Oil

Pure Tung Oil review

It is easy to use natural oil that provides an amazing hand-rubbed finish for all fine woods. You only need to wipe it on and allow the oil to cure at room temperature. It penetrates the wood and becomes a part of it. You will get a flexible non-oily solid surface & provides a fairly matte finish.

On the other side, it is highly protective and highly resistant to moisture, alcohol, and oil, etc. shortly, it gives amazing results on all sort of surfaces such as wood, weathered wood, stripped wood, concrete floors and countertops, even brick, stone, and cast iron.

  • Easy to use and 100% original hand-rubbed oil finish
  • Non-toxic & stain resistant
  • Ideal for wooden utensils, bowls, and cutting boards
  • It takes almost a 12 hour drying time between coats

5. Walnut Oil

Walnut Oil review

It is a non-toxic and water-resistant finish that you can apply to decoration pieces and other similar items. It is beneficial for optimal protection and also protects from alcohol and other liquids.

One needs to mix it up with mineral oil and get the work done. Thus, walnut oil provides unique shine to your utensils, salad bowls, butcher blocks, and wooden knives, etc. it is safe for health and is a multi-purpose oil for your furniture.

In short, it is perfect for all wood as it easily absorbs and is penetrates easily in wood pores. The oil dries fast providing smooth shiny wooden surfaces. Thus, it is the best oil as it is chemical-free.

  • Non-toxic and chemical-free
  • Penetrates easily into the wood
  • Provides shiny surfaces
  • No negatives

These were some of the best finishes that you may need. However, you need to decide which food-safe wood finish you need. You need to see whether you need penetrating oil or a common surface sealer.

Difference Between Penetrating oil and Surface Sealer:

The difference between the two is quite obvious but let me tell you in more detail for those who don’t know. Penetrating oil finishes have the quality to soak down deep in the wood and stay inside. It thus gives a natural, smooth, and more natural look to the wood. Likewise, their protection level is also low.

On the flip side, Surface sealers don’t penetrate the wood. It remains on the surface of the wood providing maximum protection to the wood. It requires more effort for its application but provides added protection to the wood. So, if you are thinking of applying food-safe wood finishes to projects that are prone to wear and tear, and physical damage, you need to go for surface sealer finishes. On the contrary, for projects like toys, decorations, and others, you can rely on penetrating oils. As they give it a very fine satin finish and these items don’t need high protection as well.

Drying vs Non-Drying oil finishes:

Oil finishes are further of two types i.e. drying and non-drying finishes. A drying penetrating oil when cured turns solid. When it comes in contact with oxygen, the curing process begins. Whereas non-drying oil stays wet and gets transferred to whatsoever it gets in contact with. Meanwhile, it requires certain re-application as it is washed off with time.

Method To Apply Oil Finish

If you are applying drying or non-drying oil finishes, then you need some basic tools with you. Get yourself lint-free rags and proper gloves. Apply oil either on the rag or wood surface. Spread it all around and rub. Allow it to soak for some 7 to 10 minutes and then wipe off the coats that didn’t soak in. moreover, you can apply extra coats as well once the previous one gets dried. However, this was just a simple way of applying an oil finish but make sure to read all the instructions that come with the finish.

Why You Need To Apply a Wood Finish:

There are two things necessary when making furniture i.e. building and finishing. So, the finishing is necessary to transform the wood. The wood gets damaged with the passage of time losing its aesthetic side as well. You need a proper food-safe wood finish to give you utensils, toys, and other wooden items a whole new look. Moreover, the finishes are protective and add to the longevity of the wood as well. It mainly protects the wood from dirt and moisture. Aesthetically, it is quite obvious you get rid of the dull and damaged look of the wood after applying a proper finish. The wood gets a completely new and pleasant look.


So, now you are familiar with many of the food-safe wood finish products that are both reliable and extraordinary. Get them and give them a try to see which one is most liked by you. So far so good, we have listed all the best available options to make woodworking safe and secure.

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