Wood bowl care is important. Whether you own a wood bowl (or many) or if you are a wood bowl turner, we’re all in the same boat when it comes to preserving our bowls.
What is the best way to clean a wood bowl?
For regular wood bowl cleaning use warm water with mild dishwashing soap and lightly scrub the bowl surface with a soft non-abrasive sponge or cloth.
Rinse the bowl thoroughly in clean, warm water and hand dry with an absorbent towel.
That’s the primary process of wood bowl cleaning. Continue reading to learn all the details for deep cleaning, maintaining, and revitalizing your wood bowls.
5 Wood Bowl Maintenance Don’ts
To maintain your wood bowl, here are some things to avoid.
- abrasive scrubbing
- harsh chemicals
1) A microwave heats at a molecular level and can heat the internal wood cells inside the bowl walls.
Large swings and uneven distribution of heat in wood can create movement, which can result in cracks. Not good.
2) Also, similar to the microwave, the dishwasher incorporates extreme heat to clean dishes and will damage a wood bowl.
Not to mention the harm caused by the dishwasher spraying and bombarding the bowl with water for an extended period.
3) Do not let your wood bowl soak or stay wet for a period of time. Wash and dry the bowl as quickly as possible.
4) Abrasive or rough textured dish scrubbers can scratch the surface of a wooden bowl. Use the softer sponge surfaced cleaners only or a soft washcloth.
5) Wood is a living breathing thing, even in bowl form. Harsh chemicals on the wood surface can be absorbed into the wood and potentially damage the finish and the wood. Mild dish soap works best.
Deep Clean Your Wood Bowl
A well-used wood bowl can acquire a build-up of dirt and debris over time, especially if it is not cleaned and seasoned regularly.
If your bowl has food stains or a funky odor, it’s time to do a deeper cleaning.
You need to attack the bacteria that is causing the stains and odors to remove the issue.
Here are two ways to kill that bacteria and restore a clean bowl.
Cut a lemon in half and rub lemon juice over the entire bowl surface.
Another option is to use white vinegar mixed at a ratio of 1 part vinegar to 5 parts water. Wipe this solution over the entire bowl.
After you use the lemon or vinegar deep cleaning method, let the bowl sit for a minute or two and then rinse the bowl thoroughly in warm water. Use the soap cleaning method above to clean the entire bowl.
Do wood bowls need routine maintenance?
Wood contains natural oils as well as finishing oils. It’s easy to tell if a wood bowl needs oil. A wood bowl will look dry and dull if it needs oil.
To get a wood bowl looking fresh and new again, you need to season the wood surface with an oil that will soak into the wood cells.
Seasoning a wood bowl is a process used to protect the bowl’s surface and maintain its luster. Seasoning makes bowls last much longer.
How do I season a wood bowl?
If you’ve just cleaned your bowl, let it air dry for several hours, then apply a thin, even coat of finishing oil.
An excellent all-purpose oil to use on a food-used bowl is Danish oil, which is boiled linseed oil. I use Tried and True brand oil because it is made with no additional additives or chemicals, and I love the results it produces.
If you’d like to add water resistance to your bowl, try the Tried and True Original Oil which contains beeswax. Tried and True Original Oil is my favorite food-safe water-resistant finish, check out this article that tells all about Tried and True.
There are many food-safe oil products available to restore your wood bowls. One very popular food-safe wood finish is Mineral Oil. Here’s a link to check out this product.
Good Wood Bowl Habit
It’s a good idea to gather all your wood bowls, cutting boards, utensils, etc. once a month and inspect them.
If a wood bowl looks dull wipe it down with oil. Let it sit for five to ten minutes and then wipe off any excess oil, or follow the product instructions.
New bowls or recently sanded and restored bowls may need multiple coats of oil applied every couple of days until the luster of the wood surface is restored. Again follow the finishing product instructions.
How do I restore a wood bowl?
If you have an old neglected bowl or found one at a sale and you want to revitalize it and make it look new again, start by doing the deep clean process described above.
Once the deep clean is complete, take a close look at the bowl. If the wood surface is fuzzy or rough, you will need to sand the bowl.
Start with a medium sandpaper such as 180 grit, and sand the entire bowl. Then move through the finer sandpapers like 240, 320, 400 grit sanding the whole bowl with each grit.
Once the bowl surface is entirely smooth, begin applying the food-safe wood finish of your choice to the whole bowl.
Apply enough coats of finishing oil until the wood looks rich and vibrant again.
Cooking Oil For Finish
Can I Use Cooking Oil On My Wood Bowl?
In short, no.
Most cooking oils will go rancid and spoil in a relatively short period of time.
Because cooking oils oxidize faster than wood finishing oils, they are not a good option for a wood bowl finish.
Olive oil, vegetable oil, canola oil, sunflower seed oil, and most other cooking oils will go rancid and potentially become sticky and smelly.
While rancid oil on your bowls will not likely hurt you, it’s still not a desired characteristic for something you’ve worked so hard to make look beautiful.
Repairing Wood Bowl Damage
Cracks and chips can occur over time, and especially if a wood bowl is well used and loved.
Repairs can be made to cracked or broken areas by first cleaning the entire bowl and then using various gluing techniques to reattach and fill the damaged areas.
Take a moment and read the article Wood Bowl Repair How To Fix Damage for a detailed explanation of this process.
Food Safe Wood Bowl Care
Everything mentioned in this article pertains to wood bowls intended for food use and that are finished with a penetrating and absorbent finish, usually a food-safe oil.
Please be aware that there are also wood bowls finished with film finishes like varnish and lacquer. While these bowls can be used with food, they are typically designed for aesthetic purposes only, a.k.a. “artwork.”
The problem arises when these film finishes split or crack, and moisture and bacteria begin to form between the film finish and the wood surface.
It is impossible to clean these chipped and cracked areas thoroughly, and that can make film finishes not safe for food use.
Do not try the above cleaning tips on wood bowls finished with varnish or lacquer. Wipe down these bowls with a damp clean, soft cloth as needed.
If you’re not sure if a bowl is coated with penetrating oil or a film finish, run your finger over the surface. Oil finishes allow the wood grain to be felt.
Film finishes cover and coat the wood grain and feel smooth. Varnish finishes can even feel a bit like plastic.
Wood Bowl Care Conclusion
Wood bowls are beautiful to display and use daily. If you are like some of us, you have wood bowls that feel like part of the family.
The best way to maintain good wood bowl care is to keep them clean and well oiled. I’ve found that bowls regularly used usually get taken care of better than those tucked away in a cupboard.
Also, having your food-safe finishing oil close at hand makes the seasoning of wood bowls a snap.
Try pouring some of your finishing oil in an easy to use dispenser similar to a ketchup bottle.
When you see a dull wood bowl, squirt on some oil and wipe it into the wood surface.
Cleaning, maintaining, and restoring wood bowls really is that easy.
Happy (and Clean) Turning,