Care and maintenance: Wood salad bowls and boards

Few tabletop sights are more healthfully appetizing, and less likely to inspire mealtime doubt or guilt, than a big salad of fresh ingredients in a gorgeous wood bowl. Bring it on! These bowls can be a dinner table fixture for eternity, and with proper care they will last for almost that long. Wood requires less maintenance than you might think.

Salad bowls and boards are produced from a variety of hardwoods including teak, cherry, walnut, birch, and maple, as well as others. These items were traditionally carved from a single piece of wood, and in some cases still are, but increasingly they are produced using a pieced construction process that uses the available wood with much less waste. Well-made pieced bowls and boards are just as durable as carved ones. Here’s how to keep yours in mint condition. 


First, the Thou Shalt Nots:

  • Never put wood bowls or boards in the dishwasher (or the microwave, or the oven).
  • Never leave them soaking in the sink, or with water sitting in them.

Rinse off all food and then gently wash the bowl or board by hand with warm-to-hot water and mild dish soap. Avoid abrasive cleaning products. Dry immediately.

To ensure that any water absorbed by the wood evaporates, allow the piece to air-dry completely before putting it away. Store wood items where there is adequate air circulation and not too much variation in temperature, away from dry heat and direct sunlight.

That’s all there is to it.


After any wood bowl has experienced enough time and salad dressing, a step beyond regular cleaning may seem like good idea. To sanitize the wood, mix up a solution consisting of three tablespoons of vinegar per cup of water. Rinse the entire bowl with this solution, and then wash as described above in plenty of hot soapy water.

For an even quicker fix, you can sprinkle salt into the bowl and rub it into the surface with the cut side of a lemon.


With frequent use and washing, your bowl or board may eventually develop a fuzzy surface. This is caused by repeated exposure to moisture, and can be removed by lightly rubbing fine steel wool or sandpaper along the wood grain. Wash the item after sanding.

To restore the luster of the wood, post-sanding or at any other time, you can condition it with a beeswax polish or food-grade mineral oil. (Do not use cooking oil, which can turn rancid.)

Beeswax polish can be applied in a thin layer with your hand, a cloth, or a paper towel. It is food-safe and allows the piece to be used right away. When the polish dries you can buff to a light shine if you are so inclined.

You can purchase our favorite brand of beeswax polish right here.

Alternatively, you can buy food-grade mineral oil inexpensively at your local pharmacy. Pour about half a teaspoon of mineral oil onto the wood, and then work the oil into all surfaces with a clean cloth. After letting it sit on the wood for about 30 minutes, wipe off the excess oil.

Most wood items will darken over time from repeated exposure to light, water, and salad oils. This is normal and expected for a natural wood product, and part of what makes the item uniquely yours.

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