How to Oil for Wooden Bowls (2023)

Earlywood Blog

January 26, 2023 0 Comments

How to Oil for Wooden Bowls (1)

(Video) how to oil wood bowls

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Hey guys this is Brad with Earlywood here.

Today I'm going to show you how to properly oil and treat a wooden bowl.

There's a lot going on with wooden bowls that makes them require fairly frequent treating. The thing that you really need to think about with the bowl is the grain. Most wooden utensils like a spoon, the grains all going in the same direction and there's really not a whole lot to worry about there. But in a bowl you've got all parts of the tree going on here, you've got face grain down at the bottom, you can tell by the squiggles there. You've got edge grain over here on the side, the lines are straighter and if you look at it this way you can kind of see them angling down. And then on both ends we've got end grain, and end grain is the most porous and the most prone to cracking. And especially when you've got these three different kinds of wood in the same piece, they all want to shrink and expand in different directions and that's what will get your bowl to crack.

But, if you keep all three of these properly treated this bowl could last a hundred years. So I'm going to start by having all my supplies laid out here.

First, I've got some wood wax and I've got some wood oil, we make both of these but there's a lot of products out there you can use. Either one of these will work by itself. The wood oil is nice and thin, it's actually thinner than water, at least the oil we make. It's thinner than water so that'll soak deep into these pores especially on this end grain here. The wood wax has oil in it but it's also got beeswax in there, so this is great for forming a coating.

The way I like to do it is put a coat of oil on first to soak into all those pores as deeply as I possibly can and then put a coat of wax on top. And what that does is treats the bowl as deep as you can get it and then puts a nice coating on top that'll just make water bead off of there. So I've also got the thing you will get with your Earlywood order, it's a little scrub pad. This is is more for taking off rough raised grain or fixing up a utensil that's kind of beat up over the years.

This bowl is brand new and fresh off of the sander so there's nothing going on there so I won't even use this today.

I'm going to start with the oil and I always keep a towel like this around. It's soaked with oil and that's the only thing I use it for, I just keep it in a ziploc. So I'm going to take this, actually let me open this first and with the utensil you can just use the rag because it's got plenty of oil on it. This is going to take a decent amount of oil so I'm just going to take it and pour it right in there and that's probably enough. Depends on how dry your bowl is. The drier it is the more oil you're going to need obviously so you can rub this around with your hands, you can just swirl it around like that. I'm going to go ahead and take this towel and just rub it in there like this. Oh yeah, so you saw about how much oil I put in, that oil is a hundred percent gone. It's kind of shiny here for just a minute while it's pooled on top and then it's soaked all the way in. That's why you want to go oil first. So let me just pour some more in there, when you're using oil you want to do this a couple times and you want to let the bowl take every single bit of oil that it wants to take and sometimes that's a lot because there's a lot of a lot of volume here inside the wood.

(Video) Earlywood Wood Bowl Oiling Tutorial

All right, I've got about half of that which I'm only going to do half of this one just to show you the difference when we're done. So that's soaking in really well, you always want to get both sides obviously. Maybe that's not obvious, but you do so I'm going to flip this over and hit the back side.

Water is the one thing that makes wood warp mainly. If you haven't checked it out, check out our video on how to fix a warped cutting board. When a piece of wood is wet on one side and dry on the other side that'll make a board warp because when the water gets in there or oil even the wood expands a little bit because you're filling up the space in between the pores and if you have one side expanding and the other side is staying the same it will actually warp the board. Yeah, that's a great video, how to fix a warp cutting board check that one out gives you a real simple way to fix a cutting board that has been sitting on one side for too long. Okay this is looking pretty good if I was doing this myself I would probably put even more oil on this than I have here today. If I was doing it for my own bowl I would really let it soak in to make sure it's got every single bit of oil you can get in there.

So we've got half of this oiled and half of it still dry. Now I'm going to take this wood wax and now that that oil is in there and soaked in it leaves a little bit on the surface so it makes it kind of nice and slippery and that's what makes this wood wax a lot easier to put on. I've just got a little chunk of towel here. I just cut off a little chunk put it in there use it for this purpose and then put the lid right back on and it stays in there all the time. It's kind of like shoe polish I guess. So you're just going to want to rub that around in there, get as much wood wax up as you can and this stuff can be a little bit hard to put on something that's totally dry but now that this has got the oil, this will just slide right across here nice and easy.

You are just going to want to rub that around in different directions to get in any open grain or any large pores if you see any or if there are any. I'll hit the back here too.

I might grab a little more here.

Okay, it's going to look pretty good and you'll notice as you rub this in that oil is actually soaking in deeper and the more you rub this it almost feels a little bit stiffer like the wax has gotten thicker, which it actually has because the oil in the wax is soaking into the wood and the wax is staying on the surface to make it waterproof. Alright so I've got half of it done. I've got it waxed and I've got it oiled. Again, if I was using this for my house I would probably just let this sit overnight, come back tomorrow and wipe off any extra wax that's on there but for the sake of today's tutorial I've got some napkins here. So I'm just going to wipe off any extra that's on there right now and if you're doing this for immediate use, and you've got people coming over or a party going or something like that you can just wipe it off. That's really no big deal it might just need to be treated a little more often.

And you can see how sweet that brings out the colors too. It's like oil and a pair of hiking boots, I think it's one of life's simple pleasures is treating a piece of wood.

Okay, now we can feel pretty good about this. We know we've got it. You saw how much oil I put in there so there's a bunch of oil in here. And oil and water as you know, don't mix. So the more oil that's in here the less water can get in there and it's water that will do damage to your bowl. So now I'm going to take this over and fill this with water and show you exactly what we just did here and how much of a difference it makes. Okay we're over here at the sink, I'm about to fill this with water and we'll take a look and see what happens here.

All right so you can still kind of see the line in there. This side is the oiled side, that's the the fresh side.

Pour that out now take a look at that you can see there's just beading over here absolutely nothing's getting into the wood over here yet over here it looks wet and that's exactly what you don't want. If you ever put water or anything in your bowl and it makes the surface wet it's probably time to oil it that also applies for your salad dressings and things like that too, especially if it's a dressing that has a bunch of flavor to it. If that dressing is getting soaked into the bowl that flavor is going with it so you can end up with a bowl that's either stained or has a scent to it. And worst case scenario you do this too many times and this is going to crack over here somewhere. So this is exactly what we're looking for. Look at that bead...look at that beautiful bead footage.

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So that's exactly what you want to do and you know depending on how how often you use your bowl maybe once every six months or something like that is all the more frequently you need to do this. And you should have a bowl that lasts you a lifetime. Alright, so this is the bowl we just poured some water in and you can see the treated side and the non-treated side here, it's been drying out for just a few minutes and you might not be able to tell by looking at it but this side is bone dry. It's still got that little waxy coating on it and this is exactly what you want.

Over here see how it's kind of looking splotchy here, you've got dry, wet, wet, dry, wet, dry all over and it's kind of varied depending on how the grain is picking it up. This is exactly what you don't want. Like I said, earlier when wood is wet it expands and when its dry it doesn't. So we've got this section right here kind of expanding and then this border right around it not expanding, not expanding and expanding. So what this is going to do if you use this bowl for years and never treat it. You're gonna have all these different parts of this bowl moving independently of each other and you'll end up getting cracks right in between the portions that soak up water and the portions they don't as much.

So I like to say once every six months to treat your bowls but honestly that depends on how often you use them. If you've just got them on your counter and you're storing veggies in them it might be once every year, maybe even more than that. But a good rule of thumb is, if it starts to look splotchy at all like this, get some oil on that as soon as you can.

Alright, so there you have it guys, that's pretty much everything you need to know to keep a wooden bowl in your family for generations. A little bit of oil, a little bit of wax, about 10 minutes of your time every six months or so and you will have a bowl that you can be proud of and use and pass on to your grandkids grandkids thanks.

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(Video) Food Safe Wood Finish for Wood Bowls / Using Tried and True Oil

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How do you oil a wooden bowl? ›

Mineral oil is inexpensive and will not go rancid as cooking oils may. The bowl (or board) should be dried out thoroughly first. Soak the bowl liberally with the mineral oil, let it soak in for 5 minutes to several hours. Just wipe off the oil and use the bowl as usual.

How do you seal a wooden bowl for eating? ›

Drying oils penetrate the wood and harden the material. They include linseed, tung, and diluted varnish. Also called wood seal- ers, drying oils are one of the most satisfactory finishes for wood surfaces. They reduce water absorption and make the surface easy to clean and resistant to scratches.

Can you put oil in a wood bowl? ›

It's essential to use the right oil for rejuvenating your bowl. Food-grade mineral oil will improve your bowl's resistance to water and salad oils. Apply it liberally with a soft cloth or paper towel and let it soak in well, overnight if possible. Then wipe off the excess and buff until the oil is absorbed completely.

Can you use vegetable oil on wooden bowls? ›

Do not use vegetable oil to protect your wooden bowls or other wood products! Vegetable oils will build up over time leaving the wood tacky and sometimes rancid. See the following question for help on how to remove vegetable oil buildup.

How do you prepare wood for oiling? ›

Wood to be finished with oil must be thoroughly sanded to even out the open pores to create a smooth surface. No sealing is necessary. Before applying the finish, clean the piece of furniture thoroughly with a tack cloth.

How often should you oil wooden bowls? ›


We suggest that before using your new bowl, you season it by hand, rubbing it with a good quality block oil. This should be done daily over five to six days before any food contact, allowing for the oil to soak into the wood.

What is the best oil for wooden bowls? ›

We do NOT recommend using olive oil or other fine oils, no matter the quality. Over time, there is a danger of yucky build up or of the cooking oils going rancid, but more importantly we like the moisturizing and protective properties of mineral oil and beeswax best.

What is the easiest way to seal wood? ›

There are three surefire ways to waterproof your wood for years to come.
  1. Use linseed or Tung oil to create a beautiful and protective hand-rubbed finish.
  2. Seal the wood with coating of polyurethane, varnish, or lacquer.
  3. Finish and waterproof wood simultaneously with a stain-sealant combo.
Aug 11, 2020

How do you stop a wooden bowl from cracking? ›

If the particular wood species you are using is prone to cracking, it is a good idea to seal the end grain immediately after turning the twice-turned rough green wood bowl. Anchorseal is a breathable sealer that allows moisture to slowly escape and it aids in preventing cracking end grain.

What food oil is safe for wood? ›

Food Safe Finishes for Wooden Bowls and Wood Cutting Boards
  • Pure tung oil. Extracted from the nut of the china wood tree. ...
  • Raw linseed oil. Pressed from flax seeds. ...
  • Mineral oil. Although derived from petroleum, it is colorless, odorless, tasteless and entirely inert. ...
  • Walnut oil. ...
  • Beeswax. ...
  • Carnauba wax. ...
  • Shellac. ...
  • Nothing.

What kind of oil do you use on a wooden serving board? ›

The oil you use for your wooden cutting boards and utensils should be food grade and not prone to rancidity. Mineral oil is an inexpensive and popular choice, and you can easily find bottles in most kitchen supply stores.

How do you oil a bowl? ›

  1. Wash the bowl thoroughly with dish soap and water. Dry it with a hand towel. ...
  2. Rub the bowl with a dust cloth to remove any dirt or debris.
  3. Rub the bowl with a wood oil using a clean rag. ...
  4. Coat the bowl with a second coat of oil. ...
  5. Buff the bowl with a soft cloth to bring out its shine.

Will olive oil soak into wood? ›

Olive oil, as you already know, is a great conditioner. When you apply it to wood, it soaks in, swelling the wood fibers and deepening their color. You may be wondering if the oil will go rancid as it sits and oxidizes.

Should wood be dry before oiling? ›


Let the surfaces dry for about a week before you start oiling so as to avoid rot in the wood.

How many coats of oil on wood? ›

Standard linseed oil takes ages to dry, at least two or three days per coat, and you need multiple coats when applying it to new wood, normally three to five coats but in some cases, as many as fifteen to twenty coats can be applied.

Should you sand after oiling wood? ›

For the ultimate in smooth feel with an oil or oil/varnish-blend finish, sand the finish between coats while it is still wet—that is, before wiping off the excess. You can use any grit sandpaper, but the finer grit you use, the smoother the result.

How long do you leave oil on wood? ›

Allow the oil to soak into the wood for around 10 minutes and then wipe away the excess oil with a clean cotton cloth and allow it to dry. Each coat will require around five hours to dry. For a table or worktop in everyday use, three coats will be required.

What is a good lubricant for wood on wood? ›

One of the best lubricants is walnut oil. This oil is often used as a wood finish. It you have a salad bowl then there is a good chance it was finished with walnut oil. Many stores that carry wood finishing products will carry walnut oil.

Which oil is best for wood? ›

Linseed oil is one of the best oils to use for wood finishes because it penetrates deep into the grain of the wood, giving it a rich color and protecting it against moisture. If you want to clean your wood furniture with linseed oil, make sure to dilute it first with water.

How do you condition a wooden bowl? ›

To Reseason: Whenever bowl becomes dry or dull-looking, reseason it: Use paper towel to liberally apply mineral oil, which won't turn rancid like oils used in salad dressings, to all surfaces of bowl. Let stand for 15 minutes, then wipe away residue with clean paper towel.

Is olive oil good for oiling wood? ›

While some people think that the use of olive oil might damage wooden furniture, it actually nourishes the wood and brings out its natural shine. It can be used to treat several kinds of wooden surfaces. From chairs and tables to wooden storage boxes, you can use olive oil and let it act as a varnish.

What oils are safe for wood? ›

Whilst there are many 'old school' wood oils, the most commonly used are without a doubt Danish oil, Teak oil, Tung oil and to a lesser degree Linseed oil.

What does WD-40 do to wood? ›

Just rub a generous amount of WD-40 into the wood. It shields the wood from moisture and other corrosive elements and keeps it smooth and splinter-free for the life of the tool.

What oil makes wood shine? ›

Mineral oil is one of the least controversial types of oil and is often used on wood to create a shine like no other. It can be used in the kitchen because you can buy food-grade mineral oil that's purpose is to be used on kitchen surfaces.

Can you use Vaseline to oil wood? ›

* Protect your wooden furniture with Vaseline, in the same way that you would use a wood polish. * Protect your leather couches by applying a small amount to a clean cloth and rubbing it on. * Got a squeaky door or gate? Rub some Vaseline on the hinge to lubricate it and the noise will be gone.

How dry does wood need to be before oiling? ›

Let it dry for 24 hours

Before oiling your deck, you'll want to let the wood dry for at least 24 hours. This helps ensure the best conditions for proper oil application. If you're into specifics, the moisture content of the wood shouldn't be more than 17%.


1. Wood Bowl Care
(Nutmeg Notebook)
2. The care and feeding of your wooden bowl(s)
(Holland Bowl Mill)
3. how to oil wooden bowls
4. How to Clean Butcher Blocks and Wood Bowls
(Bring It On Cleaner)
5. oiling wood bowls
6. The Best Food Safe Finish | Spoiler: It’s Not Mineral Oil
(The Wood Whisperer)
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