How to Oil Your Wood Furniture and Cutting Boards

Plus, why it's important.

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Oiling wood furniture is one of those chores you need to do when the weather turns cold. Like turning on our humidifiers and dialing up our moisturizing routines, it's a seasonal adjustment we make during the dry winter months. As wood loses moisture, it begins to shrink, which can result in cracks in your beautiful wood cutting board or favorite bentwood chair.

How can you prevent this unfortunate event? Learn how to oil your wood cutting boards and furniture. Don't worry: The entire process takes less than five minutes and could help preserve your cutting boards and furniture for years.

How Often to Oil Wood Furniture and Cutting Boards

Oil your wood furniture and cutting boards about once a month during the winter or whenever the items appear dry. How can you tell it's dry? Flick a few drops of water on the wood, and if it beads ups, it doesn't need oil. If the water soaks into the wood, it's time to oil it.

What You Need:

  • Wood polish and conditioner like Howard Feed-N-Wax ($10;
  • Food-grade cutting board oil like Howard Cutting Board Oil ($10, or Boos Block Mystery Oil ($15,
  • Clean cloth

How to Oil Wood Cutting Boards

Step 1: Clean It

First, make sure your cutting board is clean and thoroughly dry. Wash both sides of the cutting board by hand with dish soap and hot water. Never put a wood cutting board in the dishwasher, which could cause it to crack or warp. Wipe the board with a towel and set it in a drying rack to air dry completely.

Step 2: Apply Oil

Pour a few tablespoons of cutting board oil directly on the surface of the board, and use a clean cloth to distribute the oil evenly. If your cutting board has never been oiled, it might benefit from a second round of oiling and wiping. Then, stand the board upright and allow the oil to soak in for a few hours or overnight.

Step 3: Wipe Off Excess

Using another clean cloth, wipe off any excess oil. Your cutting board should look shiny and revived without being damp. Store cutting boards in an upright position to avoid trapping moisture between them.

How to Oil Wood Furniture

Follow these steps for oil-and-wax or stain-and-wax finishes, not painted or lacquered pieces.

Step 1: Dust Furniture

Wipe the furniture with a damp cloth to remove dirt, dust, or grime. Follow with a dry cloth to remove any moisture. If there's a sticky or gummy section on the wood, dip the cloth in a solution of water and a few drops of dish soap and gently scrub it off. Again, immediately dry the area completely.

Step 2: Wipe With Oiled Cloth

Apply wood polish to a clean cloth, then wipe it onto the furniture, working in the direction of the grain. Avoid aerosol polish sprays, which can leave a residue that builds up over time and can darken the wood.

Step 3: Buff and Wipe Away Excess Oil

Let the oil soak in for about 30 minutes before buffing it in with a clean cloth and wiping away any excess oil. Keep wood furniture out of direct sunlight, which can speed up the drying-out process.

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