Wooden spoons are a classic kitchen utensil that can last a lifetime with proper care. But neglect or improper washing can lead to dullness, fraying, cracks, and splits, which harbor bacteria and odors. To keep your wooden spoons safe, you need to understand why they crack and how to care for them properly.
Keeping Wooden Spoons Safe to Use
If you know how to care for wood spoons, they’re safe to use. Letting them fray or crack, though, lets food seep into the wood. Over time, this can lead to the growth of harmful bacteria, such as salmonella or E. coli, which can cause food-borne illnesses. You’ll also notice your spoon looks stained and may even smell bad.
By properly cleaning and moisturizing your wooden spoons, you can prevent cracks and keep them in good condition. Regularly washing your spoons by hand with hot, soapy water, and oiling them with coconut oil or food-grade mineral oil can help seal their surface and keep them safe to use.
Why Wood Spoons Crack and Split
Wooden spoons can crack over time due to the natural properties of wood. Cutting a spoon from a piece of wood leaves rough and sometimes sharp edges at the end of the wood’s grain. These edges can fray when the spoon gets wet from use or washing. Frayed wood fibers collect stains and odors, and allow moisture to penetrate the wood, causing it to split.
To prevent wooden spoons from cracking, hand wash them with hot water and mild dish soap, then immediately towel dry to keep moisture from penetrating the wood. Every few weeks, rub them well with food-grade mineral oil or coconut oil to seal and protect their surface. Do not add them to the dishwasher, as extreme temperatures and detergents can cause splitting.
Steps to Clean and Maintain Wooden Spoons
Step 1: Wash by hand.
When washing wooden spoons, use hot water and liquid dish soap. Rinse thoroughly and towel dry immediately to keep water from seeping into the wood. For stubborn stains, use a nylon scrubber or a damp rag with baking soda or table salt.
Step 2: Smooth rough spots.
To refurbish splintered or rough wooden spoons, use 320-grit sandpaper or a steel wool pad to smooth the surface by rubbing along the grain. Wipe the spoon with a damp cloth after sanding to remove debris. Check the spoon’s smoothness and repeat sanding if needed. Then, moisturize the spoon to seal its surface and protect it from further damage.
Step 3: Moisturize with oil.
Moisturize wooden spoons with a layer of oil to keep them hydrated and protect them from stains and heat damage. Food-grade mineral oil or coconut oil are good options. Rub the oil into the wood using a soft cloth or paper towel, covering all crevices and the handle. Leave it overnight to soak into the wood. The next day, use a clean cloth to wipe off excess oil and prevent stickiness. Repeat oiling every few weeks to maintain the spoon’s shine and prolong its lifespan.
- Don’t let wooden utensils air dry after washing them. Towel dry them immediately to prevent moisture from penetrating the wood.
- Do not let wooden spoons soak in the sink, as too much water can cause them to crack.
- Remove wooden spoons from foods while they cook. Leaving a wooden spoon in a simmering pot of food exposes it to too much moisture.
- Avoid using harsh detergents or abrasive cleaning tools that can damage the wood’s surface.
- To remove odors like garlic or onion from your wooden utensils, rub them with the cut side of a halved lemon dipped in table salt. Let this sit for 5 minutes, then wash and dry them.
- Store wooden spoons in a dry place away from heat sources to prevent them from warping or cracking.
When to Toss Your Wood Utensils
Once wooden spoons crack or split, it’s time to stop using them for cooking because they can harbor bacteria and are no longer food-safe. Instead, repurpose them as garden markers or craft pieces. If your wooden utensils are unpainted or unvarnished, you can also compost them or check if your local recycling center accepts them.
By following these simple steps, you can keep your wooden spoons in good condition and make them last practically forever. With proper care, you’ll not only maintain their shine and durability but also prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that can cause food-borne illness.