How Safe Are Wood Countertops?

It’s a common myth out there that wood can harbor bacteria more so than say a plastic cutting board. It’s been shown that many woods are actually hostile environments for bacteria and can be naturally antibacterial. But let’s use a commercial butchers shop as a real world example. They have to pass frequent and strict tests to maintain operations and they almost exclusively use butcher block as their surface of choice. It doesn’t dull their knives and is easy to clean. As an extra precaution clean cutting boards or butcher blocks with a mixture of 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water. It will kill anything left on or in the wood, it’s safe and it’s cheap.

Another question we get is how safe are the wood sealers. The bottom line is they are all safe for food contact but the sealers designed for food prep like mineral oil or butchers wax are certified food safe wood finishes. The other sealers we like to use at J. Aaron are tung-oil, conversion varnish and marine varnish. All of these sealers use solvents like mineral spirits and lacquer thinners as carriers for the solids. The solvents evaporate leaving the solids on the wood to act as the protective coating. Once the solvents are gone, usually 36 hours, there’s nothing left to contaminate food that may come in contact with the top. The only reason these finishes are not certified food safe is the cost of certification for the manufactures.

We hope this clears up some of the questions out there about how safe wood countertops are for use in the kitchen. Please write us and let us know if you have any other questions we can help with.

Written by Joshua Johnson

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