Things have been busy here at the soap shack as we have moved AGAIN! This time, we actually have a dedicated area for all of our soapy goodness ideas and creations! We are working to get things together for our re-launch since the motorcycle accident in December so expect some great new products and some wonderful upgrades to existing ones!
We’ve decided to do a little something different with this blog post. Usually, we have soapy news and recipes. While this is not quite soap stuff, it is a great DIY project using some simple supplies you may already have laying around your kitchen! So while this isn’t traditional soap acumen, it embodies our tagline – “Handcrafted. Nature Inspired.”
So here goes!
While unpacking the house (specifically the kitchen), I like to wash everything that touches food after I unpack. I am not sure why, I just get the heebs at the the thought of creepy crawlies that may have been in boxes and packing paper prior to our use. Never mind that we bought the boxes and paper new…I have heard stories…
I noticed that my cutting board collection was looking a bit “ashy”, you know the look, like how your elbows and knees look when you have not conditioned them enough. It was time to give them some lovins!
Before we go any further, I must confess – I LOVE CUTTING BOARDS! Why? I have no idea! I just am drawn to them and have them for every type of cutting whether it be for fruit/veg, onions/garlic, cheese, meat, pizza, etc. I could build a small house (new soap shack?) with the boards that I own or have owned over the years.
I do have one particular board that is used as my main surface which makes it more prone to wear. This board is usually the one that we cut bread on, put hot pans on, or to just cut small pizzas. Recently, my daughter cut a pizza on it and created a lovely “x” to mark her spot. I’m really not quite sure if she felt the pizza really was that difficult to cut, or that she was creating individual wooden cutting board plates to go along with the slices. Either way, she left a nice little reminder of her visit to California forever ingrained in wood!
Time to clean and fix her up now! I do not clean my wooden cutting boards with my dishes in the dishwasher or soaking in the dishwater, in fact, it is not recommended. Supposedly, I have heard rumor that the wood resins contain their own types of antibacterial properties and can just be wiped clean. Erm…I think I will take my chances with a little soap and water. No offense to Mother Nature, of course.
Cuttingboard.com recently blogged about this very thing and suggests the following for proper cutting board cleaning and care:
“The Three Rules of Cleaning: Clean, Disinfect and Dry
To clean using hot water, sponge and a light amount of soap, scrub off any foods and fluids that have come into touch with the board. Scientific evidence shows that in cleaning, the volume of water matters more than anything, as it washes away bacteria and particles, so make sure you run it under lots of water and especially on scarred sections that are good at trapping food particles.
To disinfect, use either pure white vinegar or a mixture of two tablespoons of chlorine bleach in a gallon of water. Note that any vinegar other than pure white vinegar may impart smells to your board that are undesired. These solutions work to disinfect the board because vinegar has a low pH and bleach has a high pH, both of which will kill bacteria and germs, as they can only live within certain pH conditions. To apply, soak a cloth in the solution, then wipe the board down thoroughly with the wet cloth.
If your board has any sour or mold-like smell, you can also put a cup of baking powder onto the board and pour a cup of white vinegar over the board. The combination of these two ingredients will create an oxidization process that will remove stains and (hopefully) any lingering smells left in your cutting board. For a more natural route, you can also cut lemons in half and rub the board down with the sides of the lemon. Let sit for a few minutes before rinsing off.
After you have disinfected your board, the most important part is to wipe it with a dry cloth. This last step is the most important for maintaining your cutting board, as water permeating the wood is what causes the wood fibers to swell and then warp your board. This is why you should never soak your cutting board in water or put it into the dish washer.
While not a part of cleaning, it’s always good practice after your board is dried to rub mineral oil onto your cutting board. Do not use other organic oils, as the fats in those oils can and will spoil, turning rancid and causing your cutting board to stink. The natural oil that you can use is coconut oil, which will not go rancid. Oils work by occupying the space in the wood fibers and preventing water from entering your board and causing cracks and splits. These little crevices are where bacteria love to hide and multiply, so preventing your board from having small fractures is the key to keeping your cutting board sanitary.”
I take it a step further and rinse well with copious amounts of boiling water, especially if I cut meat. I have an electric tea kettle that I fill up and it heats the water while I clean the board. A quick rinse with that and then I wipe with a clean paper towel.
In the past, I have conditioned my boards with a product specifically dedicated to cutting boards as this same manufacturer makes very high end boards as well. It is a great product that has kept my beloved items beautiful over the years. Of course, curious minds want to know…”Can I make this better? Or if not better, at least the same and cheaper?”. The answer, of course, is – YES!
This product contains basically two ingredients: Beeswax and food grade mineral oil. Mineral oil is a great conditioner for wood and is used quite often on the finest of boards. Quality boards can run you into the hundreds so you will want to be sure to take care. Even your department store boards that may not be as expensive can have their lives and beauty lengthened with a bit of care.
After some research and experimentation, I found that the best ratio of beeswax to oils is one ounce of beeswax to four ounces of oil. This works with mineral oil or coconut oil as well. There are many sources that say to use any kind of oil like olive or sunflower, but those will turn rancid over time and make your board very smelly. Stick with coconut oil. Yes it is solid, but it melts very easily at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
Making it is easy:
You will need:
- a small mason type jar and lid
- pot to boil water (will be used as a double boiler unless you prefer to microwave)
- one ounce of unbleached beeswax
- four ounces of coconut oil
- spoon or chopstick to stir product
- it is advised to sterilize mason jars as you would if canning food to prevent any possible contamination, however, some will argue that the heat process required to melt the wax is sufficient enough
- place beeswax and coconut oil in mason jar
- fill pot with enough water to cover half the mason jar with mixture and heat until melted (or put jar in microwave for 30 second bursts until melted)
- when completely melted, stir product well and allow to cool before use.
- keep product covered with a lid and stored in a cool dark place, like your cupboard!
To use, remove a small amount (approximately the size of a quarter) from jar and rub into wood with a clean lint free cloth. For best results, allow to soak into the wood overnight, then remove excess with a clean paper towel. It is suggested to use a conditioner every 3-4 weeks, or more often if you notice your board becoming dry.
But what about those deep scratches that won’t come out?
Most of the smaller ones will fade with hydration, but some are just too deep. Here is a simple solution to hide the flaws.
You don’t want to put a stain on the boards because you will be putting wet raw foods on them. You can, however, naturally “stain” them. Certain foods and spices do a wonderful job of staining. Lighter woods hide imperfections better than the darker woods. Ground walnut shells and cocoa powder work wonders. *
*just be aware that this may create issues with those with food allergies. I keep a plastic cutting board around, just in case I have a guest with questionable allergies*.
Rewind back to my “X marks the spot” cutting board. Even after treating it with board cream a few times, the mark returned with a vengeance! Time for an intervention. I chose to use ground black walnut shells added to some board cream to create a tinted paste that will “stain” the blemishes and hide them. You don’t need much! Remember, only a quarter size to do the entire board with enough excess to wipe off in the morning.
I used about 1/8 of a teaspoon of powder to a quarter size amount of board cream. It doesn’t have to be exact. No one will suffer death if the ratio is off on this. (unless they are allergic to any of the ingredients, of course…)
Mix this well in a small dish with a skewer or chopstick, since it is such a small amount a spoon will be difficult to use.
Using a clean paper towel, apply paste to blemishes rubbing into the wood with a circular motion. Let it soak in for 30 minutes to an hour. The longer, the better.
After you have allowed the “stain” to penetrate, apply the non-tinted cream to the rest of the board, finally blending the tint with the non-tinted. Allow to soak in overnight, then remove excess with clean paper towel. If the board feels gritty from the walnut shells even after you wipe it, run the board under water for a quick rinse then dry with clean paper towel.
As you can see, the scratches and blemishes are still there, just less noticeable due to the natural staining technique.
I hope this brought a little excitement and beauty into your kitchen. Experiment with different natural alternatives to find the match to your beautiful wooden boards. The wood is incredibly forgiving if the “stain” is not exact, so don’t be afraid to be your own mad scientist!
With love from our kitchen to yours, take care and be kind to one another.