How to clean wooden bowls

Seasoning wood items used for preparing or serving food is an important aspect of keeping them in optimal condition. When you first purchase a wooden bowl, for example, season it every day for a week, then once a week for the next three weeks, then every month afterward. When it appears dull or feels dry to the touch, it needs seasoning. Purchase a good quality wood preserver or food-quality mineral oil at the pharmacy or grocery store. 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.

Wooden Bowls Are Easy to Restore and Maintain!

In an effort not to damage wood bowls or other wood serving items or utensils, many people tend to be overly careful about not soaking them in water or scrubbing them too vigorously with soap and water, fearing they will dry out the wood. Consequently, I have seen many wooden bowls and utensils at flea markets and yard sales that are a bit sticky to the touch; inside or outside (often the reason people are trying to get rid of them).

Fortunately, there is an easy fix for your problem. Simply immerse the bowl or wood item in warm water and dish soap. Scrub the bowl (or item) with a nylon scrubber sponge, rinse thoroughly with hot water, and dry immediately with an absorbent dish towel. If the exterior of the bowl still feels a little tacky or sticky when dried, scrub the surface again in HOT water and dish soap, rinse thoroughly with hot water.

After the dried bowl has been allowed to air-dry for an hour or two, the interior or exterior may seem a little dried out from the scrubbing. If so, use some fine steel wool (No. 0000) and Bowl and Board Rub or good quality wood preserver to gently “scrub” the bowl inside and out. Then buff it vigorously with a soft, clean rag. The idea is to get a little of the Bowl and Board Rub worked into the surface of the wood to nourish and protect the wood. The wood should end up with a nice glow. But if it’s shiny, greasy/slippery to the touch or sticky, you need to keep buffing a bit more.

Cleaned thoroughly after each use and oiled and buffed occasionally, your bowl should hold up for another century or two.

Wooden bowls, boards and utensils are a great addition to the kitchen. Wood is naturally anti-bacterial so cleansing and sanitizing these items occasionally helps control the amount of bacteria that can grow on the wood. Despite popular belief, the porous surface of wood actually deprives the bacteria of the warmth and moisture needed to survive and bacteria actually die on the surface within seconds.


Hand washing is the best way to care for your woodenware. Never soak them in water for too long to prevent splitting or cracking. Use warm water and mild soap to wash the surface. This will cleanse the exterior without subjecting the wood to elements that will destroy the material. Never put wood items in the dishwasher or in the microwave oven.


Sanitizing wooden bowls and wood utensils helps to control bacteria growth. White vinegar works wonders. Mix 1 part white vinegar with 5 parts water, wet the bowl thoroughly and allow the solution to do its job for several minutes. Rinse the bowl with warm water and let it air dry. Or fill a spray bottle with a 50-50 mix of white vinegar and water, and spritz as needed, wiping off the excess with a clean towel.

Damage Repair

If your wooden bowl feels fuzzy to the touch, the grains of the wood are raised and will benefit from a hand sanding. Grab some 400 to 600 grit sandpaper or steel wool and rub the damaged area lightly until smoothed out. Wash out the bowl and dry as usual. A brown-paper bag will even work in place of the sandpaper if you do not have any handy. If your bowl gets a dent, start with a coarser sandpaper, and progress to finer grits slowly, 80, 100, 120, etc. until the area is smoothed out. Wash and dry as usual after the area is fixed. Don’t forget to season your bowl after sanding.

Is your wooden salad bowl still sticky even after you've cleaned it? Here's how to make it new again—and keep it that way.

Years of exposure to oily salad dressings can leave a wooden salad bowl with tacky, rancid residue. Here's how to make it new again—and keep it that way.

To Remove Sticky Buildup: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 275 degrees. Line rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper and set wire rack in sheet. Place bowl upside down on rack. Turn off oven (don't forget this step or bowl might burn) and place sheet in oven. Within minutes, oils will start to bead on surface of bowl. After 1 to 2 hours, oils will run off bowl and onto sheet. Once bowl appears dry, remove sheet from oven and wipe down bowl with paper towels to remove any residue. (If bowl is still sticky, repeat baking process.)

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.

To Clean and Maintain: Use mild dish soap and warm water to clean well-seasoned wooden bowl. Always dry bowl thoroughly after cleaning. Never put bowl in dishwasher or let it soak in water, as it will warp and crack.

Nothing brings out the vibrant colors of a salad more than a wooden serving bowl! In this tutorial, I show you how to prevent the fragile-esque nature of a wooden bowl from splintering damage but also the proper way to clean and preserve its beautiful finish.

Let’s get started!

Step 1: Washing & Drying

Always remember that liquid is the worst enemy of wooden bowls.

That said, a quick wash in warm water and dish soap is the best way to clean this type of bowl. Make sure to use the soft side of a sponge, and not the abrasive side, as this will scratch up and remove any finishes already on the bowl.

Allow to air dry or better yet, towel dry as this will remove moisture quicker from the surface.

Step 2: No Heat!

Heat is another enemy of wooden bowls or utensils, as the rise in temperature can cause the grain to warp and split. Do not place bowls in microwave or in dishwashers. Hand washing is best, and if you need warmer foods in the bowl, heat them separately, then put in wooden bowl. However, liquidy foods such as soups should not be placed in wooden bowls.

Step 3: Seasoning

Seasoning is done to optimize the functionality of a bowl by removing any impurities from the grain and also helping to improve the taste and smell of the food inside. Enter in my favorite cleaning aide: lemons! Lemon juice is a well known antibacterial agent, and because wooden bowls are generally used to serve salads, it adds it’s own a crisp flavor. However, if you do not want the added lemony flavor, do not season immediately before use.

Simply cut a lemon in half and rub the inside of the bowl with it, squeezing gently as you go allowing the juice to flow generously. Allow bowl to drain free of any excess juices before use.

Step 4: Vinegar Bath

Using a 1:5 ratio of vinegar and water, pour the mix into your bowl to adequately fill to the brim. Let stand for 10 minutes then proceed to Step 1 with washing and drying.

The antibacterial and anti-fungal properties of white vinegar helps to kill any bacteria that has managed to live in the porous surface of the wood.

Step 5: Oiling

Depending on how often your bowl is used and for what purpose, or just usually when the color begins to fade, you can resurface the bowl by rubbing it with food grade mineral oil (not vegetable oils as these will go rancid over time and affect taste of whatever is in the bowl.) Apply oil to a non-lint cloth like microfiber, or with just your fingers (some people swear this gets the oil deeper into the grain), going in the direction of the grain as much as possible. Allow to sit and use when dry to touch

This process is done to protect the wood from drying out and subsequently cracking, but also to help protect excess liquid from seeping into the grain.

Step 6: Storage

Another enemy of wooden bowls is direct sunlight. This can age the bowl prematurely, discoloring and drying it of its natural oils. Store bowls in a cool and dark place in a pantry to ensure longevity.

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Wooden bowls are gorgeous, but you need to know how to clean them if you want them to last in the kitchen. Wood is porous, so it needs different care from the non-porous materials that make up most dinner ware. The first and most important rule in caring for wooden bowls: never let them soak in water. That also means: never put them in the dishwasher.

But it’s pretty simple. Here’s what you need to know:

How to clean a wooden bowl

  • Fill a sink with warm water and a mild dish detergent like Dawn.
  • Dip a dishwashing cloth or sponge in the water.
  • Wash the dish as quickly as you can, removing all visible food particles.
  • STOP! You’ve washed it enough – washing further could let water into the wood fibers, which is how they get damaged with soaking.
  • Rinse it under cold, clear water from the tap.
  • Dry the bowl immediately and as thoroughly as you can with a dishtowel or paper towels. You won’t be able to get it perfectly dry, so put it on a dish rack to dry the rest of the way. It’s important not to put it away before it’s thoroughly dry, so air drying is an important last step. Otherwise, they could mold.
  • Get a dab of food safe mineral oil on a cloth or paper towel and rub it all over the bowl. The right amount of oil will have it glistening, but not shining. If you get too much, just wipe off the excess with a clean paper towel.

That’s it. It sounds like a lot of steps, but once you get the swing of it, it’s actually really easy to do.

Growing up we would go out for pizza every Friday night. We would get pizza, breadsticks, and my mom would often get a salad.

I wasn’t a big salad fan at the time but I always thought it was so cool that they served the salads in wood bowls. Still, to this day when I see a wooden bowl, I think of Noble Roman’s Pizza.

I was so excited a couple of years ago when I got a set of wood salad bowls for Christmas. It came with a giant fork and spoon to serve the salad and is really fun to use.

If you have a wood salad bowl set you will know the one downside to them is caring for them.

Unlike a regular plate or bowl, you just can’t put them in the dishwasher or even hand wash and let them drip dry.

Wood salad bowls take a little extra care to keep them looking nice.

Check out how to clean a wood salad bowl to keep your salad bowls free from sticky buildup and looking like new.

How To Clean A Wood Salad Bowl

Most wood bowls today come pre-seasoned. You don’t need to do anything special before you use them. When you are finished using them each time wash them out with a little dawn soap, water, and a sponge.

The dawn soap will help clean off any of the oils in the salad dressing that may lead to buildup on the bowls.

When you are done washing them rinse them in warm water and quickly dry. To avoid cracks never let the bowls sit and water and make sure you dry them by hand don’t air dry.

Removing Sticky Build Up From Wooden Bowls

Even with the best of care, your bowls may get some sticky buildup on them from oils and residue.

To clean off any sticky residue you can heat the bowl up to loosen the sticky buildup. Heat your oven up to about 235-250 degrees.

Then turn the oven off and set the bowl on a cookie sheet in the oven. The residue will start to loosen and you can wipe it away.

Depending on how much residue you have it will take anywhere from a few minutes to an hour to loosen it all up. Just keep checking on it and wiping away what you can.

Once you get all the residue from the wood bowl you can remove it from the oven and let it cool down.

Reseasoning A Wooden Bowl

To reseason or season the wood salad bowl you will want to apply a food grade mineral oil to it. Do not use an olive oil or vegetable oil.

Those tend to go rancid over time and will make your bowls smell. Using a paper towel or old rag liberally apply the mineral oil to the bowl.

Let the bowl sit for about 20-30 minutes so it can absorb the mineral oil and then wipe off any excess. Your bowls will now be ready to use again.

That’s all there is to it. It’s just that easy to clean and care for your wooden salad bowls. Keep them looking nice with these simple tips on how to clean a wood salad bowl.

Want some other cleaning tips? Check out some brilliant kitchen cleaning hacks that will save you time and money.

H eat your oven up to about 235-250 degrees. Then turn the oven off and set the bowl on a cookie sheet in the oven. The residue will start to loosen and you can wipe it away.