Food safe wax for spoons and such

Why would you buy finishes for wood? Really, they are expensive, and often contain all kinds of (petro-)chemicals of which you’re not aware when reading the label. The law requires labels of food and drinks to tell us what goes in there, because we consume those things. There is no such requirement for finishes, even though much of that stuff ends up in our systems too. In the past, I’ve posted about making your own paint, waterproofing wax and furniture wax. I’ve been experimenting with making my own food safe finish for spoons, cutting boards and bowls as well. I used a mixture of walnut oil, orange oil and beeswax for a while. I liked it: it was easy to apply and it smelled good. The walnut oil hydrated the wood and gave it a lovely sheen, the orange oil acted as a solvent and helped the wax to penetrate into the wood and dry quickly and the beeswax made it water repellent. It was easy to buff out nice and shiny and there was little need to reapply the wax over time. I thought I could do better though.

I realized that walnut oil is not ideal: many people have nut allergies, so in the end it cannot be part of a truly food safe finish. True, some people are also allergic to orange oil or beeswax, but those allergies are rare, and most orange oil evaporates after a short while. I also wanted to have a wax that was even more durable, one that would incorporate the film-forming properties of linseed oil. It should also be able to withstand a bit of heat, so that the wax could also be used on cooking utensils such as spatulas.

This is what I came up with: raw linseed oil as a food safe drying oil. It does take time for it to dry, though, and by itself it must be reapplied frequently because of that; orange oil as a solvent. This helps the wax penetrate the wood and the linseed oil to dry; beeswax makes the wax water repellent and gives the wood a nice sheen; and lastly, a bit of carnauba wax, which is able to withstand heat a bit better than beeswax. Carnauba wax by itself is too hard to use in this wax, though.

Quantities (by volume, not mass):

10 parts of raw linseed oil (not boiled! That stuff is not food safe)
1 part of orange oil
10 parts of beeswax (for a softer wax, you can always add less. 5 parts still makes a very nice wax)
1 part of carnauba wax

Directions, just chuck everything in a container (like the lovely cream pot above) and heat until all solids have molten. The best way to do this is by putting the container in boiling water, like a double boiler. I put it on a little rack in a bigger pot of water on the stove. The microwave also works, but I don’t know if that could affect the ingredients in an undesirable way (probably not, but don’t take my word for it). Let cool. Done.

As you can see, the recipe is nice and symmetrical. There is reasoning behind this, though it is a bit arbitrary: 10 parts of the main oil with one part of “helper” oil; 10 parts of the main wax with one part “helper” wax. I’m sure you could also make it differently to your own preference. It’s not an exact science, and this just works for me. It makes a thick wax that is easy to apply and buff out, but not so thin that most of it rubs off immediately. This enables me to make a little wax go a long way, which of course appeals to my frugality. Not that this is expensive to make, though. It’d probably cost you less than a couple of bucks.


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