Last Updated on August 27, 2023 by Ernest Godia
Staining and sealing are standard ways of protecting wood and enhancing its aesthetics. Unfortunately, most finishes used to treat wood contain toxic chemicals that can cause health complications when ingested.
Many of these toxic finishes become safe for food contact once they dry and cure fully. Using the best food-safe wood stain and sealer is crucial when treating wooden surfaces in the kitchen that are likely to come in contact with food.
Using food-grade stains and sealers on food-handling items like wooden bowls, butcher blocks, countertops, and cutting boards ensures your family’s safety.
This guide reviews the eight best food-safe wood stain and sealer products and provides a guide on choosing them.
How Safe Are Food-Safe Wood Stains and Sealers
Some stains and sealers, such as polyurethane and standard wood stains, contain harmful chemicals for human consumption. For this reason, they should not be used on food-handling wood surfaces like cutting boards.
On the other hand, food-grade wood stains have natural, non-toxic ingredients. However, it is crucial to note that these stains are only food safe after curing and not just after drying to the touch.
Best Food-Safe Wood Stain and Sealer Reviews
Here is a detailed look at some of the products you can use to treat wooden surfaces that come in contact with food.
1. Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac – Best food-safe wood stain and sealer
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac is made of shellac, a secretion from the female lac bug. It comprises all-natural ingredients, making it ideal for food-handling wood surfaces such as chopping boards.
After curing, the coat formed is non-toxic and enhances the appearance of the wood grain with a slight amber tint. Allow the protective coat to cure fully before using it for food contact.
You should be happy to know the product is easy to apply on surfaces and dries to the touch quickly, allowing for a recoat in just 45 minutes.
You can also use it on other wood items, including furniture, paneling, trim, or wooden art pieces.
Notice that prolonged exposure of surfaces coated with this sealer to chemicals, heat, or water can drastically reduce the lifespan of the finish.
- Forms a non-toxic coat after curing
- Dries quickly to the touch, allowing for recoating in 45 minutes
- It is highly versatile; it can be used on wooden surfaces, art pieces, and more.
- Unsuitable for exterior projects
- Offers minimal resistance to water, chemicals, and heat
2. CUTTING BOARD Natural Wood Wax And Conditioner – Best food-safe wood stain and sealer for cutting board
This CUTTING BOARD Natural Wood Wax And Conditioner is the ideal choice for cutting boasts. It is a food-grade beeswax finish, making it safe for direct food contact.
You can use it to coat wooden cutting boards, utensils, countertops, salad bowls, and other wood products that hold food.
It protects these surfaces by penetrating deeply into wood to make it watertight and prevent drying and cracking.
Using the product is easy as it features a simple-to-use dispenser cap that allows you to regulate how much wax to apply. All you have to do is pour it onto a wooden surface and spread it with a cloth.
The manufacturer of this product advises that you reapply it on your wooden accessories every five to six weeks to maintain protection. Therefore, it is wise always to have this product in your house. A bottle of natural wood wax may last for many years.
- Creates a watertight seal
- It prevents the wood from drying and cracking
- Easy to use
- This product can last many years
- It needs to be reapplied every five to six weeks
3. Wood Master’s Secret 3 In 1– Best food-safe sealer for butcher blocks
Wood Master’s Secret uses the power of pure tung oil and plant-based compounds to condition, restore, and protect butcher blocks, cutting boards, and all other wooden surfaces.
This product is easy to apply. After application, air and wood fibers activate the plant-based ingredients, causing them to absorb deeply into the wood. This process distributes non-toxic conditioners and sealers through the wood.
Once it cures, the conditioners and sealers in this product protect the wood from moisture damage and prevent ugly stains.
The seal can remain in place for up to three years without maintenance. This saves you the time and money you would have spent on regular reapplications, as is the case with some other sealers.
Though this product creates a glossy finish on new wooden surfaces, some customers find that not to be the case with old wooden surfaces.
- Protects the wood from moisture
- Minimizes ugly stains
- Durable; its seal can last up to three years
- It does not require frequent maintenance
- Creates a glossy finish on new wood
- Not the best option for old wood
4. HOPE’S 100% Pure Tung Oil–Best food-safe stain for countertops
Hope’s 100% pure tung oil stain consists of oil extracted from the tree’s seeds.
This finish penetrates the wood well after application, curing into a flexible, non-oily coat that is water resistant. As a result, many people use it to waterproof their boats, among other wooden projects.
Since it is non-toxic, it is a suitable food-safe finish for wooden surfaces that come into contact with food. Use it to finish your countertops, charcuterie boards, wooden utensils, and cutting boards.
Applying this food-safe wood finish requires patience, as expected with any tung oil product. The first layer should be thin, and you must allow it to dry for 24 hours before adding more layers.
Besides creating a waterproof coat, this finish does not darken or mold. However, it requires regular maintenance, frequently reapplying the oil as necessary.
- Penetrates the wood deeply
- Forms a watertight coat that is non-oily
- It is non-toxic
- It is made of premium tung oil
- It does not mold or darken
- It takes a long to dry
- Must be reapplied frequently
5. Cutting Board Wax– Best food-safe sealer for wooden utensils
Cutting Board wax features a blend of pure beeswax, rosemary and lemon essential oils, and coconut oil, making it 100% food safe when dry. Therefore, you can use it on your wooden utensils, cutting boards, butcher blocks, and other wooden surfaces.
Applying this product is easy. You only need to clean the wood surface before rubbing a thin layer on it using a clean cloth. After that, allow the sealer to dry for 2 hours and wipe off the excess using a clean cloth.
The seal created will prevent water penetration, odors, staining, and wood cracking.
The manufacturer advises reapplying this product every month or when the wood surface feels dry.
- It is non-toxic and food-grade
- Prevents wood odors and stains
- Easy to apply
- Prevents wood cracking
- Must be reapplied every month
6. Sunnyside Corporation Pure Raw Linseed Oil – Best food-safe stain for toys
Children frequently attempt to lick or even eat from their toys. For this reason, you must always finish toys using food-grade finishes. The Sunnyside Corporation Pure Raw Linseed Oil is one such finish.
This stain can protect raw wood used to make toys and other surfaces from abrasion, wear, water, and sunlight. This makes it suitable for both interior and exterior use.
Additionally, it is simple to use, and even though the product’s cure time may take up to four days, the wait is worthwhile. After the stain has cured, you will receive a lovely, protective gloss finish.
The manufacturer indicates that you can add this product directly to oil-based stains and paints.
- Protects raw wood from wear, tear, water, and sunlight
- It is easy to use on both exterior and interior wood
- It creates a lovely gloss finish
- It can be added directly to oil-based stains and paints
- It takes a lot of time to dry
7. Garifon Waterproof Wood Sealer –Best waterproof food-grade sealer
Another finish on our list made from natural tung oil is Garifon Waterproof Wood Sealer. It exudes the scent of natural tung oil and is non-toxic, food-grade, and environmentally safe.
This product will protect wood surfaces and give a high gloss to your indoor and outdoor wood projects, as well as concrete and bricks. Use it on surfaces that come in contact with food, such as butcher blocks, dining tables, cutting boards, and wooden utensils.
It is straightforward to apply, penetrates deeply into the wood fibers, cures into a flexible, non-oily coating, and eventually becomes a part of the wood itself. The wood will become water- and stain-resistant as a result.
The main drawback to using this product is that it takes so long to dry.
- It is environmentally friendly
- Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use
- Versatile; can be used on wood, concrete, and bricks
- It is simple to apply and penetrates deeply into the wood fibers
- Cures into a flexible, non-oily coating
- Resistant to water and stains when dry
- It takes time to dry
8. Godora Pure Tung Oil – Multi-use food-safe stain and sealer
Nearly any surface the oil can penetrate responds brilliantly to Godora Pure Tung Oil application. It can be used to finish various materials, including concrete, bricks, stones, unpainted wood, furniture, floors made of wood, and cutting boards.
It’s simple to use. All you have to do is use a soft cloth or brush to evenly apply a thin coat of pure tung oil to the surface of the wood and then let the tung oil dry at room temperature.
Apply three to four coats for a perfect finish.
After using this product, your wood items will have a barrier of protection on the surface, so you won’t need to be concerned about stains and moisture affecting them.
The disadvantage of this product is that it is expensive and takes longer to dry.
- Highly versatile; You can use it on various materials, including wood, bricks, concrete, and stones.
- It is easy to use
- Protects the wooden surface against stains and moisture
- Not the best option for those working on a tight budget
How to Choose the Best Food-Safe Wood Stain and Sealer
There are several factors to consider when deciding on the best food-safe stain and sealer for your project. This includes the following:
A) Surface Sealers or Penetrating Oils
Surface sealers, commonly called film finishes, do not penetrate the wooden surface. Instead, they form a protective barrier on top of the wood. This layer is easy to recoat for additional protection.
The primary disadvantage of using surface sealers is that they are not easy to apply, especially if you don’t have the necessary woodworking expertise. Use them on projects susceptible to higher physical abuse, wetness, wear and tear, or harsh cleaning chemicals.
On the other hand, penetrating oils absorb deeply into the wood and protect it from the inside. They are easy to apply and enhance the natural appearance and feel of the wood. Their disadvantage is that they are less protective compared to the film finishes.
Use penetrating finishes on decorative projects and pieces that do not need additional protection. They draw attention to the wood grain and offer a lovely satin finish.
B) Drying Versus Non-Drying Oil Finishes
These two groups fall under penetrating oils. Drying oils are those that start to cure immediately after they are exposed to air.
As a result, they begin to dry immediately after application. Examples of drying oils include walnut oil, linseed oil, and tung oil.
Non-drying oils, on the other hand, never dry. As a result, they are considered to be more of wood treatments rather than true finishes. Since they don’t cure, they can get washed off with time. Examples of non-drying oils include coconut oil, vegetable oil, and mineral oil.
C) Choose a Reliable Brand.
No matter the product’s nature, if your project has direct contact with food, you need a food-safe finish. So choose reliable brands that have a track record of producing finishes that are food safe.
Wood Projects that Require Food-Safe Wood Stains and Sealers
Various other project categories may benefit from food-safe wood stains and sealers besides kitchen utensils, as indicated below:
- Kitchen utensils such as wooden spatulas, bowls, spoons, forks, cooking sticks, platters, and more
- Food preparation wooden surfaces such as butcher blocks and cutting boards
- Eat-on wooden surfaces such as countertops, tables, and bar tops
- Children toys
How to Make Your Own Food-Safe Wood Stain
If you prefer to be creative, you can make your food-grade stain and sealer at home using a few readily-available ingredients. This section walks you through the list of supplies you need and the steps to follow.
Here is a list of the things you require to make your homemade food-safe wood stain:
- Plastic sheeting
- Latex gloves
- Tea bags or tea leaves
- Coffee maker or teapot
- Large plastic or glass bowl
- Disposable cotton rags
- Rub-on beeswax sealer, almond oil, walnut oil, or mineral oil
Below is the procedure for making your own food-safe wood stain:
Step 1: Prepare concentrated coffee or tea solution in a coffee maker or teapot.
The amount of the solution you need will depend on the size of your project. The coffee or tea needed should be double the water used.
The more coffee or tea you use, the richer the color you will get. Pour the coffee or tea solution into a sizeable plastic or glass bowl and let it cool to room temperature.
Step 2: Apply the solution to your wooden pieces
Put on your latex gloves and dip the cotton cloth into the liquid. Wring out the cotton slightly and apply the coffee or tea solution to your wooden pieces. Allow the pieces to dry for a few hours, and add another layer if you want a deeper color.
Step 3. Apply the rub-on beeswax sealant
Using a clean piece of cloth, apply rub-on beeswax sealant over the homemade stain. Allow the wood to dry overnight. To guarantee the most absorption by the wood, apply another layer.
In this step, you can also use walnut oil, mineral oil, or almond oil.
How to Apply Food-Safe Wood Stain
Different food-safe wood stains may be applied differently. However, below are the general steps followed when applying most food-safe wood stains.
- Food-safe wood stain
Procedure for applying food-safe wood stain
Step 1: Start by sanding the wood with coarse-grit sandpaper and finish with fine-grain sandpaper. After sanding, vacuum or clean the wood surface using a wet cloth.
Step 2: Wear protective gloves to protect your skin
Step 3: Read the packaging of your product to know how much you should use and apply the stipulated amount using a rag or brush. Ensure that you spread it evenly across the wooden surface.
Step 4: Leave the stain to absorb into the wood for five to twenty minutes. The more you let the food-safe wood stain settle on the wood, the darker the finish you will get.
Step 5: Wipe the excess wood stain using a clean rag
Step 6: Add another layer of the wood stain after the initial one has dried if you want a thick coat.
Food-Safe Wood Stain and Sealer: FAQs
Is there a food-safe sealer for painted wood?
Pure tung oil can be used on both raw and painted wood surfaces to protect them against abrasions, water, and acids. However, Citrus Solvent must be added to this FDA-approved sealer to enhance its penetration.
What is the difference between wood stain and wood sealer?
A sealer is clear to display the wood grain and the wood’s original color. It also stops water from soaking in and leading to wood decay. On the other hand, a stain performs nearly the same functions as a sealer but also contains a pigment that inhibits UV radiation that can dry out the wood and cause it to crack, check, or turn gray.
Is MDF safe for food?
MDF is considered food safe and can be used on food-safe applications or children’s toys when not painted. After painting, whether it is food safe or not will depend on the paint used.
What is the difference between wood sealer and wood preservative?
There is no difference between a wood sealer and a wood preservative. Both terms are used interchangeably to describe the same product.
Is varnish safe for food?
Varnish contains chemicals that help it to dry faster. These chemicals make varnish not to be food safe before the curing process. However, after curing, varnish is considered food safe.
Is polyurethane safe for food?
Polyurethane is considered food safe after curing. Its cured coat is resistant to vegetable and mineral oils and aromatic hydrocarbons, making it the best option for food-safe applications.
Why are wooden surfaces not recommended in food?
Wood needs to be kept dry to prevent damage. However, this is not possible if you are using it to prepare or serve food because surfaces that come into contact with food must be cleaned and disinfected regularly. This causes the wood to be damaged, and the damaged areas act as hiding places for bacteria and mold that may contaminate the food.
Food-Safe Wood Stain and Sealer: Final Take
Finishing wood surfaces that come in contact with food, such as wooden countertops or cutting boards, or those that may end up in children’s mouths, like toys, requires utmost caution.
Using non-food-safe products to treat or refinish such wooden surfaces can cause health issues by ingesting toxic ingredients. That’s why you need only the best food-safe wood stain and sealer for such projects.
This guide reviews eight food-safe stain and sealer products you can use on such surfaces. We hope this information helps you complete your next finishing job with ease.