Wooden utensils are standard kitchen fare, so caring for them properly is a topic that’s going to naturally arise. I never expected it to be controversial, but in some ways, it is. Here are some pointers about caring for them.
Don’t try to “salvage” old wooden utensils. If you don’t know its origin, or it’s very old, you might make it look clean again, but you’ll never remove all the bacteria. If the utensil looks so cool that you don’t want to part with it, hang it on the wall. Wood is porous and doesn’t have the life-span of other materials. Fact.Wooden utensils hate dishwashers. The high temperatures dry out the wood and shorten its life span. Some people recommend oiling them to combat the effects of dishwashers. You need oil them regardless. They should be hand washed with a mild dish detergent and then hand-dried.
Wood grows fuzzy with use, as a result of exposure to water. The technical term for this is “raising the grain.” The solution is fine grain sand paper. (300 to 400) After you sand away the fuzz, gently hand wash and dry your utensils. Sometimes they can become scarred, burned or dented. Again, sand paper followed by gently washing is the solution. If the marring is particularly deep, you might need to soak the piece in water to soften and expand the wood before sanding. You’ll need a more coarse grain for serious marring. If that doesn’t work, the mark is permanent. Some marks can’t be removed from wood, which brings me to my next point.
Don’t allow wet wooden utensils to come into contact with iron, whether cast iron pans or tinned cans, because it leaves a black mark that can’t be removed.
Periodically, they need sanitizing. There are two acceptable methods. The first is to soak your utensils in a solution of bleach water, that’s 20/1, water to bleach, for a half hour or so. After soaking, you’ll need to wash, dry, sand, and oil your utensils. The second is to lay them on a flat surface and pour hydrogen peroxide over them. Again, washing, drying, possibly sanding, and oiling will need to follow. The bleach is more thorough, and the peroxide is gentler. Your choice should reflect how often you use the utensils.
The last step is oiling them. Mineral oil is highly preferable to any food based oil because it doesn’t turn rancid and it’s not a common allergen. A bottle can be purchased at your local drug store or in the medicine aisle of the grocery store for less than $5.00, and should last a very long time, because you only need to rub in a small amount when your utensils start to look dry. How often you oil should be based on how often you use the utensils. Oiling extends their practical lives.