While they protect your projects from the elements, wood finishes contain different chemicals. These chemicals can be hazardous to your health.

So, is it safe to coat a cutting board or butcher block with a wood stain or sealer? Lucky for you, most commercial finishes are safe once it attains full curing and drying.  

After endless consultations with finishing experts, chemists, and woodworkers, I’ve come up with several food-safe finishes.  

This post recommends the best food-safe wood stain and sealer and a buyer’s guide to help you settle for the best.

But first, is wood stain toxic? Find out.

Our Top Picks

Best Food Safe Wood Stain and Sealer

  1. Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac-Best Overall
  2. HOPE’S 100% Pure Tung Oil-Best Food Safe Stain For Charcuterie Board
  3. CUTTING BOARD Natural Wood Wax And Conditioner-Best Food-Safe Stain For Cutting Board
  4. Ultrapro Food Grade Mineral Oil-Best Food Safe Wood Stain And Sealer For Toys
  5. Sunnyside Corporation 87332 Pure Raw Linseed Oil-Best Food-Safe Stain For Toys
  6. Tried & True Varnish Oil-Best Food-Safe Stain For Countertops
  7. Howard Butcher Block Oil And Conditioner-Best Food Safe Stain For Butcher Block

Is Wood Stain Food Safe?

Food Safe Wood Stain And Sealer

Wood stains are toxic during the application and drying process. Therefore, they only become food-safe after curing. Yet, most wood stains aren’t tested for food safety but comply with FDA’s food safety requirements.

As a result, please don’t assume they’re all food safe or food grade paint for wood.

 The key to finding a food-safe wood stain is identifying the oil type you plan to use. For example, you can use lighter oils such as tung oil and linseed on raw wood. They don’t run the risk of discoloring the surface once they dry.

7 Best Food Safe Wood Stain and Sealer 

With many wood projects awaiting, you might wonder what type of food-safe stain and food-grade sealer to use. Here are some of the most common food-safe wood finishes. 

1.
Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac
  • This product adds a great value
  • 1 quart
  • Seals, preserves wood, art, Statuary & metal

Use this product to seal wood surfaces and protect them from moisture. It consists of shellac, secreted by the female lac bug, typically used to coat candy and sweets.

Also, this natural resin consists of an alcohol-based solution that dries transparently with a faint, golden cast. After complete drying, the cast is often lighter compared to oil-based finishes. 

In addition to being a natural substance, the Zinsser’s bulls’ eye clear shellac is suitable for sealing and preserving all kinds of wood. Moreover, it’s a surface sealer and delivers a glossy finish when applied to the correct thickness. 

Besides being easy to use, the product dries to the touch, allowing you to recoat in less than 45 minutes. Also, it’s available in a clear and amber tint. Most importantly, it’s non-toxic and natural, making it ideal for sealing food-related projects. 

This protective sealer accentuates the rich warmth of wood grain on crafts and household projects. These projects include trim, furniture, and paneling. 

It also delivers a soft and natural look on the surfaces. Apart from wood, you can use this finish to add value to your art, statuary, and metal. 

Besides offering numerous advantages over other clear finishes, the product is non-toxic when dry. It also cleans up easily with water and ammonia. Finally, avoid placing it in contact with water, chemicals, or heat for this finish to last longer.

Pros

  • It is non-toxic when dry 
  • It dries quickly to the touch 
  • It can remove stains 
  • Works on various materials

Cons

  • It doesn’t offer adequate resistance to heat and water 
  • It doesn’t suit outdoor projects



2. Best Food Safe Stain For Charcuterie Board– HOPE’S 100% Pure Tung Oil

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HOPE'S 100% Pure Tung Oil, Food Safe, Premium Waterproof...
  • Easy to Use - Tung oil is a natural oil recognized by craftsmen to offer the ultimate hand-rubbed finish for all fine woods; just wipe on and allow the oil to cure at room temperature
  • Permeates - Unlike other finishes that form a film on the wood’s surface, tung oil penetrates deep into the wood fibers, cures to a flexible non-oily solid, and becomes part of the wood itself
  • Protects - Resistant to moisture, alcohol, oil, and everyday wear for lasting beauty and protection; lasts many times longer than mineral oil and wax based products

Hope’s 100% pure tung oil is a food-safe finish for surfaces that come into direct food contact. Since it’s non-toxic when dry, it’s suitable for finishing Charcuterie boards, cutting boards, countertops, wooden utensils, and more.

It’s also a popular drying oil that has been in use for centuries in China. The oil, extracted from the tung tree’s seeds, features waterproofing capabilities. As a result, it’s used to waterproof boats, among other wooden projects.

As is typical with all other tung oil products, you require patience when applying this food-safe wood finish. You’ll want to apply a thin layer and wait 24 hours before applying subsequent coats.

Besides being environmentally friendly, this product includes natural properties that make it food safe. Unlike other food-grade wood sealers, which form a filming layer on the surface, this tung oil penetrates deeply into the wood.

With Hope’s tung oil, you can protect your wood projects from water, oil, alcohol, and daily wear. Unfortunately, while it’s more durable than shellac products and promises longer-lasting protection, it takes longer to dry.

This hand-rubbed finish is also easy to use and works for all fine woods. During application, wipe it on the surface and allow it to cure at room temperature.

Besides delivering a protective and waterproof finish, this product doesn’t mold and darken. However, you’ll have to maintain it regularly by re-applying the oil as required.

Pros

  • It is food safe 
  • Easy to apply 
  • It is waterproof 
  • It covers scratches, marks, and blemishes

Cons

  • Slow drying
  • Requires recoating regularly 



3. Best Food-Safe Stain For Cutting Board-CUTTING BOARD Natural Wood Wax And Conditioner

Cutting Board Wax and Conditioner, Protects Wood Countertops...
  • FOOD GRADE - Safe for use on wood and cutting boards, countertops, utensils, salad bowls and wood products.
  • RESTORES AND PROTECTS WOOD - Hydrates, seals, and penetrates deeply into wood to protect from water and prevent cracking and drying
  • EASY TO USE - Push applicator cap and easy squeeze bottle makes maintenance a breeze.

This food-safe wood sealer is derived from beeswax. It is non-toxic and food-grade, making it suitable for protecting and maintaining surfaces that come into contact with food. Use it on bamboo and wood cutting boards, utensils, salad bowls, and countertops. 

While the product works well on most surfaces, ensure that you keep it in a cool area to prevent melting the wax in heat. Besides making cleaning easier, applying this finish covers knife marks and prevents stains. 

Besides being an affordable finishing option, pure beeswax is versatile for various purposes since it’s natural. Applying this natural cutting board oil will hydrate your wood projects and make them shine.  

Moreover, it features waterproofing properties that allow it to penetrate deeply into wood to protect it from water. In turn, this prevents your projects from drying and cracking. 

This product is also easy to use and comes with a push applicator cap and squeeze bottle. This makes maintenance a walk in the park. 

With its lifetime quality, a single bottle of this natural wood wax and conditioner can last several years. Apply the finish every 5-6 weeks (or as necessary) to add new life to your wooden accessories. 

Finally, this product is locally manufactured. It’s made in the US, with the highest quality standards.

Pros

  • It is food safe when dry 
  • It protects against water damage 
  • It delivers a glossy finish 
  • It is easy to apply and remove

Cons

  • It isn’t durable 
  • It requires frequent reapplication



4. Best Food Safe Wood Stain And Sealer For Toys– Ultrapro Food Grade Mineral Oil

UltraPro Food Grade Mineral Oil for Lubricating and...
  • MINERAL OIL FOR EVERYTHING: White oil is used in food, automotive, beauty, construction and many more industries.
  • FOOD GRADE & MADE IN THE USA: Our mineral oil is food grade and great for use as a food safe lubricant for an industrial slicer, knife, blade, tool, and machine. Proudly made in the USA!
  • RESTORE WOODEN CUTTING BOARDS: Treat and protect wooden butcher blocks, cutting boards, bamboo and more.

This food-grade mineral oil by Ultrapro is the ideal finish for rehydrating wood projects without leaving an oily residue on the surface. 

In addition, this non-toxic, non-drying oil is perfect for surfaces that come into contact with food. Use it on butcher block tables, cutting blocks, and salad bowls.  

While the oil is odorless, it only becomes food grade once it attains full curing. As a result, allow the surfaces to dry overnight before applying the wooden product. 

Unfortunately, this finish is less durable compared to competitor brands. Subsequently, it would help if you recoated as often as monthly to continue protecting the wood from damage. Failure to which, the coat will become brittle and crack. 

So, if you settle for this option, I recommend keeping a bottle on hand for all maintenance needs. Besides the mandatory monthly maintenance, this non-drying food-grade clear coat is a great non-toxic wood finish. 

Moreover, this mineral oil is versatile and suits various applications. You can use it in other industries, including food, construction, beauty, and automotive.

Lastly, UltraPro’s food-grade mineral oil is unscented and NSF compliant. This ensures that it protects salad bowls, spoons, and wooden toys.  

Pros

  • It’s food grade 
  • Offers easy application 
  • It delivers a satin finish 
  • Suits multiple applications

Cons

  • It’s slow drying 
  • It’s less durable



5. Best Food-Safe Stain For Toys-Sunnyside Corporation 87332 Pure Raw Linseed Oil

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Sunnyside Corporation 87332 Pure Raw Linseed Oil, Quart
4,617 Reviews
Sunnyside Corporation 87332 Pure Raw Linseed Oil, Quart
  • Penetrates deep and protects wood creating a quality finish for wood furniture and antiques
  • Apply to raw wood only
  • Increases water repellency and weather resistance

As the name implies, pure raw linseed requires no refinement. The product comes from ripened flax seeds. 

Applying Sunnyside’s pure linseed oil protects your wooden projects from the elements. These elements include wear and tear, sun, and water. This makes it suitable for use in both outdoor and indoor projects.  

Moreover, this food-safe linseed oil works on raw wood only. It penetrates deep into the wood, offering long-lasting protection. Also, it delivers a quality gloss finish for wood furniture and antiques.  

However, it is a slow drying option, requiring 2-4 days to cure fully. Therefore, you’ll want to take care of the product to ensure it dries fully during this time.  

This slow drying allows the oil to penetrate deeply into the wood fibers. With this food-safe finish, you can enhance your projects’ water repellency and weather resistance without endangering your health. 

Unlike most other options, you can add this finish directly to oil-based paints and stains. This way, you can achieve a beautiful, protective gloss finish.  

Note that pure raw linseed is different from boiled linseed oil. While they’re both suitable for sealing unfinished wood and reviving faded, weathered wood, Linseed Oil takes longer to dry in its purest form.  

Moreover, boiled linseed oil isn’t suitable for wood projects that require food-grade sealers.  

Pros

  • It is food-safe (find out more on its safety in our article “Is raw linseed oil food safe?”)
  • It delivers a weatherproof finish 
  • Easy to apply 
  • It’s suitable for indoor and outdoor projects 

Con

  • It’s slow drying



6. Best Food-Safe Stain For Countertops-Tried & True Varnish Oil 

Tried and True Varnish Oil, Pint
  • A superior penetrating linseed oil and natural pine resin finish that is ideal for high-quality, interior furniture, tables and counter tops.
  • Varnish Oil is a fine furniture finish with a high resin content and will produce a beautiful semi-gloss sheen
  • Each coat will build up gloss and durability

Tried & True varnish is a food-safe finish suitable for cutting boards, butcher blocks, and other wood surfaces that come into direct contact with food.  

However, when picking this stain, ensure that you get the fractioned or distilled variation. This is the refined version that won’t go rancid. 

This product comprises a natural pine resin finish and superior penetrating linseed oil. Thus, it’s an ideal option if you’re looking for a high-quality finish for interior furniture, countertops, and tables. 

Moreover, with its high resin content, varnish oil is a fine furniture finish that delivers an attractive semi-gloss finish. Each coat guarantees durability and a gloss build-up. 

While it takes longer to dry, this hand-rubbed finish becomes more durable and harder as it cures and ages. Additionally, it offers wide coverage of up to 1000 square ft. per gallon. To achieve this coverage, I recommend using a lint-free cloth during application. 

Besides being ideal for use on unfinished wood, this natural resin varnish promises excellent scratch and abrasion resistance. In addition, it is a food-grade product that enhances the aesthetics and durability of wooden projects.

Pros

  • It delivers a beautiful semi-gloss finish 
  • It’s easy to apply 
  • It’s a food safe wood finish 
  • It resists abrasion and scratches 

Con

  • Slow drying time 



7. Best Food-Safe Stain For Butcher Block– Howard Butcher Block Oil And Conditioner

HOWARD Butcher Block Conditioner and Cutting Board Oil, Food...
  • REVITALIZING FORMULA BLEND prevents drying and cracking of hardwoods and bamboo. Great for restaurant cutting boards, great for home kitchens even chef cutting boards. This is the safest conditioner and will rejuvenate and revitalizes cutting boards. Great size for restaurants and industrial kitchens.
  • HOWARD BUTCHER BLOCK OILS ARE TASTELESS AND ODORLESS. Vitamin E cutting boards will absorb oils and great at protecting the lifespan of the wood. Apply the butcher block oil to the board and the ingredients penetrates into the wood surface. Formula is great for wooden utensils. Prevent cracking and drying of unfinished wood
  • Howard's BUTCHER BLOCK CONDITIONER IS THE SAFEST butcher block conditioner on the market.

Howard’s butcher block oil and conditioner is an eco-friendly, biodegradable organic finish. Besides being odorless, the product is colorless and tasteless. Thus, it’s safe for sealing surfaces that come into direct contact with food. 

Moreover, applying this mineral oil to unfinished wood will ensure its longevity. Additionally, it rehydrates the wood, preventing the surface from cracking or drying out. With this finish, you’ll have a durable surface with a satin sheen. 

It also features a revitalizing formula blend that is great for restaurant and home kitchen cutting boards. Besides rejuvenating cutting boards, this is a food-safe conditioner that’s FDA-compliant.  

Howard butcher block oils are great at enhancing the lifespan of wood surfaces. Apply the butcher block oil to the board and allow the ingredients to penetrate the wood surface. Moreover, this formula works great on wooden utensils. 

Pros

  • It delivers a beautiful satin sheen 
  • It’s easy to apply
  •  It’s food-grade and food safe
  • It covers marks and scratches

Cons

  • It has a slow drying time
  • It’s less durable



Best Food Safe Wood Stain and Sealer Comparison Table

Buyer’s Guide: How To Choose The Best Food Safe Wood Stain And Sealer 

Food Safe Wood Stain And Sealer

With all these choices, choosing the best food-safe wood stain and sealer can be a hard nut to crack. Fortunately, food-safe finishes don’t feature a wide range of variations. Here is a guide that’ll help you settle for the best option for your project;

Penetrating Oil Vs. Surface Sealer 

Penetrating oils are your best bet if you want a finish that’ll soak into the wood and offer protection from the inside. While they’re easier to apply, they offer less protection than surface sealer finishes. However, they deliver a more natural look and feel. 

On the other hand, surface sealers, also known as film finishes, remain on the surface and act as a barrier. Moreover, it leaves a layer that you can recoat for additional protection. Also, as you’d expect, it’s more protective than penetrating oils.  

However, they can be tricky to apply, especially without the right woodworking experience. A good rule of thumb is to use surface sealers on projects subject to more physical abuse, moisture, wear, and tear, or harsh cleaning agents.  

Penetrating finishes will work fine for decorative pieces and projects that don’t require additional protection, such as toys and frames. They accentuate the wood grain and deliver a beautiful satin finish.

If you’re working on a garden bed and in need of a safe stain, here’s an informative article that can provide valuable insights on selecting the right stain for your garden beds: Stain for garden beds.

Drying vs. Non-Drying Oil finishes 

These two categories fall under penetrating oils. A drying oil typically undergoes polymerization- a process where it cures and turns solid- when it comes in contact with oxygen. 

As a result, the curing process begins immediately after applying the finish onto a wood surface. Common drying oils include tung oil, walnut oil, and linseed oil. 

In contrast, a non-drying oil remains wet indefinitely. Subsequently, this oil type is more of a treatment and not a true finish. Since it doesn’t cure, it can wash off over time. . Common non-drying oils include mineral oil, coconut oil, and vegetable oil.

Pick A Trusted Brand.

 Regardless of the product’s nature, you’ll want a food-safe finish if your project comes into direct food contact. As a result, settle for reputable brands with a history of manufacturing food-safe products. 

Finally, before using a wood stain, go through the instructions and properties to ensure it is food grade. 

Wood Projects Needing a Food Grade Wood Finish 

Here are the main project types that require a food-safe wood finishes; 

  • Kitchen utensils- They include bowls, spoons, platters, and cooking sticks 
  • Raw meat and food preparation surfaces- They include cutting boards and butcher blocks 
  • Eat-on/ food surfaces- They include bar tops, counters, and tables 
  • Children’s toys

So, if your project fits in any of these categories, it would be best to use a food-safe wood stain.

While still talking about safety, do you know how long is wood stain good for? Understanding the lifespan of wood stain is essential not only for its performance but also for ensuring you’re working with a product that maintains its integrity and doesn’t become a safety concern during application and use.

Read also: Can I use Thompson’s water seal on stained wood?

FAQs

Is There A Wood Stain That Is Food Safe?

Shellac, secreted by the female Indian lac bug, is a common food-safe wood stain. Moreover, it is highly water-resistant.

Also Read: Can You Stain Over Sealed Stain?

Is There A Food-Safe Stain For Butcher Block Countertops?

 Howard Butcher Block Oil and Conditioner is specially formulated for use on wooden butcher blocks and cutting boards. Moreover, it is suitable for salad bowls and other applications requiring a food-safe wood finish. Besides being easy to apply and maintain, it’s non-toxic and safe for direct food contact when fully cured.

Is It Safe To Use Stain On A Cutting Board?

You shouldn’t stain a cutting board. Instead, use natural oils to enhance the natural color of various hardwood species. Wood stains contain toxic pigments and dyes that could contaminate food. 

How To Stain And Seal A Cutting Board 

Pour a food-safe wood stain onto a clean and dry rag. Next, apply the oil liberally to your cutting boards, working on the direction of the wood grain. Continue applying the mineral oil until you cover the entire board surface, remembering to coat the bottom and sides of the board. 

Is Minwax Stain Food Safe?  

Minwax stains don’t present any known hazard. However, no finish is food safe until it has undergone full curing. A good rule for full curing is 30 days at room temperature. 

Important Read: How to Dispose of Stain Cans

Conclusion 

Given our analysis above, it’s evident that Rust-Oleum Zinsser 304H 1-Quart Bulls Eye Clear Shellac.is the best food-safe wood stain and sealer. It is also an affordable option and the most durable. While it takes longer to cure than other finishes, the wait is worthwhile. 

I hope this review and buyer’s guide have been helpful. If you’ve used any of these options, comment below on your experience.

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