How to Clean a Wooden Salad Bowl

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Wooden salad bowls are amazing pieces of craftsmanship. Some fetch prices well into the hundreds of dollars and are considered heirlooms or wedding presents. Whether you are dealing with a $30 or a $300 dollar wooden bowl you want to make sure you are taking care of it properly.

I’ll review how to clean and store your wooden salad bowl. 

How to Clean a Wooden Salad Bowl

Never put your wooden bowls and utensils in the dishwasher – always hand wash them. Your goal is to never apply too much heat, soap, or agitation that could dry, warp or crack your wooden bowls. The correct way to clean your wooden salad bowls is as follows: 

  1. Rinse it bowl with hot water
  2. Add a few drops of soap to a wet sponge
  3. Scrub with the soft side of the sponge 
  4. Rinse with hot water to remove the soap
  5. Dry by hand immediately
  6. Air dry upside down
  7. Apply food grade mineral oil (optional)
Wooden utensils and bowl on a dining table

Cleaning Materials Needed

You will need a clean sink (so, if your sink is dirty or has other dishes sitting in it, you’ll need to clean that out first). Never let your wooden salad bowl come into contact with dirty dish water as it can pick up water and oils from your sink. A few other items you’ll need are:

  • Clean sponge (same thing, the wooden bowl can pick up food and oil from a dirty sponge, so keep a clean one for wooden bowls only)
  • Dishwashing soap (any soap is fine)
  • Clean dry cloth for drying and applying oil
  • Food grade mineral oil

Step 1: Rinse Bowl With Hot Water

The main purpose of this step is to remove as much food and grease from the bowl as possible. For example, if you just had a salad with dressing, chances are there are some pieces of salad and the oil from the dressing will be slightly absorbed into the wood. 

The application of hot water will break down the grease into tiny droplets, it will open the pores of the wood, and of course it helps flush pieces of food away. Never use cold water to rinse, as that can cause certain fats and oils to solidify and stick to the wooden surface.

Step 2: Add a Few Drops of Soap to a Wet Sponge

 It is very important you apply the soap to the sponge, not the bowl. Again, wood is porous and you just heated it up from the rinse, making it even more porous. The last thing you want is concentrated soap trapped in your wooden bowl. 

By applying the soap to the sponge, you reduce the chance of soap transfer to these pores. And obviously, the sponge needs to be wet or you won’t get any suds. 

Step 3: Scrub With the Soft Side of the Sponge

Depending on the wood your bowl is made of, it is possible that the scour side may scratch the surface of the wood. I do not want any scratches while cleaning (I’ll save conditioning and repair work with sandpaper for another article). 

Sponge stacked on top of each other to be used to clean wooden salad bowls

Rub the whole bowl down with the soap soft sponge. This should be more than plenty to remove traces of dressing or oil.  

Step 4: Rinse With Hot Water to Remove the Soap

Just like with the initial rinse, make sure you are using hot water to rinse the soap out. While soap won’t solidify the same way fats and oils will, it is much harder to remove soap in cold water than hot. Plus, a soapy film is not something you want on your salad bowl.  

Step 5: Dry by Hand Immediately

It is very important you do not let your wooden salad bowls sit in water. Don’t fill them with water and don’t keep them wet. The water will eventually make its way into the wood and can lead to warping and cracking (not to mention potentially creating perfect germ hideouts).    

Step 6: Air Dry Upside Down

Once you have wiped the bowl down, you can air dry it. Just make sure the bowl is upside down so nothing can pool inside the bowl. 

Step 7: Apply Food Grade Mineral Oil (Optional) 

Make 100% sure you are using food grade oil, as this is a dish you intend to eat from. A few drops to a clean dry cloth and a solid application of elbow grease is all you need here. 

Just rub the oil in until the whole bowl is coverer (both inside and out). Once the entire bowl is treated, try to remove any excess oil with a clean towel. 

Fruit salad placed on a wooden bowl

Seasoning Your Wooden Salad Bowl

You should season your wooden salad bowl a minimum of every 6 months or so. Use a few drops of mineral oil and rub it in with a dry clean cloth. If your bowl is under heavy usage, you may find that you need to season every couple months or as needed if the bowl appears “dry.” 

Sanitizing Salad Bowls Made from Wood

While cleaning your bowl after use is great, every so often you are going to want to sanitize it as well. I recommend at least once every couple months (even if you don’t use it). Wooden bowls are porous and so it is possible for germs and food borne pathogens to make their way into those pores. 

To sanitize your bowls, follow these steps: 

  1. Use a 1 part white vinegar (or lemon juice) to 4 parts water solution with a teaspoon of salt
  2. Rub that all around the inside of the bowl for 5 minutes then rinse with HOT soapy water
  3. Dry and store
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Wooden salad bowls look amazing for presentation. With a little care and know how you can ensure your wooden salad bowls stay clean and safe for years to come. Just make sure you never put it in the dishwasher. Do not soak wooden salad bowls.

Keep soap to a minimum and rely on hot water to remove oil. And then give them a good seasoning a couple times a year.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.