While the name “teak oil” sounds like the oil is a natural oil made out of the teak tree, this is far from reality, which can be very confusing for those who don’t have prior experience with it.
In reality, teak oil is a blend of oils produced out of natural oils such as linseed oil and tung oil, and in most cases, chemical additives such as mineral spirits, varnish, and turpentine.
As the ingredients can show the difference between manufacturers, it’s impossible to say what teak oil actually contains without looking at the contents of a particular product.
Since teak oil is not natural, even though it confusingly sounds like it, an important question is whether it’s food-safe, which will be our topic today.
So, is teak oil food-safe and suitable for usage in a project such as a cutting board?
Teak oil is not food-safe as it contains toxic chemicals such as mineral spirits, turpentine, and varnish in most cases.
Even if a teak oil lists tung oil or linseed oil as the sole ingredient, don’t assume that it’s food-safe, as these natural oils are usually chemically processed and not pure.
Moving on, we will be taking a deeper look into the contents of most teak oil products and inspect the substances that cause them not to be food-safe.
Is Teak Oil Food Safe?
The main reason behind the confusion surrounding teak oil is its contents showing a significant degree of variance depending on the manufacturer, as teak oil is simply a marketing term that can refer to a multitude of different oil blends.
After inspecting the contents of many different teak oils on the market, we came up with a list of substances that most of these products contain. By looking at this list, we will have a solid idea of what to expect from an average container of teak oil and whether it’s food-safe or not.
- Tung oil – Non-toxic if it’s pure, which is highly unlikely.
- Linseed oil – Non-toxic if it’s raw, which is highly unlikely.
- Turpentine – Toxic
- Mineral spirits – Toxic
- Varnish – Toxic
As you can see, most teak oils contain tung oil, linseed oil, turpentine, mineral spirits, and varnish.
Three out of these five substances are toxic chemicals that are not food-safe from the get-go, and the two natural oils most likely contain minuscule amounts of pure oil in reality, with chemicals making up for the rest.
While you may notice that some teak oils only list linseed oil or tung oil as its contents to make you believe that they are non-toxic and food-safe, this is actually far from reality.
In reality, most products labeled as tung oil or linseed oil on the market are a combination of a small amount of pure natural oil and chemical additives, making them far from non-toxic and food-safe.
The bottom line is that you should always assume anything labeled as teak oil is not food-safe and refrain from using it in kitchen projects or any project with a possibility of coming into contact with food.
Is Teak Oil Safe for Cutting Boards?
As teak oil is toxic and not food-safe, it’s certainly not a safe option for cutting boards or any project that has a chance of touching food.
Since cutting boards frequently come into contact with food, using a non-food safe product such as teak oil can eventually become a health hazard.
If you are looking for a food-safe finish you can use for a cutting board – we recommend leaning towards completely natural solutions such as food-grade mineral oil, walnut oil, beeswax, or carnauba wax.
Can You Use Teak Oil on Butcher Block Countertops?
Teak oil is not a suitable option for butcher block countertops due to its content of chemically processed natural oils and toxic chemicals that make it unsafe for all kinds of food-related projects.
As butcher block countertops are surfaces that come into contact with food very frequently, leaning towards natural oils such as food-grade mineral oil, pure tung oil, raw linseed oil, or walnut oil is a much better option.
Note that it’s vital for the tung oil to be pure and the linseed oil to be raw for them to be non-toxic and food-safe, as there are too many products on the market that are labeled as tung oil or linseed oil that are chemically processed and far from food-safe.
Food Safe Wood Oils & Finishes
While teak oil is not a food-safe finish, there are plenty of natural and food-safe oils and finishes you can use on your food-related projects with ease.
Here are some food-safe wood oils and finishes.
- Food-grade mineral oil – Food-grade mineral oil is easy-to-apply non-drying food-safe oil you can easily find in most supermarkets, known for being completely tasteless and odorless. One drawback of mineral oil is that it requires frequent re-application.
- Walnut oil – Walnut oil is a food-safe drying oil you can safely use for your food-related projects. An important thing to consider is that it may trigger allergic reactions in people who have nut allergies, depending on how it’s manufactured.
- Distilled (fractionated) coconut oil – Distilled coconut oil is a non-drying, odorless, and tasteless food-safe oil. It’s vital to ensure that the coconut oil is distilled (fractionated) as regular coconut oil is an entirely different product.
- Food-grade beeswax – While food-grade beeswax makes a great finish, refrain from using it on surfaces that may get hot, as heat easily damages beeswax and causes it to melt.
- Carnauba wax – Carnauba wax is a plant-based wax that is safe for consumption, which you can also use to finish wood. While it has a higher melting point than beeswax, it’s best to refrain from using it for surfaces that will be exposed to heat.
- Shellac – Shellac is a finish we are all familiar with, and as it is fully safe to consume, you can feel free to use it on your food-related project to give it a beautiful glossy finish.
- Pure tung oil – Pure tung oil is a drying food-safe oil you can use for your food-related projects. Unfortunately, finding pure tung oil can often be a challenge due to the presence of many chemically processed variants on the market.
- Raw linseed oil – A drying oil like tung oil, linseed oil is food-safe if it’s raw, but most linseed oils you will find on the market are chemically processed and not food-safe. Alongside this, linseed oil can take weeks to dry, which is why it’s not a favorable option compared to the rest.
Despite the name “teak oil” sounding like a natural oil that comes from teak trees, the reality is that any teak oil you will find on the market is a blend of chemically processed natural oils and chemical additives.
As you may predict, these chemicals are toxic and not food-safe, making teak oil unsuitable for usage in food-related projects such as cutting boards, butcher block countertops, salad bowls, and anything else that comes into contact with food.
Fortunately, there are entirely natural and food-safe oils and finishes you can find easily for a reasonable price in the form of food-grade mineral oil, walnut oil, beeswax, and many more.