ITYM once cured, rather than once applied.
Some tropical exotics are reputed to contain antioxidants that interfere
with oil finishes so the same advice applies as to all first experiences
with finishes. Try it on a piece of scrap.
Probably the least toxic oil is BLO, boiled linseed oil, available anywhere.
It literaly smells like grass. But then again flax (linen) is a grass I believe...
It works nicely as a "lightly darkening" oil, perfect for wood.
The boiled linseed oil I've got has lots of metallic driers in it. Reading
the MSDS is downright scary. I don't know that I would consider it
You might want to consider "Salad Bowl Oil." It's FDA approved for food
contact, and it's a pretty nice looking finish.
You might also want to check out the "Tung Oil for Cutting Board" thread
that was started yesterday.
BTW - Are you looking for a finish that is non-toxic once it's dry or a
finish for kids to use that is non-toxic when it's being applied? I think we
have all been assuming the former. If it's the latter you are interested in
then that's another story. I think mineral oil would be safe on that count
but you should certainly double-check.
The answer to that question is the key. Many products are downright
dangerous in the raw state, but, completely benign in the finished state.
MSDS sheets for even the most simple of products will scare you. Just about
everything in existence will give someone an allergic reaction.
Boiled linseed is one of the more toxic oils you could choose.
Depending on the process used to "boil" it, it may have lead or cobalt
salts in it.
Anyone who asks again what to put on a cutting board without Googling
first is going to get told to use chilli oil !
And if that doesn't work, croton oil.
The information on this web page:
is apparently based on an MSDS from 1997 for RAW Linseed Oil made by the
Parks Corporation (A division of Zinsser Co.). It says that " Use of this
product will expose you to arsenic, Beryllium, chromium, cadmium and nickel
which are known to cause cancer and to lead which is known to cause birth
defects or other reproductive harm."
I'm not sure what the story is with boiled linseed oil. Maybe these
substances are added to the raw stuff to get it to dry and are not needed in
the boiled version, but I would certainly want to be sure about that before
I treated any linseed oil as non-toxic.
It's a dangerous world out there.
However, as I mentioned earlier, you don't have the digestive ability to get
metal out of the cured film.
It would take longer exposure to acid than you're capable of giving.
I don't know how the US rules work, but in the UK the rule that banned
lead driers in linseed oil (about 0.25%) was the one written to ban
the use of lead paints (20-30%).
I still wouldn't use linseed oil for food use, let alone a lead-dried
As you can't buy lead-dried linseed, and making it's a frightful chore
and hard to get right, then I wouldn't recommend it for anything.
Sorry, I should have explained, the FDA is the US Government body the
regulates foods and drugs. As far as I know the only finishes they have
approved for use on surfaces that contact food are "Salad Bowl Oil" and
mineral oil. As far as I know they have not approved linseed oil, whether or
not it contains metallic driers, for surfaces that contact food...
The FDA is picky because of liability lawyers like one vice-presidential
candidate, and people such as yourself who want a life without danger - or
GRAS is what you need to look at. NO finish is "approved" by the FDA. I
think they even dropped the bogus approval claim on Behlen's because it
would require the same expensive tests demanded of pharmaceuticals, and
their tung varnish wasn't significantly different than anyone else's, thus
qualifying them at Behlen's expense. Haven't seen it in the catalogs
lately, anyway. ALL curing oil finishes are GRAS for containers.
If you think about it, mineral oil is one of the WORST things you can use,
since it either shelters potentially harmful bacteria from detergent death
in a lipid-friendly environment, or it isn't there at all. Hardly a
<< TITLE 21--FOOD AND DRUGS
CHAPTER I--FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN
PART 175--INDIRECT FOOD ADDITIVES: ADHESIVES AND COMPONENTS OF
COATINGS--Table of Contents
Subpart C--Substances for Use as Components of Coatings
Sec. 175.300 Resinous and polymeric coatings.
Resinous and polymeric coatings may be safely used as the food-
contact surface of articles intended for use in producing,
manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging,
transporting, or holding food, in accordance with the following
(a) The coating is applied as a continuous film or enamel over a
metal substrate, or the coating is intended for repeated food-contact
use and is applied to any suitable substrate as a continuous film or
enamel that serves as a functional barrier between the food and the
I have been very happy with some of my results involving walnut oil.
I buy it in the supermarket, and it gives a very light silky tone to the
Only problem is it demands good temperatures to harden,
and the drying takes some days, 3 to 6 depending on the temperature and
the type of wood.
But oh, for that silky sheen!
For the oily exotics like cocobolo, try sanding to a really fine grit
like 4000 or higher and then just wax it.
For less hard wood, walnut oil fit for cooking is a safe choice. Boiled
linseed oil contains metallic driers that are toxic. Other finishes may
contain metallic driers so it is a risk to assume that commercially
available finishes are all safe when dry. You would have to know all the
ingredients in the formulation. I believe Sutherland Wells makes a nontoxic
The reason that very few wood finishes are "officially" safe is the cost
of properly proving and documenting it. The FDA demands quite a bit of
information and documentation. This has been policy and practice throughout
both major political parties occupation of the executive and legislative
branches of the federal government.
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