Using Danish Oil on Food-Grade Surfaces: Key Facts to Consider

Danish oil is applied to furniture to make it more durable and improve its aesthetics. It’s also used on kitchen materials like butcher blocks, plates, mugs, kitchen cabinets, and bowls.

Ponder this, however, is using Danish Oil on food-grade surfaces safe? If you’ve been contemplating this, you’re in the right place. In this article, I will lift the lid open on the safety of Danish oil on food-grade products.

Straight up, yes! The oil is safe for food-grade items. It usually dries to a compact, durable coat that is insoluble, impermeable, and scratch-resistant. It’s also inert to most chemicals; these factors make the oil an ideal food-grade product.

Other attributes that make Danish oil food-safe are that it’s not slippery and is thermostable, meaning it can handle sudden and frequent temperature fluctuations.

As you may know, kitchen implements are often subjected to extreme temperature variations, e.g., when storing food in the freezer or when used to contain steaming or hot food.

Note that the product in question is only safe for food products when dry. When the oil is still fresh or semi-dry on kitchen material like a chopping board, it is dangerous and poses serious health risks.

It’s because it will find its way into our body when the painted item comes into direct contact with edibles. Wet Danish oil finishing easily yields to heat, it can flow, and it is also miscible with cooking oil; all these are harbingers of harmful outcomes.

This review contains a detailed definition of Danish oil alongside its constituents, an appraisal of its use on cutting boards, alternatives to Danish oil, the benefits of its use, etc. I urge you to make yourself comfortable and read it wholly with a clear and fresh mind; only then will you benefit.

What Is Danish Oil Made Of?

Image of Oiled Wood. Do you know How To Remove Tung Oil From Wood?Danish oil is a wood finish mostly made of polymerized linseed oil or tung oil. It has no specific formulation, so its make-up differs among the manufacturing institutions.

Other ingredients for making this oil are synthetic resins, mineral spirits, varnish, pigments/dyes, and preservatives.

Some of its components are excipients for stabilization, bulk properties, and increasing its flow. It makes Danish oil convenient/easy to use.

The above finish is a hard drying oil; it polymerizes into a solid form upon reaction with atmospheric oxygen. It often produces a satin finish and there are also specially-dyed grades for wood staining.

Can You Use Danish Oil for Cutting Board?

As already discussed, Danish oil is an excellent food-grade finish that can be used on several kitchen-bound materials. But, there are high-use utensils and kitchen stuff, like butcher blocks.

These need a tougher, more durable, and abrasion-resistant finish to stave off food contamination. In that regard, can you use Danish oil for cutting board?

Yes! It’s safe for cutting boards. This finish meets all of the above-mentioned standards to make an ideal chopping board. However, the frequent use and high trauma items need more coats of Danish oil than other materials.

Cutting boards are often subjected to lots of sharp or cutting cutlery; larger butcher blocks used in meat processing plants sustain even more forceful strikes.

Such impactful and frequent cutting pressures can easily slice and chip off thin or poorly-applied topcoats. You definitely need multiple Danish oil coats to preclude the above situation; the more coats you apply, the more sturdy the finish and the safer it gets.

In another twist, there are glass, marble, plastic, or steel cutting boards. I strongly advise against using Danish oil on such boards as they are too slippery.

Their surfaces don’t have the necessary texture to facilitate oil adhesion. Following application, the topcoat will start coming out in chips and large chunks, contaminating food. 

Is Watco Danish Oil Safe for Cutting Boards?

We’ve seen from the earlier segments that there is no fixed recipe for Danish oil and that manufacturing companies use different ingredients.

One of the manufacturing institutions is Rust-Oleum, and they make a Danish oil named Watco. Is this Danish oil safe for cutting boards?

Absolutely yes! The ingredients only differ in proportions and excipients. The active components are usually the same for all Danish oils, and it’s a blend of tung oil and/or linseed oil, synthetic resins, mineral spirits, and varnishes.

So their protective and decorative properties remain the same.

Some of the desirable properties of this product are:

  • It’s easy to use
  • The oil finish shields against stains, chipping, and abrasion
  • It gives a hand-rubbed or matte finish
  • Watco Danish oil has vast surface coverage
  • The finish penetrates deeply into the wood grain for firmer adhesion
  • This finishing oil works best on both bare and primed wood

Alternatives to Danish Oil

Other than Danish oil, there are several food-safe oil finishes for wood. They also have desirable qualities that will make your kitchen implements and cabinets last longer and look as good as new. You can use one of the following alternatives to Danish oil:

Poppy Seed Oil

Poppyseed oil is obtained from the seeds of the poppy plant (Papaver somniferum). It’s perfect for toys, kitchen materials, kitchen drawers/cabinets, wooden sculptures, tables, chairs, and other household furniture.

Some of its desirable features include:

  • It gets embedded on surfaces for a solid grip; this makes it form a compact layer on your substrate
  • Poppyseed oil can be pigmented with different colors to improve the visual appeal of your furniture
  • This product mixes readily with vegetable oils and the solvent vehicles
  • Like Danish oil, it is water-resistant, stain-resistant, and protects your furniture from physical damage
  • This oil finish shows minimal yellowing compared to other oil-based finishes
  • Multiple coats result in a smooth-textured, silky gloss finish

The downside to poppy seed oil is it takes longer than linseed oil to dry; this prolongs the application process, especially when doing multiple coats.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is obtained from Juglans regia, also called walnuts. It comprises monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), and saturated fats. The PUFAs make up the most significant percentage of this oil finish (72%).

Walnut oil is one of the essential oils used by renaissance artists. It has a short drying time and is non-yellowing, making it an excellent painting agent and base thinner.

Most woodworkers also use walnut oil finish for kitchen tools and furniture like wooden bowls, mortar and pestle, butcher blocks, and countertops. It’s because the oil finish has a magnificent safety profile.

Walnut oil is also a good ingredient for mixing with wax for high-quality wood finishes; the combination ratio of walnut oil to beeswax usually is 1:3.

The walnut oil dries to a hard, food-safe layer with a satin appearance.

Due to its slow cure time, you should keep the painted furniture in a well-ventilated place with a warm temperature to accelerate the process.

Cutting Board Oil

The product above is a specially formulated oil finish by Walrus Oil. its constituents include mineral oil, beeswax, vitamin E, and coconut oil.

You can use it on butcher blocks, handles of cutlery, wooden bowls, and mortar & pestles. It primarily serves the same purpose as Danish oil, and some of its touting qualities are:

  • It gives a matte finish that makes the substrate look quaint
  • The product is lightly scented to minimize foul odors
  • It is an FDA-compliant food-safe product
  • Cutting board oil is easy to use
  • This oil finish is consists of simple ingredients that are non-toxic

Food-grade Mineral Oil

Mineral oils are a variety of odorless, colorless mixtures of alkanes from mineral sources, mainly distilled petroleum; they are different from the ordinarily edible vegetable oils.

The term “mineral oil” has become somewhat vague, as many oil product manufacturers have used it for naming. Even baby oil is known as perfumed mineral oil.

Therefore, mineral oils with food-grade labels are not necessarily the same as other mineral oils. They are free from noxious contaminants and are suitable for all kitchen-bound materials.

Food-grade mineral oils have the following beneficial attributes:

  • They are gluten-free and odorless; therefore, they don’t precipitate respiratory problems and allergies.
  • It is water-resistant; this protects the cutting boards and kitchen furniture from mold, mildew, and rotting.
  • The product improves the stain-resistant property of butcher blocks and other kitchen materials, making them easy to clean.
  • Mineral oil is heat-stable; it can endure temperature variations without chipping, melting, or cracking.
  • The finish is non-toxic when dry because it is usually refined.

Stand Oil

Stand oil is prepared by exposing linseed oil to thermal conditions of 300℃ for 2 to 3 days in a vacuum. It sparks a series of reactions that eventually occasion crosslinking of the linseed oil constituents.

The resulting product has a high viscosity and forms even coatings which dry to flexible layers; they are even more stretchy than the original linseed oil. It makes stand oil a great finishing oil for furniture. 

The drawbacks to stand oils are:

  • The crosslinking process is too slow and, therefore, time-consuming.
  • It requires a lot of resources that make it expensive, e.g., heating at 300℃ for three days consumes energy; the vacuum also requires energy to create and maintain

Soybean oil can be subjected to the same treatment as the linseed oil above, but it converts even more slowly; this disqualifies it.

Boiled Linseed Oil

Linseed Oil In UseThe above combines stand oil, raw linseed oil, & metallic oil drying catalysts. The process forms intermediates to promote polymerization of the mixture through a reaction with oxygen in the air.

Heating is also done to shorten the drying time. The resulting product forms stretchy, tough, and plastic-like coatings on wood surfaces; this makes it the ultimate oil finish.

The outstanding features of boiled linseed oil include:

  • It is easy and convenient to apply as it dries faster than other oil finishes
  • The oil finish forms a flexible but indestructible coating on your workpiece
  • Boiled linseed oil is water-resistant, mildew & mold resistant, and easy to clean
  • This product has a broad surface coverage
  • It comes at a budget-friendly price relative to what it does
  • This oil finish is abrasion-resistant and durable

Caution: Boiled linseed oil is only an alternative to Danish oil regarding painting wood materials that are not food-grade. Please don’t use it on chopping boards/butcher blocks, wooden bowls, kitchen cabinets, or any materials found in the kitchen.

It’s also prone to spontaneous ignition of oil-doused materials like clothing, rags, and paper.

Coconut Oil

Food-grade coconut oil is a 100% plant-derived oil. The crude coconut oil extract is fractionated and refined to develop the food-safe formula. It is suitable for butcher blocks, kitchen countertops, wooden handles, and cabinets. Some of its worthwhile characteristics are:

  • It doesn’t go rancid on the substrate because it’s a specially-formulated wood finish
  • Food-grade coconut oil is easy to use
  • The product is non-toxic because it is derived from vegetative sources, i.e., coconut fruits
  • It penetrates deeply into the substrate for optimum adhesion
  • Coconut oil finish has outstanding leveling properties that eliminate brush strokes for a smooth finish
  • This product is water-resistant, stain-resistant, and prevents fungal growth on wood; this improves durability

Benefits of Using Danish Oil On Oak

Danish oil is suitable for all wood types. The number of coats you use depends on the furniture usage and the frequency of its handling. Oak, being a hardwood, has decent durability, robustness, and fade resistance. Still, it needs a Danish oil finish. Why? I’ll take you through the benefits of using Danish oil on oak in this segment. 

Bare oak wood has pretty good physical properties. But, we can improve its qualities from decent to excellent using Danish oil. The benefits are not only on the oak furniture; they also give the user considerable convenience. These are the benefits:

  • It is food-grade and toy-safe: this is only upon drying.
  • The oil confers oak a low-sheen (matte) appearance; this looks uniquely attractive.
  • Danish oil lays on oak wood surfaces smoothly, leaving minimal brush marks
  • The finish has excellent leveling properties that eliminate any left brush marks with time
  • You can use this oil as a primer because it’s a hard drying oil
  • The Danish oil protects the oak from scratches and stains
  • This finish is water-resistant but microporous to allow the escape of trapped moisture, i.e., breathing
  • The oil penetrates the oak pores to adhere firmly; this prevents peeling, flaking, and cracking
  • Its odor dissipates wholly and quickly disappears as soon as the finish dries

Tips On Preventing Danish Oil Finish Damage

The integrity and efficiency of the Danish oil finish, and all topcoats, by extension, also depend on good use and management practices on your side.

If you don’t follow the standard usage protocols, or if you dismiss some aspects of this project as too elementary, it will fall like a ton of bricks. In that regard, take a gander at the following tips on preventing Danish oil finish from damaging:

Do not use serrated knives on cutting boards: A serrated knife or notched blade works in a similar fashion to a saw. It will easily cut through the oil finish and even the cutting board.

I urge you to use knives with smooth edges when dicing your food items.

Apply multiple coats of Danish oil: I understand applying two or three coats of the oil finish is time-consuming. But the overall outcome is long-lasting.

Multiple coats make the painted surface sturdier and more resistant to environmental elements like water, UV rays, and mold/mildew growths.

Use high-quality Danish oil: I recommend you always go for premium-grade Danish oil products. The medium and low-standard ones might be cheaper and more effective, but this is only fleeting and expensive in the long run.

If you want a long-term project with minimal maintenance and repainting, head straight for the premiums.

Practice regular maintenance: You should keep your oil-finished furniture in good order by cleaning, handling correctly, and storing properly; do this consistently. 

If you don’t clean regularly, it may accumulate dust or food residues in the case of a butcher block; this brings odor and may precipitate wood rotting.

The Danish oil will come off if you mishandle the wooden material by overusing or applying too much force. If you don’t store it properly, it will get damaged by ambient factors.

Give the finish ample drying times: Oil finishes take considerably longer to dry before recoating; they can go as long as 24 hours. This is usually an agonizing test of patience, and some people fail at the 3rd or even 5th hour of waiting.

I urge you to wait for each oil finish coat to dry for the duration specified by the manufacturer. Enough drying time ensures the finish interacts with the substrate and the other layers extensively for proper bonding.

Read and follow the manufacturer’s guide: All standard paints and oil finishes come with a user’s guide. The guide contains the procedures for use, cautions, ingredients of the formula, and even customer care contact details.

If you’re a first-time user of any finish, go through the intel and seek clarifications through the provided contact details. It will make your painting experience much better, and the results will be flawless.


To finalize, this has been an entertaining discussion majorly dwelling on the safety profile of Danish oil on food-grade materials. From the information I’ve given up there…

Is Danish Oil Food Safe?

Yes! From the above discussion, I’m hoping we’re all in accord. Food-grade or food-safe finishes are used to paint kitchen furniture and cutlery; the substrates include worktops/countertops, mortars and pestles, wooden handles, kitchen cabinets, etc.

Danish oil is also used on other house furniture like dining tables, chairs, and in-house doors; even kids’ toys qualify.

The food-safe term is designated for harmless finishes or substances or of little health concerns once they dry on the substrate. I’ve also mentioned other products that can function as alternatives to Danish oil.

The products are similarly food-safe, and they include poppy seed oil, walnut oil, coconut oil, cutting board oil, and food-grade mineral oil.

Additionally, relevant information at the tail end of the article includes the benefits of using Danish oil on oak and tips on preventing Danish oil finish damage. 

After all of the above, you can acquire a Danish oil finish or a suitable alternative and paint your kitchen materials or furniture with no worries. Rest assured, your health and well-being are top-ranking priorities when designing and developing these products.

Image of a woodworker wearing hearing protectors for woodworking

Tyron Otieno

Tyron is an avid woodworker and writer. He founded this website to help other woodworkers, whether hobbyists or professionals by sharing his knowledge and experiencie after a decade of woodworking.

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