How to Care for Wooden Bowls and Serving Pieces

I have been collecting wooden bowls and serving pieces form the thrift store like they are going out of style.  The good thing is that they’re not!  In fact, they are more popular than ever.  I’ve found them for as little as $1 per piece, so wooden pieces are a nice way to add a little warmth to your table or to use as displays in other areas around your home.

Because I’ve never owned a wood bowl or platter before, I wasn’t quite sure how to care for them. Obviously, these pieces can’t play my game of Dishwasher Darwinism (i.e. it only survives in my house if it can be washed in the dishwasher), so I had to figure out something easy for my new loves.  After a lot of research and product label reading, I figured out the easiest solution to keep the wood looking good. I put together a list of the tips that have worked for me.


How to Care for Wood Bowls and Serving Pieces

1.  Clean your wooden pieces with warm water, a mild soap and a soft sponge.  Don’t submerge your pieces in water, as it will cause them to crack and swell.  Dry them with a dishtowel and then any other moisture dry out by allowing them to air dry overnight.

How to Care for Wood Bowls and Serving Pieces | Makely School for Girls

2.  With a soft, lint-free cloth, rub a generous amount of food safe mineral oil on all sides of your wooden pieces.   You can pick up the mineral oil at a grocery or drug store – it’s used as an intestinal lubricant.  Ahem.  There are other oils and products you can buy to oil your wood pieces, but mineral oil was the cheapest and easiest thing to find.  My understanding is that the mineral oil won’t harden, go rancid or host microorganisms (yuck!).

How to Care for Wood Bowls and Serving Pieces | Makely School for Girls

3.  Put your oiled pieces onto an old towel in a location where you can leave them alone.  Allow the oil to soak into your wooden pieces for about 24 hours.

How to Care for Wood Bowls and Serving Pieces | Makely School for Girls

4.  Using a clean soft, lint-free cloth, buff any residual oil off of your pieces.  You’ll notice that they will have a slightly darker color and a beautiful shine.

How to Care for Wood Bowls and Serving Pieces | Makely School for Girls

5.  After each food use (or when they need to be cleaned when used as decor items), wash them as detailed in Step 1.  Don’t worry!  You won’t need to oil the bowls after each use – only when you feel that they’ve lost their deeper color and shine.

I have big plans for these pieces in a top secret plan to incorporate them onto my dining table in a really fun way.  Obviously, I’m avoiding the big project that looms over me, aren’t I?

Do you have any wooden pieces in your tablescape or used as decoration around your home?  Please tell us how you care for them!

Filed Under: Decorate Your Home, Project Gallery

About Lindsay Ballard

Lindsay Ballard is a former college mascot turned political geek turned DIY fanatic who is conspiring to live in a Technicolor dream world. Her designs are bold and graphic, while her spirit is fun and full of color. Lindsay chronicles her projects and design ideas here at Makely, where she shares daily tutorials and inspiration. Lindsay lives outside of Austin, Texas with her husband (Tom), children (Zack and Emma) and dogs (Jack and Duke).


  1. thanks for the mineral oil tip Lindsay! Pinning it so I don’t forget!

  2. I appreciate your advice on cleaning and oiling. We have several pieces from Germany and one that is a vintage find that need to be taken care of!

  3. I just read this one elsewhere, so thought I’d share it, for food-safe items etc.
    Mineral oil is great for decorative pieces, but if you need to clean anything that you cut on (say, a wooden cutting board?) use a slice of lemon to clean and disinfect it…it works well, removes those weird smells that cutting boards get, and no ‘flavour’ of mineral oil or anything else afterwards..makes your kitchen smell nice too….

  4. Lisa Peterson says:

    Just had to write this tidbit.
    My mother had a wood salad bowl she got in 1939 as a wedding gift. Somehow it broke in two pieces. Dad glued it together with glue they had in those days. Mom continued to use it.
    Over the years the break mark disapeared and there was only about an inch left in the bottom that you could see.
    I tried to find the bowl when mom died and it was nowhere to be found. I think she got better ones and gave it away.
    I have been told that molocules are continually moving and that they had sealed themselves back together. I don’t know what to think of that one. So believe what you want.
    Just a cute story.

  5. These wooden decorative bowls have been showing up more in stores too and I didn’t think of the extra care that would have to go into them before. It doesn’t seem like it would be too difficult and for the warm look and can give a room it would be worth it.

  6. I am not into wood bowls but your look great…mine would have to have a coat of white paint. lol Dianntha


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