What Oil Is Best For Wooden Knife Handles? (Five Options)

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Wooden knife handles are a popular option for chefs and home cooks alike due to their natural beauty and comfortable grip. Over time, however, wooden handles require proper care and maintenance to prevent moisture damage, cracking, or warping. One effective way to protect and prolong the life of your wooden knife handles is to use a suitable oil that penetrates the wood, providing a barrier against water and other potential hazards.

There are several types of oil that can be used for this purpose, each with its unique properties and benefits. Danish oil, for instance, is a popular choice thanks to its deeply penetrating mixture based on tung oil that dries hard, polymerizing to a solid form to protect the wood from moisture, oxygen, and the atmosphere [1]. Mineral oil, derived from petroleum, is another option that is both food-safe and effective in helping to maintain the integrity of wooden knife handles [3]. Lastly, some people may prefer using natural oils, such as canola oil or olive oil, which can offer some benefits as well [4].

The key to successful maintenance of your wooden knife handles lies in selecting the right oil and applying it according to the recommended guidelines. By keeping your knife handles properly oiled and cared for, you can enjoy their beauty and functionality for years to come.

Importance of Oiling Wooden Knife Handles

Wooden knife handles are a popular choice for many due to their natural aesthetics and comfortable grip. However, they require regular maintenance in order to keep them in top condition. One of the most effective ways to maintain wooden knife handles is by oiling them.

Oiling wooden handles helps to protect and nourish the wood. This enhances the handle’s appearance by bringing out the natural patterns and colors of the wood. It also forms a barrier that prevents the absorption of water, reducing the risk of cracking or warping due to moisture exposure. This is especially important for kitchen knives that are frequently washed and exposed to damp conditions.

There are various oils that can be used to treat wooden knife handles, such as Danish oil and Tung oil. Danish oil is widely recognized for its ability to penetrate deep into the wood and harden upon drying, providing a durable and protective finish. Tung oil, on the other hand, is known for its natural water-resistant properties, making it ideal for protecting wooden handles from moisture damage.

When oiling your wooden knife handles, it is crucial to follow the appropriate steps to ensure the best results:

  1. Clean the handle with a damp cloth to remove dirt and debris.
  2. Allow the handle to dry completely.
  3. Apply a small amount of the chosen oil using a clean cloth or soft brush.
  4. Allow the oil to penetrate the wood for a few minutes before wiping off any excess with a clean cloth.
  5. Let the handle dry for the recommended time before use.

Oiling your wooden knife handles should be done at least once a year, or more frequently if the knives are used regularly or exposed to harsh conditions (Knife Depot). By following these simple maintenance steps, you can ensure the longevity and beauty of your wooden-handled knives.

Best Oils for Wooden Knife Handles

When it comes to maintaining and preserving the wooden handles of your knives, choosing the right oil is crucial. Here are some of the best oils to use on wooden knife handles:

Food Grade Mineral Oil

Food-grade mineral oil is a safe option for use on knife handles and cutting boards. It helps protect the wood from water, keeps it clean, and prevents the handle from drying out and cracking. It is an affordable, widely available option, with the added benefit of being safe for contact with food.

Tung Oil

Tung oil is derived from the nut of the tung tree and is a natural protectant. When applied to wooden handles, it helps prevent cracking and drying by sealing the wood, while also providing a slight sheen. Tung oil dries to a hard finish, offering added protection against scratches or damage to the handle.

Linseed Oil

Linseed oil is another popular choice for treating wooden knife handles. When applied, the oil soaks into the wood and hardens, creating a protective barrier against moisture and wear. Some people prefer the look of a linseed oil finish, which can accentuate the wood’s natural grain and color. However, it is important to use boiled linseed oil, as raw linseed oil takes a long time to dry and can become tacky.

Walnut Oil

Walnut oil is a lighter oil that penetrates deeply into the wood, providing protection without leaving a sticky residue. It is suitable for use on kitchen knives and other wooden handled tools because it dries quickly and doesn’t transfer to foods being prepared. Walnut oil also has a mild nutty aroma, which can be appealing to some users.

Camellia Oil

Camellia oil, or Kurobara Hamono Tsubaki Pure Tsubaki Camellia oil, is a lightweight, food-safe option for maintaining knife handles. Commonly used in Japan for preserving and protecting tools and knives, camellia oil is known for its ability to moisturize wood while preventing rust on metal parts. This oil has a slight fragrance and dries quickly, making it an elegant and effective choice for wooden knife handles.

Remember to care for your wooden knife handles by applying one of these oils regularly to ensure the longevity and appearance of your knives.

How to Apply Oil to Wooden Knife Handles

In this section, we’ll discuss the steps to properly apply oil to wooden knife handles, which will involve cleaning the handle, sanding the surface, and finally, applying the oil.

Cleaning the Handle

Before applying oil to your wooden knife handle, it’s essential to clean it thoroughly to ensure that the oil penetrates the wood evenly. To do this, use a damp cloth to remove any dirt and grime from the surface. Then, use a dry cloth to remove any excess moisture. Make sure the handle is completely dry before proceeding to the next step.

Sanding the Surface

Once the handle is clean and dry, it’s important to sand the surface so that the oil can properly penetrate and adhere to the wood. Use a fine-grit sandpaper (220-grit or higher) and lightly sand the entire handle in the direction of the wood grain. After sanding, wipe off any dust with a clean, dry cloth.

Applying the Oil

Now that the handle is clean and sanded, it’s time to apply the oil. Use a clean, dry cloth to evenly apply your chosen oil, such as Danish oil or mineral oil. Allow the oil to sit on the handle for a few minutes, and then wipe off any excess oil with another clean cloth. Repeat this process until the wood is saturated and no longer absorbs more oil.

You might need to wait for the prescribed drying time depending on the type of oil used. It is essential to let the oil cure and harden properly before using the knife to ensure the longevity and effectiveness of the treatment.

Preventing Common Issues with Wooden Knife Handles

Guarding Against Moisture

One of the primary concerns for wooden knife handles is moisture, which can cause the wood to warp, swell, or eventually dry out. To prevent these issues, it’s essential to apply a suitable oil that creates a protective barrier, effectively sealing the wood’s pores. Among the popular options are mineral oil and tung oil. These oils not only safeguard against moisture but also offer protection against rusting. Remember to oil the knife frequently, ideally at least once a year.

Apart from oiling, it’s also crucial to:

  • Store knives in a dry location, away from moisture sources.
  • Dry handles thoroughly after washing or exposure to damp conditions.
  • Avoid soaking wooden-handled knives in water.

Protecting from Sunlight

While it’s important to let the oil applied to the handle cure, leaving knives under direct sunlight for extended periods can be harmful. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause the wood to dry out, crack, or even fade. To protect wooden knife handles from sunlight:

  • Limit the time knives spend under direct sunlight while allowing the oil to cure.
  • Store knives in a cool, shaded area, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.

Avoiding Cracks and Splinters

One of the most common issues with wooden knife handles is the development of cracks and splinters. To prevent this, it’s crucial to take proper care of the handle by:

  • Oiling the wood regularly to maintain its suppleness and prevent drying out.
  • Gently sanding the handle with fine-grit sandpaper if small splinters start to appear.
  • Applying a suitable wax to the ends of the handle with exposed wood grain after oiling and curing. This adds an extra layer of protection against cracks and splinters.

By following these guidelines, your wooden knife handles will maintain their aesthetics and functionality while staying intact for a longer time.

Additional Maintenance Tips for Wooden Knife Handles

Proper Cleaning Techniques

When it comes to kitchen knives, proper care is essential, especially for those with wooden handles. As a natural material, wood requires special attention during cleaning. To maintain the beauty and longevity of wooden knife handles, follow these guidelines:

  • Avoid using a dishwasher: The high heat and strong detergents in dishwashers can damage wooden handles. Instead, hand wash your knives with mild soap and warm water.
  • Do not soak in water: Wooden handles can absorb moisture, leading to swelling and cracking over time. Quickly rinse and clean the handle, being careful not to let it soak in water.
  • Dry immediately: After cleaning, use a soft cloth or towel to thoroughly dry the knife, including the blade and wooden handle, to prevent damage caused by moisture.
  • Apply oil regularly: To maintain the integrity of the wooden handle, apply a suitable oil like mineral oil or tung oil to keep it conditioned and resistant to atmospheric conditions.

Routine Inspections

Regularly inspecting your wooden-handled kitchen knives ensures that you can address any potential issues before they become more serious. During routine inspections, focus on the following aspects:

  • Wooden handle: Check for any cracks, splits, or signs of warping. If you notice any issues, you may need to replace the handle or consult with a knife professional.
  • Blade: Look for any signs of rust, corrosion, or damage to the blade. Keep it clean and dry to prolong its life.
  • Connection between handle and blade: Ensure that the connection between the handle and blade is secure with no signs of loosening. Tighten the screws or rivets if necessary to maintain the structural integrity of the knife.

In conclusion, proper cleaning techniques and routine inspections play a vital role in the maintenance of wooden-handled knives. By following these tips, you can extend the lifespan of your knives while also ensuring their performance remains top-notch for all your culinary needs.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Oil

When selecting an oil for your wooden knife handles, there are a few factors to keep in mind. We’ve broken these down into four main categories: Food Safety, Price, Durability, and Drying and Curing Time.

Food Safety

Since knives are often used in the kitchen and come into contact with food, the oil you select should be safe for food contact. A popular choice is mineral oil, which is often used on cutting boards and other kitchen surfaces. Some people also use canola oil or olive oil, which are food-safe options.


The cost of the oil might also be a factor to consider. While many oils can be relatively inexpensive, some options, like Tung oil, may be slightly more expensive. When assessing the price, consider the oil’s performance, and weigh it against your budget constraints.


A key aspect to consider is the durability of the oil. The oil should provide protection for the wood and prevent it from drying out or cracking. Tung oil is derived from the nut of the tung tree and is a natural protectant that helps keep your wooden knife handles in good condition. Another popular option is Danish oil, which is a mixture based on Tung oil and penetrates deeply into the wood.

Drying and Curing Time

Finally, consider the drying and curing time of the oil you choose. Some oils, like Danish oil, are hard-drying and polymerize to a solid form, reacting with oxygen and the atmosphere. After applying Danish oil and letting it dry, it’s important to rub the handle with a dry cloth to remove any excess oil and allow the surface to dry fully. Other oil options may require different drying and curing times, so be sure to choose an oil that works well with your schedule and maintenance routine.


In conclusion, proper maintenance and care for wooden knife handles can extend their life and preserve their natural beauty and functionality. Regular application of the right oil provides a protective barrier against moisture and other potential hazards, helping to prevent issues such as cracking and warping. The choice of oil may depend on a variety of factors, such as food safety, price, durability, and drying time. Common options include Danish oil, mineral oil, and natural oils like canola or olive oil.

Applying oil is just one part of the maintenance process. Wooden knife handles should also be cleaned correctly, sanded for better oil absorption, and protected from excessive moisture and sunlight. Regular inspections can help spot potential issues early, keeping your knives in top-notch condition.

Overall, wooden knife handles are a beautiful, comfortable choice for any chef or home cook. With a bit of effort and the right maintenance steps, these handles can last for years, offering an excellent blend of aesthetics, comfort, and functionality. Make sure to follow these tips to make the most of your wooden-handled knives in your culinary adventures.

When you visit a merchant by clicking a link on this site we may make a commission on anything you buy (at no additional cost to you).   Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to Amazon Associates and the eBay Partner Network.”