Expert Answers: Food-Safe Finish

Need a wood finish that is safe for food? HANDY has the answer.

Q: I am making wood bowls out of cedar. What kind of coating should I apply to the inside of the bowls so that food can be served in them? I plan to coat the outside with polyurethane. - Paul Renfro, Houston, TX

A: We asked Carmen De La Paz, an award-winning wood turner and host of HGTV’s Hammer Heads, to respond. Here are some key points:

The goal is to preserve and enhance the wood in a way that does not affect food safety or flavor. Many well-known wood turners use only mineral oil because they know it is safe. You may also use natural beeswax, which is food-safe and seals and enhances the wood. Keep in mind that both finishes will soak into the wood and wear off over time, requiring reapplication every few months. It’s also important to never let the bowls sit in water. Use them, clean them and let them dry completely.

Another option is to apply products such as General Finishes’ Salad Bowl Finish, an oil-base sealer that is technically food-safe once it has cured. Apply a few coats, allowing each to dry completely and lightly sanding between coats. You can find this and other suitable products by searching for “food-safe finish” at the Rockler Woodworking & Hardware Web site ( - HANDY