How To Clean + Restore A Vintage Salad Bowl

A prolonged soak in water can damage wood and cause it to dry out. Here’s how to refurbish it and restore its luster.

February 3, 2016
wooden bowl
Meghan Caudill
To Begin

I found this wooden bowl at a thrift shop. The wood was scratched and stained, most of the finish had come off, and at some point someone had painted vegetables on it—nothing that a little TLC couldn’t fix. Use this method to give new life to any wooden bowl—it’ll work to reverse damage from over-zealous cleaning or an accidental run through the dishwasher, as well. For the conditioning oil, mineral oil and walnut oil are popular choices, but I like to use a homemade Wood Butter Recipe. Whatever you choose, be sure it is food-safe!

What You’ll Need:
Wooden bowl
Hydrogen peroxide (or vinegar)
Coarse salt
Lemon, halved
Coarse and medium steel wool
Conditioning oil
Cloth towel(s)

washing a wood bowl
Meghan Caudill

Use a cloth to wipe the bowl with hydrogen peroxide (or vinegar) to disinfect the bowl. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing with warm water. Wipe dry, and then let air dry completely. Sprinkle coarse sea salt into the bowl, squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the salt, and then scrub the salt all around the bowl with the lemon half. Don’t forget the outside and bottom! Rinse with warm water, and wipe dry.

Related: 7 Incredible Uses For Limes Outside Of Cocktail Hour

cleaning wood bowl
Meghan Caudill
Remove Old Finish

Sand the bowl, inside and out, starting with the coarse steel wool, making sure to smooth any irregular areas. Repeat with the medium, then the coarse steel wool until the old finish is completely removed and the wood feels quite smooth. Remove dust and steel wool remnants with a slightly damp cloth.

cleaning a wood bowl
Meghan Caudill

Using a clean cloth, liberally apply conditioning oil into the bowl, inside and out. Let sit for a few hours, and then apply another coat of oil. Repeat until the bowl no longer absorbs oil. Let sit for a few hours, and then wipe with a clean cloth to remove any remaining oil.

wooden bowl
Meghan Caudill

To keep your bowl in tip-top shape, scrub with hot soapy water after use and dry completely before storing. Once a month (or more often, if necessary) recondition with oil.