How to Care for Wood Carvings with Mineral Oil

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Wood carving
Wood carving (Image: Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images)

Whether family heirlooms or contemporary art designs, wood carvings need to be properly cared for in order to maintain their color, luster and longevity. One of the most commonly used methods for caring for wood carvings is through the application of mineral oil as a sealant and stain. With the proper type of mineral oil and correct application methods, caring for your wood carvings is an easy process, and one that only needs to be performed once or twice a year.

Things You'll Need

  • USP-grade mineral oil
  • 2 clean cotton cloths
  • Cleaning gloves

Lightly dust your wood carvings with a damp cotton cloth. You don’t need to apply too much water to your wood carving, simply enough to remove any excess dust on the piece. The more dust your piece has, the more difficult it will be to properly treat your wood carving with mineral oil.

Allow your wood carving to air-dry after you have removed all excess dust.

Apply a USP-grade mineral oil to another clean cotton cloth. The cloth should be adequately covered in the mineral oil, though it does not need to be dripping from the cloth. If your wood carving is used in food-preparation or food-serving capacities, make sure the mineral oil is food-grade. This will be written on the back of the oil bottle. Never use vegetable oils or olive oils on wood carvings because they can spoil, become rancid, or ultimately ruin the wood piece.

Wipe the entire wood carving with the oil-soaked cloth. The piece should look wet as the oil gradually soaks into the wood. You should wipe the piece several times until the oil no longer soaks into the wood. A small layer of oil that sits on top of the wood piece will indicate that you have thoroughly saturated the carving with oil. Simply wipe this excess oil from the piece with the cloth.

Allow the wood carving to dry before touching or using the piece. You will know it is dry when it feels dry to the touch.

Repeat the mineral oil treatment every three to six months, or whenever the wood carving looks or feels dry or flaky.

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