Why You Actually Shouldn’t Boil Your Wooden Spoons

Why You Actually Shouldn’t Boil Your Wooden Spoons
Photo: By schab, Shutterstock

TikTok is flooded with cleaning hacks, but not all of them are tried and true. One viral hack, for example, is about boiling your wooden spoons to keep them clean…but you really shouldn’t bother.

Here’s why you shouldn’t boil your wooden spoons.

Why are people boiling their wooden spoons to begin with?

TikToker Bonnie McNamara posted a video that showed wooden spoons to be filthy. On the page titled Miss.Clean.With.Me, McNamara pours boiling water into a tall glass. She then puts a wooden spoon in the glass and lets it sit, and immediately you see the bubbles begin to form. The glass is soon filled with murky water, and bits of food.

We asked our Senior Health Editor, Beth Skwarecki, if boiling wooden spoons are necessary. “From a food safety standpoint, washing with soap and water and letting it dry is enough,” she said. “and the same goes]for cutting boards.”

All Recipes seems to agree, sharing that wood is “naturally equipped with more antibacterial properties than any synthetic object because trees have the innate ability to fight off infection, bacteria, and mould, and wood retains those properties even in death.”

So what happens when you boil your wooden utensils?

We decided to test out the theory with Lifehacker’s Senior Food Editor, Claire Lower. Claire used a spoon she’s owned for years as her dedicated pasta spoon (meaning plenty of tomato sauce and pasta particles could be trapped inside). As the spoon soaked, Lower noticed the same bubbles seen in the TikTok video. But this reaction is due to a process called nucleation, in which microscopic touch points trigger bubbles. In this case, the spoon with the hot water was the trigger. After leaving the spoon in for about 20 minutes, Lower noticed the colour of the water turned a brown tint, but there weren’t any food bits or build-up floating around.

Photo: Claire Lower Photo: Claire Lower

Lower mentioned smelling a strong garlic aroma from the cup and less from the spoon, leading her to believe the process removed some of the long-lasting garlic scent from the spoon, but notes that it isn’t a best practice for cleaning wooden utensils:

I wouldn’t recommend doing this often unless you have a very smelly spoon. Soaking wood in water is a big no no. You will dry it out, and it could crack. Much like a cast iron pan, you want to build up a little grease on there to protect the wood. It’s fine! Just wash with soapy water after each use, and you will not get sick.

How to properly clean and treat a wooden spoon

The best way to wash your spoon is with soap and water after each use, as Lower explained. Make sure you let the spoon air dry to mitigate any cracking. Additionally, never put wooden utensils in the dishwasher, as it can wear down and crack your wooden utensils.

Next, you will want to treat the spoon with oil. All Recipes recommends mineral oil or “walnut, tung, or linseed oil.” If stubborn food bits build up on your spoon, you can give it an overnight soak in equal parts white vinegar and water to disinfect the spoon and effectively get rid of any stuck-on leftovers.

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