Asked on May 8, 2017

Is mineral oil food safe? Does it turn rancid?

Kristina SSharonSherry Fram


I have a counter top and Island top that was made from old barn wood and planed down smooth. I need to oil them for protection. I have read that mineral oil turns rancid when it comes in contact with water. I need to know what type of oil is food safe and protects the best.
5 answers
  • Nancy Gramm
    on May 8, 2017

    Food safe mineral oil is recommended; you can buy it at a kitchen store, although I'm sure other places sell it as well. You could also make a spoon butter of a quarter of a pound of beeswax and 16 oz. food safe mineral oil, which would be good for any wooden food utensil, i.e. cutting boards and wooden spoons.
  • William
    on May 8, 2017

    I agree! Use food grade mineral oil. Regular mineral oil doesn't go rancid as vegetable oils do. But it does have a petroleum byproduct in it as a stabilizer.
  • Sherry Fram
    on May 10, 2017

    Looks for food safe as the two previous comments recommend. I use food grade on my wooden spoons & rolling pin to keep them in tiptop shape.
  • Sharon
    on May 11, 2017

    Keep in mind Mineral Oil is a petroleum distillate ( by-product in refining crude oil into gasoline) so ventilate well when you apply, wear a mask and gloves.
    • Jim Goodyear
      on Sep 9, 2019

      so ventilation, wearing a mask, gloves… Not necessarily! Mineral

      oil comes in various grades. A person should not lump technical grade mineral oils used to lubricate vehicles to the higher refined cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical grades of mineral oils which are colorless, odorless, and flavorless.

      Mineral oil does not go rancid! Mineral oil is not digested if ingested!

      Mineral oil is generally a mixture of molecules containing carbon and hydrogen with a chemical formula of CnH2n+2 where “n” is the number of carbon atoms ranging from 15 to 40.

      I would prefer one say something like “refer to the products’ safety data sheet” vs wear a mask and gloves and ventilate the area which maybe (or maybe not) an over-reactive statement when using highly refined and distilled mineral oils.

      I understand that the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies both untreated or mildly treated mineral oils as Group 1 carcinogens; but it also classifies red meat, processed meat, and alcoholic beverages as Group 1 carcinogens. On the other hand, mineral oils can undergo distillation to remove contaminants such as water, sulfur, lead, vanadium and more complex hydrocarbons such as but not limited to benzene to produce cosmetic-grade, food-grade and pharmaceutical-grade mineral oils… each with its own standards.

      Cosmetic-grade mineral oils are commonly used as just one ingredient in skin care products.

      Similarly, food-grade mineral oils with scent added are used in lotions and baby oil. Food grade mineral oils are approved for incidental contact, not exceed 10 parts per million, in any food or beverage. Manufacturers are responsible for their product’s safety. These products may contain additives that either lubricate food processing machinery, inhibit corrosion, or suppress foam etc but may come in contact with food.

      Finally, pharmaceutical-grade mineral oils are regulated by the US FDA and meet specifications set by the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) standards. Manufacturers must ensure that USP pharmaceutical-grade drugs and chemicals meet the specifications outlined in the most recent USP and National Formulary (NF) standards. 140 countries also comply with these standards.

      In conclusion, exposure to gasoline and diesel engine fuel and their exhausts, consuming excessive processed or red meat etc. (and I like my red meat with an occasional glass of alcohol) are likely far more harmful than applying IARC Group 3 classified distilled and refined mineral oil to a cutting board without looking like a surgeon in scrubs, gloves and mask. Equating highly refined mineral oil which is a IARC Group 3 carcinogen to straight run diesel fuel is alarmist.

      Jim Goodyear

  • Kristina S
    on May 13, 2017

    What about linseed (aka flaxseed oil) oil? My dad used to use it to preserve wooden surfaces.
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