Should You Be Boiling Your Wooden Spoons? TikTok Thinks So

We talked to an expert to find out the safest way to clean your wooden spoons.

A wooden spoon stirring the rice and water mixture in a pot

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

TikTok offers all sorts of hacks for keeping your kitchen clean and tidy, some that we love (like these 5 decluttering tips or the best way to load a dishwasher), some that we can’t get behind (ie. this dishwasher pod drama). 

So, the latest viral TikTok video instructing how to deep clean your wooden spoons made us instantly question: fact or fiction? 

According to video creator Nicole Jaques, your beloved wooden spoons, “harbor liquid, bacteria, and oils,” and the best way to rid them of these is by boiling the utensils in water for 20 minutes. In the video, the leftover water is murky, cloudy, and dark-colored, revealing what looks to be oils and food particles that have seeped into the spoons during regular cooking. She recommends completing this cleaning process as often as once a month.

We have to admit—the residue-filled water was an alarming visual, but before recommending the method, we decided to check in with an expert to confirm this was the best practice. Here’s what we found out. 

We reached out to Brad Bernhart of Early Wood Designs to get the scoop and found out (in an email interview) that he’s done a fair share of these cleaning experiments himself and has a few takeaways. What does he think of boiling? “This method really does clean utensils very well, but it's not without its issues,” he shares.

Problems With Boiling Wooden Spoons

According to Bernhart: “Boiling utensils not only takes out any leftover food bits and sauces, but it also pulls out any oil or wax that was previously put on the utensils.”

Furthermore, it can cause utensils to warp or crack from the high heat and excessive moisture. 

“When wood absorbs water, it expands,” he explains. When wood dries out, it shrinks. Properly oiling or waxing utensils is what keeps this cycle from happening, but in the case of the boiling method, you are forcing the wood to soak up as much water as possible. So, when you dry them afterward, cracks may form.”

Should You Boil Wooden Spoons?

All-in-all: “I am ok with this method if you really want to give your utensils a reset, but I would not recommend doing it once a month unless you are ok with shortening the life of your utensils,” he concludes. “I think I could sign up for doing this once or twice a year.”

If you are going to go with the boiling method, here’s what Berhart recommends: give the boiled utensils an aggressive rub down with a Scotch-Brite pad (or the scratchy side of your sponge) to remove any raised grain, then treat them with a mineral oil or wax of your choice to bring them back to peak condition.

Can You Dishwash Wooden Spoons?

We’ve all been there—tempted to throw wooden utensils in the dishwasher after a long night of cooking. Well, according to Bernhart, taking the lazy way out definitely isn’t the best option, but it’s also not as damaging as you might think.

“​​Common side effects that occur from running utensils through the dishwasher are cracking, surface roughness (raised grain), and leaching of color,” he says. “I once ran some wood samples through my own dishwasher as an experiment. I used four woods that are naturally drastically different colors and ran them through 20 full cycles. The woods were hard maple (blond color), bloodwood (red), Mexican ebony (black), and jatoba (brown). After 20 cycles, none had cracked or warped, but they were all very rough to the touch and I could no longer even tell which wood they were! All of the samples were a washed out grayish white color.” 

How Long Do Wooden Spoons Last?

The good news is, proper care of your wooden utensils can ensure they have a long, long life in your kitchen. “If wood utensils are properly oiled or waxed and cleaned by hand with the scratchy side of your sponge, 50 years is not at all uncommon,” says Bernhart. “Most of us have seen one of those old wooden spoons that were used lovingly by our grandparents or even great-grandparents. Treat them correctly and your grandchildren will pass them on to their grandchildren.”

Here are more tried-and-true methods for how you really should be cleaning wooden spoons.

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