How to Condition Vintage Wood

There are days when I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how to start a post. This is one of those days.

Remember when you were in school and you had to write an essay and the first sentence was the hardest part?  That is now my job. Every single day of my life I have to write a first sentence.

Normally it comes easily to me, but not today. It could have to do with the fact that I’m tidying the living room, browsing the Internet for flea markets in my area and brushing my cat, while watching American Pickers.

Plus I’m experimenting with typing with my toes.

So this whole first sentence thing’s a struggle today.

I guess I may as well just get right into it without any fanfare or sparklers.

I ordered a few vintage/antique wooden spoons off of Etsy a few weeks ago. It’s hard to believe a) that I only discovered Etsy a couple of years ago and b) that I bought 3 dirty old spoons on it.

It’s surprisingly difficult to find antique wood utensils. They’re beautiful spoons and I love them, but when they arrived they were really pale and dried out, a little sad looking. Like old wood often is.  Just ask Burt Reynolds.  (He’s old right?  And alive?)

I normally don’t like to mess with the patina of old wood, but these spoons actually looked malnourished.

So I stirred things up a bit (spoon humour) and conditioned my wood. To revitalize old wood spoons, bowls or any unfinished wood, just give it a wipe with oil.  In the case of cooking utensils or things that you’ll eat out of, I generally use olive oil. If I don’t have any handy for some reason, I use vegetable oil.


Vintage Wooden Spoon

You can also use food grade mineral oil.  But I don’t.  I have no idea why, but I reserve the mineral oil for the chopping blocks.

In the near future I’ll be showing you a more advanced version of wood nourishment that *does* include mineral oil.

Conditioning Vintage Spoon

Just saturate the utensil or bowl with olive oil.  I just pour it on and rub it in with my fingers.  Then let it rest until it’s all absorbed.  It could take 15 minutes, or it could take an hour.  Depends on how dry and soft the wood is.
Oiled Vintage Spoon


Keep doing this until the wood doesn’t absorb any more oil.  Some spoons (like the spatula above) will darken a lot, and some will darken only a tiny bit.   Anything you do this to will become less brittle.


Even your hair.  Yeah. You can condition your hair with olive oil. In fact, when I hosted a hairstyling competition show I asked every single judge who was on the show about what their #1 hair tip would be.  They ALL (independently without eavesdropping on each other sneaky style) said to condition your hair with olive oil and then wrap your head in a plastic bag for half an hour.  O.K., just wrap your hair actually, not your head.  If you wrap your whole head you’ll die.  You will die with luscious, glossy hair … but you will nonetheless die.

Yup. It’s like a miracle solution, this Olive Oil stuff.  Who knew!

Olive oil … it’s not just for enemas!

I think I just found my first sentence.


  1. Amber says:

    Yuck. I clicked the enema link.

  2. Janet says:

    Haha…loved this post…still chuckling!

  3. Louise Rea says:

    Olive Oil! What wonderful stuff! Had the home colour build-up stripped from my hair two years ago…big mistake, cost a fortune and left me with the worst hair I’ve ever had…could not face cropping it…so tried the tip of olive oil…..miracle! Absolute miracle! Hint….rub shampoo into your hair before washing it all off….ie, oil and water don’t mix! Rub shampoo into oil…then rinse and condition as normal….oh and love the spoon btw!

  4. KiwiKat says:

    Holy moly – the last sentence of that link is a killer:

    “Otherwise you could leak oil for hours.”

    My eyes are wide open in shock, horror – I wish my imagination wasn’t so visual!!!

    Great tip for the spoons though.

    • Lisa says:

      That last sentence was what did me in too. I have no idea why I followed that link or what on earth possessed me to keep reading it, but that sentence will linger with me for…hours.

  5. Brenda says:

    Nice spoon..the wood looks like knotty beech.

    • Karen says:

      Brenda – Really? Knotty Beech. Interesting. Wish I knew how old it was. Damn old. That much I know. The spoon weighs about as much as air. ~ k!

  6. Shari says:

    Does it make any difference whether it’s regular olive oil or extra virgin (for wood or hair)?

  7. Ann says:

    Coconut oil is also really really great for hair and skin conditioning. Probably would condition wood also but I haven’t tried!!

    • Karen says:

      Ann – It’d be awfully expensive though. Eep. Not so bad on a spoon I guess, but conditioning anything bigger would be a costly venture. ~ k!

  8. Mary Vitullo says:

    Hi Karen,

    An idea for a post you may want to research (or maybe you already know how!!!!!). The opposite of today’s post. How to turn wood into that raw wood look that is very in right now. Kind of that furniture found at Restoration Hardware. You know kind of bleached, raw wood. I’ve heard that you can take some type of steel wool, soak it in vinegar (I think, or maybe it was bleach, or both) and the steel wool turns to rust. Then you rub it on the wood and it will look old. There was a segment last season on “Steven & Chris” but I cannot seem to find it. Just an idea in case you are all out of posts!!!!

    • Karen says:

      Mary – Funny you should mention that! I’m about to try doing that very thing with a desk of mine. I’ll let you know how it works out and post about it of course. ~ karen!

  9. FLP says:

    I have a gray sad-looking butter bowl that I have owned for 30 years. Maybe this will bring it back to life. Thanks.

  10. Rebecca says:

    You’ve had some great one liners lately!! Keep it up.

  11. Tigersmom says:

    ok – I clicked on the enema link, too.

    The first sentence, “Never inject anything into your colon hotter than 115°Fahrenheit.” had me convinced it was a joke. So, I kept reading, looking for further confirmation that it was a joke. And then it became the train wreck that I couldn’t look away from. All the way to the end.

    Apparently the joke was on me.

    • Karen says:

      LOL! ~ karen

    • Ro says:

      Hah! I have been friends with two different EMTs in my life, and they both can tell a loooong list of horror stories about what people have put up their butts. So YES, idiots out there really do need to be told not to put anything in their colon that’s hot enough to burn their insides. ::facepalm::

  12. Darlene says:

    Thank you , thank you, thank you, you have just made my week!

  13. Dave says:

    You might want to confirm that olive oil is a good idea. I’m a woodworker and the consensus as I understand it is to avoid using olive and vegetable oil as finishes, as they will eventually go rancid.

    • Melissa says:

      Hmm… the website doesn’t state it will or won’t be harmful, just that some disagree. Keep up the good work Karen – for finding an affordable way for us all!

    • Brenda says:

      Dave..Olive oil could possibly go rancid so ‘they’ say but I would not hesitate to use it on spoons in your own home. Especially if after it has soaked in the oil you wipe the spoon off and buff. And really, other than reading that fact I have never heard of it happening to anyone..And I hear a lot about wood care in my studio…LOL!!!
      For me I won’t use it on pieces that I am selling..I use sunflower oil which is one of the 3 natural oils that will dry [100% tung oil, walnut oil and sunflower]Once the piece feels dry after the oil[ maybe a few days] for a top coat I use a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax that I make myself.

      • Karen says:

        Brenda & Dave – That’s what I was going to say but couldn’t be bothered, LOL. The Internet is *full* of things “people say”. I prefer to rely on experience as opposed to what I have read “people say”. Also … we all use our wooden spoons to stir, mix, and generally mess around with oil in pans but we never worry about our spoons going rancid, do we? Nope. No we do not. As you were. ~ karen

      • Denise says:

        Actually, it’s not just a theory, olive and other cooking oils do go rancid. Just like any other type of food product, even ones that have preservatives in them, they eventually do go bad. It’s happened to me and others I know as well.

    • Denise says:

      I agree with Dave. Using olive or many other types of oils isn’t the best idea because the oil goes rancid. This is why mineral oil is typically recommended instead.

      • Nick says:

        They not only go rancid, they get sticky. I made the mistake of using olive oil on a 19th century wooden mortar and pestle. Looked great, but sticky twhen handling it now, and I can find no way to undo or change this.

  14. LisaF says:

    I just started following–and already–your blog is a MUST read for me everyday! Thanks for the info AND the laugh today!

    • Karen says:

      Well, thanks for reading LisaF! Without readers there would be no blog. No blog, no info and no laughs! So really … this here blog is all thanks to you. ~ karen!

  15. Julie says:

    You can also clean your face with olive oil!

  16. Susan says:

    You just inspired me to pull out Mom’s wooden Stuff (butter paddle/bowl & other wooden spoons) to condition. I put them in a cupboard cuz they looked so, well, dry. Also, you reminded me I used to put olive oil in the horses tails after washing and then I’d braid them up and tie a sock on it to keep it clean until either next wash time, or the show! My menopausal brain needs your reminders! Thank you.

  17. shauna says:

    lol thanks for the giggle . That’s a perfect first sentence……but do you really brush your cat?

  18. Ro says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I don’t have any old wood that needs it right now, but I have in the past and might at some point in the future, and now I know what to do about it! 🙂

    What really cracked me up, though, was reading the end of your post, and then the advertisement -right- underneath it was for Dove oil treatment for hair! ::gigglesnerk::

  19. Barbie says:

    Oh Karen the enema link CRACKS me up!
    Last night while I was doing dishes after dinner I thought of you. We have a farm sink with a rubber covered type drainer that fits into it (came with the sink) that the coating is now wearing off (the white rubber stuff) So I thought to myself…”I should ask Karen” maybe she would know how to re-coat it somehow…I just KNOW there must be a way. I should take a picture and send it to you. So you know better what I am talking about.

  20. Melissa L. says:

    Oh lordy I can’t believe you didn’t use any double entendres for “conditioning vintage wood” – I was laughing just from the title! Guess we know where my mind is today. 🙂 p.s. Guess you could use olive oil for that, too. 😉

  21. Tracy says:

    Why, oh why, did I click the enema link? I knew I shouldn’t click, I hovered over the word a moment before clicking…but, in the end, I clicked. There are some things you just can’t unlearn.

  22. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    First of all…knowing your sense of humor..I knew better than to click on a link that says “ENEMA”..My brain said “Do not go there Nancy”..I can tell from other comments that my brain was indeed giving me good advice for once..So now if I ever get the urge to rub some old wood..(snicker)I know what to do..Once again..Karen to the I must tell you that the sweet potato squash was awesome delicious..I am very serious about this..You and the Fella must try..I think the flavor is even better than sweet potatoes..I tried it plain and also with a little butter and sprinkle of brown sugar..Yummy either way..I scraped it down to the skin to get it all..Definitely a good one to try in the garden next year..

    • Karen says:

      Good to know! Thanks for remembering to let me know. I can’t grow it for this year obviously but I’ll keep it in mind for next year. In the meantime I’ll see if anyone at my local farmers market carries it. Can’t wait. ~ k!

  23. Jake says:

    I’m not sure Burt whathisname is alive, we could debate it if you like.

  24. carol says:

    I have seriously brittle toenails. Can your precious olive oil fix that?

    Perhaps a combo treatment with my enema?

  25. Spokangela says:

    “Never inject anything hotter than 115 degrees into your colon” also works as an opening sentence. Who knew??

  26. Lori says:

    Thank goodness that your readers are a smart bunch, because immediately following your post was an ad for Castrol Motor Oil. Might be a bad thing to get confused and mix up which oil is for what use. Let’s be very clear, the motor oil is not interchangeable with the olive oil for the enema situation. Definitely not.

  27. Gayla T says:

    I decided to forgo the enema link but now I keep thinking I should go back and watch it. For some reason, ememas were popular when I was a child and my mom bought into it big time. Bad memories! Yuck! Now what was this post about? Spoons…..dried up but great looking spoons. That shape must have fit a need but I can’t think what it would be, can you? I’ve always been big on Old English Furniture Polish for furniture and Mayo for hair. I use the Old English on the old woodwork in vintage houses I’ve lived in and love that smell. I always use the dark one even on lighter wood and it is miraculous. What are you going to do with the old spoons? If you display them show us how, ok? Good post except for the enemas. Bad bad memories!

    • Karen says:

      Galya – Much to the horror of everyone I know, I’m going to use the old spoons. I cleaned them to within an inch of their life and … I’m gonna use them. But no one has to worry because I am not going to put them in my bum. ~ karen

      • Patti says:

        If you did, THEN I would be horrified if you used them in the kitchen!

        You know – it`s weird – I used to be freaked out by second hand dishes.. but then I really thought about it, and I LOVE eating in restaurants, and think about all the people`s mouths who have been on that cutlery and those glasses!? I think I’m over it! A good clean and you’re good to go.

  28. hi there
    long time reader first time comment. i have the miracle drug for revitalizing old wood.
    here is the quick version;
    i bought a wood table in europe it had an incredible french polish on it (7,000 steps toward a a fr. polish!) when the sheen wore off i was on a quest, how to get the same look in a few steps. finally in a small england town i found a jar of ‘stones’ furniture polish brought it home and viola, the look in 3 steps. now i am the us distributor.
    it is same family recipe from 1700’s, all organic (could eat it in a pinch) it has no glycerin so it penetrates the wood while cleaning and actually plumps up the wood again.
    enough, i am really a blogger, shop keeper, designer…..want a jar? i’ll send you one
    LOVE your blog karen!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Debra! Well, I must admit I’ve never heard of it. Of course I would love a jar if you ever feel like sending one. Thank you. I love testing stuff out. Send me an email and I’ll send you my address. I suppose I could just see if we carry it here in Canada … but that seems like work. ~ karen!

  29. Alixandra Key Bouchard says:

    I’m a woodworker. I make those all the time. They are probably the most incredibly versatile utensil ever. I love them.

  30. Hot Coupon spot says:

    I always thought olive oil was great. The number of uses continues to amaze me. Using it to recondition wood may be the last thought i would have had.

  31. Karen2 says:

    Dave is right. In a couple of years, wood treated with olive oil or veg oil is going to stink with rancidity. Mineral oil doesn’t oxidize and won’t become stinky or sticky. (Some people don’t seem to be able to smell rancidity, though.)

    • Karen says:

      Karen2 – I’ve been doing this for years and it’s been fine. I only promote/put things on my website that I have actually *experienced*. I never, EVER put things up and preface them with “I read, or I heard”. It is all based on experience. For me, Olive oil has been fine. If you wish to use mineral oil that’s fine, it also works. ~ karen!

  32. justin says:

    OO is a terrible idea. It is going to go rancid and then you are in a stinky situation!

    • Karen says:

      Justin – No. I swear to you. As I’ve told others and my woodworking friend has confirmed … it will not go rancid and smell terrible. It’s a myth that so far I have yet to find a single person that has actually experienced. In theory it makes sense, but in reality it doesn’t happen. ~ karen

  33. Rhonda says:

    I have inherited an antique quilt frame. What is the best thing to restore the wood. Can I use the olive oil on wood that will have fabric against it? I think I can put it together, still have not found any frames like it. Help..Thanks Rhonda

  34. mike b. says:

    Vegetable oil becomes sticky. I “conditioned” a haul of wooden utensils from a garage sale. The are all too sticky to use. It won’t soak off wash off sand off – yucky. Any suggestions? My next try will bea blowtorch in hand..

  35. Sheree S. says:

    Hello, I was wondering if Debra Phillips sent you a jar of the ‘stone’ furniture polish and what you thought of it? If it worked as described, I would be interested in it also.

    Loved your site! Thank you!

  36. Shane says:

    First, after reading through this almost all the way, comments and all, I’ve come to two conclusions:
    1) girls are just as crude as boys when it comes to humor, it’s just better hidden and
    2) you clearly put a ton of time and effort into a website with well-written articles, that is informative and actually has a purpose, not just a bunch of nonsense about the Kardashians.
    So, I’ve got a question for you…
    I picked up a balloon back Louis XVI chair the other day at a thrift store for $20 and you can imagine how filthy it was. It was so bad that it had to be washed with a power washer several times just to make the fabric acceptable to put inside my apartment. The fabric must have lightened 18 shades, as did the wood and now, it’s a nice pale French blue and with elmwood trim, I believe. The wood is terribly dry though, for which I accept full responsibility. Here’s my question, finally.

    If olive and vegetable oil go rancid, what is best to condition it with? I feel like it could marinate in a drum of olive, coconut and mineral oil for day or two and still be parched. I’m not ready to stain, paint or shellac yet, because I’m unsure about the fabric and I don’t really want to darken the color.
    If you know of a solution it would be most appreciated. I’ll bet you do, so thank you in advance. And, I’m not sure how I stumbled upon you’re site, but I’m glad I did, I shall save you as a favorite.

    -Shane 🙂

  37. Vicki Buchanan says:


    Glancing back, it looks like this post is several years old, but it popped up while I was
    looking for something else. But the funny part is I just recently purchased an antique spatula,
    and it too needs to be revitalized. Thanks for the info, regardless of when you posted.

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