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Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Posted by justmakeit (My Page) on
Sun, Mar 17, 13 at 15:33

When DH and I got married, back in the mesozoic era, we got a gray formica kitchen table which proved to be indestructible. In the new kitchen, I made an executive decision to get a *new* table. I've found a nice modern table that I like, with a large number of top materials to choose from: glass, MDF, granite, marble and varieties of wood.

Since there's already a lot of stone in the kitchen, and cork on the floor, and white cabinets, I thought it might be nice to warm things up with a wood top, possibly a "reclaimed chestnut" that has a slightly distressed farmhouse vibe.

Here's the problem (I know, longest backstory ever): DH is anxious about a) how to disinfect the table and b) how to keep the wood looking good. With the old formica, he used to spray it with 409 and then rinse it with water. He's way more germ-phobic than I am, plus he's a celiac, so always on the lookout for cross-contamination, or crumbs his gluten-eating wife may have dropped inadvertently.

I'm pretty sure 409 on wood is a bad plan. How do you take care of your wood table in the kitchen? Am I going to have to get an MDF table to put DH at ease?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Scrubability depends on what finish is on it. How about a compromise (and a celiac living with a gluteneater does have legitimate excuse to be finicky!) and glass on top of the wood? Almost the same look and a heck of a lot easier to keep clean.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

My kitchen/dining table was old when I got it as a hand-me-down 32 years ago. It's either maple or cherry; I honestly don't know which. Anyway, I refinished it in 1981 and topped it with a few coats of Varathane. It was my first refinishing project and it was not my finest. :) Nevertheless, 32 years later: hot things, wet things, cat butts...everything has been set straight down on that table. Usually I clean it with 409. Sometimes I use Pledge. Other than an honorable patina of small scratches and whatnot, the finish looks and feels great. If you have a nice hard wood and decent finish, I don't think you need to worry about 409.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

My wooden kitchen table is finished with Rockler's Salad Bowl Finish - it's an oil that you wipe on. Let dry, sand gently, repeat. I think I initially did about 6 coats. I've just re-sanded and done a new coat: 5 years after the original application. It's food-safe.

I clean it with Clorox non-bleach 'green' countertop cleaner.

The previous table was coated with Varathane, like linelle's, and was cleaned the same way. It's still going strong, down in the basement now.

Many people on this site love Waterlox. I didn't care for the high-gloss finish, and preferred the ease of application of the Salad Bowl Finish, but YMMV.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

As long as you get a wood top that is smooth enough to disinfect, you should be fine with wear and longevity. We've had the same wood kitchen table in our family for three generations now, and it's still going strong. A new coat of varnish about every 50 years seems to work.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

You don't actually eat off the wood, do you? Don't you put placemats/dishes? This astounds me.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

The thing about allergies and intolerances is not so much "disinfecting", which generally applies to bacterial/viral contamination, but more physical removal of the problem residue/crumbs. Wood cutting boards actually end up less contaminated with bacteria after washing than plastic ones, I would expect that would extend to tables. The change may have an unexpected benefit!

If it's the gluten he's (rightly) worried about, a good scrub with soapy water then a rinse might actually be better. Pushing around gluten contaminated 409 only helps so much! You can't kill gluten like bacteria, you need to remove it. Easy to overlook in our germaphobic society.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Sara and linelle are right. A good natural finish on hardwood should be nearly indestructible. It will have character. When it looks dry or crappy, I might suggest Howard's Feed-N-Wax -- awesome stuff -- or maybe even Howard's Restore-A-Finish. I don't know what makes them work so beautifully, but they have been mainstays in my antique maintenance arsenal for twenty-five years.

That said, I have glass on my current kitchen table, and I love it. Good luck, and enjoy your natural table.

Here is a link that might be useful: Howard's line up of products


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

DH#1 grew up with this table and while it definitely could be refinished, the shape (circular) and general size are wonderful. I was very lucky to end up with it and would give it to DH#1 should he ever ask (hasn't, fortunately). During our recent renovations, the kids asked whether we were going to get a new table and I gave them a resounding 'NO!'. It is a wonderful equalizer and perfect for card games. I would never have a table other than circular.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

desertdance, hahaha, no I don't eat off the table itself, so I'm not shooting for a disinfected surface. That's not to say that I don't set a chewy cookie down from time to time or an eggnog or a cat butt or two, and I do like to give the old girl a clean from time to time.

I've been wanting to get a new table + chairs set for years, but I'm attached to this old table that can take a beating and come back for more.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

oldbat, I had the same experience as you, have a similar table in oak that came from DH's grandmother that she had bought used. I bought a new washed oak china cabinet and one son just couldn't understand why I wanted to keep that table - I wouldn't trade it for anything!


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

A finish like polyurethane is very easy to care for. You can use most any standard cleaning product you like, although personally I'd be more worried about residue from the cleaning products than germs from crumbs. Wiping up with a damp paper towel is generally my cleaning product of choice unless there's something like raw meat involved with actual harmful bacteria.

I made a wood kitchen table when DD was 2, and finished it with poly. I let her stab it with her fork, pound on it with her spoon, and generally do what kids do. It survived all that plus regular cleanings just fine.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

People have bee eating off wood tables for about as long as furniture has existed, and wood is used for cutting boards.

Wood has natural enzymes that actually help kill bacteria, and it can be wiped down and sanitized. Spray it with 5% bleach solution, or use my method - first spray white vinegar then spray hydrogen peroxide - then wipe (forms a powerful sanitizing agent which is food safe and environmentally friendly).

Are people actually aware that due to scratches in plastic, plastic surfaces are more likely to harbor bacteria than wood or natural stone? Formica is basically plastic, and you were not worried about your old table.

"The project had been conducted before our work began. It revealed that those using wooden cutting boards in their home kitchens were less than half as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (odds ratio 0.42, 95% confidence interval 0.22-0.81), those using synthetic (plastic or glass) cutting boards were about twice as likely as average to contract salmonellosis (O.R. 1.99, C.I. 1.03-3.85); and the effect of cleaning the board regularly after preparing meat on it was not statistically significant (O.R. 1.20, C.I. 0.54-2.68). "
from
http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm

"The scientists found that three minutes after contaminating a
board that 99.9 percent of the bacteria on wooden boards had died,
while none of the bacteria died on plastic. Bacterial numbers
actually increased on plastic cutting boards held overnight at
room temperature, but the scientists could not recover any
bacteria from wooden boards treated the same way."
http://www.news.wisc.edu/releases/1107.html

"Cutting boards used to prepare raw meat can be used to prepare salad or other uncooked food, transferring disease- causing bacteria and other agents from the meat to the salad. Wooden cutting boards have been widely used for centuries, while boards made from various polymers have been available since the early 1970s. Glass cutting boards are a third option to consumers. Research has shown that when bacteria were inoculated on both wooden and polymer boards, bacterial recoveries from wooden boards generally were less than those from plastic boards, regardless of new or used status (Ak et al., 1994a). These authors found no differences between wood types (basswood, birch, maple, maple plus walnut). Cleaning with hot water and detergents was found to be effective in removing bacteria, regardless of the species, wood type, or whether the wood was new or used (Ak et al., 1994b). Little or no research has been performed using glass cutting boards. The objective of this study is to compare the potential of glass, wooden and plastic cutting boards to promote bacterial cross-contamination."
http://fycs.ifas.ufl.edu/foodsafety/HTML/il114.htm

Go ahead, use wood and wipe it down when needed with a damp microfiber cloth - you will be safe.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

I've had a glass top made for mine, had it about 10 years or more. Works great. Its easy to clean as tables tend to get sticky stuff. You can hardly see the glass. Periodically I clean underneath it because crumbs magically migrate under the edges.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

I had a similar problem for a different reason, I was worried about the wood top scratching. For almost a year I kept going back and forth between the tops you mentioned, but really wanted wood. I recently bought the wood table I liked best, had a piece of beveled glass made for the top, I love my new table. It's also easy to clean.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

I had a similar problem for a different reason, I was worried about the wood top scratching. For almost a year I kept going back and forth between the tops you mentioned, but really wanted wood. I recently bought the wood table I liked best, had a piece of beveled glass made for the top, I love my new table. It's also easy to clean.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

I have a wood table. I bought it about 12 years ago at one of those unfinished furniture places. Its made out of rubberwood, which I understand to be a asian hardwood?

Anyways, we stained it ourselves and sealed it with a coat or 2 of polyurethane. Its still going strong 12 years and 2 kids later. I spray 409 on it multiple times a week and its help up just fine. I'm sure 409 might not be good for a wax finished table. But I think for anything with a good sealer on it, 409 will not damage it.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

" Wood cutting boards actually end up less contaminated with bacteria after washing than plastic ones, I would expect that would extend to tables."

Wood cutting boards do not normally have a film type finish on them like tables.

As was found out years ago (after some stupid comments that plastic MUST be better).

Wood is non-nutritive enough to work very well as a cutting surface, and the extractive in actual heart wood tend to discourage many bacteria, just as they do in the living tree.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Sure, but they are not going to be cutting raw chicken on their eating table, either. My point was that a wood table is no less sanitary than a formica table.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

A smoother finish will be easier to get clean. Glass is the smoothest.

If there is a compulsive scrubber, bleacher, or scraper in the household but you want the look of wood, glass on a nice table is a good option. Especially if you want reclaimed or rustic or not-so-smooth wood. Gluten hideyholes!

Also, they don't let you test out finish wear in stores so you don't know until you get a table home how well it'll scrub.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

We have had a wood table for the last 15years. It is maple and I love it. I clean it with a soapy dishcloth then wipe dry. Before kids it was pristine--now it has scratches, bang marks (note to self---don't let the 5year old use the meat tenderizer mallet for her playdoh!) and one mysterious stain (perhaps playdoh). Those things just add character. I love this table. Our previous table was glass and we could never get the dogs to stop staring at us while we ate.....


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Heidi, my table has the same marks. I distinctly remember sitting at the table one night when DD was about 3 or 4 (still in a high chair IIRC). She was never a destructive kid, but for some reason she decided to try and poke holes in the table with her fork that night.

I thought about stopping her, but then decided to just let her go ahead. Now it's 12 years later and I'm teaching DD how to drive, but I treasure those pockmarks she made in the table.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Try Pompanoosuc. Lots of wood styles, and you can mix and match the top and base. I got a natural walnut top and they WANT you to clean their wood with Windex!


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Since everyone is chiming in with their favorite wood sealers, I'd like to plug Skidmore's Beeswax wood products -- the wood sealers and the conditioning cream are great. I know the maker, Vince Skidmore, who is a woodworker himself, and he hand-produces all of the products from beeswax and natural resins and pine-based turpentine. The sealer is tough enough for exterior treatments, and the conditioning cream doubles as both a wood and leather restorer. (He sells the same product under leather and wood product labels.) Knew him back when he was producing in Wyoming, now he's moved the business to Port Townsend, WA. We'll be refinishing recycled bowling lane into kitchen counters, and I'm looking forward to using his stuff on raw wood from scratch for the first time (previously we've just used Skidmore's when restoring old, finished wood surfaces). FYI, I don't work for Vince, just love his products! Good luck, and have fun!

Here is a link that might be useful: Skidmore's Fine Beeswax Products


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Chiefneil---your post made me get all teary eyed.......we have fork pokes too! But fast forwarding to when DD can drive? Boo-hoo.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Oh my gosh, you guys, thanks for all the great information about wood tables and how to care for them. It's clear that a wood kitchen table is kind of iconic, and the images of families gathered around them are getting me kind of teary eyed too. Somehow, the gray formica table doesn't resonate the same way. I think I'm going to forgo the reclaimed chestnut, because the divots and holes will drive my husband mad. But I'm optimistic now that if I get, say, a smooth cherry butcherblock, I'll be able to figure out how to care for it without babying it too much. Thanks again for all your help! I'll post a photo if and when my new wood table gets to our little breakfast nook.


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RE: Wisdom of getting a wooden kitchen table

Hi justmakeit,
I have to say I think you are making a good decision. I have had my chestnut reclaimed wood table for 2 years and I'm ordering a glass top for it, as I can no longer take the crumbs getting between the boards and in the destressed areas, dimples, etc. I have had this table for 2 years and love the look of it when it is clean but can't take it looking dirty with the crumbs between the boards. We have celiacs in our family too, my DD and I are gluten free and I share your concerns. I have always had wood tables but they were so smooth, oak and butcherblock, they were abused by my children and they cleaned up so easily. You should be able to use your kitchen table without all the worrying and fuss :)


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