If you’re like me, traditional utensils, food preparation surfaces, dinnerware, drinkware, and other tableware can feel a bit plain. That’s why the idea of painting them is so enticing. It’s a chance to create something unique, allowing you to showcase your style. If you go this route, you have to make sure you’re using food-safe paint.
Food-safe paints for wood, ceramic, metal, and glass are widely available. Milk paint is one of the most commonly used options since it’s all-natural in most cases. Alternatives like linseed oil paint and chalk paint are appropriate in some cases, too.
However, the options above aren’t the only ones available. Additionally, food-safe coatings may make surfaces featuring other paints or finishes potentially food-safe. If you’re looking for the best food-safe paint for your next wood, ceramic, metal, or glass project, here’s what you need to know.
What Is Food Safe Paint?
In the simplest sense, food-safe paint is paint designed for surfaces and items that come in contact with food. The paint won’t harm the quality of the food or negatively impact the health of a dinner when the painted items are used for eating and drinking.
Food-safe paints won’t introduce toxins when consuming foods that rest on them. For example, when food contacts the surfaces, the food isn’t contaminated with harmful chemicals, heavy metals, or similarly dangerous materials.
A food-safe paint is also highly hygienic, meaning surfaces coated with it are easy to clean. The paint won’t trap particulars that can lead to bacteria growth or other potentially harmful situations as long as the item is sanitized correctly.
Generally, all food-safe paints are inherently hygienic. However, it’s critical to note that not all hygienic paints are food safe. As a result, it’s best to consider a paint genuinely food-safe if it’s certified for use on food contact surfaces.
Best Food Safe Paint for Wood, Ceramic, Metal, Glass
Which food-safe paint is best depends on several factors. Some adhere better to specific materials, so what’s ideal for wood isn’t always the perfect pick for metal, glass, or ceramic. As a result, that’s a point you need to consider.
Additionally, food-safe paints can create different looks. Some are naturally matte, while others are glossier. Color richness can vary. Additionally, certain food-safe paints are easier to apply than others.
The durability of food-safe paint can also vary. Some may stand up better to heat than others, for example. Specific food-safe paints also stand up to frequent use with greater ease, reducing the odds of chipping and flaking over time.
However, it’s critical to note that even food-safe paints aren’t ideal coatings for items you use for cutting food with a knife. Cutting with a sharp blade can dig through the top coat and into the paint. Even if they’re food-safe, that doesn’t mean you want to eat them. Additionally, the cutting will damage the paint and outer coatings, leaving divots that can hold bacteria or may lead to chipping and flaking.
Since food-safe paints aren’t all created equal, it’s critical to consider the material and the item’s use before choosing a solution. After that, you can determine if one of the stronger choices stands out from the others aesthetically, letting you select the best option for you.
Here is an overview of some of the more widely available food-safe paints.
1. Milk PaintIn the world of food-safe paint, milk paint is one of the most popular choices. Most brands feature only natural ingredients. For example, they’ll only contain casein (milk protein), clay, chalk, limestone, and natural colorants. As a result, milk paint is typically VOC-free, non-toxic, and biodegradable.
Milk paint is also a widely used option since it can adhere to nearly any surface type. It’s suitable for wood, ceramic, metal, and glass. In many cases, you don’t need to sand or apply primer, making it convenient to use.
However, milk paint can chip and wear over time, so most people couple it with a food-safe sealer to ensure the paint lasts.
When it comes to the luster, milk paint usually sits in the flat to satin range. The amount of shine can vary by product, so review the container for more information about the sheen it provides.
It’s critical to note that some milk paint may contain ingredients that aren’t necessarily food-safe. As a result, you want to stick with certified options or, at a minimum, review the ingredients list carefully before use.
2. Chalk PaintAnother option that’s often food-safe is chalk paint. Most versions are non-toxic, so they don’t contain harmful chemicals.
In most cases, chalk paint has a matte finish. As a result, you’d need to apply a food-safe top coat if you prefer a different sheen. The resulting texture is also very dry and not entirely smooth, though you can sand it smooth or apply a top coat if you want a slicker feel.
Generally, chalk paint adheres well to most materials. It’s a popular option for wood and metal. Some people also use it on glass and ceramic.
As with other food-safe paints, not all chalk paint is certified for food contact. As a result, it’s best to research the brand and color to ensure no harmful ingredients.
3. Linseed Oil PaintNatural linseed oil paint is another food-safe option worth exploring. It’s typically highly durable, making it a solid choice for high-contact items. It’s also reasonably flexible, which can prevent issues like cracking on items that flex.
In most cases, you can use linseed oil paint on practically any surface. It’s a particularly strong choice for food and metal, but you can also try it on ceramic and glass. Just be aware that it won’t adhere to silicone.
Typically, linseed oil paint has a flat or matte sheen when dry. If you prefer a glossier look, add a food-safe top coat with more shine.
As with milk paint, not all linseed oil paint is inherently food-safe. Some contain metals or pigments that can pose health risks. As a result, it’s best to stick with food-safe certified versions.
4. Food-Grade Enamel PaintEnamel paint isn’t inherently food-safe. However, there are food-grade certified versions on the market. As a result, you can often find great options with a bit of research.
Enamel paint is traditionally very hard once dry, making it highly durable. It’s also opaque and has a glossy finish, resulting in a look similar to a shiny outer shell.
You can use enamel paint on a wide range of surface types. It adheres to wood, metal, glass, and ceramic. Also, it’s typically moisture resistant, which makes it a solid choice for items you’ll need to wash regularly.
Sometimes, you need to bake on enamel paint to help it adhere. As a result, you need to make sure that the item you’re painting can withstand the required heat. Otherwise, focus on food-safe certified no-bake versions to get the best result.
5. Food-Grade Ceramic PaintCeramic paint is a paint that contains ceramic spheres, making it highly durable. While you can use them on ceramic, it’s also suitable for materials like metal. Generally, the resulting look is on the glossier side, though you can alter that by choosing a food-safe coating with a different finish.
As with enamel paint, not all ceramic paint is food-safe. As a result, you need to specifically seek out food-grade versions. Usually, that means sticking with non-toxic, water-based ceramic paints. If you have any doubts, check to see if the paint is certified food-safe before use.
Does Food Safe Paint Need to Cure Before Use?
With any food-safe paint, you need to let it cure before use. The curing process allows the paint to dry entirely and correctly adhere.
Curing times vary depending on the type of paint, the number of coats, and the thickness of the paint layers. Some may take as little as half a day, while others could take a month to cure completely.
Before using the painted item, check the manufacturer’s product information for curing times. Make sure you wait at least that long before the surface is used for food serving or a similar purpose.
If you can’t find a curing time in the manufacturer-provided information, it’s best to default to a 30-day cure time. That’s generally the longest required period for curing, so waiting that long typically means you’ll get reliable results.
Food Safe Top Coats and Sealants
Typically, even if you use food-safe paint for a project, you’ll want to apply a food-safe top coat or sealant. Those coatings increase durability. Additionally, they can make the items easier to clean if the resulting surface is smooth.
Additionally, some food-safe top coats and sealants are finishes you can apply to bear wood. Along with protecting the surface, they can enhance the look of the grain or enrich the color.
Not all versions of a particular top coat or sealant are inherently food-safe. As a result, it’s critical to research the specific product before applying it. That ensures you’re taking the safest possible approach.
Additionally, many food-safe sealants and coatings only last for a specific time. While durable, they wear away with repeated use and washing. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions to see how often you’ll need to reapply.
1. Tung OilTung oil is derived from nuts, and plenty of food-safe versions are available. Typically, it’s applied to unfinished wood, allowing it to penetrate the surface.
However, you can potentially apply it over paint. It’s critical to note that tung oil typically darkens the paint and takes about 30 days to cure. Additionally, it won’t provide a robust and lasting coating. As a result, it’s a better choice for unfinished wood than painted surfaces.
2. Hemp Oil
Hemp oil is also naturally-derived, with most versions being food-safe. Like tung oil, it’s more commonly applied to unfinished wood. However, you can also put it on water-based paints, such as milk or chalk paint.
When you use hemp oil, you aren’t getting a solid outer shell. However, it does offer some water resistance.
3. Walnut Oil
Walnut oil is derived from walnuts, so there are many food-safe options in this category. Like the other oils on this list, it’s more classically used on unfinished wood cutting boards or similar wood surfaces. However, you can put it over water-based paints if you’d like, giving the surface a bit more water resistance.
It’s critical to note that walnut oil isn’t safe for anyone with a nut allergy, even when it’s cured. Additionally, you have to reapply frequently to maintain the coating.
4. Raw Linseed Oil
Raw linseed oil is a food-safe coating usually applied to unfinished wood. However, it doesn’t offer as much water resistance as some alternatives, and the curing time can take weeks. Additionally, raw linseed oil is a potential fire hazard until it dries.
You can also apply raw linseed oil over water-based paints like milk paint. Maintaining the coating usually requires frequent reapplication. It’s also important to note that it won’t create a hard outer shelf, limiting the situations where it’s a good choice.
Beeswax is a natural coating that offers water resistance and has a subtle sheen, which some people enjoy.
In most cases, beeswax is applied to unfinished wood. However, you can use it on paint to help protect the surface from moisture. However, it isn’t as durable as many alternatives, so keep that in mind.
6. Carnauba Wax
Carnauba wax is a food-safe option that you can apply directly to wood or over another coating, such as paint. It hardens over the top, providing water resistance and protecting the surface below.
Generally, you need to melt carnauba wax before it’s applied. While the process is simple, it does require some care to avoid drips on other surfaces or potential burns.
It’s important to note that tinted carnauba wax isn’t always food-safe, depending on the pigments used. Check the manufacturer’s product information if you’re considering a tinted version, and always make sure the wax is certified regardless of whether it’s tinted.
7. Mineral Oil
Mineral oil – also called liquid paraffin – is commonly used on butcher block counters and similar items. Applying it is simple, so it’s one of the more popular choices.
However, mineral oil doesn’t offer much in the way of water resistance. Additionally, it wears away relatively quickly, so you’ll need to reapply regularly.
Mineral oil also doesn’t harden and works best when it penetrates the wood. As a result, it isn’t ideal for painted surfaces in most cases.
8. Food-Grade Epoxy
Food-grade epoxy – also referred to as food-safe epoxy resin – is a highly durable material that typically has a glossy finish. It’s traditional clear, but you can tint it with food-safe colorants or find food-grade pre-tinted versions.
You can apply it directly to materials like food or use it as a top coat for painted surfaces. The resulting surface can withstand wear and tear and may work for items you cut on, such as cutting boards.
Generally, food-grade epoxy needs a minimum of 24 hours to cure. However, some versions may take longer, so refer to the manufacturer’s product information for the timeline.
9. Food-Grade Shellac
Food-grade shellac is ideal for creating a top, clear coating over a painted surface. It’s naturally water resistant. However, water rings and blushing can occur due to long-standing water contact or improper application.
You can find food-grade shellac in several hues, giving you more options. Just keep in mind that it needs to fully cure, which may take up to four weeks, depending on the product.
10. Food-Grade Polyurethane
If you prefer a shiny finish, food-grade polyurethane is a solid alternative. It protects the underlying surface from damage and scratches, making it an excellent choice for high-touch surfaces.
However, even food-grade polyurethane produces a lot of fumes during application, so only use it in well-ventilated spaces. Additionally, the curing time is long, often requiring at least 30 days.
Is Non-Toxic Acrylic Paint Food Safe?
While some people use – or outright recommend – non-toxic acrylic paint for items that contact food, it isn’t necessarily food-safe. Acrylic paint typically isn’t heat resistant, so it can break down when exposed to high temperatures. In some cases, that leads to chipping and cracking.
Acrylic paint can contain microplastic particles. As a result, you can incidentally consume those particles if they transfer to your food, which isn’t ideal. While that risk is higher if the acrylic paint gets heated, it’s critical to remember that non-toxic and food-safe aren’t the same when it comes to safe food consumption after contacting a surface.
However, if you find food-safe certified acrylic paint, that’s a different story. However, there aren’t many acrylic paints certified as food-grade, so you may have trouble finding a suitable product.
Is Wood Stain Food Safe?
Wood stain isn’t commonly tested for food safety. As a result, you usually won’t find wood stains certified as being food-grade. Since that’s the case, most don’t consider wood stains food-safe, even if they’re listed as non-toxic.
However, there are wood treatments and finishes that are food-safe. Some versions may slightly alter the look of the underlying wood, so they are worth exploring as wood stain substitutes for items that come into contact with food. Just make sure you use a food-grade certified product as a precaution.
Ultimately, the best food-safe paint for your project is the one that meets your needs. Remember that you’ll typically want to follow up with a food-safe top coat. Usually, food-grade shellac is the most popular choice, as it creates a durable outer shell. However, food-grade polyurethane or food-grade epoxy is also worth considering, as they’ll also do an admirable job protecting the underlying paint.
Did you find out everything you wanted to know about food-safe paint? Please share the article if you know someone looking for food-safe paint for their next project.