See in this post how I make a set of thrift store-bought wooden salad bowls like new.

Yesterday, I found a set of six wooden salad bowls at our local thrift store. In the past, I’ve never looked twice when I saw wooden bowls like these, but this time a what if thought crossed my mind. What if I could refinish these bowls and bring them back to their glory while showing you How To Make A Grubby Wooden Bowl Look New?

Wooden bowls in need of refinishing on a white board.

These bowls were free of dirt and grime but still looked grubby due to not being cared for properly. The finish that was on the bowls was coming off in many places. The bowls were discolored and actually had a really rough surface. I’m guessing they were even run through a dishwasher.

Wooden salad bowls that have been sanded and waiting for a coat of tung oil.

Steps to make an old wooden bowl look like new:

  • Sand
  • Rinse
  • Dry
  • Oil

I started by laying a garbage bag over to protect the surface. Then I sanded the remaining finish left on the bowls with a 120 grit sandpaper and then finished the last coat of sanding with a 320 grit which made the surface very smooth. When I finished sanding, I rinsed each bowl under running water, gave them a good towel drying, and then set them on the back porch to finish drying. That last step didn’t take long because it is so windy here. We’re under a wind advisory all day today.

Wooden salad bowls that have been sanded and waiting for a coat of tung oil.

When they were all dry, I took a sponge brush and covered the inside and outside of the bowls with my favorite tung oil blend. You can read more about that in my wood countertop post here.

Wooden salad bowls that have been sanded and rubbed with tung oil..

Here, you can see the oil sitting in the bottom of the bowl. It eventually all soaked in. Once the tung oil had absorbed into the wood, I wiped them down with a soft rag to remove any excess oil.

A stack of wooden salad bowls on a white wood board with a weathered door in the background.

Didn’t they turn out great? I love the rich luster the tung oil gave them and how it pulled out the grain in the wood. The oil does not have any color in it, but it does bring out the natural tones in the wood which can make it look like they’ve been stained.

A stack of wooden salad bowls on a white wood board with a weathered door in the background.

The pattern that appears to be a water stain is actually part of the wood. That is my favorite of all the bowls. Since the tung oil is food grade they are safe to use with food.

A stack of wooden salad bowls on a white wood board with a weathered door in the background.
Open shelves in a kitchen decorated with miscellaneous items including a set of wooden salad bowls.

I nested the bowls together in a staggered pattern and put them on my open shelves. I’m really tickled with how these turned out. I only did one coat on these because I wanted to get this post up, but I will go back and apply another coat of tung oil to make sure they are completely sealed. See that bowed shelf at the top there? Yep, we’ve been saying for a year now how we need to fix that. I really need to bump that to the top of my to-do list. And you know what, I’m thinking about going with a lighter stain the next time around.

Well, whatcha think? That’s my easy, peasy method on how to make a grubby wooden bowl like new. Have you ever refinished any wooden bowls? I’d love for you to comment below.

pin it for later >>>

a stack of wooden salad bowls that have been refinished.


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  1. Wow! I can’t believe how great these turned out! They look like bowls you would find from the Magnolia collection at Target. Pinning this for later :)

    Thanks for sharing
    >> Christene
    Keys to Inspiration

  2. The bowls are so beautiful. I can not believe how great they turned out.

  3. Hey Marissa! Yep, pure tung oil is 100% food safe. You can read a lot more about that from my countertop post. That’s the main reason I chose it for these bowls and our wood countertops. Good luck with your bowls!

  4. Gorgeous bowls, Kim. They look like something out of Williams Sonoma! We’ve always used mineral oil, so I’ll have to look into tung oil now…

    1. Thanks, Crissy! I love using tung oil. When you get it, make sure it’s pure. A lot of brands out there are misleading with their labels. ;)

  5. I could have sworn I commented on this! I have a large bowl from C&B that needs to be refinished… I’m going to try your “recipe”. Pinning!

  6. These bowls are absolutely gorgeous, I wouldn’t even want to put food in those! Pinning!

    1. Thanks, Roxanne! I know right! Right now they are still sitting on my shelf where I smile every time I look at them. Thanks for pinning!

  7. These came out so beautiful. I see these often at the thrift store and never once thought they could look like this again. Next time I see some I wont pass them up. Pinning for later.

    1. Thank you, Sonya! Like you, I can’t even count the times I’ve walked past them and never gave them a second thought. I’m so glad I thought twice about this set. :) Thanks for the pin!

  8. Your blog is so pretty! I love your photography, too! I’ve been looking through all your old posts and you are AMAZING!

    Thanks for the inspiration friend!

    1. Thank you so much for the sweet words, KariAnne! It gives me great pride knowing you spent your time looking through my blog. Not even gonna lie – your comment made me squeal just a little – eeek! I have followed your blog and have been a fan for so many years! True story – I had just driven out to the mailbox to get YOUR book right before I saw your comment. I was so excited to see that it was left TODAY. Amazon had been showing that delivery would be tomorrow. Go Amazon! Thanks again for stopping by!

  9. Thanks for sharing. It looks beautiful after. great post.

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