Which finish works best for wooden objects that will be rinsed under water often?


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I am making soap trays. You know, like little blocks with deep grooves that you set your bar of soap on so that it can dry and not get all gummy. I made a "test batch" of 15, and I finished them with a homemade varnish that I make. It's just 1/3 mineral spirits, 1/3 boiled lin. oil. and 1/3 Minwax oil-based poly (satin). My thought process was, the BLO would make the grain "pop" some, and the amber color of the BLO and oil-based poly would give it a nice hue without having to stain. And the Poly would seal them so that they can be wet, which they will be often. 

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PROBLEMS:

  • By adding the 1/3 mineral spirits, the finish becomes essentially a wipe-on varnish. So it literally takes around 3 coats before it starts to really 'build' into a protective layer and not just soak into the wood and flash off. I can't spend 6-7 days on a varnish job of stupid little soap trays. 
  • Once the varnish did build enough to form a layer over the wood, and not just soak in, when this finish cures, it's very... sticky feeling. It's not at all a nice finish to touch. It feels very plastic'y and if you stack them up, they want to kind of stick to each other kinda almost like they've been painted with a thick coat of latex paint. At first I thought that they'd just need to reeeally cure because the BLO is slower drying than the poly. But even after 7 days since my last coat, they are just as sticky as they were 7 days ago. 

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So... I am looking for a new finish that will be...

  1. Water-proof, since these things will be rinsed under water and have a wet piece of soap constantly on them.
  2. Quick. I don't want to invest the time in these little things of days and days of building a finish. 
  3. Natural looking. I thought I could maybe just use some kind of Bee's Wax finish. But, if they are rinsed under hot water, won't that just melt the wax, and strip it away instantly?

Anyone ever use one of those "salad bowl" finishes? What are they like?

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Yeah, what @Eric and @Mikesaid.  

If you like the look the oil/varnish blend gives, then maybe start with that for a coat - but continuing with oil of any type is going to elongate your dry/cure times, which is not what you want.  Also in the interest of time, at some point you want to more rapidly build your film finish - so cut back on the thinning.  But realistically, putting wood into wet environments is tough.  Also tough is finding a finish that is both 'natural looking' and 'waterproof'.

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You could make them out of teak or ipe to stack the cards in your favor.  Otherwise, like Mike said, you'll basically have to encapsulate them in plastic if you want them to last.  They'll look like they're encapsulated in plastic.

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28 minutes ago, Eric. said:

Might as well using nothing at that point.

While it's not a terribly durable finish, mineral oil would enhance the look of the piece... For at least a few rinses. The problem isn't just water, but you're using soap, which is going to start cutting into any non-curing oil.

Look at what's available in stores. The only "wood" I've seen commercially for this kind of thing is Bamboo. Since it's already pretty heavily infused with whatever binders and resins, and the structure is different to wood, I'd say that's a direction to examine.

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1 hour ago, BonPacific said:

While it's not a terribly durable finish, mineral oil would enhance the look of the piece... For at least a few rinses. The problem isn't just water, but you're using soap, which is going to start cutting into any non-curing oil.

I use mineral oil on my cutting boards and it's "gone" within a month or two.  I mean I know the stuff doesn't evaporate, but it goes somewhere because it just looks like raw wood in just weeks...and that's with only getting it wet fairly infrequently.  Most the time I don't even wash it off after cutting veggies unless it's messy.

I've gotten to the point that I only put oil on my boards after I resurface them...which is rare.  Because Jimmy crack corn.

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Polyurethane is not really waterproof.  Leave water sitting on it, and some will get through.  That's why Marine Varnish is used on boats, but even then,  only above the waterline.

My current favorite things to put soap on in the shower are these things:  https://www.secretlyobvious.com/store/p77/Mesh_Soap_Saver_Pads_(2_Pack).html  The soap doesn't get soggy, and erode away just sitting there.

I can see nothing but complaints from people buying anything out of wood to keep soap on.

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Actually, mineral oil does evaporate, but very slowly. Not enough to make it disappear from a cutting board like it does though. Maybe it gets absorbed into the food.

Sorry Dol, but I'm going to dump on your parade & say that when used for a soap dish, most any wood, especially pine is just going to look like crap in a very short time no matter how you treat it.

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