You might not expect your well-loved bamboo spoon to outlast both your stainless steel spatula and your plastic cutting board, but it just might. Depending on the quality of how they’re produced, many bamboo utensils can last for ten or more years. Read on to find out why this fast-growing grass (yes, grass) is one of the most durable materials you can use in the kitchen.
Many of us have been on a mission to live a lower impact life for years. Recycling, reducing our consumption of high-impact foods, and walking instead of driving have long been touted as some of the best ways to reduce our personal carbon footprint. However, using the power of our purchases to reduce our environmental impact has never been quite so...impactful (Curious to know just why that is? This is what conscious consumerism is all about). By choosing products that are created responsibly, you can lessen your footprint and send a clear message to companies that sustainable production is a requirement if they want your business.
Picking products that are made to last is an essential way to lighten the footprint of your purchases (and your daily life). The life cycle of the products you use is essential information to know when you’re making a decision about what materials to use in your kitchen. After all, kitchen utensils are likely some of your most used items. And if you’re in the market for eco-friendly kitchen utensils, chances are that you’ve run across bamboo.
How Long Do Bamboo Utensils Last?
While it can be difficult to nail down an exact number to answer the question, “how long do bamboo utensils last?”, if you’ve chosen bamboo utensils that are high-quality, they can last you for years to come. And not just one or two years. Many well-cared for bamboo utensils can stick around in your kitchen for 10 years or more (in fact, our founders have a set of bamboo kitchen tools that have been around since 2003). Here’s why:
What makes bamboo so long-lasting?
In many parts of Asia, bamboo is a trusted material for building houses, scaffolding, and even bridges. Some bamboo structures that are around today were created hundreds of years ago. So, what makes a grass so durable?
Bamboo is the strongest woody plant on earth
There’s a reason bamboo is used as a building and flooring material. It’s incredibly strong! While it grows at a much faster rate than trees, this speedy life cycle doesn’t compromise quality. Bamboo has a greater weight-to-strength ratio than graphite, and it is stronger than both Red Oak and Maple.
Unlike other materials, bamboo is naturally antibacterial and stain-resistant
While kitchen utensils made from wood or plastic can easily become tarnished after contact with colorful spices and foods such as turmeric or beets, bamboo resists stains. This property keeps it looking fresh and beautiful throughout its life (and makes it less likely that you’ll toss it away due to discoloration).
You can refinish bamboo utensils
The ability to sand down and refinish bamboo utensils is a huge part of their longevity. Once utensils made from metals or plastics begin to show scratches, dents, or burn marks, nothing can be done to repair their surfaces. This isn’t the case for bamboo. As it begins to show signs of age, bamboo is easily brought back to life with a square of sandpaper and a bit of finishing oil. Consciously caring for your bamboo utensils can ensure that they look like new even when you’ve had them for years.
How long does bamboo cookware last after you throw them away?
The final ingredient in truly sustainable utensils is their end of life. Yes, we want our kitchen utensils to hold up for years. But if they’re made from the wrong materials, they’ll end up on our planet for hundreds and even thousands of years after you’re done with them.
Luckily, bamboo is a natural material, and one that degrades quickly once it’s time in your kitchen is up. Left to its own devices, bamboo will completely biodegrade once it’s done working hard in your kitchen. When you’re ready to dispose of your utensils, you can drop them in your municipal yard debris container- they’ll continue their life as eco-friendly mulch!
With a clean (and long) life cycle from start to finish, bamboo utensils provide maximum durability without harsh chemicals or an environmentally taxing production process.
Not all bamboo utensils are created equal
Bamboo has long been touted as the poster child of renewable materials-and for good reason. This grass requires much less water to grow than trees. And it can reach full maturity in one growing season, compared to the nearly 100 years it can take for some hardwood species to do the same. Once bamboo is harvested, it will begin growing again from its existing roots. This removes the need for replanting. This unique characteristic improves soil health and reduces the labor needed to maintain a bamboo forest. From the start of its life cycle, bamboo has a level of sustainability that is unmatched by other materials used to make kitchen utensils.
Not all bamboo utensils are made the same, of course. While they are created from an incredibly sustainable material, how they are produced and finished can vary greatly. This can affect how long your bamboo utensils last. Bamboo utensils that are produced to last for years to come will have a few important things in common.
First, you should expect your bamboo products to be produced without glues, fillers, or lacquers. From a distance, many bamboo utensils may look the same. But a closer look will tell you if your utensil has been glued, or if it’s made from a single piece of bamboo. Looking at utensils that are glued together will show several layers of material, and that is a telltale sign that your utensils won’t last as long. Utensils made from a single piece of bamboo are stronger and more resistant to cracking or splitting.
High-quality bamboo utensils will also be free of lacquers (which are typically full of nasty chemicals). Some companies will cut corners by “smoothing” out their bamboo utensils with a coat of lacquer. This produces an immediate illusion of a smooth and shiny finish, but over time, that coating will chip off with use. Instead, choose bamboo utensils that are carefully sanded for a naturally smooth feel that won’t chip away.
Finally, your bamboo utensils should be finished with food-safe, non-toxic oil, such as flaxseed oil. Bamboo utensils that aren’t properly finished can quickly become subject to drying and cracking. And at the end of the day, a quality bamboo utensil will be just that- 100% bamboo. To ensure that your products are made with only chemical free, natural materials, look for bamboo utensils that are certified organic.
Four Tips for Maintaining Bamboo Utensils
1.) Hand-wash your bamboo utensils
While you can place bamboo utensils in the dishwasher, the rapid heating of the washing cycle can reduce the longevity of your cookware. Instead, hand-wash bamboo utensils with a mild soap. It’ll only take a second longer, and it will significantly increase the life of your utensils.
2.) Don’t leave them soaking in water
Bamboo is resistant to water, but prolonged soaking can damage the material. When you use your bamboo utensils, scrape any food from them and clean after use. If you’ve got to run, keep them in a basket or bowl that’s safe from water until you’re able to wash them.
3.) Treat them with a finishing oil once a month
Properly oiling your bamboo utensils is key to keeping them looking fresh and working hard. Use a food-grade oil blend that is formulated for bamboo. If you use your bamboo utensils on a daily basis, consider making it a monthly habit. For less-used items, consider oiling before and after big events to keep them looking their best. When your bamboo isn’t regularly rehydrated with a safe oil blend, drying and cracking are more common.
4.) Smooth out any signs of wear with sandpaper
Maintain the smooth, natural surface of your bamboo utensils by lightly sanding them with a square of fine-grit sandpaper. This simple trick will erase any imperfections and leave your bamboo feeling as supple as the day you got it.
As you can see, a lot goes into the simple question of “how long do bamboo utensils last?” With proper care, you’ll be enjoying the touch and feel of a beautifully natural material for many meals to come.
For more tips on how to increase the life of your bamboo utensils, check out our Ultimate Guide To Caring For Bamboo.
Is your bamboo looking a little worn? While it’s not mandatory (and some of us love the look and feel of well-loved kitchen tools), using Bamboo & Wood Grain Finishing Oil can bring shine back into your bamboo utensils and help extend their life.