The Different Types of Wooden Chopsticks
An Introduction to Wooden Chopsticks
Chopsticks are an integral part of Asian cuisine and culture. Nowadays, wooden chopsticks are one of the most commonly found types of chopsticks you’ll find. You’ll see them both outside and inside the home. They come in all shapes, sizes, and functions. From disposable to reusable, bamboo to sandalwood, it can quickly get daunting to get familiar with all the different types of chopsticks available. In this article, we’ll focus on wooden chopsticks and provide some examples of the different types while understanding why they’re important. Lastly, we’ll show you where you can find them, and also provide some best practices for keeping your wooden chopsticks in the best shape possible including storage, cleaning and usage tips! For an instant list of our favorites, here are our quick picks:
Natural Wood Bamboo Chopsticks
Lucky Cat Wooden Chopsticks
Floral Wooden Chopsticks
Japanese Natural Wood Chopsticks
Painted Ornate Chopsticks
Bamboo Chopsticks in 10 Pairs
What are Wooden Chopsticks?
It’s important to understand the different types of wooden chopsticks available, as they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Luckily, wooden chopsticks are pretty self explanatory. They are extremely commonplace and found everywhere around the world. The most commonly seen and your image of wooden chopsticks is probably this:
However, there are many more varieties of wooden chopsticks available that go beyond the typical takeout chopsticks. Strictly defined, any pair of chopsticks that are made from entirely wood, or from a blended wood material can be considered wooden chopsticks. This includes both the disposable chopsticks that you see from takeout restaurants, and reusable chopsticks available at home and dine-in restaurants.
The 3 Types of Wooden Chopsticks Explained
- Disposable - these are the most commonly seen chopsticks, often come in paper wrapping and used in takeout and even dine-in restaurants. They are very light, and usually have to be split apart. They feel rough to the touch and often splinter. Disposable chopsticks are intended to be single-use, so do not reuse these as they may absorb substances and become unsanitary after use. Disposable chopsticks are often made of lighter, low-grade wood and bamboo.
- Reusable Wood - these are often seen inside the home and at some dine-in restaurants. Reusable wooden chopsticks are often made of several possible wood varieties, including: aspen, pine, cedar, cherry and sandalwood. Generally, reusable wooden chopsticks are made using a harder variety of wood and should be resistant to water. Finally, reusable wooden chopsticks often have a finish/coating applied to them, typically nontoxic lacquer, oil, or paint to give them extra protection and shine.
- Reusable Bamboo - Though technically considered a grass and not wood, bamboo is included here because many categorize bamboo and wooden chopsticks similarly. Bamboo is actually considered a type of grass and is often mixed with varieties of wood for aesthetic and structural reasons to create common reusable chopsticks.
Why Are Wooden Chopsticks Important?
Wooden chopsticks (and bamboo chopsticks) are by far the most common type of chopsticks. It’s important to be familiar with the types of wooden chopsticks out there for safety reasons and best practices when it comes to owning a pair. For example, it’s important to be able to identify which wooden chopsticks are intended for single use, and which ones are reusable. Mixing the two types of chopsticks can foster unsanitary habits and be a health concern.
If you care deeply about the environment, it’s important to understand the different materials used to manufacture chopsticks, and their impact on the environment. If you're traveling the world as a freelancer, or gig worker, you may come across all types of wooden chopsticks in various countries. Typically, bamboo chopsticks are much more environmentally friendly due to bamboo being a highly renewable natural resource. Bamboo grows very easily and very fast, and thus does not harm the environment as much when harvested to produce goods. However, all disposable chopsticks, no matter what material, are harmful to the environment. This is because trees and bamboo are cut down to produce single-use products that are thrown away immediately. The consumption of disposable chopsticks is simply far greater than the rate trees can be replenished. If you truly care, try bringing your own pair of reusable chopsticks.
To summarize, here are some reasons why wooden chopsticks are important:
- Health concerns. Some chopsticks are single-use, some are reusable. Know the difference to stay sanitary
- Environmental impact. While not as bad as plastic, wooden chopsticks, especially single-use (disposable), have a detrimental effect on the environment. Trees and bamboo are cut down to produce these chopsticks. To make a difference, buy a pair of reusable wooden chopsticks (or metal) and bring it with you.
How to Clean and Reuse Wooden Chopsticks
While some wooden chopsticks are marketed as dishwasher safe, we recommend not placing wooden and bamboo chopsticks in the dishwasher. The temperature inside a dishwasher can get very high, and depending on your pair of chopsticks, it could warp or damage any paint/decorative features. Here are the best practices for washing wooden chopsticks.
- Wash with warm water by hand. It sounds laborious, but it’s actually fairly simple. In fact, you can easily wash 3-5 pairs at a time. Simply bundle them together, apply a small amount of dish detergent and rub them together against each other.
- Rinse off soap and store in a dry area. After you’re doing cleaning them, make sure to rinse excess soap off and allow the chopsticks to air dry. Do not let them sit while damp you can let them air dry on a simple dish rack, or in a well-ventilated area/cup. When drying, avoid drying in direct sunlight.
- For stubborn stains and odor: use a lime juice, water and baking soda mixture (⅓ each) to rub off stubborn oils. For strong odors, you can use a water and vinegar mixture (½ each) to rub off the smell.
How long do wooden chopsticks last? Are bamboo chopsticks safe?
While many consider wooden and bamboo chopsticks the same, they are actually different materials. Both materials are perfectly safe and are reusable. Reusable wooden chopsticks are designed to last a long time. Since they are typically made from a harder wood variety with some resistance to water, wooden chopsticks tend to be very durable. There’s no set shelf life for a pair of wooden or bamboo chopsticks, many users have used chopsticks for more than 10 years! Our recommendation is to replace chopsticks if they have warped, splintered, or simply don’t look aesthetically pleasing anymore. If you take good care of your chopsticks (washing it by hand), they can easily last more than a year. For those chopsticks you decide to retire, you can repurpose them. Here are some simple ideas:
- Sticks for your hair
- Sticks/planks for plants
- Knitting needles
Keep in mind that both wooden and bamboo materials are also used to make disposable, single-use, chopsticks. These are generally NOT safe to reuse and we do not recommend using these beyond the first time. Reason being, they do not have the same finish and resistance to absorption that reusable chopsticks do, thus, bacteria and food can get trapped creating an unsanitary surface.
Conclusion: What's the best wood for chopsticks?
In short, there is no absolute "best" wood for chopsticks. They are all equally safe to use and should last quite a long time, given the proper care. The most important thing to remember is the distinction between single-use, disposable chopsticks and reusable chopsticks, even though both can be wooden. Disposable chopsticks are not intended to be reused for eating and can be unsanitary, while reusable chopsticks are manufactured with extra protections for normal wear and tear.