How to Properly Clean and Maintain Your Cutting Board

Wood cutting boards must be cleaned and sanitized after every use to avoid cross-contamination and harboring harmful pathogens. In this article, you’ll discover innovative ways to clean, deodorize and maintain your wooden cutting board to keep it looking and functioning its best.

After cleaning, dry your board thoroughly (damp boards become breeding grounds for mold). If you’re using a board cream, rub it in with a clean, lint-free rag until the board is evenly coated.

Scrub it

Whether you have plastic or wooden cutting boards, it’s crucial to scrub the surfaces after every use. This helps get rid of the germs and dirt that can cause dangerous cross-contamination, as well as the stains, odors and knife nicks that can make your cutting board unattractive.

You can clean your board with a kitchen scourer and hot or warm water with dishwashing detergent or antibacterial soap, but it’s important to scrub both sides of the surface – and especially the corners – where food often collects. After scrubbing, rinse the board with a large amount of hot water to dislodge any food particles that might be stuck. You should also sanitize your cutting board once a week or so to ensure you’ve removed all the harmful bacteria from its surface. This involves soaking the board in a chlorine bleach solution or vinegar for a few minutes, but you should always follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding dilution.

Stains and strong smells are inevitable, but you can minimize them with regular cleaning and upkeep. For set-in stains, you can sprinkle the board with coarse salt and rub it in with a half lemon cut side down; the acidity of the salt and the abrasion of the lemon will lift most stains. To remove smells from your cutting board, you can also scrub it with a paste made from baking soda and water. The neutral ph in the baking soda will absorb any odors, while the mild grit of the mixture helps scrub away any food particles.

It’s also important to properly rinse and dry your cutting board after each use. Leaving water sitting on the surface of your cutting board will cause bacteria to grow and create an unpleasant and hazardous film that can contaminate ready-to-eat foods you’ve chopped or cooked. Always make sure to use hot water, as this can kill more bacteria than cold or lukewarm water.

Finally, to keep your cutting board in tip-top shape, you should oil it once a month. While you may be tempted to slather on any old cooking oil, such as vegetable or coconut, it’s recommended that you use a white mineral oil instead, which will not go rancid.

Rinse it

Immediately after using your board, rinse it with running hot water. Wood fibers are sensitive to moisture, and soaking a wood cutting board in water can cause them to expand, leading to warping or cracking. By rinsing right after each use, you can keep your wood cutting board in good condition for years to come.

Rinse the board until you can no longer see any food debris or soap residue. Make sure you run the water all the way around the board, including any grooves and grips. Then dry your board thoroughly with a clean cloth or paper towel. Damp boards are breeding grounds for bacteria. If you don’t have a cloth, use absorbent paper towels or blotting papers to remove as much water as possible. When the board is completely dry, it’s ready to use again.

If your cutting board has stubborn stains or strong odors, you can deodorize it by applying a solution of distilled white vinegar and three percent hydrogen peroxide to the surface of the board. Alternatively, you can rub the board with kosher salt or baking soda, then rinse and dry it.

Some foods, like berries and red meat, tend to stain wooden boards. You can help prevent stains by regularly applying mineral oil to your board after each wash. Mineral oil is colorless and odorless, and it won’t turn rancid on your board the way that vegetable oils can do. Use a food-safe mineral oil, such as Howard Cutting Board Oil or Clapham’s Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish.

Aside from routine cleaning, a regular application of wood conditioner is the best way to protect your board from daily wear and tear and to avoid cracking and warping. After washing your board, apply a liberal coat of food-grade beeswax to the surface and edges, then allow it to soak in for several hours or overnight before wiping off any excess. Then buff the board with a clean cloth to give it a nice shine. For added protection, re-wax your board every month or so – for the un-initiated, you can Discover Little-Known Cutting Boards on Amazon, for great finds.

Deodorize it

If you’ve used a cutting board to cut raw meat, fish, or poultry, it’s important to clean and sanitize it immediately after using it. This will help prevent cross-contamination and protect you and your family from food-borne illnesses.

The best way to sanitize a wood cutting board is to use vinegar, as it’s both natural and effective. Simply apply the vinegar to the surface of the board and let it sit for a few minutes as it works to kill any germs. Once the board is sanitized, rinse it off with water and dry it thoroughly with a cloth or paper towel.

Vinegar is also an excellent deodorizer for a wooden cutting board. Simply keep a spray bottle filled with white vinegar and use it to regularly spritz down your cutting board. The citric acid in the vinegar will neutralize odors while working as a natural disinfectant. If you prefer, you can also use a lemon to eliminate odors on a wood cutting board by rubbing it on the surface.

Certain foods can stain a wood cutting board, which is not only unsightly but can harbor bacteria. For tough stains, try scrubbing the board with a damp sponge or cloth and coarse salt. You can also use 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to banish any unwanted bacteria from a wooden cutting board. Simply pour the solution over the surface of the board, let it sit for a few minutes as the fizzing action kills any germs, then rinse and dry the board.

Once you’ve cleaned and sanitized your cutting board, it’s a good idea to add a protective layer of oil to keep it in good condition. Be sure to use an organic oil that’s safe for food preparation, such as coconut oil, beeswax, or tung oil. Beware of other oils that have high levels of fat, as these will eventually go rancid and leave your board smelling bad. Adding an oil to your cutting board can also help protect it from warping and cracking over time. When choosing an oil, be sure to follow the directions on the label to ensure that you’re applying it properly.

Oil it

Wood cutting boards need to be oiled regularly to prevent the wood fibers from drying out and becoming brittle. This in turn can cause the board to warp or crack over time. Oil also helps the wood repel moisture and other liquids, keeping it from swelling and causing a warped or cracked surface.

To properly oil your board, make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and dry first. Start by hand-washing it using hot soapy water and make sure to wash both sides of the board as well as the edges, as this is where most people miss out when washing their boards. After cleaning it, let the wood completely dry before rubbing it down with a food safe oil (Wood Cutting Boards recommends a mixture of USP-grade mineral oil and beeswax or Good Housekeeping suggests using a simple vegetable oil).

Use a clean, lint-free rag to rub the oil into the surface of the board, working into all the crevices and corners. Once you have covered the entire surface of the board, leave it to absorb overnight.

If you have a hard time figuring out whether or not your board needs to be oiled, just test its water-repellency by spraying a little water on it. A freshly oiled board will be able to withstand the water and will not swell, but a dried-out and brittle board will soak it up.

Note: When selecting an oil to use on your cutting board, be careful as not all oils are created equal. Some oils, such as olive and canola, are not recommended for use on cutting boards due to their high levels of acidity which may affect the durability of your wooden board. It is best to stick with a food-grade mineral oil or a mix of beeswax and mineral oil.

Ideally, you should scrub and oil your wooden cutting board every other week or every other month. However, this is not always possible in the real world. If you do not have the time to perform a full cleaning and sanitization, just be sure to scrub it with hot soapy water after every use and rinse it off right away. This will help to keep your wood cutting board in top condition and ensure that it stays sanitary and free of pathogens for as long as you have it in your kitchen.