How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Bread on wooden cutting board

Ben Garratt / Unsplash 

A wooden cutting board is a classic tool in the kitchen for food preparation and the perfect background for a cheese or charcuterie board. While there has been debate on whether wooden cutting boards contribute to food-borne illnesses caused by bacteria like E. coli and Salmonella, studies have proven that they are as safe as other types of cutting boards if they are cleaned properly.

Tip

When you're shopping for a wooden cutting board, choose a hardwood like bamboo or maple. These woods are much less prone to scarring that can trap bacteria than softer woods like cedar and cypress.

How Often to Clean Wooden Cutting Boards

A cutting board should be cleaned after every use—even if it is just used to cut a piece of fruit. Skipping a good cleaning can leave yeast and mold spores and bacteria that will continue to grow.

Depending upon how often you use the board, it should be thoroughly disinfected at least monthly.

What You Need

Supplies

  • Warm water
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Baking soda
  • Lemon
  • Food grade mineral oil
  • Paper towels

Tools

  • Sponge or dish scrubber
  • Sink or large basin
  • Drying cloths
  • Drying rack

Instructions

  1. Rinse-Off Food Residue

    As soon as possible after use, rinse off the wooden board under warm water to remove any loose food residue. Use a soft sponge or scrubber to remove any sticky bits. Make sure that no foods or clean dishes are in the splash zone to prevent cross-contamination.

    Tip

    Do not allow solids and liquid to sit on the board's surface for long to prevent staining. Prompt rinsing is particularly critical when handling meats. If left too long, blood can seep in the pores of the wood and cause problems.

  2. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to warm water and use a sponge to wipe down both sides of the wooden cutting board. Do not allow the board to soak in the solution.

    Warning

    Never place a wooden cutting board in an automatic dishwasher. The high heat and extended exposure to water will cause the wood to split.

  3. Scrub Away Stains

    If there is discoloration on the board, sprinkle the area with a liberal amount of baking soda. Use a dishwashing brush or half of a lemon to scrub the area. The acid from the lemon will boost the cleaning power and lighten stains.

  4. Rinse the Board and Dry

    Rinse the board in warm water to remove all suds. Dry the board with a soft cloth or paper towel.

  5. Disinfect with Distilled White Vinegar or Hydrogen Peroxide

    After rinsing, lightly spritz the wooden board with distilled white vinegar. The acid in the vinegar acts as a disinfectant for daily use. You can also spritz with a 3-percent solution of hydrogen peroxide.

  6. Disinfect with Chlorine Bleach

    At least monthly or after working with raw meat, fish or poultry, the board should be thoroughly disinfected with a chlorine bleach and water solution. Mix one teaspoon of bleach in one quart of water. Spread half of the solution over one side of the board and let it stand for five minutes. Rinse with hot water and repeat the steps on the other side of the board.

  7. Air-Dry Thoroughly

    Place the wooden board in a dish drainer to air-dry completely. Do not dry flat on the counter because the bottom of the board can warp. Never store a wooden board until it is completely dry.

  8. Condition the Wood

If the board begins to look dull or feel slightly rough to the touch, the wood needs to be conditioned. Do not use olive oil or other cooking oil because they can become rancid. Use food-grade, highly refined mineral oil.

Apply a generous layer of oil to the board and spread it out evenly with a paper towel. Let the oil soak into the board for at least two hours or overnight. Mop any excess oil with a paper towel and place the board in a dish rack or upright position to dry completely. Repeat the steps for the other side of the board.

The oil will fill all the nooks and crannies in the wood fibers and prevent water and bacteria from entering the board.

4 Tips to Keep Your Wooden Cutting Board in Great Shape

  1. Never soak the board in water for extended periods. Water will permeate the wood and cause the wood fibers to swell and warp.
  2. Never place in a dishwasher.
  3. Never allow food liquids, especially blood, to sit and pool on the wood because they will eventually soak in.
  4. Never use olive or cooking oil to condition the board. They will become rancid and the odor is difficult to remove.