How to Sanitize and Care for Wooden Cutting Boards
Clean your cutting board like a chef with tips on disinfecting
A wooden cutting board is a classic tool in the kitchen for food preparation and the perfect background for a cheese or charcuterie board. But it's important to know how to clean wooden cutting boards to ensure a sanitary surface for your food prep and serving.
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 debris and germs than softer woods like cedar and cypress are.
Here's what you need to know to clean and sanitize a wooden cutting board with vinegar, lemon, and more.
Never wash a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. The high heat and extended exposure to water can cause the wood to split or mold. Even professional chefs clean their wooden cutting boards via hand-washing.
How Often to Clean Wooden Cutting Boards
You should wash a wooden cutting board after every use, even if it is just used to cut a piece of fruit. Depending on how often you use the board and for what it's used, it should be disinfected at least monthly.
While you can put raw meat on a wood cutting board, it will require sanitizing afterward. You should never reuse a wooden cutting board after chicken, fish, or other raw meat has touched it for other parts of your meal with thoroughly cleaning it first.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Sponge or dish scrubber
- Sink or large basin
- Dry cloths
- Dish drain
- Warm water
- Dish soap
- Baking soda
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- Distilled white vinegar or 3% hydrogen peroxide
- 2 teaspoons chlorine bleach
- Food grade mineral oil
- Paper towels
Rinse Food Residue
As soon as possible after use, rinse the cutting 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 dishes are in the splash zone to prevent cross-contamination.
Do not allow solids and liquids to sit on the board's surface for long to prevent staining. Prompt rinsing is particularly critical when handling meats to make it easier to sanitize the wooden cutting board.
Mix a Cleaning Solution
Add a few drops of dish soap 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.
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.
Rinse the Board and Dry
Rinse the board in warm water to remove all suds. Then, dry the board with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Disinfect With a Daily Solution
To disinfect your wooden cutting board after light use (not raw meat), spritz it with distilled white vinegar. You can also spritz with a 3% solution of hydrogen peroxide.
Disinfect After Use With Raw Food
At least monthly or after working with raw chicken, fish, or other meat, your wooden cutting board should be thoroughly disinfected with a chlorine bleach and water solution. Use this same method to clean a wooden cutting board with mold.
Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 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.
Place the cutting board in a dish drain to air-dry completely. Do not dry flat on the counter because the bottom of the board can warp. Never store a wooden cutting board until it is completely dry.
Condition the Wood
If the board begins to look dull or feel slightly rough to the touch, the wood needs to be conditioned. You should not use olive oil on a wooden cutting board, along with other cooking oils, because they can turn rancid. Use food-grade, highly refined mineral oil. The oil will fill all the nooks and crannies in the wood fibers and prevent water and bacteria from entering the board.
Apply a generous layer of mineral 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. Repeat the steps for the other side of the board. Mop any excess oil with a paper towel, and place the board sideways or upright in a dish drain to dry completely.
How to Remove Stains From Wooden Cutting Boards
If you're left with a stubborn stain on your cutting board, such as redness from slicing berries, there's an easy method to remove it. Here's how to clean your wooden cutting board with lemon and salt:
- Sprinkle kosher salt (because of its larger crystals) on the board, and squeeze lemon juice on top of that from a lemon sliced in half.
- Using the lemon half, begin to scrub the stain in small circular motions.
- If the stain isn't immediately lifting, add some baking soda to the mix, and resume scrubbing.
- Rinse the board under warm water.
- If there is still staining, repeat the steps. Finally, let the board air-dry.