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.
Best Woods for Cutting Boards
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 and after each use with raw meats, poultry, and fish.
Equipment / Tools
- Sponge or dish scrubber
- Sink or large basin
- Drying cloths
- Drying rack
- Warm water
- Dishwashing liquid
- Distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide
- 2 teaspoons chlorine bleach
- Baking soda
- 1 lemon, cut in half
- Food grade mineral oil
- Paper towels
Rinse 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.
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.
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.
Avoid the Dishwasher
Never place a wooden cutting board in an automatic dishwasher. The high heat and extended exposure to water will cause the wood to split.
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. Dry the board with a soft cloth or paper towel.
Disinfect With a Daily Solution
Disinfect After Use With Raw Food
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.
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.
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 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 rack to dry completely.
The oil will fill all the nooks and crannies in the wood fibers and prevent water and bacteria from entering the board.
Tips to Keep Your Wooden Cutting Board Clean Longer
- Never soak the board in water for extended periods. Water will permeate the wood and cause the wood fibers to swell and warp.
- Never allow food liquids, especially blood from raw food, to sit and pool on the wood because they will eventually soak in.
- If you prefer, consider specially formulated wood cutting board oils to condition the wood.
Removing Strawberry Stains From Wooden Cutting Boards
If you are left with a stubborn red mess after cutting strawberries (or other berries) on your wooden cutting board, there's a trick to removing the stains. Sprinkle kosher salt (because of its larger crystals) on the board and squeeze lemon juice on top of it. Using the lemon half, begin to scrub the stains with small circular motions. Add some baking soda to the mix and resume scrubbing. Rinse the board under warm water. If there are still stains, repeat the steps. Once you're satisfied that enough of the stains are removed, let the board air-dry.