How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

If you’ve been avoiding using wooden cutting boards in your kitchen because you’re not quite sure how to clean, disinfect or care for them, then this F.N. Sharp guide is for you! 

Wooden cutting boards are the go-to for many professional and home chefs, but as beautiful and classic as they are, they do require proper care and maintenance to prevent warping and cracking. No need to worry though – if you follow a few simple care and cleaning guidelines, your wooden cutting boards will last for years and years to come!

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide:

The F.N. Sharp Guide to Caring for Wooden Cutting Boards

A chef’s knife without a cutting board is like peanut butter without jelly, up without down, or black without white. Every great knife deserves a great cutting board – you just have to slice through a common misconception to find it… 

So, before we get into how to clean and care for your wooden cutting board, lettuce slice through that myth and serve up some (F.N. Sharp) knowledge 😎

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Fact vs. Fiction: Are Wooden Cutting Boards Sanitary?

Raw boneless chicken breasts with seasoning on wooden cutting board

Home cooks often choose to buy plastic cutting boards over wood because they assume they’re more sanitary, but science has actually proven the opposite! After studying the topic, researchers at UC Davis noted that the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed there is no scientific evidence to support the recommendation of using plastic vs. wooden cutting boards in home kitchens.

The problem with plastic cutting boards is, while they seem to be non-porous and unable to absorb liquids, the surface becomes cut and scarred over time, making it harder to properly clean the rough surface. This can result in allowing any potential bacteria to remain and thrive.

Wooden cutting boards, on the other hand, can actually kill bacteria. In a study conducted at the University of Wisconsin, researchers placed three kinds of bacteria known to cause illness – Salmonella, Listeria and enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli – on cutting boards made from both wood and plastic materials. All of the wooden boards consistently outperformed the plastic boards. In fact, in only minutes after the bacteria had been placed on the wooden cutting boards, 99.9% of the bacteria had died while NONE of the bacteria on the plastic boards died.

The moral of the story? Not only are wooden cutting boards sanitary, they’re also far safer to use than plastic cutting boards – not to mention they’re also much easier on your knives.

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As if that weren’t reason enough to only buy wooden boards from now on, when taken care of properly, they can actually last for up to 10, 15 or even more years. Plastic cutting boards, on the other hand, typically only last a year or two.

With this in mind, let’s look at the proper ways to clean and care for your wooden cutting board.

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How to Clean and Sanitize a Wooden Cutting Board

Hand wiping wooden cutting board with soft cloth

Just like any other cutting board, wooden cutting boards must be thoroughly washed and dried after each use. Regular washing, over time, can strip the board of oils that prevent it from drying out and cracking, much like human skin, so your board will need a little pampering from time to time. (Jump to this section or watch this video to learn more about oiling your wooden cutting board).

When it comes to cleaning and sanitizing, you have a few different options to choose from:

  • Soapy water: Use nice and hot water and a little bit of dish soap to gently wash away any food debris.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: This is a great solution for killing any remaining bacteria. After you’ve wiped the board down with hydrogen peroxide, be sure to give it a good rinse and pat it dry.
  • Vinegar: Many of our grandmothers used nothing but simple vinegar to clean their ENTIRE house. Vinegar is a great cleaner because it contains acetic acid, which is a powerful disinfectant. Wipe on with a clean cloth or paper towel and leave. Not only will It disinfect your board, it will also get rid of any lingering odors (we’re talking to you, garlic).
  • Lemon juice: Speaking of lingering odors, rubbing your wooden cutting board with the cut side of half a lemon will also get rid of meat, garlic, fish and onion smells. After rubbing with lemon, pat your board dry.
  • Baking soda: This is a great cleaning agent for wood boards because it is a mild alkali and can dissolve dirt and grease in water. Simply make a baking soda paste and scrub your board. Then give it a good rinse and pat dry.

How to Remove Stains from a Wooden Cutting Board

Removing stains on wooden cutting board with salt

No matter which way you slice it, your cutting board is bound to accumulate stains, which can be quite devastating when you’re in love with your beautiful wooden cutting board. 

Plastic cutting boards are often kept on hand for this reason, but there’s actually an incredibly easy and effective way to remove stains from your wooden cutting board.

To keep your board as beautiful as the day you bought it (while feeling free to use it for whatever your recipe calls for), grab some kosher or sea salt and follow these steps:

  1. Wet the stained area with water and sprinkle it with the salt.
  2. Allow the salt to sit for 12-24 hours.
  3. Add a little more water to make a paste and scrub the area with a nylon scrubbing sponge or a clean, unused toothbrush.
  4. Repeat as often as necessary until the stain is gone.

How to Oil a Wooden Cutting Board

Oiling wooden cutting board with conditioning oil

Regular oiling is another important step to caring for and maintaining your wooden cutting board. This helps maintain the surface of your board to prevent it from drying out and splitting. How often you oil your board really depends on how often you use it. 

If you use your wooden cutting board on an almost-daily basis, then you’ll need to oil it about once a month. If you only use your board every so often, you may only need to oil it once or twice a year. The best thing to do is keep your eye on it and watch for the wood to start lightening in color. This means it’s drying out and needs oil.

When it comes to choosing your conditioning oil, go with a food grade oil that isn’t prone to rancidity. Mineral oil is used by many as it’s inexpensive and easily found at most kitchen supply stores.

Here are a few important things to keep in mind when oiling a wooden cutting board:

  • Make sure the board has been thoroughly cleaned and dried.
  • Use a clean, soft cloth or paper towel to apply the oil in an even layer.
  • Allow the oil to really soak in, overnight if possible.
  • Use a clean and dry cloth or paper towel to wipe off any remaining oil that has not seeped into the wood. Your board should feel smooth but not slick or sticky.

Check out the video below to see how to oil a wooden cutting board in action:

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What NOT to do With a Wooden Cutting Board

Wooden cutting board in dishwasher

Now that you know what you SHOULD to do with your wooden cutting board, let’s conclude with a few things you SHOULDN’T do:

Don’t opt for a cheap cutting board made from inferior wood and non-safe glues. By spending just a bit more, you can own a handcrafted board that is not only safe and beautiful, but will also last for years.

Don’t ever put your wooden board in the dishwasher. Harsh detergents and high heat are bad for the surface of your board and can, over time, cause cracking. The same goes for your knives.

Don’t forget to oil your board as often as necessary. This will really help it last and age beautifully.

The bottom line is, if you take care of your wooden cutting boards, they will take care of you (and your knives) for years to come!

Impressive Cutting Boards Need Impressive Knives: Get F.N. Sharp!

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