It’s the one thing that you can find in almost every home. Wooden cutting boards have become a staple item in kitchens everywhere. They provide a hard, durable surface for all your chopping and dicing needs. But many people don’t know how to properly care for their cutting boards. Unlike plastic boards, they can’t be put in the dishwasher and require a little TLC to ensure they last for years. Wood cutting boards are great for most fruits, vegetables, breads and cheeses. Super soft cheese and raw meat, poultry and fish should be cut on plastic boards only.
Read on to figure out how you can properly care for your wooden cutting board and help keep it clean (and bacteria-free)!
Step 1: Cleaning
The first step to a clean cutting board is cleaning it after every use. The longer it is left sitting, the more likely odors and stains will find their way into the grain of the wood and make it their home. After each use, wash using a soft sponge or cloth and a bit of soap. Next, rinse with hot water and wipe clean, leaving it in an upright position to allow it to dry properly.
Please note: Never submerge your cutting board into a sink of water! Wood is a porous material and will soak up water, causing the cutting board to warp and crack as it dries. This also means that you should not put it in a dishwasher. When not in use, your cutting board should be kept in a dry place, away from moisture that can cause damage.
Step 2: Disinfecting
It’s important to note that cleaning and disinfecting are two different things. A quick wipe may create a clean ‘looking’ surface, but not necessarily a disinfected one. Disinfecting kills germs and bacteria to prevent it from spreading while cleaning removes any surface residue. So, after you have cleaned your cutting board, you have a few options when it comes to disinfecting.
First, you can wipe the board down using a cloth or soft sponge and undiluted vinegar (aka don’t water it down). We find it’s easiest to put it in a spray bottle to prevent using too much at once. This method can be done after each use.
Second, you can sprinkle coarse salt over your cutting board. Using a lemon cut in half and a little elbow grease, scrub the board for a few minutes. As you scrub, squeeze the juice out of the lemon. The acid in the lemon will help disinfect the board while the salt acts as an abrasive agent to get rid of any leftover food or stains. Let it sit dampened for 5 minutes or so after scrubbing. Then rinse with hot water, drying with a paper towel or clean cloth and store it in an upright position. This method is suggested to be done once a week or after a few uses.
Lastly, you can make a paste using baking soda and water or vinegar. Similar to the salt, baking soda has an abrasive property to help get into the nooks and crannies of the board to lift and remove food remnants. If vinegar is used, it will help to kill some of the bacteria and germs that are lingering on the surface. Use a clean cloth or sponge to spread the paste, rubbing it in to all areas of the board. Let it sit for a few minutes before rinsing. Again, dry using a paper towel or cloth and leave it upright to dry.
Step 3: Seasoning
The term ‘seasoning’ in terms of a cutting board basically means to condition the board. This helps to prevent the wood from drying out and cracking. This is especially important if you are using a butcher’s block. When seasoning a board, do not use vegetable-based oils as they will turn rancid.
Mineral oil is recommended for seasoning wooden cutting boards. Before use, it’s suggested that you warm the oil before spreading it onto your board. Using a soft cloth or paper towel, rub the warm mineral oil into your board, following the grain of the wood. You don’t want your board to be dripping in oil but you don’t want to skimp on it either. Ideally, you want to continue to apply the oil evenly until the wood stops absorbing the oil. Once you reach that point, use a clean, dry cloth or paper towel to remove all remaining surface oil. The oil seals the pores of the wood and helps prevent moisture from seeping into the board. Let it dry overnight before using it. For best results, season your board once a month, or more often if it’s used frequently.
As you can see, there is some effort required to keep your wooden cutting board in good shape. If you’re able to follow these 3 easy steps, your wooden board will stay near and dear for years to come. Although we have suggested completing different steps at different times, feel free to customize any of these tips to fit your timing and usage needs.