How to Clean and Maintain Your Wooden Cutting Board Without Ruining It

There’s nothing quite like a wooden cutting board for adding a touch of class to the meal prep experience. From rustic maple to sleek teak, a sturdy wooden board provides an attractive palette beneath your fruits, veggies, or meats. Plus, wood boards won’t dull your knives and don’t easily harbor harmful bacteria.

But there’s one issue that might be a stumbling block to butcher block: a belief that wooden cutting boards are hard to clean and maintain. Sure, you shouldn’t put them in the dishwasher, but cleaning a wood cutting board isn’t actually hard at all.

Learn how to clean a wooden cutting board and make it last a lifetime with these easy methods.

Toast on a wooden cutting board
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Daily cleaning

While we’re mincing veggies, we won’t mince words: Wood cutting boards need to be hand washed.

After use, wash your board with a bit of dish soap, rinse it in hot water, wipe it clean, and allow it to dry upright. Boom! You’ll get a clean board in way less time than it’d take to go through your dishwasher’s wash cycle.

If you’re worried about bacteria lingering after you cut raw meat, there’s good news: Wood, especially hardwood, is naturally anti-microbial.

The capillaries in the wood grain pull fluids down into the board, trapping the bacteria — which are killed off as the board dries after cleaning. Several studies have found that bacteria lingers significantly less on wood than on plastics.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t clean your board after a chicken-slicing session. But rest assured that, of all the cutting board materials around, wood is one of the least likely to host a raging party of microbes.

Deep cleaning and disinfecting

Every few weeks, the wood board should be deep cleaned and disinfected. Try any of these methods for deep cleaning.

Lemon and salt 

This method is good at removing stains and getting your board squeaky clean.

Start by sprinkling the board with coarse salt, such as kosher salt. Cut a lemon in half and rub the fleshy side onto the salt-covered board. Allow the salt and lemon solution to sit for about 5 minutes. Rinse off the salt and lemon with hot water and dry the board upright.

Check out this video for a step-by-step how-to:

Vinegar 

White vinegar will not only clean your board, but will help disinfect it too. Mix 1 part white vinegar to 4 parts water (or you can use hydrogen peroxide), soak your cutting board in the solution for a few minutes, then rinse off and dry.

Tempting as it might be to soak the board in vinegar overnight to remove stubborn stains, resist the urge. If there’s a persistent stain, try sprinkling baking soda on the board, then gently scrub. If that doesn’t work, it’s time to use something more heavy-duty.

Bleach 

Using bleach on your cutting board isn’t as scary as it sounds. (You’ll be using a diluted bleach solution, not a full-on bleach blast.)

Add 1 tablespoon of bleach to 1 gallon of water. Soak the board in the solution for a few minutes. Then rinse and dry it off. The bleach solution should take care of any lingering stains — hooray!

How to maintain your wood cutting board

Once you’ve spent good money on a nice wooden board, you probably want it to stay nice. Wood cutting boards need a little TLC to avoid cracking, drying, and warping.

Keeping your board properly oiled is essential to preserving its anti-microbial properties. The oils occupy the space in the wood fibers, preventing water from entering the wood and causing cracks and splits. Bacteria love to hide and multiply in these little crevices. Preventing your board from developing small fractures is the best way to keep it sanitary.

Oil the board once a month after disinfecting. Only use food-grade mineral oil — any other types of fats, such as olive oil or animal-based fats, can spoil, cause your board to have an unpleasant odor, and attract bacteria. (Not a great trifecta of outcomes.)

Apply a thin coat of oil to the entire surface of the board — front, back, and sides. Use a soft cloth or paper towel to buff the oil into the wood cutting board, using a circular motion.  Allow the oil to soak in for a few hours.

Bottom line

Is a wooden cutting board a lovely addition to your kitchen collection? You bet! Is it a scary pain in the rear to clean? Nah. Keeping your wood board spick and span is surprisingly simple. With proper cleaning and care, it should serve you well for years to come.

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