How to Clean Your Wooden Cutting Board

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A wooden cutting board can be one of a chef’s most-used kitchen tools — and perhaps most icky. In this post, we’ll focus on how to clean a cutting board.

Almost every recipe of any kind involves some cutting, and wooden cutting boards are more hygienic, more eco-friendly, and more stylish that the alternatives like glass, ceramic, or plastic cutting boards.

So knowing how to properly care for wooden cutting boards is, in my opinion, a skill every chef should have. In this post, I’ll go over how to care for wooden cutting boards without expending too much time or effort. Doing so will cause them to last for many years, and I doubt you’ll ever have to use another kind of cutting board again.

Step 1 of this process should be carried out every time you use the wooden cutting board.

Steps 2-3 should be carried out once a week for maximum results.

Step 1: Wash

Every time after you use your wooden cutting board, you should wash it off. First, rinse it and then gently scrub with hot soapy water and a sponge (more vigorous scrubbing is okay if needed to remove residue). Then, rinse the soap off with water.

If you were cutting raw meat or another ingredient that can carry bacteria, you may want to rub the board down using a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water. Let the solution sit on the board for a few minutes, then rinse it off with warm water. Not only will this sanitize the board’s wood surface, but it will get rid of odors. I don’t recommend using a bleach solution, because it can warp wooden cutting boards.

Finally, wipe it down with a clean cloth so that the water doesn’t soak into the wood and warp it. To store, leave the board upright for maximum air circulation.

cutting board

Step 2: Oil

To make sure the board does not warp or crack, it’s important to oil it at least once every few months—in fact, I recommend you oil your board once a week.

After you’ve washed the wooden cutting board and allowed it to dry completely, it’s time to soak the board with oil.

Ideally, you should use a solution especially meant for wooden cutting boards like Howard’s Cutting Board Oil, but any mineral oil is also fine. Using other oils like olive oil or coconut oil is not recommended, as they will go rancid over time.

To apply the oil, pour a very liberal amount (more than you’d think) onto the surface of the board. Spread it around on the wooden surface until it is more or less evenly coated. I got a splinter when I tried to use my hands to do the spreading, so now I like to use a clean rag or rubber gloves. When you’re done spreading, there should be enough oil on the board to where it’s dripping with the stuff.

Now, turn the board so it is standing vertically on one of its edges. Proceed to rub every side with oil (except for the facedown one) just like the first side.

When you’re finished, it should look like the board was dunked in oil. Leave it sitting on its edge for at least 12 hours before rinsing the oil off with warm water.

Step 3: Cream

Rubbing a board cream on your wooden cutting board after rinsing off the oil will seal the wood, making it more water resistant and prettier to look at.

You can use a store-bought variety of board cream or you can make your own by combining vegetable oil and beeswax in a mason jar and then submerging most of the jar in boiling water over low heat until the wax has melted. Make sure to stir together the wax and oil as they cool.

Once you’ve got your board cream, apply a bit to each side of the board and use a clean rag to rub it in using a circular motion. You do not need to apply a lot of cream; just enough so all sides of the board are shiny with it. Don’t forget to spread the cream on all the board’s smaller sides.

When the cream dries, it will act as a protective finish for the wood fiber and will also give it a polished like-new look.

Tips for Keeping Your Cutting Board in Tip-Top Shape

Follow these quick tips on caring for wooden cutting boards to keep yours looking, feeling, and smelling better than new!

  • Clean the cutting board right after using it. If you can’t because you’re busy with other kitchen work, it’s fine to leave it for a few minutes. After 10 minutes, though, residue on the cutting board will start to soak in!
  • Use baking soda for stubborn stains. If scrubbing with soapy water won’t get a stain out, dump about a third of a cup of baking soda onto your board and add enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste over the stains, leave it for 10 minutes, and then rinse the board off with warm water.
  • Oil/cream once a week. Most sources will say you only need to do it once a month or less, but I find weekly oiling and creaming really makes the board look and feel better than new.
  • Sanitize the board with vinegar after cutting raw meat. A solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water will get rid of bacteria on the board. Bleach solutions may do the same, but they’ll warp the wood, so stay away from them.
  • Freshen a smelly board with lemon and salt. Mixing the two in a small bowl and then rubbing the solution on the board with a non-absorbent rag will eliminate bad odors and create a pleasant one.
  • Wipe frequently while using. Ideally, you don’t want to allow any given food residue to sit on the board for more than 10 minutes, so you might want to wipe away food every few minutes.

Wood Cutting Board FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about care for wooden cutting boards and their answers.

What kind of oil do you use on a wooden cutting board?

There are special cutting board oils available at most supermarkets. You can also use mineral oil. Do not use other food grade oils like olive oil or coconut oil, though, because they will go rancid over time.

How do I know when it’s time to throw out my cutting board?

When cracks start to appear, it’s time to throw out your wooden cutting board. With proper care, though, a wooden cutting board can literally last a lifetime.

Note: Although you need to throw out most cutting boards when deep cuts start to appear on its surface, you can just sand down a wooden cutting board until the surface is flat again.

Spruce It Up

One of my sons gave me a custom engraved wooden cutting board one Christmas a long time ago, and I still use it every day. Honestly, this thing has probably been the facilitator for millions of knife strokes over the years. But, because I make an effort to care for it properly, the board looks just as vivacious as it did on the day I received it.

Follow the instructions above on care for wooden cutting boards, and I’m confident you too can stick with your wooden cutting board until you’re both old and gray.

⭐️ Be sure to check out our other How To posts — and ingredient substitution suggestions! ⭐️

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