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How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board: Definite No-Nos

Brian Lejeune
Walnut Cutting Board with Juice Groove

How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board: Definite No-Nos

A cutting board is a kitchen necessity. Whether it's plastic, glass, stone, or wood — cutting boards add functionality and aesthetic appeal to your kitchen. A wood board has different cleaning techniques than a plastic or epicurean one, so let's dive into the best way to clean a wood cutting board (as well as the things you definitely should not be doing!) 

The jury is still out on which type is the best cutting board for everyday use. However, the choice usually comes down to wood or plastic. Of the two, wood is often a safer choice.

That’s because wooden cutting boards pose a lower risk of holding on to pathogens than plastic when properly maintained. (Read more information here - Best Lumber For Cutting Boards 

So how do you safely use and maintain your wooden cutting boards? What's the best way of cleaning them? Is there anything you shouldn't do? Let’s dig deeper into wood cutting board cleaning dos and don’ts.

Cleaning Wooden Cutting Boards: The No-Nos

wood cutting board 17x11
17 x 11 Walnut Cutting Board with Juice Groove

To keep your wood cutting boards clean and well maintained, here’s what you should never do: 

Don’t Put It in the Dishwasher 

A dishwasher typically runs at 150–160 °F. At these temperatures, the glue and bonding agents holding the wood particles start to disintegrate, causing the wood to warp or crack. 

It will not only be harder to use a warped board, but the cracks make it unsafe too. That's because cracks can become a breeding ground for bacteria.

So How Do You Clean the Cutting Board?

Hand wash your cutting board soon after use with dish soap and water and rinse the board thoroughly when you’re done. Use a scourer or scraper to remove any hardened residue.

For more detailed instructions on the natural ways to clean a wood cutting board, see also 3 Cleaning Techniques For your Cutting Boards

If the board smells off or has a lingering strong scent like a garlicky smell, you can take care of the smell with:

  • Baking soda
  • Lemon
  • Vinegar
Deodorizer How to use it
Baking Soda Rub a baking soda paste over the wooden cutting board and leave it for about 5 minutes. Then rinse it off and let it dry.
Lemon Cover the board with a generous layer of plain or kosher salt and use the lemon to scrub.
Vinegar Wash the board with equal parts vinegar and water.

Remove Staining (such as beets or turmeric) Ingredients As Soon As Possible

Did you cut beets or fresh turmeric on your wood cutting board? In general, if you keep your cutting board well oiled and well waxed, it would wash right off with very little color left behind.

However, if you accidentally cut beets on a dry board that hasn't been oiled in a while and is now left with a stain, no worries, we have a solution for that - use half a lemon and coarse salt and scrub! 

We did this the last time I cut beets on a 8x12 cutting board and it came out really nicely! I have to admit - I did it twice for everything to come out, but the whole scrubbing took under 5 minutes. 

clean a wood cutting board with half a lemon and coarse sea salt if it has a stain

Immediately following a cleaning like this, you definitely need to re season the board with oil - I use this fractionated coconut oil to keep it in tip top shape.

Don’t Leave It to Dry on the Counter 

When you wash your wood cutting board, it absorbs water and expands. When it dries, it will start to contract until it returns to its original position.

If you put it on the counter before it dries, one side retains moisture while the other side dries up. This uneven contraction and expansion put stress on the board, causing it to warp or crack.

As mentioned before, a cracked board is a health time bomb.

What you need to do instead is make sure the cutting board dries up evenly. Dry the board upright or leave it on the rack whenever you’re done washing it so it can bounce back.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate Food On the Board 

Cross-contamination is when bacteria passes from one object to another. It’s especially dangerous if the germs are transferred to ready-to-eat foods.

For instance, bacteria from the juices of uncooked meat can transfer to your salad, causing food poisoning.

Each time you cut food on the board, you shouldn’t immediately use the same board to chop something else (to avoid cross-contamination). This is particularly true after you cut raw meat.

Here’s what you can do to avoid cross-contamination:

Wash Your Cutting Board After Each Use

Scrub your cutting board with a kitchen scourer under running hot or warm water with soap after every use. Scrub harder on places where the board has cut marks and etchings. You can use any regular dishwashing detergent or antibacterial soap.

Tip: Since you’ll be washing it a lot, use a natural soap that won’t be harsh on your hands.

Chef's Antibacterial Soap

Once you’re done scrubbing, rinse the cutting board thoroughly with hot water. Turn the water up all the way to get the maximum water pressure.

Why not use cold water?

While hot water doesn’t kill any bacteria, it dislodges grime better than cold water. The more grime you can get out, the higher the chances of getting most bacteria out.

Remember to wash both sides of the board, even if you only used one side. Once you’re done, dry it with a cloth or paper towel and hang it in an upright position.

Disinfect the Board

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service recommends sanitizing your cutting board to make absolutely sure you got all the germs out.

To do this, you need to soak the cutting board in a chlorine bleach solution, vinegar, or another strong disinfectant for a few minutes. Rinse it with water when you’re done and let it dry. 

Disinfectant How to use it
Bleach Put one tablespoon of bleach in a gallon of water and soak for 5 minutes.
Vinegar Mix white vinegar and water in a 1:4 ratio and soak for 5–10 minutes.
Hydrogen Peroxide Add 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 4 parts water and soak for 5–10 minutes.
Colloidal Silver Spray on the surface of the board and let it dry.

Pro Tip: Use a natural nontoxic hydrogen peroxide or colloidal silver sanitizing spray– it’s faster and easier.

See Also: Clean Your Cutting Board the Right Way

Chefs Spray

Don’t Leave the Board Dry and Flaky

You should never leave your cutting board feeling extremely dry or flaky. That's because if the wood becomes dry and brittle, it gets easily damaged by knives or meat pounders.

To stop it from drying out, periodically oil the cutting board once or twice a month. Oiling helps to season and preserve the grains of wood in their natural state, making the cutting board last longer.

That said, you should never use food oil on your cutting board. Food oils like olive, peanut, or vegetable oil go bad really quickly and make the board smell horrible. Opt for mineral oil instead.

Spread some food-grade mineral oil on the board and leave it for a minimum of two hours. Then simply wipe off the oil and hang it to dry. 

Rub with oil and wipe off paper towel
Seasoning Your Wood Cutting Board: 4 Steps to Have it Last You Years

Check out this excellent quality coconut oil for cutting board oil for wood seasoning.

See Also: Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil for Your Wood Cutting Board, Which One Is Better?

All Natural Wood Seasoning Oil

Once you’re done oiling, it’s a good idea to condition the board with wax to keep it from absorbing excess moisture and stains. Virginia Boys Kitchen has the perfect range of natural waxes you can use.

See Also: Seasoning Your Wood Cutting Board


Don’t Soak It in the Sink

Soaking your wooden cutting board in the sink is an absolute no-no. Why?

Wood is a water-absorbent material. When you leave it to soak up the water, the wood will warp and eventually break.

If you need to remove caked-on residue, try scraping it off with an abrasive scrub instead.

Taking Care of Your Wood Cutting Board

properly clean wooden cutting boards
Cheese and Bread Bundle

Wood cutting boards need a bit of care to keep them in tip-top shape. But that shouldn’t stop you from getting beautiful, functional wood cutting boards for your kitchen.

Turn to Virginia Boys Kitchen for your cutting board cleaning and maintenance accessories.

Hurry and buy your cutting board care kit complete with soap, coconut oils, wax, and deep cleaning spray. 

While you’re there, why not add a new wood cutting board to your kitchen tools? One for fruits, one for bread, and a separate one for raw meat — it’s safer that way.

Here’s the best part — Virginia Boys Kitchen will plant a tree for every board you buy. Protect the environment and get a luxurious walnut cutting board in one fell swoop!

Related Article Links:

Seasoning Your Wood Cutting Board

Clean Your Cutting Board the Right Way

Mineral Oil vs. Coconut Oil for Your Wood Cutting Board, Which One Is Better?

Products you may like:

View our entire collection of dark wood walnut cheese boards - there are many shapes and sizes to choose from. Find your perfect board for your next charcuterie tray!

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