Unless you’re a first semester, first year University student with a cafeteria pass, you probably own a cutting board.

Or if you’re a baby. If you’re a baby you almost certainly don’t own a cutting board. Pfttt. What would a baby do with a cutting board?  A baby barely even knows how to set out a decent mise en place.

Mind you, if you were a baby you couldn’t read either, and you wouldn’t be reading this blog. So scratch the baby part, it doesn’t apply.

Let’s move on. We’ve determined you probably own a cutting board. You also probably have no idea how to clean it. I’m not saying this because I think you’re dirty and stupid. I say it because I have never spoken to anyone who actually seems to know how to clean a wood cutting board.

A plastic cutting board is easy to clean. Throw it in the dishwasher.

A glass cutting board is…well…you really shouldn’t own a glass cutting board. They dull your knives and the sound of cutting on them is horrible. Throw it out.

A wood cutting board, however, is a bit more complicated. To clean and sanitize it you can’t just throw it into the dishwasher.   And what about those stains? How do you get rid of those? I have the answers for you all.

But first I want to talk a little bit about WHY you should own a wood cutting board, not a plastic one.  You probably think that plastic is more sanitary because it isn’t porous like wood.  Therefore your very logical mind tells you that bacteria can’t get trapped in plastic the way it can in wood.  Things like chicken juice and steak blood.


Wood is a far more sanitary than plastic.  Let me say that again in case you missed it …

Wood is more sanitary than plastic. 

UC-Davis studied the bacteria levels of plastic versus wood cutting boards and found that wood is naturally antibacterial.

A plastic cutting board retains bacteria in its scars (the places a knife has scarred the surface).  It doesn’t matter how much you scrub it, wash it or put it through the dishwasher, plastic holds onto bacteria and allows it to multiply.

On the other hand, bacteria dies in or on a scarred hard wood surface.  It naturally kills bacteria.

You can read a little bit more about the UC-Davis study here.


How to clean a wood cutting board

This is what you need to clean and sanitize your wooden cutting board:

Lemon Juice
Baking Soda
Mineral Oil

These are the directions for a heavy duty, tip to tail cleaning.  Each step takes care of a separate problem so feel free to only do what you think is necessary for your board. I got this cutting board at a garage sale. It was laying in some dirt. Next to a cigarette butt.   So…I felt doing all the steps was necessary. It’s a really good cutting board (Bariboo) by the way. That’s why it’s worth the effort.


Step 1: General Cleaning

How to clean a wood cutting board

Pour a mound of Kosher salt in the centre of the board. Add enough lemon juice to make a paste. Swirl it around the cutting board and scour it with a coarse sponge.

When you’ve scoured enough, rinse your board and dry it with paper towels.

(if you want to do a really good job, leave the salt solution on for a few hours…the salt will draw out impurities and liquid in the board as it dries)

Step 2: Stain and Odor Removal

How to clean a wood cutting board


Pour a mound of Baking Soda onto the centre of the board. Add enough water until a paste is formed. Rub it all around the board. If you’re doing a really good job, it’ll start to stink.

Rinse the board and dry it with paper towels. See how much nicer it looks already? No stains. No sticky.

Step 3: Sanitize, Killing the Bacteria that probably isn’t there but will make you feel better to do it.

How to clean a wood cutting board

This is the step you probably don’t need to do but might make you feel better.

Mix together 1 teaspoon of bleach with 4 cups of water in a spray bottle. Spray the surface of the board until it’s soaked. Let it sit for a few minutes. Rinse the bleach solution off and dry with paper towels.

Allow the board to completely dry out before moving onto the next step.

Step 4: Condition

How to clean a wood cutting board

Grab yourself some Mineral Oil. It needs to be the edible kind, which you’ll find in a drugstore. If it says USP after “Mineral Oil” it’s food grade/edible. But don’t eat it. It promotes the slithers. The poops. You can buy bona fide Butcher Block oil, but Mineral Oil is the exact same thing and it’s much cheaper.

Pour the Mineral Oil on a rag and rub the surface of the board. You want to soak it. This board was so dry it soaked in immediately. Keep soaking it until it doesn’t soak in anymore. Leave the board overnight.

The next day wipe off any remaining Mineral oil. Rinse the board and wipe it dry with paper towels.  If the cutting board was really dried out then you might have to do this step a few times.

You’re done!

How to clean a wood cutting board

Your board is ready for cutting a Big Mac on. Or if you’re super healthy like me, an apple. ‘Cause I only eat apples and red peppers and wholesome foods.  Also there’s no need to cut potato chips.

Not into picking up cutting boards from next to cigarette butts at garage sales?  This one is a beauty and checks off all the boxes.  It’s an end grain hardwood with a big enough work surface to carve a chicken on plus it’s under $100.  Remember.  You want end grain, not edge grain.

If you still can’t be bothered to buy or clean your cutting board, just get yourself a cafeteria pass.





  1. Theresa says:

    love it- i use the lemon and sakt – don’t like the bleach – but will try the mineral oil.

  2. Karen says:

    Theresa – This amount of bleach is harmless. Plus, you rinse it off after a couple of minutes. And there is *no other way* to kill the bacteria caused by raw meats. So if you don’t use bleach on your wooden cutting board, you shouldn’t cut poultry, beef, pork or any other meat on it. Kay? That’s all I’m asking. Well that’s not true. A few days ago I was asking for money. That’s all I’m asking today, I guess. 🙂 ~ karen

  3. Cassandra says:

    YOU are the new best blogger. keep it up.

  4. JessieB says:

    I believe that diluted vinegar can also be used to sanitize, in place of bleach — for anti-bleach folks 🙂

  5. Karen says:

    JessieB – Thanks Jessie. Yes! Vinegar is a good sanitizer … but it isn’t as good as bleach. And why are people anti-bleach for cleaning? It’s 1 tsp. diluted in 4 cups of water. You can use those proportions to clean children’s toys! I’m not suggesting people bathe in it, or use it in place of vodka in a martini … just kill a little salmonella with it, then rinse it away. (this diatribe was not directed at you JessieB … or anyone else for that matter. Just your basic, general rant) ~ karen

  6. Karen says:

    Cassandra – Well evidently you’re the new best reader! Keep it up. ~ karen

  7. jen says:

    I always use salt and a little water. I rub it around with my hands and the plus is that the salt makes your hands really soft just like exfoliating.Never knew about the baking soda but I’ll give it a try. LOve all your nifty bits of info.

  8. Karen says:

    Jen – Thanks! The truth is, if I only had time to do one thing it would be cleaning with the baking soda and water. It actually does a wayyyy better job of getting rid of stains and smells than the salt and lemon juice! Using the salt and lemon juice is good for a relatively clean board, but if you have some “ick” go with the baking soda paste. You’ll be amazed at the gooky colour it gets. Blech. ~ karen

  9. Whitney says:

    Maybe I’m just really lazy… but that seems like a heck of a lot of work to clean one cutting board. I’ll stick with the plastic. Or the glass. I’ll just get ear plugs and a knife sharpener 😉

  10. cool. I’m trying some of these tonight!

  11. Karen says:

    Whitney – Oh don’t be silly. You only have to do all of these things if you found your cutting board on the ground beside a cigarello. Just do whatever your board needs. Stains? Use baking soda paste. Just needs freshening up? Salt and lemon juice. Mineral Oil? Mmmm … once every few months. Or … as you say just use plastic. ~ karen

  12. Erin says:

    That was one hilarious post, mostly because you said “The poops.”

    Anyway, thanks for the posting on the various ways to clean wooden cutting boards because I never knew how! I shall clean mine soon. [Hopefully sooner than a year from now!]



  13. Thanks Karen!

    So when I get sick of my McD delivery and pull out my butcher’s block I will know what to do!!


  14. Sharon Woo says:

    You had me at SLITHERS!!!

  15. Emily says:

    I am a second semester Senior and my house mates and I have been wondering about how to clean the wooden cutting board, especially since we don’t own a dish washer. By hand has been the option. Pray that we continue to survive with good health until we purchase some bleach.

  16. Dieu says:

    Would you do the same thing for a bamboo cutting board? I mean specifically the mineral spirits.

    ps. love your blog. read the entire thing last week, as in, every single post. so much stuff I now know how to do and just waiting for that chance to pull those knowledge jewels out for use.

  17. Eva says:

    Thanks fo the tips on cleaning cutting boards. My sporadically useful brain always remembers about seasoning with oil, but could never remember “which” oil…the only clue I ever retrieve was that it should be “edible.” And of course, my brain works well enough to know that between the one in the garage, and the one in the pantry, the vegetable was the edible one. I have always used that for my board. Just for the record, it seems to work.

    This article also triggered some old synapses that store useless, weird facts and surprisingly some had to do with wood vs plastic cutting boards, which was cleaner? Wood was actually safer… I guess something in the wood prevents bacteria from multiplying and they *die.* In plastic they hide out and party in all the little microscopic grooves made from the knife. Handwashing plastic was useless, even the bleach treatment was marginally effective, and had to be done exactly right. Dishwashing, and nuking, (as in microwave) are the only reliable ways to sanitize a plastic cutting board.

    Here’s link to an article that must have been behind how I knew this:

  18. CJ says:

    So worth doing everything for a beautiful timber board that’s gorgeous to prepare food on and leave out – mine is tasmanian sassafras. I do, however, also have a frequently replaced nasty plastic one hidden above the microwave for meat cutting because it is faster to wash…

  19. amy walters, aDESIGNdock says:

    I love how witty your blogs are. And it’s always a nice reminder that people don’t have to have it “all together” and be “perfect”!

  20. Amy Schmucker says:

    YEah but Karen,
    Go back and look at your picture of the cutting board and the spray bottle.

    See the parsely plant… the one you eat…. you srayed the bleach water on the poor thing too… Hope it doesn’t die on you and I wouldn’t eat it or use it for garnish either.

    I don’t own use the wood cutting boards anymore. Too much hassel.

  21. Todd says:

    We used to have an awesome wooden cutting board. It was such a PITA to clean that we gave it away, and bought a plastic one. Is it as cool? Perhaps not. Is it simple to maintain? Oh heck ya! I even went and bought a smaller one for those smaller jobs. 🙂

  22. Connor says:

    I think you stalk me. I was just talking about this and had honestly come to the conclusion that sticking it in the oven for a few minutes might just be the best way to go… I guess I was thinking along the lines of the sponge in the microwave trick?
    In theory I can do this for all of my, um, kitchen wood? (Unrelated to your spring pornography, I swear!)
    Thanks, Karen!

  23. Hana says:

    I’m not anti-bleach as such, but since a few years back my cats decided they really enjoy licking freshly cleaned surfaces (?!?) and making themselves sick, I just stopped cleaning with anything I wouldn’t put in my mouth. (OK, I wouldn’t really put baking soda in my mouth… but, y’know, the principle of it… and stuff.)So since there’s no bleach in the house, it’ll have to be vinegar for me.

    With that said, I actually do put my wooden boards in the dishwasher. They swell a little, but they also get that wonderfully “worn”, “rustic”, “farmhouse”, “vintage”, “muted”, “nature-found” and-other-hipster-words-de-jour vibe that makes them photograph so well. ^^

  24. it offense to say that I enjoy reading these comments than the blog itself??? 😉 Just kidding! I love this post. Learning something new everyday! Thanks!

  25. Karen says:

    Emily – Good health be with you my child. ~ karen

  26. Oona says:

    How is it that you always seem to have the most practical information at exactly the moment in life that I need said information? I think you are psychic. And awesome, but that goes without saying, of course.

  27. Karen says:

    Amy – LOL. I knew someone would spot that. I actually just pulled the parsley in for the pretty when I was shooting the pics! I think she’ll survive. We’ll see, I guess! 🙂 ~ karen

  28. Kathy says:

    This is great, Karen – thank you! Just one question, though – will these same techniques work for bamboo cutting boards, as well? I have a very garlicky bamboo sucker on my hands right now…

  29. Bill Grigg says:

    Why are people so anti bleach, anyway? Bleach is just chlorine, like they add to the water system to sanitize the water. Chlorine bleach also dissipates quickly. In fact, old bleach should be disposed of, as it, quite quickly, loses it’s strength. If your bleach container is over six months old, it’s probably only quarter or half strength. Yes, even if its tightly closed and in a dark cupboard.

    I keep a spray bottle of bleach dilute (pretty much your proportions) handy to spritz down the table, counter and stove top.

    I also use plastic cutting boards for meat, and only chop veggies, tubers and bread on my wood board. And NEVER beets, the stains never comes out of the wood.

    Handy tips about cleaning the wooden cutting boards. Nothing I didn’t already know, but I’ll give you a hand for fitting in the prosthetic leg!

  30. Perfect timing. My cutting board smells of onions when I wipe it down these days. How often should one sanitize their board??

    For some reason I am craving a big mac now… heard on twitter today that they have cadbury cream egg mcflurries now! OMG

  31. Karen says:

    Hi Kathy! I’ve never tried these techniques on bamboo, so I hate to give you advice. Having said that … I can’t think of any reason why any of these methods wouldn’t work on bamboo! I’d go for it. If you have a stink, use the baking soda with water paste. Rub it in with your hands. Rub and rub and rub, then rinse. Then do it again if you need to. Good luck! ~ karen

  32. Karen says:

    Hi Dana – Technically you should sanitize the cutting board you use for meat after every use. That’s why it’s a good idea to use a plastic cutting board for meat. You can just throw it in the dishwasher. As for the wooden cutting board, which you can use for vegetables, bread etc … it’s also probably best to do it after every use. But let’s be real here. Uh … no one’s going to do that. Sometimes I do it once a month, sometimes I do it once a week. If you keep a spray bottle with a weak solution of vinegar and water or bleach and water, it makes sanitizing after every use really easy. Phew. There you go. I’ve explained NOTHING. ~ karen

  33. Lisa says:

    You know, if you use a fresh lemon, you squeeze out the juice, then use the half-lemon to scrub it and you don’t have to use a sponge.

    And I have the EXACT same cutting board. Since I use a plastic one for meats, I only do the bleach thing about one every 6 mo. or as needed if something happens. The salt/lemon/vinegar thing is done about weekly, but I also wash it with diluted dish soap and rinse/dry after each use. Mineral oil as needed!

  34. lori says:

    Eva I totally agree with you!! a wooden cutting board is much safer. though at this time I myself don’t have one 🙁 Will have to keep an eye out for one at the garage sales and antique shops I love to go to.

  35. Svaha says:

    Seasoning a wooden cutting board with mineral oil is an important maintenance step and helps bacteria from forming to begin with. NEVER wash a wooden cutting board in the the dishwasher. And as Eva noted about wooden boards are actually safer than plastic boards. I make cutting boards and an old saying I go by is this…

    Oil it once a day for a week.
    Once a week for a month.
    Once a month for a year.
    Once a year for the rest of it’s life.

    Most wooden boards you buy will have probably only had a couple coats put on. Once a month is a good place to start with a new store bought (or one found beside a cigarette butt) board.

    Some brands of oils use the term Butcher Block Finish or Food Safe Finish. Technically it’s not a finish, it needs to be reapplied periodically.

  36. Karen says:

    Cassandra – Wow! I seem you’ve been “Stumbling” my posts like crazy! Thank you! Views are up! Gold star for you. ~ karen

  37. Cynthia Erkin says:

    Why is everyone freaking out about bleach?

    What about Mineral Oil??? It’s a petroleum by-product from the distillation of gasoline. Personally I will not use any type of petroleum product for cosmetics, household cleaning, etc.. This also goes for paraffin candles.

    Check out:

    Everything else you’ve suggested seems great, and natural. I’d use it all, except Mineral Oil!!

  38. Melissa says:

    You mean we shouldn’t use bleach as a replacement for vodka in our martinis?


  39. megan says:

    My mom taught me to use olive oil to oil my cutting boards, and I think her mother taught her… So I’ve never used mineral oil. Are my mom and grandma wrong on this one?

  40. Elissa says:

    Eva: I’ve been told (and read from quite a few sources) that olive and vegetable oil should not be used for wooden cutting boards because it goes rancid and can contaminate your food.

  41. I was wondering about those two things and of course you answered them. This was helpful and hysterical, as always. PS I use beeswax instead of mineral oil, but not as often as I should.

  42. Karen says:

    Megan – Well. Um. Yes. They’re wrong. But I’m sure they still loved you. The reason you use Mineral Oil is because it’s more stable. Olive oil will go rancid over time. Mineral Oil will not. So with olive oil your board could have a tendency to stink of rancid oil, and then transfer this stink/bad taste to your foods. But I’m sure they loved you. ~ karen

  43. Lynn says:

    thanks for this! super helpful!

    Can I rant for a minute? …because I feel this needs to be said somewhere and where better than in the comments of a cutting board post? Those little plastic sheet that people (why god why??) insist on using as “cutting boards” are nothing more than plastic sheets!! They make me mad! They are not cutting boards, they are instruments of kitchen torture! Any person that has a nice cutting board with the anti slip feet on it knows that those things are horrible. They slip, they slide, they make cutting anything into a daredevil act. I like sharp knives. With a flimsy cutting sheet i am more likely to take off a finger. Boycott cutting sheets! >_<

    ok, rant over. 🙂

  44. Pam'a says:

    And now, the counterpoint on thin plastic cutting sheets:

    1. You can toss them in the dishwasher.
    2. You can designate a “Meat” one.
    3. After dicing something up on one, you can bend it and slide diced article into a pot without feeding the cats half of it.
    4. They’re cheap, cheap, cheap.

    On the other hand, they’re kind of tacky. And I discovered just a couple of nights ago that you can’t put one on top of chicken to pound it thin. That is, unless you want to destroy it. Which, of course, you might want.

  45. Bev says:

    Hey Connor,
    Actually you are not totally wrong with the oven trick. One of the ways to stop germs breeding and growing on wood is to dry it out completely. If you have cooked something, and the oven is still warm, or can stack the board behind a warm hob to dry it works a treat! My mother swears by that trick, best not to actually have the oven or hob turned on though … *shudders to think*.


  46. Michelle says:

    Do you think this would work with lime juice? Call me crazy but I have this whole island butcher block and a thing of lime juice. I am thinking all three steps on the whole thing. I may need wine though. This could be a thing.

    Ooooh also it’s got a bit of warp to it. Any cures for unwarpping wood?

  47. Karen says:

    Michelle – LOL. I’m sure Lime Juice would be O.K., but really what that island probably needs is mineral oil. There are a few ways to “unwarp” wood, none of which have been terribly successful for me. Google it. By the time I get around to doing a post on it, you’ll have moved. ~ karen

  48. Svaha says:

    To unwarp it, if it’s a normal board thickness, say less than 1″ thick, put it in the dishwasher for the wash & rinse cycles to get it really wet. Then place it on a flat surface that gets a lot of sun with something heavy as hell on top of it. The water, sun, and weight will flatten it out (usually). After it flattens out, mineral oil it a couple of times and it will be good as new. After that try to keep it as dry as you can barring regular cleaning.

  49. Connor says:

    HA! I knew I wasn’t crazy! Thanks for clarifying! 🙂

  50. Karen says:

    Svaha! Thanks! Yes I’d read about that solution, but I (like Michelle) have an actual chopping block which doesn’t easily fit into a dishwasher! 🙂 I tried soaking it with water and drying it to no avail. Excellent solution for a cutting board tho. 🙁 ~ karen

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