TODAY, how to clean a wood cutting board. A scary cutting board full of someone else's grime (because I found it at a garage sale between a Royal Doulton and a cigarette butt. )But it'll work on any wood cutting board at all.
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. A baby barely even knows how to set out a decent mise en place.
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 lame. 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 in the dishwasher. And what about those stains? How do you get rid of those?
Table of Contents
First a case for the wooden cutting board.
You probably think that plastic is a more sanitary choice because that makes sense. It isn't porous like wood. Therefore your very logical mind tells you that bacteria from chicken juice and steak blood can't get trapped in plastic the way it can in wood.
WRONG. 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. Only close-grained hardwood should be used for cutting boards. (MAPLE, BEECH, TEAK, WALNUT)
This doesn't mean you should never use plastic cutting boards, just that wood ones are much safer and cleaner.
To keep your plastic cutting board safe, replace it when it gets rough and scarred.
If you're buying a new plastic cutting board do yourself a favour and get one like these that have an anti slip back so you can stop putting a wet dish towel under it.
How to Clean a Cutting Board
This is for a worn out, maybe second hand, disturbingly gross and stained cutting board. If your cutting board is just regular person dirty you can probably get away with just a regular butcherblock cleaning & oiling like I use on my countertops in this post.
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.
Also - before I forget, you can make your own foaming hand soap. You seem like the kind of person who would like that kind of information.
Step 1: General Cleaning
1. Pour a mound of Kosher salt in the centre of the board. Add enough lemon juice to make a paste.
2. 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)
Rinse the board and dry it with paper towels. See how much nicer it looks already? No stains. No sticky.
Step 2: Stain & Odour Removal
3. Pour a mound of Baking Soda onto the centre of the board. Add enough water until a paste forms. Rub it all around the board. If you’re doing a really good job, it’ll start to stink.
Step 3: Sanitize & Condition
Killing the bacteria that probably isn't there but will make you feel better if you do it.
4. In a spray bottle, combine 1 teaspoon of bleach with 4 cups of water. Spray the board surface and let it sit briefly. Rinse off the bleach solution & dry with paper towels. Make sure the board is fully dry before proceeding.
5. Pour Mineral Oil onto the cutting board. If it soaks in almost immediately, pour more on. Keep adding oil until it doesn't absorb anymore. Leave the board overnight then wipe off any residual oil.
* Get edible Mineral Oil from a drugstore (look for the one labeled "USP" for food grade). You can opt for Butcher Block oil, but Mineral Oil is less expensive and also - the same thing. *
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.
This post has older comments, but was completely rewritten in June, 2023.