How to Clean Your Wooden Cutting BoardPublished on 08/11/2022 · 6 min readCutlery Expert Clark G. gives his tips and tricks for how to properly clean your wooden cutting board so it lives a long life in your kitchen!
Photo by Conscious Design
So you have a beautiful, new wooden cutting board. Your first of its kind... but how on earth do you clean it properly? Maybe you have a wooden cutting board that is a family heirloom and has just been given to you, and you want to know how to restore it and maintain it properly. I have written about the advantages of wooden versus plastic boards before and talked briefly about how to clean them. But in this article, we will dive a bit deeper and walk through how to clean them properly step-by-step, as well as discuss best practices in the maintenance of your investment.
Wooden cutting boards are beautiful investments and additions to well-appointed kitchens. They are the best cutting board media for maintaining sharp knife blades, and they offer a beautiful, warm appearance to your kitchen. However, if you do not maintain your wooden boards properly, you will end up with bacteria all over the surface, as well as possible cracks and stains on your cutting board. This can result in lots of work for you down the road, or even lead to having to replace what is an expensive kitchen item.
Let's start with the easiest-to-avoid culinary sin when it comes to wooden cutting boards. Never, and I mean absolutely never, clean your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher. You need to scrub and clean your wooden cutting board by hand. While great for cleaning dishes, the dishwasher will dry out the fibers of the wood and cause splitting, as well as possibly cause it to warp. This can ruin your cutting board.
Uses of Wooden Cutting Board
Next, let’s talk a bit about what to use your wooden cutting board for. I recommend you use your wooden cutting board to cut vegetables and other ready-to-eat food items, and a plastic cutting board for raw meat, poultry, and seafood to avoid cross-contamination when cooking. If you follow the simple rule of cutting anything raw and animal-based on your plastic cutting board and cutting anything you could eat right away or is plant-based on your wooden cutting board, you will greatly reduce the chance of bacterial contamination of your food.
Wipe your cutting board clean with a kitchen towel and scrub with mild dish soap. A dish brush, sponge, or a green scrub pad works best. Avoid using a metal scrubber, as these can leave scrapes and gouges in your board. Try to scrub both with and across the grains of the cutting board with hot water. This will take care of cleaning your cutting board. Rinse your cutting board thoroughly and towel dry.
Next, we will disinfect and deodorize the cutting board. You can use lemon juice or white vinegar for this. It is a good idea to keep some white vinegar in a spray bottle to just spray over the entirety of the cutting board. Wipe it clean or use a lemon to wipe down the entire cutting board, and then towel dry it. Both of these liquids will help to reduce odors and act as natural disinfectants.
If you have any stains on your cutting board, you can sprinkle baking soda on the surface and work the baking soda into the grain of the cutting board with halved lemons. You can also add about a tablespoon of kosher salt or another coarse salt to the baking soda to help make it a bit more abrasive, which helps to pull the stains out of the grain wood. Cutting garlic and onions on your wooden cutting board can leave unwelcome odors behind. If you clean properly, you can greatly reduce and basically prevent any of these odors from lingering on your cutting board. Some people will tell you to use a weak bleach solution to sanitize your cutting board, but I would not encourage this, as bleach tends to dry out the wooden board.
After deodorizing and disinfecting your cutting board, rinse with clean water, dry the excess moisture off with a paper towel, and store your cutting board upright to dry. The next morning, you should lightly rub your cutting board down with some food-grade mineral oil to rehydrate the wood fibers. Doing this after each use can help stop any bacteria from penetrating the wood and also reduce the amount of wear the cutting board shows.
If you use your wooden cutting board often (3–5 times per week), then I would recommend wiping down your cutting board monthly with a wax or beeswax product that is made to maintain the life of your cutting board. I also recommend you supersaturate your cutting board with as much mineral oil as you can work into the board twice yearly. This will ensure that the wood stays moisturized and in its best condition.
Eliminating Knife Scarring
Say you are like me, and you use your wooden board a lot and have noticed that you have some knife scarring on your cutting board. Don't worry; this is completely normal wear and tear on a wooden cutting board. You will not need to get rid of your cutting board and start over in almost all cases. You can take some fine grit sandpaper and sand down your cutting board lightly to remove all of the scuffs and scars. I do not advise doing this with any power tools, as you can create more of a mess with deeper scars or even burning of the board. Just sand it by hand with a little elbow grease, and you will be much happier with the results. Fine-grit sandpaper, such as 300–600 grit, is advised for this. I would work my way up to 1000 grit to ensure I have a very smooth surface. Also, sand the whole board, so you have a consistent flat surface.
Wash your cutting board, as I said before, using a sponge and some mild dish soap. Wipe your cutting board dry with paper towels and allow it to air dry for an hour or so upright. After doing this, supersaturate the cutting board with as much mineral oil as you can put onto the board. Allow it to sit overnight, and wipe the excess off the following morning. Rub your board down with some food-grade, beeswax-based cream or wax, and it should be good as new!
Comparing Your Cutting Board Options
Wooden cutting boards can be expensive additions to kitchens. However, with choices such as edge grain, end grain, and an endless array of designs, they can be worth the cost, especially if you follow the steps chronicled in this article to keep your board in top shape. Edge grain cutting boards are the most durable, with some being passed between generations. A great wooden cutting board can be like a cherished cast iron pan passed down, as long as both are well-maintained and treated with care and love. Yes, maintenance on a wooden cutting board can seem daunting and is more exhaustive than using plastic cutting boards. But the joy you will get from looking at a beautiful work of art that you can also use to create great meals for your friends and family will more than makeup for the added work.
If you are looking for a new cutting board or to replace an old wooden cutting board, be sure to chat with Cutlery Experts like me on Curated.