How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Today you’re going to learn how to clean a wooden cutting board using absolutely no harsh chemicals.

Let’s look at how you can do that!

How to clean a wooden cutting board

1. Never wash a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher

First thing’s first: If there were just one piece of advice we could give you about caring for wooden cutting boards, it’s that you should never (ever) wash them in the dishwasher. You should always hand wash them instead.

Dishwashers typically heat up to 180 ºF (80 ºC) during the rinse cycle in order to sanitize the dishes.

A wooden cutting board cannot handle such high temperatures. This will ruin the finish, and also dry out the wood, causing it to crack.

A cracked cutting board opens up a whole new kind of problem. Bacteria love to grow in cracked wood, so washing a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher is an express ticket to getting microbes all over your food.

The lesson?

Keep wooden cutting boards out of the dishwasher, and hand wash them instead.

2. Use natural dish soap

If you love having a clean cutting board, here’s the best way to get the job done:

As soon as you’re done using the cutting board, add some natural dish soap to your sponge. Lather up the cutting board, gently scrubbing it clean, and then rinse with clean water.

Done. Easy peasy.

Why use natural dish soap in particular? Why not use any old dish soap?

Learn more from this video:

 

Once again, it’s because wood easily absorbs any liquid it gets exposed to.

99% of dish soaps (including many supposedly “natural” brands, unfortunately) are made of toxic synthetic chemicals.

Most dish soap makers like to use such dangerous ingredients as SLS that creates an unnecessary amount of carcinogenic foam, even though foam doesn’t add a thing to how well any soap can remove dirt.

Why do they do this? Because SLS is a very, very cheap ingredient. A dish soap made mostly from water, SLS (or another chemical surfactant), and thickeners / colorants / fragrances costs just pennies per bottle to make, and they sell it to you for an astronomical profit. They are betting that most people will never think to read the ingredients list with a critical eye.

Unfortunately, SLS isn’t the only problematic ingredient. Many dish soaps contain cocamidopropyl betaine, dipropylene glycol, synthetic fragrances, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, and many other ingredients that can harm hour health (learn more about toxic ingredients in dish soap here).

How can you tell if your dish soap passes muster?

There are two ways: you can either look it up the Environmental Working Group Database, or you can read the dish soap’s ingredient list for yourself. A truly natural dish soap will contain just a few simple, non-toxic ingredients that won’t poison the next meal you prepare.

To cut to the chase, we’ve found the most natural dish soap there is. You can find it right here.

If you want to become a cutting-board washing pro, though, keep reading for more great tips.

3. Never soak wooden cutting boards

Never, ever let a wooden cutting board sit in water.

Wood is porous, which enables it to absorb water fast. But when too much liquid gets absorbed, the cutting board might crack, warp or even rot.

Instead, when you must expose a wooden cutting board to water (such as when washing by hand), you should always get in and get out quickly.

4. Rinse immediately after use

If you don’t have time to wash your cutting board right after using it, the very least you should do is give it a good rinse.

Most fresh ingredients tend to dry out quickly and become stuck. Needless to say, it is much harder to remove food bits after they’ve been allowed to dry, than it is while they’re still fully hydrated.

So rinsing your cutting board right away, while the job is easy, will save you a lot of elbow grease later.

5. Address stains quickly

Getting rid of stains on a wooden cutting board isn’t that hard if you act quickly. All you need are three natural ingredients you might already have in your kitchen: salt, lemon juice, and baking soda.

Sprinkle some salt over the affected areas on your cutting board. Then, squeeze plenty of lemon juice over those areas.

Next you’re going to sprinkle some baking soda over the lemon juice. With a kitchen cloth, rub all three ingredients into the stains for a few minutes. The bubbles are a good thing.

Finally, rinse off the ingredients and let the wooden cutting board air dry.

6. Never bleach a wooden cutting board

It may sound like a good idea to use bleach to remove stains or sanitize a cutting board but hold your horses. Bleach is a dangerous chemical that can seriously harm your health.

Using bleach to clean anything – cutting board or otherwise – can harm your eyes, lungs, and skin, and can also poison your whole body if ingested. (If you’re curious to learn more, we’ve prepared a post about what peer-reviewed research has to say about how using bleach inside your home will impact your health.)

Long story short, bleach is a harsh chemical cocktail you don’t anywhere near items that you use for everyday food preparation.

Especially not a wooden cutting board.

Wood, being porous, tends to absorb liquid you expose it to. Bleach is no exception.

Think about it: you bleach the cutting board. The cutting board absorbs the bleach, meaning that some of it sticks around on the cutting board itself.

You put your food on the cutting board. The food picks up some of the bleach...

I’m sure you see where this is going.

7. Don’t place it inside the sink

What’s the dirtiest spot inside your home?

Hint: it’s not in the bathroom. The most bacteria-laden part of your home is the drain in the kitchen sink.

Why?

Because that’s where a lot of food residue goes. Those nutrients serve as food for bacteria and as a result help them multiply at a phenomenal pace (find out about 10 more areas in the kitchen that most people forget to clean).

When you place a wooden cutting board inside your sink, bacteria will happily make their way onto the board.

While this isn’t a big deal for dishes and utensils made of glazed ceramic, glass, or metal (because you can wash off microbes from those surfaces with great ease), wooden cutting boards are a different story.

Unless you have a brand new board, most likely there are lots of little cuts and cracks in it.

Those cuts and cracks are a haven for microbes to settle into and multiply, making it harder for you to keep the board clean.

The solution?

Wash any cutting board right after your done using it without letting it sit in the sink.

But what if you didn’t know that, and now you need to sanitize your cutting board?

We got you covered.

8. Sanitize wooden cutting boards the natural way

We mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t use bleach to sanitize a wooden cutting board.

So what should you use instead?

Vinegar!

Researchers from London found that vinegar works great for killing commonly found bacteria in the kitchen such E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans.

Here’s how to proceed.

Wash your wooden cutting board with natural dish soap, as we described above.

Then spray the board with an all-natural vinegar (like this one) and let it sit for 30 minutes.

Finally, rinse with clean water and let it air-dry.

Done!

This takes care of microbes without allowing any toxic chemicals to end up in your next meal.

By now you’ve learned a lot about how to clean a wooden cutting board, but we have a few more tips for you to become a cutting-board-cleaning pro.

9. How to remove odors from a cutting board

Removing unpleasant odors from a wooden cutting board is quite easy and only requires two simple ingredients you most likely have at home.

All you need is some baking soda and water.

In a small bowl, make a paste with one part of water to three parts baking soda.

Apply the paste to the cutting board.

Let it sit for a few minutes before you rinse the board with some clean water.

All done! The odors will be gone, or at least greatly reduced.

(For really stubborn odors, simply repeat the process).

10. How to dry a wooden cutting board

A kitchen towel, in many kitchens, is a multipurpose item. The same towel may be used for drying hands, drying dishes, removing hot dishes from the oven, and wiping the countertop.

While those towels appear clean to the naked eye, under a microscope, the situation looks downright nasty.

Kitchen towels are a major source of food contamination inside a home.

A Kansas-State-University study cautions that illnesses are often spread when family members handle a kitchen towel that is later used to dry dishes.

That’s because, too often, people touch kitchen towels without having washed their hands.

Once that same towel is used to dry dishes, any bacteria and viruses on their hands get rubbed onto freshly-washed dishes, ready to mix in with the next meal.

Yuck!

But there’s a better way – one that also saves time.

Just let your dishes air dry on a dish rack.

(Curious to learn another method for avoiding this? Check out this post).

Ready for the last tip?

11. Rub in some conditioning oil

Woodworkers recommend that you rub some conditioning oil into your wooden cutting board once a month to prevent the surface from drying and cracking (for a 100% plant-based, vegan oil see here).

Before you apply any oil, wash the board well and allow it to air dry.

Then evenly apply some mineral oil using a clean rag or a paper towel, and allow it to absorbed into the wood overnight.

During that time you shouldn’t use the cutting board.

In the morning, you can buff off any oil that hasn’t been absorbed.

Remember to repeat the process when the board starts to dull.

And that’s it!

You’ve just increased your wooden cutting board’s lifespan!

That's how you clean a wooden cutting board

Congratulations – now you know the best way to clean a wooden cutting board.

In closing, remember: when you clean your cutting board, we suggest you to steer clear of any synthetic dish soaps and go for an all-natural one.

If you’re wondering where to get such a dish soap, you can learn more about that here.

(When you make a purchase from links in this post we might receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.)




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