How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board So It's Germ-Free

Follow our guide for cleaning and caring for wood cutting boards.

Knowing how to clean a wooden cutting board is essential for keeping it germ-free and for general food safety. Through everyday use, little cuts and grooves develop in the board, providing a breeding ground for bacteria. This can create cross-contamination when using the board for poultry, fish, and vegetables. Follow the steps below for cleaning and maintaining a wooden cutting board and help stop the spread of germs in the kitchen.

How Often to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

You should wash your wooden cutting board after every use. Then, every month, deep clean, disinfect, and oil the board to help with long-term maintenance. If used frequently, you may want to disinfect and oil it every couple of weeks.

What You Need:

To Clean With Dishwashing Liquid

To Clean With Bleach

To Clean With Lemon

  • Salt
  • Lemon
  • Cloth or paper towels

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board With Dishwashing Liquid

Never put a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher since water can cause the board to crack and warp. Those little cracks become breeding grounds for bacteria that can potentially cause foodborne illness. Instead, wash the board by hand after every single use, following the steps below.

Step 1: Wash the Board

After discarding any food scraps on the board, rinse the board with hot water. Apply dish soap and scrub with a sponge or dish brush. If you notice any knife marks, scratches, or inconsistencies in the wood, scrub those areas well to avoid bacteria.

Step 2: Clean Both Sides

Properly clean and scrub both sides of a wooden cutting board, even if only one side was used to cut on. (Meat juices can drip and contaminate the other side.) If there's a handle on the board, wash that as well.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Rinse both sides of the board with warm water. Then, use a clean cloth or paper towel to dry it. Let the board completely air-dry before putting it away.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board With Bleach

If the cutting board is used to cut raw poultry or meat, cleaning it with bleach will help kill bacteria on the board. First, clean the board with dish soap (following the steps above), then take these additional steps to sanitize it.

Step 1: Create Bleach Solution

Add 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water in a sink or large tub.

Step 2: Soak Board

Either submerge the board in the bleach solution or soak the entire surface of the board with the mix. The key is to let the bleach solution work for 2 to 3 minutes so that it has time to kill the bacteria on the board.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Wash the board once more with warm water and dish soap to remove any lingering bleach odor. Rinse the board thoroughly, then dry it with a cloth or paper towel. Let the board completely air-dry before putting it away.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board With Lemon

Cleaning wooden cutting boards with lemon and salt once per month is a great way to help maintain them. This method can help remove stains on the board. And if your cutting board smells from lots of chopped garlic, this could help freshen it up.

Step 1: Scrub Board

  • Sprinkle the board with coarse salt, like sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Cut a lemon in half.
  • Rub the lemon cut-side-down over the salt on the board, scrubbing in small circles, following the direction of the grain.

Step 2: Let Solution Sink In

Allow the salt and lemon solution to sit on the board for about 5 minutes.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the board thoroughly, making sure all of the salt is removed, then dry it with a cloth or paper towel. Completely air-dry the board before storing it.

How to Keep Your Wooden Cutting Board Clean Longer

To help your wooden cutting board stay clean longer term, follow these tips:

  • Don't clean a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher, and avoid soaking the board in water for more than a few minutes.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, designate separate cutting boards for different tasks—one for preparing meat, another for vegetables, and another for fish.
  • Dry the board after washing to help prevent cracks in the wood.
  • Look for boards made from maple, a tough, closed-grain wood.
  • If your board is overly worn or has hard-to-clean grooves, discard it.

Seasonal Upkeep

To avoid cracking, dryness, and warping of your wooden cutting board, oil the board once a month. Apply cutting board oil or food-grade mineral oil (not olive or avocado oil) to the board using a paper towel or clean cloth.

Buff the oil into the board, making sure to coat every surface. Let the oil soak into the board for a few hours or overnight, then wipe away any excess oil from the surface.


What is safer: plastic or wood cutting boards?

Plastic cutting boards are non-porous, so bacteria will sit on top of the board instead of being absorbed into the surface. However, bacteria often linger in the little grooves and scars caused by knives.

Luckily, plastic cutting boards are easy enough to clean—just put them in the dishwasher or wash them by hand using hot water and dish soap.

While wooden cutting boards are more prone to bacteria—due to cuts, cracks, or grooves in the wood—they are also safe to use when properly cleaned and maintained.

Following the steps above for washing a cutting board after each use helps avoid bacteria growth. Caring for your wooden cutting board by periodically disinfecting it and oiling it also helps maintain the health and longevity of the board.

Which is better: a wood or plastic cutting board?

In exchange for the extra maintenance, you'll enjoy a few benefits from wooden cutting boards. They are less slippery than plastic ones and help kitchen knives last longer. Not to mention, wooden cutting boards make beautiful additions to the kitchen.

There are some advantages to plastic cutting boards, the main one being price. Plastic cutting boards can be purchased for just a few dollars, while high-quality wooden boards can cost $70 or more. Plastic boards are also dishwasher-safe.

Ultimately, the debate over wood vs. plastic cutting boards is a matter of personal preference. Consider how often you cook, plus the time involved in cleaning and caring for each type of cutting board.

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