5 Ways to Clean and Maintain Your Wood Cutting Board to Keep It Germ-Free
Plus, the major reason to choose wood cutting boards instead of plastic.
If there's one item you can never have too many of in your kitchen, it's cutting boards. Cutting boards are a necessity not just for keeping your countertop in good shape, but also for properly preparing meat, poultry, vegetables, and other food. A good cutting board is also absolutely essential for food safety.
But which type of cutting board is best? The safety of wood cutting boards versus plastic cutting boards has been debated for years, but contrary to popular belief, a study showed that wood cutting boards are actually safer than plastic. This doesn't mean you should throw away all of your plastic cutting boards, though—and if you don't know how to properly clean your cutting board, it doesn't matter which kind you use.
Wood Cutting Boards vs. Plastic Cutting Boards
There are some advantages to plastic cutting boards, the main one being price. Plastic cutting boards can be purchased for just a few dollars, like this three-pack of assorted sizes from Farberware ($10; amazon.com). Quality wood cutting boards, like this Natural Acacia Wood Cutting Board ($70; amazon.com), can cost as much as $70 or more.
Plastic cutting boards are also non-porous, so bacteria will sit on top of the board as opposed to being absorbed into the surface. However, bacteria often find a home to breed 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 clean by hand with hot water. It's also a good idea to scrub them down with a dish brush ($8; amazon.com).
If you are really concerned about bacteria but don't want to get rid of your plastic cutting boards, use them to cut vegetables only and use wood cutting boards for raw foods. Keep in mind that if your plastic cutting boards start to look worn out, you probably need new ones.
Wood cutting boards are safer to use than plastic despite the fact that wood is porous. The surface of the wood absorbs bacteria, but it will sink down to the bottom layers of the wood and die, instead of staying at the surface and multiplying. But properly maintaining and cleaning wood cutting boards requires some knowledge and work.
How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board
While the dishwasher is ideal for cleaning and sanitizing most things in your kitchen, you should never put a wood cutting board in the dishwasher. This is because water can cause the board to crack and warp. Those little cracks end up becoming breeding grounds for bacteria and potentially causing foodborne illness.
Cleaning Wood Cutting Boards With Dish Soap
Luckily, cleaning a wood cutting board by hand is easy enough. All you need is hot water (turn the faucet up all the way!), dish soap, and a brush or sponge. Rinse the board off with hot water and apply soap. You can use regular dish soap or antibacterial dish soap, if you want. Then scrub away! If you notice any knife marks, scratches or inconsistencies in the wood, make sure to give those areas an extra hard scrubbing.
Make sure to properly clean and scrub both sides of the board. Even if you only used one side to cut on—don't forget that meat juices can drip and contaminate the other side. Finally, be sure to thoroughly rinse off each side with hot water. Then dry off the board with a cloth or paper towel. You can also drip dry in an upright position.
Cleaning Wood Cutting Boards With Bleach
If you used your cutting board to cut raw meat or poultry and you want to be absolutely sure that all bacteria is removed, add one tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water and let your board soak in a solution for a few minutes. Then rinse and dry it off.
Cleaning Wood Cutting Boards With Vinegar
If you prefer to use a chemical-free product, mix one part white vinegar to four parts water (hydrogen peroxide can also work if you don't have vinegar on hand) and soak your cutting board in the solution for a few minutes. Then rinse off and dry.
No matter what you soak your cutting board in, it's important not to soak it for more than a few minutes to avoid warping or cracking the wood.
Cleaning a Wood Cutting Board With Lemon and Salt
Giving your cutting boards a good cleaning every month with lemon and salt is a great way to help maintain them. First, sprinkle the board with coarse salt, such as sea salt or even kosher salt. Take a lemon and cut it in half. Scrub the salt down each side of the cutting board using the lemon with the fleshy side down. Let the salt and lemon solution sit for approximately five minutes. Finally, clean off the board with a sponge, rinse, and dry.
How to Maintain Your Wood Cutting Board
To avoid cracking, dryness, and warping of the wood cutting board, it's best to oil the board once a month. Luckily, this task only takes a few minutes. First, meticulously clean your cutting board, preferably using the lemon and salt method described above (but any cleaning method will do). Then dry the board thoroughly.
To oil the board, you need to use a product specifically formulated for wood cutting boards, such as Howard Products Cutting Board Oil ($9; amazon.com) or even food grade mineral oil ($7; amazon.com). Be sure not to use olive or avocado oil.
Use a soft cloth or paper towel in circular motions to buff the oil into the wood cutting board. Apply a thin coat to the entire surface, front and back, as well as the sides. Let the oil soak for a few hours or even overnight.