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

And why you shouldn't put your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher.

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 more. A good cutting board is also absolutely essential for food safety. To prevent cross-contamination, you'll need to designate different cutting boards for different tasks—one for preparing meat, another for vegetables, another for fish. Then, learn how to clean a wooden cutting board properly and diligently follow the steps below every single time you use the board to help stop the spread of germs.

Once your wooden cutting board is thoroughly cleaned, don't forget to oil it. Not only will this help maintain the board's shine, but it can also prevent cracks from forming. Here's how to clean and maintain a wooden cutting board, step by step.

Wood 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, while high-quality wooden cutting boards can cost $70 or more.

Plastic cutting boards are non-porous, so bacteria will sit on top of the board, as opposed to 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.

You'll always want to wash a wooden cutting board by hand, as placing the board in the dishwasher can cause it to warp or crack over time. It's also a good idea to dry wooden boards right away and oil them regularly to maintain them. In exchange for the extra maintenance, you'll enjoy a few benefits: Wooden cutting boards are less slippery than plastic ones, and they help your knives last longer. Not to mention, wooden cutting boards make beautiful additions to the kitchen. Ultimately, the debate over wood versus plastic cutting boards is a matter of personal preference, but if you opt for the latter, you'll need to learn how to clean a wooden cutting board the right way.

What You'll Need:

  • Dish soap
  • Sponge or dish brush
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Lemon (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

While the dishwasher is ideal for cleaning and sanitizing most things in your kitchen, you should never put a wooden 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 that can potentially cause foodborne illness. Instead, wash the board by hand after every single use, following the steps below.

  1. Wash with dish soap. 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, as bacteria tends to lurk in cracks and crevices in wooden boards.
  2. Clean both sides. 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 as well. If there's a handle on the board, be sure to wash that as well.
  3. Rinse. Rinse both sides of the board with warm water.
  4. Dry. Use a clean cloth or a paper towel to dry the board, then let the board air-dry before putting it away.

Clean With Bleach

If you used your cutting board to cut raw meat or poultry, cleaning it with bleach will help kill bacteria on the board. Follow the steps above to first clean the board with dish soap, then follow the additional steps below.

  1. Create bleach solution. Add 1 tablespoon chlorine bleach to 1 gallon of water.
  2. Soak the board. Either submerge the board in the bleach solution or soak the entire surface of the board with the solution. 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.
  3. Rinse. Wash the board once more with warm water and dish soap to remove any lingering bleach odor. Rinse the board thoroughly, then dry it completely.

Clean With Lemon and Salt

Cleaning your 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.

  1. Scrub the board. Sprinkle the board with coarse salt, such as 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, working in the direction of the grain.
  2. Let it sit. Allow the salt and lemon solution to sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse. Rinse the board thoroughly, making sure all of the salt is removed, then dry it.

How to Maintain Your Wooden Cutting Board

  • 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 up to overnight, then wipe away any excess oil on the surface.
  • Don't clean a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher, and avoiding having your board soak in water for more than a few minutes.
  • To avoid cross-contamination, use different boards for meat and vegetables.
  • Dry the board after washing to help prevent cracks in the wood.
  • Look for boards made from maple, a hard, closed-grain wood.

Read Next: How to Clean Every Type of Countertop: Marble, Quartz, Butcher Block, and More

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