One of the most essential items to have in your kitchen is a cutting board. A cutting board not only eases the process of food prep but also simultaneously protects your countertops. Cutting boards come in a variety of materials like plastic, stone, and wood.
Wood cutting boards, also called butcher blocks, are undoubtedly the best choice because they won't contribute to quickly dulled and damaged knife blades. Plus, according to a study from the National Institutes of Health, they're actually more hygienic than plastic cutting boards. Although wood has more pores than plastic, bacteria are more likely to travel inside the wooden board and perish rather than breeding at the surface.
That being said, to keep a wooden cutting board sanitary and functioning, you have to learn how to properly clean and maintain it. Regardless of material, a poorly cared for cutting board will become a knife-scarred breeding ground for dangerous bacteria.
How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board (5 Methods)
1. How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board with Dish Soap
All you need to clean a wood cutting board is regular dish soap and hot water. After use, rinse the board with hot water. Then apply dish soap and thoroughly scrub both sides with a brush or dish towel. Pay close attention to any scratch marks. Rinse with hot water and dry the board with a clean towel.
2. How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board with Bleach
Although bleach can be slightly harsh, it's an excellent way to ensure all bacteria are neutralized. Add a capful (tablespoon) to a sink (gallon) of hot water to soak your cutting board for no more than a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
3. How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board with Hydrogen Peroxide
Mix four parts water with one part hydrogen peroxide and soak your wood cutting board for a few minutes. Remove from the solution, rinse thoroughly, and dry with a clean towel.
4. How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board with Vinegar
If you prefer an all-natural solution, mix four parts water with one part white vinegar and soak the board for a few minutes. Rinse and dry.
(Regardless of the solution used to clean a cutting board, you should not let it soak for more than a few minutes to prevent warping and cracking.)
5. How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board with Lemon and Salt
This method will clean and help maintain your cutting board. First, sprinkle one side of the cutting board with coarse salt or kosher salt. Slice a lemon in half and use it to scrub the salt across the board (juicy flesh-side down). Repeat on the reverse side until the board is covered with the lemon/salt solution. Let the board sit for a few minutes before rinsing and drying.
How Not to Clean a Wood Cutting Board
Your dishwasher expertly cleans and sanitizes dishes, but the combination of extended exposure to heat and water can warp and crack a wood cutting board – and bacteria love a cracked cutting board! If you put a wood cutting board in the dishwasher, then you might as well throw it away. When you feel tempted to pop your wood cutting board in the dishwasher and forget it, use one of the methods mentioned above instead.
Maintain Your Wood Cutting Board
To maintain your cutting board, you should condition it with food-grade mineral oil or a type of oil formulated explicitly for conditioning wood cutting boards. (Do not use olive or avocado oil.)
Start with a clean, dry cutting board. Apply a dime or quarter-sized amount of oil to a paper towel or soft cloth. With a circular motion, gently buff the oil into the surface of your cutting board. Allow the oil to soak in overnight before use.
Oil your board once a month to prevent the dryness that causes wooden cutting boards to splinter, crack, and warp.
Why Your Kitchen Should Have Two Cutting Boards
Even if you maintain your wood cutting board impeccably, there's still a chance for cross-contaminating food. The best way to prevent cross-contamination via cutting board is to keep two in your kitchen. Designate one for preparing and serving foods like fruits and vegetables. Use the other strictly for trimming raw meat.
Continue practicing proper maintenance on both cutting boards, and you can eat and serve safely with your kitchen tools in perfectly clean condition.