Cutting Board Care

Caring for your cutting board is a very simple process. The most important thing to remember is that cutting boards DO NOT go in a dishwasher, nor do they like to sit in a nice warm, soapy bath (sink) of water for any length of time. Let’s leave the warm, soapy water soaking to us humans, okay?

When I finish my cutting boards, either end or edge grain ones, I apply several coats of food safe Mineral Oil and Beeswax.

  • USP-grade Mineral oil will not go rancid like a vegetable oil or olive oil will. As I stated, I use it on all my cutting boards and I highly recommend using mineral oil when it comes time to maintain or re-finish your board. Mineral oil can be purchased at the local drug store. It is inexpensive and readily available.
  • Beeswax is used on top of the mineral oil to seal and protect the surface of the wood. The beeswax sits on the surface of the wood in contrast to the oil that soaks into the wood. As a result the beeswax fills in pores and gaps that mineral oil simply cannot. This helps to keep moisture, bacteria, and other contaminants from getting into the wood surface. The beeswax can be simply applied with a clean cloth and buffed after a few minutes. The beeswax is a soft paste that has a similar consistency to that of a shoe polish. I use Claphams Salad Bowl Finish on all my cutting boards to preserve and protect them from all the wear and tear and to combat the effects of water or other liquids.

Whichever kind of cutting board you use, all cutting boards should be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Some of the various techniques recommended for cutting boards are as follows (you decide which is best for you and your cutting board):

  • Hot water and soap – Scrub board with hot water and soap. Rinse and dry thoroughly. NOTE: NEVER submerge cutting boards in a sink of water for any length of time! Wood is porous and will soak up water causing the cutting board to crack when it dries.
  • Vinegar – To disinfect and clean your wood cutting boards, wipe them with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against such harmful bugs as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus. Vinegar is especially good for people with chemical allergies. Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing. To learn more about studies using vinegar for disinfecting cutting boards, please refer to this article by O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D: The Microbiology of Cleaning and Sanitizing a Cutting Board .
  • Hydrogen Peroxide – 3% hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a bacteria-killer. To kill the germs on your cutting board, use a paper towel to wipe the board down with vinegar, then use another paper towel to wipe it with hydrogen peroxide.   
  • Bleach – Sanitize wood cutting boards (or plastic ones, you know, the ones you haven’t replaced with wood ones yet) with a diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar solution consisting of one teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach in one quart of water or a one to five dilution of vinegar. Flood the surface with a sanitizing solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with paper towels.

To eliminate garlic, onion, fish, or other smells from your cutting board:

  • Coarse salt or baking soda – Rub the board with course salt or baking soda. Let stand a few minutes and wipe salt or baking soda from board, and then rinse. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.
  • Lemon – Another very easy technique is to rub fresh lemon juice or rub a cut lemon over the surface of the cutting board to neutralize onion and garlic odors. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.
  • Vinegar – Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing. You may need to re-season after rinsing your cutting board/chopping block.

Use a good steel scraper or spatula often when using the board. Scraping removes 75% of the moisture that builds up on a wooden cutting board. An occasional sanding will return a wooden board to a smooth luster. But never scrub a wooden board with a steel brush (a steel brush will ruff up the finish and should be avoided).

Re-Seasoning: Wooden boards need to be maintained in order for them to last a long time. Oiling or re-seasoning is the method used to seal the grain against bacteria. Mineral Oil will help to prevent the wood from cracking or pulling apart at the seams. Apply the mineral oil with a soft cloth, allowing the oil to soak in. Allow oil to soak in a few minutes, then remove all surface oil with a dry, clean cloth. When applied, mineral oil seals the pores of the wood blocking the penetration of moisture.

All cutting boards, and other food surfaces, should be kept dry when not in use. Resident bacteria survive no more than a few hours without moisture. Keep moisture of any type from standing on the block for long periods of time. Beware of moisture collecting beneath the board if you leave it on the counter. I use rubber feet on most of my cutting boards to give air a chance to get to all sides of the cutting board. If your board does not have rudder feet on it, prop it up on one edge to maximize air flow around it.