How To Clean A Wooden Cutting Board

Functional and beautiful, wooden cutting boards have a lot to offer. The best of their kind are roomy, durable and gentler on the knife than their plastic counterparts. But to ensure your wood chipping block retains all of these qualities and doesn’t warp or crack after a few washes, you must be prepared to undertake the necessary maintenance.

It’s understandable that some home cooks find caring for wooden cutting boards intimidating. Finally, it requires a two-stage drying process And hydrating routines. But once you get comfortable with the steps, the process doesn’t seem nearly as daunting. Better yet, you can even enjoy the meditative act of rubbing your board in food-grade mineral oil and watching it go from dull and dry to hydrated and glowing. If you can take care of a cast-iron skillet (or follow a sophisticated skincare regimen), you can take care of a wooden chopping block.

How to clean your wooden cutting board

All the consumables you need:

If you can only remember one thing, let it be so: moisture is a wooden cutting board’s worst enemy. When wooden boards are exposed to water or other liquids for a long time, there is a high risk that they will crack or warp, rendering them unusable. Suffice it to say that a wooden cutting board definitely does not need to be put in the dishwasher. Here’s what you should do instead.

Step one: wash

After you’ve finished your chopping chores and cleaned any food residue from the surface of the board, wash it in warm, soapy water using mild dish soap and a sponge. Under no circumstances should you use a steel brush, which can cause tiny scratches and shorten the life of your board. It’s also a good idea to wash all sides of the board – even the ones you haven’t used. When only one surface of the board is exposed to water, it expands while the dry sides do not, which can cause warping.

Step Two: Drying (and Drying Again)

After rinsing off all food and soapy water, wipe the board with a clean dishcloth or paper towels to remove excess liquid. Then, support the board on its narrowest edge to allow its largest surfaces to dry thoroughly and leave overnight. Not only does this measure reduce the risk of your board chipping or warping, it actually is important from a food safety perspective. “If a wooden cutting board is dried properly, meaning if it is not stored in an area where moisture can penetrate, then the risk of having a foodborne pathogen on the surface of that cutting board is very, very small,” says Ben Chapman , PhD, a food safety researcher at North Carolina State University. “It’s like a plastic cutting board that can be cleaned and sanitized in the dishwasher.”

How can you remove stains or odors from a cutting board?

If you avoid using your cutting board for spicy foods like garlic, anchovies, and onions, the wood will likely retain some odors; the same goes for stains. If you ever use your board to chop up beets, turmeric, or pomegranates, chances are some of the juices from those lively foods seep into the block — especially if it’s made of light-colored woods like maple, beech, or hinoki. Well, there are some preventive measures you can take to ward off smells and smells. “If you’re cutting something smelly, first wet the cutting board to fill the pores of the wood with water before the hot ingredients get into the wood,” advises Josh Donald, co-owner of Bernal Cutlery in San Francisco. “It keeps the smells in.”

However, if your board has already absorbed some of those colors and odors and soap isn’t enough, you have a few options. First, squeeze fresh lemon juice and sprinkle kosher salt over the soiled surface, rubbing the mixture vigorously into the board; Let the acidic mixture sit for about an hour, and then wash the board. “This can also be a great way to bring out some funky flavors,” adds Donald. If this method doesn’t work, you can also spray the board with white vinegar and let it pass 5 minutes before rinsing it off. (White vinegar is also effective for disinfecting the surface.)

Or try this tip from Boardsmith, the brand behind our favorite butcher block: If you’re dealing with a lingering garlic or onion odor, rub the affected area with a raw potato or apple.

How to maintain a wooden cutting board

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If you put your cutting board through its paces in your kitchen, the grains, once hydrated, will slowly lose their moisture and luster over time and with regular washing. This is where oil and wax (or board cream) come in. While oil penetrates the wood fibers, board wax (and cream) rests on the surface, sealing in moisture and protecting against odors, stains and liquids. There is no hard and fast rule as to how often you should treat your board. Whenever your board appears dull, dry, or feels rough to the touch, you know it’s time to treat it. While newer boards will need to be oiled more frequently, perhaps once a week, you should expect to do this maintenance about once a month. However, the wood and construction of your board matters. For example, end-grain panels need to be oiled more often than edge-grain panels; Maple drinks more oil than teak.

Step One: Oil your board

Before you oil your board, you need to choose your oil. While many brands advise you to use their proprietary blend, generally any food-grade mineral oil can be used. Walnut oil is another great option, although it may not be safe for those with nut allergies. Just don’t assume you can use it any Oil. “Don’t use olive oil because it will go rancid,” advises Donald. Other oils that fall into this category are vegetable, corn, sunflower, and regular coconut oil.

Once you’ve gotten your bottle, use either your hands or a paper towel to rub an even coat of oil all over the board, making sure to hit the sap groove and hand grips (if your board has such features). Then tip the block on its side to dry and allow the oil to soak into the wood for at least a few hours, but preferably overnight.

Step two: wax your board

When the oil has thoroughly penetrated the board, it’s time to seal in the moisture with wax. While you can use food safe beeswax, it’s often easier and more convenient to use a proprietary wax blend like The Boardsmith Board Butter or Boos Block Board Cream. As with mineral oil, apply a thin coat of wax or cream to the board, hitting all the rough edges. While you can use your hands, the board cream is super smooth, so you might want to use a clean, soft cloth. Then lay the board on its side again and let it sit for a few hours or overnight.

How to repair a wooden cutting board

Does your go-to board show signs of wear? Here’s how to deal with three of the most common wooden cutting board problems.

What can you do with a badly scarred board?

While wood “heals” knife scars better than plastic, over time and with regular use, deeper scars and gouges are likely to form. Not only are they unsightly, but they can become “a real environment for bacteria to grow and thrive in if there’s food debris in there and it doesn’t dry out completely,” says Chapman. When a plastic cutting board reaches this state, it’s best to throw it away. And while you might choose to do the same with a plank of wood, Chapman adds that you can lightly sand the surface to restore a new, undamaged finish.

What can you do if your wooden cutting board warps?

If your board warps easily, you don’t necessarily have to throw it away. “The advantage of solid wood is that it can always be recoated, either by surface sanding, with surface machines, or with a trusty hand plane,” says Angie Yang, co-founder of Brooklyn woodworking school Bien Hecho Academy. “If it’s a family heirloom, reach out to your neighborhood woodworker for help.” However, if you’re not that attached to your board, it may make more sense to retire it.

What can you do if your wooden cutting board cracks?

If a small crack forms in your wooden board, you can repair it with food-grade wood glue and sandpaper. For larger cracks, it’s best to have woodworkers assess whether they can be repaired. But for the most part, unless you have an heirloom-quality butcher block, you might just want to cut your losses and throw the board away. Not only are cracks unsightly, but they can also harbor pathogens, making the board unsafe to use.

Our favorite wooden cutting boards

Are you ready to invest in a brand new wood chipping block and all the maintenance it requires? Here are our favorite boards based on extensive testing.

TeakHaus Edge-Grain Professional carving board

75100Save $25 (25%)

Crafted from sustainable teak from FSC-certified forests, this striking board is naturally moisture resistant thanks to teak’s high oil content. Therefore, it is less prone to cracking and requires less oil.

If you’re looking to invest in an heirloom quality butcher’s block to establish a permanent place on your countertop, consider this maple end grain option from The Boardsmith, which is kinder to knives than edge grain boards.

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