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Kitchen Basics: Cutting Board Care 101

By Kelsey Banfield |

Cutting BoardsCutting boards, also commonly known as butcher blocks or chopping blocks, are an essential piece of kitchen equipment. Most often used to chop vegetables, meat and fruit, they come in various sizes and materials and are the key to protecting your counter-top, your food and your fingers. Like most utensils, cutting boards require regular maintenance to keep them bacteria-free in and tip-top shape. Here are my tips for the best ways to maintain your cutting boards and the simple steps you can take each and every day to preserve them:

1. Wooden Cutting Boards: A wooden cutting board can last for years, even decades, if maintained correctly. Because of woods porous nature it readily absorbs stains and bacteria and needs to be cleaned regularly. Clean your wooden cutting board after every time you use it, especially when you’ve cut raw meat. If you cut raw meat and then intend to cut vegetables be sure to wash after you’ve removed the meat and before you place any new food or knives on top of the board. Wash the board with hot soapy water that is at least 140ºF in order to dissolve any animal fat, and a stiff sponge. Rinse the board with hot water and dry well. If your board gets a stain from strawberry or raspberry juice, sprinkle the area with a touch of salt and a few drops of lemon juice, rub it well to remove the stain. For severe stains allow the salt to sit for 24 hours before scrubbing it off.

If your wooden board ever gets a nick from a knife take a piece of sandpaper and rub it with the grain of the wood until it is filed down. Wooden boards should be conditioned at least 5-6 times a year with a solution of beeswax and mineral oil. These mixtures are not expensive and can often be purchased at local kitchen shops or online. Conditioning your cutting board with oil and wax will seal the wood, preventing it from absorbing moisture, odor and harmful bacteria. This will also prevent it from warping and cracking in the long term.

2. Plastic, Silicone and Rubber Cutting Boards: High density plastic boards can often be placed in the dishwasher, depending on the manufacturer. Check the label that comes with your board to see if it is dishwasher safe. If you do not want to place your board in the dishwasher simply clean it as you would a wooden cutting board with hot soapy water.

3. Sanitizing Cutting Boards: If a wooden or plastic cutting board is particularly dirty it can be sanitized with a heavily diluted solution of white vinegar and water. The recommended steps are to dilute 1 c. of vinegar in 5 c. water, pour it on top of the cutting board that is resting in the sink or a plastic bin and allow it to sit for at least 15 minutes. Then rinse the board well with hot soapy water and dry. It is not necessary to sanitize your cutting board after each use but it good to do on a monthly basis.

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About Kelsey Banfield


Kelsey Banfield

Kelsey Banfield is the food writer and the founder of The Naptime Chef. She writes a daily food column for Babble Food and her food writing has also appeared in the places like Parents magazine, and Martha Stewart Living. Kelsey lives in southern Connecticut with her husband and daughter. Read bio and latest posts → Read Kelsey's latest posts →

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3 thoughts on “Kitchen Basics: Cutting Board Care 101

  1. FoodontheTable says:

    Great tips! I like the silicon ones I can throw in the dishwasher. So easy.

  2. Anne Curtis says:

    The problem with plastic cutting boards is that they are known to harbor bacteria after they have scars from knives to a greater extent than wooden cutting boards! This is because wood has antibacterial properties that kill bacteria. So when bacteria from your hand or the environment comes in contact with a plastic board, there is nothing there to kill it so contrary to what you might expect, the plastic board ends up losing the contest. Numerous tests have been conducted in a laboratory setting that prove this point.

    The important thing to remember with your wooden boards is to allow plenty of air flow around the boards. If you have a reversable wooden board plastic feet (I use the stick on type) can be added to the board to pull it off the counter top. This will reduce the liklihood of the board sitting in water. If you have a board that has been exposed to too much water and shows signs of warping, set it up on end or prop it on an angle against your backsplash to allow both sides to dry out.

    And the article is correct, adding Beeswax Butcher Block Conditioner (a blend of beeswax and mineral oil) will help keep the board hydrated with oils instead of water. The combination product offered by Wooden Wonders for example comes in a paste form and effectively what happens once applied is the beeswax will end up sitting on the surface of the board while the mineral oil will soak in giving dual action protection.

  3. Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef says:

    Hi @Anne, thanks for weighing in. It is true about plastic cutting boards harboring bacteria which is why it is important to keep them clean. I’ve seen some antimicrobial ones on the market, too, though that doesn’t replace cleaning.

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