You probably already know about the dangers of cross-contamination that come with food prep and cutting boards. But even if you use separate cutting boards for produce and bread, raw foods, and cooked foods, you’re still not out of the woods germ-wise. That’s because bacteria can grow on improperly cleaned cutting boards, whether they’re made of plastic, bamboo, wood, or other materials.

Learning how to clean a wooden cutting board is a must for minimizing the spread of bacteria in your kitchen. Research on cutting boards shows that wood cutting boards will absorb bacteria into cuts and cracks and potentially contaminate food cut on the board. The research indicates that plastic cutting boards harbor fewer bacteria, making cleaning them easier than cleaning a wood cutting board. But other studies tell a different story.

According to UC Davis researcher Dean Cliver, while plastic cutting boards are easier to sanitize than wooden ones, plastic is prone to deeper scratches from knives and can harbor more bacteria. In the end, food safety researchers at NC State recommend using plastic cutting boards for meat and wood cutting boards for vegetables, fruits, and prepared foods.

Whether you use plastic, acrylic, or wooden cutting boards, they should be cleaned and sanitized using a process that is specific to the cutting board material. With proper wood cutting board care, you can safely use wooden cutting boards for years and even refurbish them when they get too worn. While they must be replaced when they’re too worn, plastic cutting boards are inexpensive and easy to clean and sanitize.

Wood Cutting Board Care: Seasoning

Wooden cutting boards are popular for so many reasons. They’re easier on your knives, durable, and can be a beautiful accent piece in your kitchen. But did you know wooden cutting boards should be properly seasoned before you use them? This often overlooked first step goes a long way toward keeping your cutting board safe and maintained.

While some cutting boards can be purchased pre-seasoned, most wooden cutting boards are sold bare. Cook’s Illustrated recommends applying a protective finish of oil or wax that will repel moisture.

“We like to season our boards with spoon butter or board cream, a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil that can either be made or purchased online. Using a clean cloth, rub your board with the butter, making sure you cover any exposed surface that might come in contact with water—front, back, sides, and feet, if they’re wood or bamboo. Let the mixture sit on the board for 24 hours to absorb and then buff off the excess. Usually one coat is sufficient to keep out water.”

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Because wooden cutting boards are porous, they can be a breeding ground for bacteria and should be cleaned and sanitized after each use. A properly seasoned wooden cutting board will absorb fewer bacteria-causing moisture, but there’s no way to seal it off from germs completely.

Knowing how to clean a wooden cutting board properly will make it safer to use and help maintain the natural beauty of the wood. And you don’t need harsh chemicals to get the job done, either. You can clean your wood cutting board and disinfect it using safe and eco-friendly household cleaners.

Here’s what you need to clean wooden and bamboo cutting boards:

  • Stiff nylon cleaning brush
  • Paper towels
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Lemon
  • Baking soda
  • Coarse salt

Washing a Wooden Cutting Board

  • Rinse your cutting board before food dries and stick to it.
  • For stains, pour baking soda onto the stained area and let it sit for five minutes before you scrub.
  • Scour away food debris with your cleaning brush and coarse salt.
  • Wash both sides of your wooden cutting board with dish soap and hot water.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Pat the cutting board dry with paper towels.
  • Store upright so it can finish air drying.

Disinfecting

Pour the 3% hydrogen peroxide all over your wooden cutting board. Spread it around using a paper towel and let it sit for about five minutes. If all the fizzing has stopped, rinse the cutting board with warm water. Pat dry and let it finish air drying by storing your cutting board upright.

Deodorizing

If your cutting board has unpleasant odors, distilled white vinegar is a safe and natural deodorizer that can be used all over the house. Pour the vinegar all over the cutting board and let it sit for five minutes. The white vinegar will neutralize odors and naturally disinfect your cutting board. Rinse, pat dry, and store upright to dry.

How to Clean a Bamboo Cutting Board

Knowing how to clean a bamboo cutting board the right way means first understanding how it’s different from a wooden cutting board. First, bamboo isn’t wood; it’s grass. Even though bamboo seems similar to wood, it’s stronger, more durable, and more hygienic as a cutting board material. You still get the beauty of natural materials, and as an added perk, using bamboo products is good for the planet because it’s a sustainable practice. But bamboo cutting boards require a little extra care.

Moisture can ruin bamboo. The more water your bamboo cutting board absorbs, the more likely it is to warp and split as it dries. So the first rule in bamboo care is to keep it as dry as possible—never soak a bamboo cutting board or run it through the dishwasher. Always dry your cutting board completely after you wash it and blot up excess juices and other liquids frequently when you’re using it.

Washing a Bamboo Cutting Board

  • Rinse your cutting board immediately after you use it.
  • Pour baking soda onto stains and let it sit for five minutes before you wash the cutting board.
  • Because bamboo is softer than wood, skip the scrubbing and use a microfiber cloth and warm water to loosen food debris.
  • Wash your bamboo cutting board quickly with dish soap and warm water.
  • Rinse with warm water.
  • Pat it dry with paper towels.
  • Store your cutting board upright so it can finish air drying.

Disinfecting and Deodorizing

Lemon is a powerful natural deodorizer and disinfectant, and it’s safe to use on bamboo. When your cutting board needs a quick refresh and sanitizing, cut a lemon in half and scrub the front, back, and sides of the cutting board. Give it a good rinse, pat it dry, and let it finish drying upright before you store it.

How to Clean a Plastic Cutting Board

Cleaning and sanitizing a plastic cutting board is not as simple as running it through the dishwasher. That’s because even though they’re non-porous, they end up with hundreds of knife cuts that can harbor bacteria. While running your cutting board through the dishwasher will get it clean, it typically won’t remove stains or sanitize the board.

Here’s what you need to clean and disinfect plastic cutting boards:

  • Stiff nylon cleaning brush
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Water
  • Dish soap
  • Lemon
  • Baking soda

Washing a Plastic Cutting Board

  • Rinse your plastic cutting board thoroughly to remove food debris.
  • Mix a paste of lemon juice and baking soda and scrub for stains.
  • Use your cleaning brush to scour away food debris.
  • Wash the cutting board with dish soap and hot water.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly with a clean, dry towel before storing it.

Disinfecting and Deodorizing

A safe, natural way to disinfect plastic cutting boards is to use a cup of water mixed with ½ cup distilled white vinegar. Use a nylon-bristled brush to scrub the vinegar into all the cuts and scratches. Rinse the cutting board with hot water and dry it with a clean towel. Vinegar will also help neutralize any stale odors.

You can also use hydrogen peroxide to kill bacteria and take care of cutting board stains. Scrubbing your plastic cutting board with a lemon will also disinfect and deodorize it. Just be sure to rinse the cutting board well and dry it before you put it away.

Knowing how to clean a cutting board and disinfect it helps you keep your family safe from germs and other pathogens. Because The Maids is the only residential maid service to clean for health specifically, we are committed to creating healthier, cleaner homes all across North America.

Whether you use our handy housekeeping guides and do it yourself or choose one of our popular house cleaning services, we’ve got you covered. Learn more about what we can do for your home when you get your free online estimate today.

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