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How to Properly Clean and Care for a Wooden Cutting Board

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With the holidays fast approaching, we know that your kitchen is going to be the hotspot for prepping and cooking some luxurious feasts. If you’re like us and you have family members with dietary restrictions, or you’re just curious about whether or not you’re cleaning your kitchen tools the right way, we’ve got news for you about one of your most used cooking staples: the cutting board. If you use wooden cutting boards, cleaning them is a bit more complicated than you’d think. While plastic cutting boards can simply be thrown in the dishwasher with the rest of your dishes, you’ll want to be sure you know these tips on how to clean a wooden cutting board the right way. 

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Caring for a wooden cutting board is different than managing a regular plastic one. To clean a wooden cutting board, the USDA recommends washing it with hot and soapy water just after using the board. While the USDA technically says that you can let your board air dry, the folks at CuttingBoard.com say that it’s best to hand dry your board with a paper towel or non-fibrous cloth, helping it to dry faster so that water doesn’t soak too much into the board and cause irreparable damage.

If you’re cutting meat on your cutting board, it’s important to be especially careful as to not let bad bacteria live and grow on the board’s surface. To help with this, the USDA recommends using a solution of one tablespoon of unscented liquid bleach to one gallon of water. To disinfect your wooden cutting board, simply cover (don’t submerge!) it in the solution and let stand for a few minutes. Alternatively, a squeeze of lemon juice or white vinegar can be used to disinfect your board and remove any lingering odors. After disinfecting, rinse the board with warm water and pat dry.

Can you put a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher?

To wash a wooden cutting board, experts at CuttingBoard.com say that you shouldn’t be using the dishwasher at all. Why? The prolonged exposure to water and heat in the dishwasher can cause a wooden board to warp or crack as the changes in temperature and moisture levels make the wood fibers expand and contract, ruining your flat chopping surface. Cracks in the wood can also become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria that can contaminate other foods that you’re chopping on your board. To avoid this, skip the dishwasher and be sure that you’re always hand-washing and properly disinfecting your wooden cutting boards.

Caring for a Wooden Cutting Board

Beyond just keeping them clean, you’ll need to regularly treat your wooden cutting boards so that they don’t warp or crack over time. A quick and simple treatment can do wonders for the life of your board, so make sure not to skip this crucial step! Oiling or waxing your cutting board also provides the board with a protective layer that prevents germs and bacteria from getting into the dents and cuts in the surface. To treat your cutting boards, you’ll need to oil them every month or so using either a beeswax mixture or a mineral oil treatment that’s made for wood.

Note: It’s important that you use the right type of oil on your wooden cutting board, as oils like olive oil or vegetable oil will turn rancid and ruin your board. Be sure to use a food-grade mineral oil for a cutting board, like this one from CuttingBoard ($10.95, Amazon), which will protect and moisturize the wood surface.

To properly oil your cutting board, start by washing it thoroughly using the method described above. Wait for it to dry completely, and then apply a generous amount of the mineral oil to the center of the board. Using a paint brush or cooking brush, brush the oil to cover the entire board, making sure that the board is soaked completely. Leave it to dry overnight, standing upright on a drying rack.

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