A wooden cutting board is a handy addition to your arsenal of kitchen tools and may double as a charcuterie board for social events.
However, it requires regular cleaning to avoid contamination of food with bacteria, such as E. coli, that may cause foodborne illnesses.
You should aim to use multiple cutting boards — one for raw meats and one for fresh produce. If you’re unable to do so, one cutting board should suffice as long as you clean it thoroughly.
This article provides a comprehensive guide to cleaning your wooden board between uses.
If you use the same cutting board for raw meat and fresh produce, you should thoroughly clean and sanitize your board after each use.
Keep in mind that using separate boards may minimize your risk of food poisoning.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends washing all cutting boards — whether made of a porous material like wood or a nonporous one like plastic or glass — with hot, soapy water after each use (1).
Likewise, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advises washing with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before using the board for another food (
Older studies demonstrate that washing between uses is the most effective way to reduce bacteria on the surface of the board and to avoid bacterial cross contamination, the transfer of bacteria from one surface to another (
Here’s how to wash your wooden cutting board:
- Clean the surface of the board with hot, soapy water to remove food debris and bacteria.
- Rinse with clean water to remove soap residue.
Wash the surface of your wooden cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use and before using the board for another food.
After washing, pat your board dry with single-use paper towels, and then allow it to air-dry standing up or on a raised rack with airflow. If you leave the board to dry on a flat surface, one side may bend.
Be mindful that cloth kitchen towels may harbor bacteria that can be transferred to the surface of your board. Be sure to wash kitchen towels frequently.
Allow the board to air-dry completely before moving on to the sanitizing step.
After washing your wooden cutting board, dry the surface with single-use paper towels, and then let it air-dry standing up or on a raised rack with airflow.
Some cutting boards contain antibacterial compounds such as triclosan. However, older studies indicate that they’re generally not effective against most foodborne bacteria, and repeated washing reduces the antibacterial properties (
Studies also suggest that different types of wood may retain varying amounts of bacteria, depending on each wood type’s texture, porosity, and ability to absorb water. However, more research is necessary in this area (
It’s important to sanitize your cutting board to reduce the amount of bacteria on the surface of the board and remove odors. Washing with dish soap alone may not be effective.
Research shows that neutral electrolyzed water (NEW), lactic acid-based solutions (such as lime juice or white vinegar), and quaternary ammonium (QUAT) reduce foodborne bacteria on the surface of cutting boards (
The USDA and FDA recommend using a diluted bleach solution to sanitize cutting boards — 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of unscented bleach per gallon (4.5 L) of water, or 1 teaspoon (5 mL) per quart (950 mL) (1,
Here’s how to sanitize your wooden cutting board (
- Rub the surface of your wooden cutting board with a cut lime or lemon or spray with another sanitizer of your choice, such as NEW or QUAT.
- Let this solution sit on the board for 1–5 minutes.
- Rinse with water and allow to air-dry, as described above.
Aim to sanitize your cutting board at least once per week.
Sanitize your wooden cutting board at least once per week by rubbing a cut lime or lemon on the surface or spraying with a commercial sanitizer such as QUAT or NEW. Let sit for 1–5 minutes, and then rinse and air-dry.
Dry wooden cutting boards are prone to damage, cracks, and splinters.
Seasoning your wooden cutting board is the best way to retain moisture and extend the life of your board. You can use food-grade mineral oils such as liquid paraffin or maple oil.
Here’s how to season your wooden cutting board:
- Generously apply mineral oil to the dry surface of a clean wooden cutting board.
- Use a small paintbrush or towel to apply the oil evenly until the board is dripping wet.
- Let the board soak overnight or for a few hours before using it again.
Season your board once per month for the best results.
Season your wooden cutting board with food-grade mineral oil once per month to retain moisture and avoid cracks.
Here are some tips for what you should avoid doing with your wooden cutting board:
- Don’t submerge the board in water. Wooden boards are porous and can swell or warp when soaked, leading to cracks and a shorter use cycle.
- Don’t place the board in a dishwasher unless it is marked “dishwasher-safe.” Older studies indicate that washing in a dishwasher may redistribute bacteria from the wood to your dishes (
- Don’t use regular vegetable oils to season your cutting board, because these go rancid and may contribute to foul odors.
- Don’t use boards with cracks and grooves that are hard to clean. These harbor bacteria and may introduce wood splinters to your food. It’s best to replace them promptly.
To extend the life of your wooden cutting board, avoid submerging it in water, washing it in the dishwasher, and using vegetable oils for seasoning. If your board has cracks or grooves, replace it immediately.
Wooden cutting boards are a versatile addition to your kitchen but must be cared for to avoid bacterial cross contamination and sustain the quality and life of the board.
Take care of your wooden cutting board by washing it with hot, soapy water after each use and allowing it to air-dry.
Sanitize it once per week with an acid-based product — such as lime juice or white vinegar, a diluted bleach solution, or another commercial sanitizer — and season it with food-grade mineral oil once per month.
Just one thing
Try this today: If you commonly butcher or chop cuts of meat on your cutting board, check out our article on meat safety for handling and storage tips.