Picture of Refresh that old plastic cutting board

Plastic (polyethylene) cutting boards tend to get worn with use, eventually leading to an unsightly (and often unsanitary) surface. Between cut marks, foods, and cleaners can leave a plastic board looking pretty ragged.

But not all is lost - a quick attack with some sandpaper can refresh that cutting board, making it as good as new and saving the time and money of replacing them! This tried and true food service industry trick can help clean up even the worst of boards and prolong the life of your boards and boost the cleanliness of your kitchen.
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: What you'll need

Picture of What you'll need

Materials in addition to your old cutting boards
  • dropcloth/newspaper/garbage bag
  • clamps
  • sander
  • Sandpaper (ideally 25 grit through 80 grit)
  • metal scrubber or rough steel wool
  • scraper/hand plane/razor blade (not pictured)
  • gloves
  • eye protection
  • dust mask
  • dish soap
  • sponge

For the sander, I'm using a Dremel contour sander. Any sander will do the job, and one with more horsepower will do the job faster. A belt sander or orbital sander would work nicely. I just didn't happen to have one handy at the moment.

Step 2: Clamp the board

Picture of Clamp the board
Cover your work surface with a drop cloth, newspaper, etc. to catch the remnants of the sanding.

Using the clamps, securely affix the cutting board to your work surface (I usually clamp the two corners by the handle-edge (if there is a handle cut-out) since those rarely get worn from use. Be sure it's clamped snugly, as scraping and sanding can create a good bit of lateral torque on the board.

Step 3: Prep the board for sanding

Picture of Prep the board for sanding
Using the metal dish scrubber or extra-course steel wool, scrape the surface to remove any loose burs of plastic and begin to clean the surface. The less excess plastic that is left on top, the less the sandpaper will gum up.
grannyjones8 months ago

I have had very good luck scraping the board with an ugly old knife I hate.

lukas.hofmann8 months ago

…actually not a good idea to send large amounts of tiny plastic particles through the sewer. I mean, polyamid, polyethylen, or whatever it is – we all know where all that stuff "ends up".

(exactely: it just doesen't. it moves and it lasts. that's the thing with plastic.)

JoeF29 months ago

For larger boards use a belt sander in the same way. Covers a lot more territory and very aggressive against the cut marks. But when in need of a new board check us out at

just buy wood cutting board...
lava.tomato2 years ago
This is a great idea. I can see how self-healing plastic would gum up a sander, though. Maybe a cabinet scraper would make things easier?
sushichops2 years ago
Awesome, just last week I was wondering how I could do this! Now just to convince dad to lend me his sander... Is there any problem with just using sandpaper? (other than being very slow?)
samalert2 years ago
I have a kitchen board which have rough surface, now sanding will make the rough surface smoother and i dont want that !
Ex Machina4 years ago
What a great way to keep plastic out of the landfill! My favorite cutting board is no longer scheduled for that big kitchen in the sky....