Introduction: Best Way to Clean a Cutting Board

About: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design from Parsons School of Design in NYC. Since then I've done work for Martha…

It's important to clean and disinfect your wood cutting boards on a regular basis, but washing with soap and water can damage the wood over time, causing the surface grain to swell and become rough - and after time split the board clean through!

I'm going to show you the best way to sanitize, deodorize and maintain your cutting boards without having to use dish soap or lots of water!

Step 1: Cleaning & Disinfecting: Daily Maintenance

I like to keep small labeled spray bottles full of the following on hand (but out of reach of little hands) to help make the cleaning process quick and easy:

  • 100% distilled white vinegar
  • pharmacy grade 3% hydrogen peroxide

Every Day Cleaning

After Vegetables: After general use (aka non-meat cutting), remove debris with a slightly damp cloth and spray the surface with vinegar, wiping it dry with a clean kitchen towel.

Vinegar is an effective disinfectant, as the acetic acid it contains combats E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.

After Meat & Poultry: I used to fear using my wooden cutting boards for cutting chicken and other meats, but now I go for it - and just do the following for clean up:

Remove debris with a damp paper towel. First clean with vinegar as described above, then spray on an even coat of 3% hydrogen peroxide, making sure to cover the entire surface. Leave for 2-3 minutes, then wipe surface again with a damp paper towel. Let air dry.

Hydrogen Peroxide is a champion at killing bacteria, so it's powers combined with those of vinegar = a germ free board!

Note: If there are already cracks in your board from washing with water, relegate that one to veggie cutting only, as you can't be guaranteed that those crevices will be disinfected properly.

Step 2: Cleaning & Disinfecting: Monthly Maintenance

Once a Month Maintenance

It's a good idea to do a deep monthly cleaning. To do this, add 4-5 drops of bleach to a small bowl of cold water and using a small stiff bristle brush (a fingernail brush would do the trick), gently clean the surface, moving the brush in small circles. Be careful not to soak the wood with too much water.

Once finished, wipe the surface with a damp paper towel and follow up immediately with a clean dry cloth.

Note: If you must wash your board with soap and water, NEVER submerge the board! Instead run a soapy cloth or sponge under cold water and squeeze most of the water out before wiping down the board. Be sure to dry it vertically so there's less chance that the water will get absorbed into the wood before evaporating.

Step 3: Deodorizing

If you're cleaning your board regularly, it should stay smelling pretty fresh, but if you do a marathon onion chopping session or come across some particularly odorous garlic, here's what to do:

Wash the surface as outlined in step 1 and follow up with a thin coat of fresh lemon juice.

The simplest way to do this is to cut a lemon piece and rub it on, but you will be left with small lemon bits (pulp) that you'll need to wipe off after the surface dries.

What I like to do involves a bit more prep work on the front end, but will save you time not having to deal with the bits. Just juice a whole lemon and strain it, pouring the 'pulp free' juice into another little spray bottle. Keep it in the fridge for some 'get fresh quick' cutting board action!

Step 4: Rub & Buff

To keep your board looking fresh, mix together:

  • one tbsp baking soda
  • one tbsp salt
  • one tbsp water

Dip a clean dry cloth into the paste and gently buff the surface of your board, going in the direction of the grain. When done, wipe the surface with a clean damp cloth, followed by a dry cloth.

Note: If you have gauges or cut marks that can't be buffed out and you'd like to restore a smooth surface, take your board to a local woodworker and have them plane it down. This will take a very small amount of surface wood off of one or both sides, giving you a truly fresh new surface!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to share your methods and suggestions in the comments section below!