A wooden cutting board is one of the best kitchen investments you can make. Not only does it look great, but it’s a naturally self-healing and antimicrobial staple that will last you ages.
But unlike synthetic materials, wood needs a little TLC to stay in great condition. To help your cutting board look great for years to come, here’s our guide on how to care for a wooden cutting board.
What Do I Need To Care for a Wooden Cutting Board?
There are a few supplies you’ll need to take care of your wooden cutting board. Here are some of the essentials:
- Mild Dish Soap: While any kind of dish soap will do the trick, we’d stick to gentle varieties that don’t contain any harsh ingredients.
- Baking Soda: For tough stains, dish soap won’t always do the job. Baking soda is an all-natural (and inexpensive) alternative that is great for removing tough stains.
- Sponge: We would try to avoid anything that’s too abrasive, such as an aluminum sponge.
- Microfiber Towel: Although paper towels will do the trick just as well, we recommend investing in a microfiber towel that you can reuse for a long time.
- Metal Bench Scraper: You may find that your cutting board ends up with bits of food stuck to it. In this case, we’d use a bench scraper to get it off before washing the cutting board with soap and water.
- Cutting Board Oil: For replenishing your wooden cutting board’s moisture, we recommend grabbing a high-quality cutting board oil.
- Cutting Board Wax: Although wax isn’t necessary, it will go a long way in locking in moisture and giving your cutting board a beautiful, glossy finish.
8 Steps to Caring for a Wooden Cutting Board
Now that you have everything you need to get the job done, let’s dive right into how you can care for your cutting board. Here are eight steps to follow.
1. Clean It Right After Use
We get the temptation to leave the cleaning for another day. But unlike regular dishes, a cutting board can develop stains from certain foods if they’re left on it for too long. Plus, it will take a lot more work to get out stubborn food residue. For this reason, we’d clean the cutting board immediately after use.
2. Hand Wash It
We completely understand throwing your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher is very tempting. However, it’s the number one thing to avoid when caring for your wooden cutting board. This is because exposing your cutting board to lots of water and heat can cause it to warp.
Instead, gently hand-wash your cutting board with lots of soap (but not too much water). In addition, try to avoid scrubbing it with any abrasive sponges. For tough stains, sprinkle some baking soda on the cutting board and scrub it as you normally would.
And even if only one side of your cutting board needs to be cleaned, it’s important to wash both sides. This is because—just as with excessive water exposure—uneven drying can cause the wooden cutting board to warp.
3. Use Minimal Water
As we mentioned, wooden cutting boards have a tendency to warp if exposed to too much water. For this reason, we would avoid soaking it—even if it has stubborn stains. Instead, try to use more soap and a bit more scrubbing.
In addition, try to avoid washing your cutting board if it’s not dirty. If, for instance, you used your cutting board to cut a slice of bread, then all you need to do is to dust it off—no water required.
4. Disinfect Rarely
Wood has natural antimicrobial properties, which means that it pulls bacteria away from the surface where they can cross-contaminate your food. For this reason, disinfecting it isn’t really necessary.
In addition, traditional disinfectants such as bleach can’t be too harsh for wood and cause it to dry out faster than it otherwise would. For this reason, we’d disinfect rarely or avoid it altogether.
5. Pat It Down
Once your cutting board has been washed, it’s always a good idea to pat it down with a microfiber towel and get rid of that excess moisture. Just make sure to dry off both sides of the cutting board!
6. Dry It in a Well-Ventilated Area
Another good rule of thumb is to never lay your wooden cutting board face-down after it’s been washed. You don’t want excess moisture to build up on one side, as that can be damaging to the wood. Instead, try drying it upright in a well-ventilated area with low humidity.
7. Condition It
Wood loses some of its moisture after it’s been washed, which is why we recommend conditioning it regularly. As a bonus, conditioning your cutting board will go a long way in preventing it from absorbing odors.
We recommend conditioning your wooden cutting board at least once every month. This is quite simple to do. Once your board has dried, apply a generous amount of cutting board oil and rub it in using a paper towel.
Let it absorb for a few hours by standing it upright in a well-ventilated area. After a few hours, wipe off any excess residue, and feel free to start using your cutting board again!
8. Wax It
Waxing your wooden cutting board isn’t necessary but definitely preferable. Wax can seal in moisture, prevent staining, and give your cutting board a glossy appearance. And it’s easy to apply: After your cutting board has been conditioned, simply rub some food-grade wax onto both sides and let it dry.
How To Fix Common Problems
You may be doing everything right when caring for your wooden cutting board but problems may still pop up. Thankfully, they should be fairly easy to fix. Here are three of the most common cutting board problems and our best solutions.
As much as we love the aroma of garlic and onions in our food, it’s about the last thing we want to smell on our cutting boards. While washing your cutting board right after use is the best way to prevent this, sometimes all the precautions you take don’t work out. In this case, you will need to deodorize your cutting board.
While there are plenty of products for deodorizing your cutting board, we like to stick to all-natural products such as salt and lemon juice. Unlike many deodorizers, these tend to be more gentle on the wood.
To get rid of pesky odors, cover your cutting board with salt and lemon juice and rub in the mixture. Let it sit for twenty minutes and rinse it off following the steps outlined above. After your cutting board dries, it should smell as fresh as the day you got it!
It’s completely normal for your wooden cutting board to develop scratches due to knife action. Fortunately, wood is naturally self-healing, which means that those pesky scratches can close in on their own.
However, it’s also possible for your wooden cutting board to develop deep scratches that remain. In this case, you would need to smooth out the surface by sanding it down.
To do this, get yourself some sandpaper of varying grit (both coarse and fine grit should be used). Fit the sandpaper around a sanding block so that it’s easier for you to work with. Next, starting with the coarse sandpaper, sand the surface of your cutting board.
When you’re done, wipe off the dust and make sure that the surface of the board looks even. If it doesn’t, you can keep sanding it down until it’s smooth. After you’re done, all you have to do is clean it and condition it, and your cutting board should be good as new.
Warping or Cracking
If you want to repair a warped board, it’s best to take it to a professional. At a woodshop, your cutting board will be reassembled to remove the damaged parts. Of course, since a part of the cutting board is being removed, it can become smaller either in length or thickness.
For this reason, it’s best to try your hardest to prevent warping in the first place. And if the inevitable does occur, then we’d rather invest in a brand-new cutting board (and take really good care of it). To decrease its chances of warping next time, we’d go for a cutting board that’s fairly thick.
Take Care of Your Cutting Board
If you take care of it, your wooden cutting board will last you ages. For this reason, it’s important to wash it gently, dry it completely, and apply cutting board oil every month. We promise it will pay off in the end!