How To Maintain and Sanitize Wood Cutting Boards
30 July 04


Caution must be taken when using any type of cutting board.  Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

Whichever kind of cutting board you use, all they should be cleaned and sanitized frequently. Some of the various techniques recommended for cutting boards are as follows (you decide which is best):

Hot water and soap – Scrub board with hot water and soap.  Rinse and dry thoroughly.  NOTE: NEVER submerge cutting boards in a sink of water!  Wood is porous and will soak up water causing the cutting board to crack when it dries.

Vinegar – To disinfect and clean your wood cutting boards or butcher block countertop, wipe them with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against such harmful bugs as E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.  Vinegar is especially good for people with chemical allergies.  Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing.

Hydrogen Peroxide – 3% hydrogen peroxide can also be used as a bacteria-killer.  To kill the germs on your cutting board, use a paper towel to wipe the board down with vinegar, then use another paper towel to wipe it with hydrogen peroxide.

Bleach – Sanitize both wood and plastic cutting boards with a diluted chlorine bleach or vinegar solution consisting of one teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach in one quart of water or a one to five dilution of vinegar.  Flood the surface with a sanitizing solution and allow it to stand for several minutes, then rinse and air dry or pat dry with paper towels.


To eliminate garlic, onion, fish, or other smells from your cutting board:

Coarse salt or baking soda – Rub the board with course salt or baking soda.  Let stand a few minutes and wipe salt or baking soda from board, and then rinse.  You may need to re-season after rinsing your chopping block.

Lemon – Another very easy technique is to rub fresh lemon juice or rub a cut lemon over the surface of the cutting board to neutralize onion and garlic odors.  You may need to re-season after rinsing your chopping block.

Vinegar – Keep a spray bottle of undiluted vinegar handy for easy cleaning and sanitizing.  You may need to re-season after rinsing your chopping block.


Use a good steel scraper or spatula often when using the board. Scraping removes 75% of the moisture that builds up on a wooden cutting board.  An occasional sanding will return a wooden board to a smooth luster.  But never scrub a wooden board with a steel brush (a steel brush will ruff up the finish and should be avoided).

Re-Seasoning:  Wooden boards need oiling or re-seasoning once a week to seal the grain against bacteria.  An oil finish helps to prevent the wood from cracking or pulling apart at the seams.  See Seasoning Cutting Board above.

Before applying oil to butcher block, warm the oil slightly.  Apply oil with a soft cloth, in the direction of the grain, allowing the oil to soak in.  Allow oil to soak in a few minutes, then remove all surface oil with a dry, clean cloth.  When applied, mineral oil seals the pores of the wood blocking the penetration of moisture.

Sanding: When refinishing a butcher block, you may wish to sand the surface of the wood to remove old stains, scratches and marks. When sanding out kicks and scratches, remember that if you don’t sand the top evenly you will end up with “hills” and “valleys” in the top.

All cutting boards, and other food surfaces, should be kept dry when not in use.  Resident bacteria survive no more than a few hours without moisture. Keep moisture of any type from standing on the block for long periods of time.  Beware of moisture collecting beneath the board if you leave it on the counter.  If you can, prop one end up when not using your board.