How to Maintain a Clean Cutting Board

By: Echo Surina  | 

Your cutting board comes in contact with raw meat, dough and fresh produce on an almost daily basis.
Your cutting board comes in contact with raw meat, dough and fresh produce on an almost daily basis.
Jupiterimages/Thinkstock

Your cutting board requires a little light maintenance to stay germ-free and in good working order. This part of your cooking area shouldn't be too difficult to clean -- besides getting contaminated, there's not much else that can go wrong with a cutting board. After all, cutting boards have a simple design and are constructed from minimal materials. The thickness varies from one cutting board to the next, but all types are basically a slab of wood or plastic. Put in a tiny bit of effort for this frequently used kitchen contraption, and it should last you a long time!

Cutting board care comes down to three simple steps: clean, sanitize and dry. You don't necessarily need to do all three things each time you use your chopping block. It all depends on what foods you're handling. (We'll come back to that a little later in the article.) Whether your work board is made of plastic or wood, you just need to follow a few easy guidelines to minimize bacteria levels and keep the food you're preparing safe to eat.

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Good cutting board care means more than a quick wash and rinse once in awhile. But you don't have to pull out a caddy of cleaning agents to care for it, either. Go to the next page to learn what exactly you can do to make sure your kitchen work surface is hygienic and safe to use.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Wooden cutting boards require unique care.
Wooden cutting boards require unique care.
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The care guidelines for a wooden cutting board are unique to this type of material. Here's what you need to know.

First, clean your cutting board by hand with hot water and soap. To lower your risk of foodborne illnesses, it's important to sanitize this work surface next.

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Sanitizing is more than cleaning; it's the process of decreasing how many microorganisms exist on a properly cleaned surface to a safe level. Sanitizing manually is simple. Just mix up a batch of diluted liquid chlorine bleach solution (one tablespoon of unscented bleach per one gallon of water). Apply the solution using a spray bottle or wiping it on the cutting board with a clean cloth. Let the cutting board sit with the solution on it for a few minutes, then rinse and dry.

White vinegar works as a sanitizer, too. Follow the same steps as above, but instead of covering the cutting board with bleach, apply white vinegar or a vinegar solution (one part vinegar to five parts water). For an extra step of precaution, wipe or spray on 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to the cutting board after you've rinsed off all the vinegar. Leave it on for about 10 minutes, then rinse and dry.

If you want to use a dishwasher to sanitize this kitchen tool, continue reading to find out how to use this machine correctly to avoid damaging your cutting board.

Is the Dishwasher OK for Cutting Boards?

Not all cutting boards can withstand the hot and sometimes rough cycles of a dishwasher.
Not all cutting boards can withstand the hot and sometimes rough cycles of a dishwasher.
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Dishwashers do a fantastic job cleaning and sanitizing plastic cutting boards. Some dishwashers even have an antibacterial cycle. If your machine doesn't offer this setting, ensure it washes on a hot setting with water that's at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit so your cutting board gets properly sanitized.

It's a good idea to avoid exposing ultra-thin plastic cutting boards to the dishwasher. Featherweight plastic boards that are only millimeters thick are particularly susceptible to melting on the lower rack, where it gets hottest. If you're concerned about your cutting board melting in the dishwasher, clean and sanitize it by hand.

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One of the reasons a dishwasher is so effective at cleaning cutting boards is because of its drying feature that follows the washing cycle. Cutting boards should be completely dry before they're stored. Bacteria typically can't survive more than a few hours without moisture, so make sure this food preparation surface stays dry when you're not using it.

If your dishwasher doesn't get its contents bone-dry, try this easy trick. Remove your cutting board from the dishwasher and stand it diagonally against something to help it air out, rather than laying it flat on a towel. Store your cutting board vertically to minimize moisture or grime from getting trapped underneath.

As for wooden cutting board washing care, absolutely do not run yours through the dishwasher! Wood can get damaged easily when put in a dishwasher.

If you've ever wondered if you should do anything different to clean a cutting board that you've used for prepping meat, your suspicions are correct! Click forward to find out what you need to know.

How to Clean Cutting Boards Used for Meat

After prepping meat on your cutting board, you've got to sanitize it.
After prepping meat on your cutting board, you've got to sanitize it.
Carlos Spottonro/Getty Images

Salmonella, E. coli and other bacteria can be found on poorly cleaned cutting boards that have served as prep areas for raw meat. To minimize your family's risk of exposure to these kinds of contaminants, consider using two cutting boards in your household -- one for fruits and vegetables and another for meat.

A chopping block that comes into contact with only veggies and fruit doesn't need to be sanitized after every use. However, you should sanitize it each time you work with animal proteins of any kind, including fish, poultry and beef.

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Wooden cutting boards should be oiled weekly to seal the grain against bacteria. Mineral oil works great for this. Some other kinds of oil will do the job, but never use vegetable or cooking oil to season a wooden cutting board; these types spoil the wood and will produce a rancid smell. Remember to replace boards that are severely scratched or grooved from wear: It's too easy for bacteria to get caught in the cracks.

If you've been working with particularly pungent foods like garlic, onions or fish, eliminate their odors trapped in the cutting board by wiping a fresh lemon wedge on the surface area after you've cleaned and disinfected it.

Mini chunks of meat can fall off of the cutting block, and raw meat juices can splatter, leaving no visible trace. Even if you always use a disinfected cutting board, it's a good habit to wipe down the counter under and around the cooking area with hot, soapy water after you're done. All-purpose cleaner that's suitable to your type of countertop works fine, too.

Originally Published: Dec 9, 2010

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