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How to Care for a Wooden Cutting Board

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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: The proper ways to clean and maintain your wooden cutting boards.

Cleaning cutting board from Food52

Cleaning and caring for wooden cutting boards -- like sweeping behind a dresser, or cleaning the gunk from the sink drain -- are tasks we prefer to not think about, to cringe as they pass through our realm of consciousness and then shove them far, far away.

But our wooden cutting boards -- our kitchen workhorses -- are important. They're valuable. And the cleaning and caring of them is, surprisingly, easy -- and can be accomplished with the things you probably have around in your pantry.

Are you ready to feel productive, responsible, and adult? Read on.


For any stained areas -- think residue from blackberries, beets, or even a bloody steak -- make a coarse paste of salt, water, and baking soda, and then scrub it on the area with a tea towel or brush.

Cleaning with salt from Food52

To get rid of any odors, you can spray the board with white vinegar. Don't worry about that vinegar smell -- it will evaporate.

Cleaning with vinegar from Food52

Everyday Cleaning

Rinse your wooden board under hot water, taking care to not let it soak; soaking will make it split and warp. Wipe it dry with a tea towel, and let it air-dry.


You're going to need kosher salt, half of a lemon, some mineral oil, and two tea towels.

Start by sprinkling your entire board with the salt (don't be shy about it!). Then, working from one corner, rub the entire board with the cut side of a lemon. Watch in wonder as the board gets cleaner with every swipe.

Cleaning with salt from Food52 Cleaning with salt and lemon from Food52

Cleaning from Food52 Cleaning from Food52

Once you're done canvassing the board, wipe off any excess salt with a tea towel. Then, squeeze mineral oil all over the board, and rub it into the wood with the grain.

Cleaning from Food52 

Let the board stand with its oily slick for at least ten minutes, then wipe off any excess oil. Ta da!

Clean cutting board from Food52

How do you care for your cutting boards? Let us know in the comments!

Photos by James Ransom

Tags: cleaning, maintenance, cutting board, how-to & diy

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Comments (26)


22 days ago Ashley Morris

I learned to do this years ago when I worked in a community kitchen that had a huge butcher block-topped prep table. The table was wiped down several times a day and always looked clean. But once a week we would do a special cleaning with salt and lemons and I was always impressed by how much cleaner it got the surface
Don't forget a regular mineral oil massage. Keeps boards from splitting and cracking. Easy way to remember is make it a first of the month chore!


2 months ago Michelle Beal Yes, I actually make this stuff and my boards and tools seem to love it. My hands don't complain much either. Enjoy.


2 months ago Thibeault's Table

Michelle, I make something similar for our boards using 1 oz of beeswax per 500g of mineral. When I want a thicker paste I increase the beeswax. I buy the beeswax from a local honey farm. The beeswax has a wonderful sweet smell, very much like honey. My customers often comment on how lovely the beeswax scent is. ~Ann


2 months ago Susan Langley

I inherited a stack of cutting boards, well-used but not well-cared for. I sanded them using coarse to fine sandpaper. Then I generously oiled them twice, then let them sit for a day before wiping them off. They look beautiful and I am taking good care of them.


2 months ago Paige

THANK YOU for the cutting board cleaning tricks! Perfecto!


2 months ago Thibeault's Table

My husband and I make one piece (not laminated) live edge boards from Vancouver Island Big Leaf Maple. We recommend using mineral oil or a mineral oil beeswax finish to care for and maintain a wooden cutting board. Also we do not recommend an oil that hardens. Each time you cut the surface you break through the hard coating. That doesn't happen with mineral oil. And a board can always be sanded to remove surface cuts and bring the surface back to its original state.


2 months ago Ioane Fetu

I hesitant to use wood because they are porous and the raw chicken can get in there and stay there. How do you avoid that??


2 months ago Edie

Don't use your wooden cutting board for raw proteins. Put a hard plastic board on top of your wooden board for raw proteins and then remove it and wash it with soap and water.


3 months ago Joan

Mineral oil comes in various grades. "Food" grade is prescribed as a lubricant and can be obtained at your pharmacy. Check out Mayo Clinic for US brands.


7 months ago A.ndrea

If you are looking for an alternative to mineral oil - wood butter is great. It's a mixture of beeswax and coconut oil. It is edible, safe, and it provides a great polished look to your wooden utensils and cutting boards.


about 1 year ago zeldie

I notice that the cutting board in the photos have 4 cracks. I was taught in cooking school (Peter Kump on 90 St many years ago) that cracks and breaks in cutting boards harbor bacteria/germs etc and should be discarded yet I see you are using one with many cracks. Has the thinking changed?


over 1 year ago Judi

I use food grade mineral oil on my cutting boards. The directions state to use a clean cloth and apply in the direction of the wood grain. Let it soak in for at least 20 minutes, and wipe off any excess. To "season" a new cutting surface, apply 3 to 4 coasts before using. You can purchase HOWARD CUTTING BOARD OIL from www or call them at 805-227-1000. (A made in the USA product.)


almost 2 years ago Patty Crafton

Would this cleaning method work on my rolling pin? It belonged to my mother so it is from the 1930-1940s. Thanks for any suggestions.


almost 2 years ago msmely

For those who want a natural oil that doesn't go rancid and isn't a product of petroleum, there's always linseed oil. It soaks into the pores of the wood and then dries to a solid, meaning it doesn't go rancid and it protects your board from drying out and cracking. It isn't 100% waterproof, though, so leaving standing water on the board is still not advisable and you'll want to have a fairly consistent level of humidity in your home if you live in an environment with wide swings in humidity seasonally, just like if you had wood floors.

Do not leave linseed-oil soaked rags in a pile once your project is done. When linseed oil cures it releases heat, and if large amounts cure in a small space the rags can actually get hot enough to exceed the flash point of linseed oil, so that the rags spontaneously combust. Clean rags with soap and water and lay them in a well-ventilated area to dry.


almost 2 years ago Tessa Farnsworth

I threw away my bamboo cutting board soon after buying it. I was about to clean it after the first time I used it when I noticed the cutting surface felt slightly strange in places. When I looked at it in strong light, I could see short, fine "whiskers" sticking up from the surface. I realised that bamboo, which is fibrous, probably sheds these little hairs wherever the knife blade draws over it. I didn't want the hairs getting into our food, so I went back to my well-loved hard wooden board.


almost 2 years ago lovehandles

I have a beautiful end grain board that now has a strong rancid oil smell. It's never been oiled with olive oil (to be honest I've been remiss about oiling it at all). Is the deep clean outlined above what I need? Or is my rancid smelling board a lost cause?


over 1 year ago Jason

If you don't really oil it at all then the rancid smell maybe because there wasn't anything to keep food juices from soaking in


almost 2 years ago paula

Bluelizzy, I avoid mineral oil because it is a byproduct or petroleum and many times is mixed in with other harsh toxic chemicals. Both olive oil and walnut oil have been used for centuries to finish wood. I have used them on all my cutting boards and wooden utensils without them ever going rancid. Walnut oil actually cures on wood and wont go rancid. If you use and wash your boards regularly olive oil shouldn't be a problem either. You can also mix a little melted natural wax with oil if you want more of a seal.


almost 2 years ago Panfusine

I agree with Paula, Natural cooking oils any day over mineral oil, Rancidity won't be an issue if the board is used daily, the oil probably is off the board before it can go bad.


almost 2 years ago Panfusine

I use up the used, squeezed up halves of the lemon for cleaning, it works well enough!


almost 2 years ago bluelizzy

You should never use olive or walnut oil on a cutting board. They can go rancid. Either use mineral oil or a product that is considered food safe for cutting boards.


10 months ago Jacqueline Madsen

Actually, you should use heat-treated walnut oil, available in woodworking stores. It hardens when air dried, and does not go rancid. Fine woodworkers use it as a finish on wooden objects used in the kitchen.


almost 2 years ago Metta Lash

How do you clean a bamboo board?


almost 2 years ago The Cooking of Joy

I had the same question, but a quick google brought me to this: http://www.seriouseats...


almost 2 years ago Pmudpies

I use a Butcher Block Conditioner that is food safe.


almost 2 years ago paula

you can also use a bit of walnut oil or olive oil... to avoid the toxic components that many brands of mineral oil have today.