How to Care for a Wooden Cutting Board

September 10, 2013

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

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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

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Emily W. June 1, 2018
Ironwood has amazing products to chose from like wooden boards, paddles, and more.
Ellie July 14, 2016
Yes! Natural detergents are always the best choice!
Picholine January 6, 2016
Ok, then I will get mineral oil.Thank you.
Picholine January 6, 2016
Can I use coconut oil?
Thibeault's T. January 6, 2016
Picholine, I wouldn't. We use mineral oil and our own mineral oil and beeswax finish on all of our Table Art Boards. Coconut oil apparently is slow to go rancid compared to some other vegetable oils, but it will eventually go rancid.
ariel A. December 14, 2015
Is just rinsing it with water for everyday cleaning sanitary enough?
Kathi P. October 1, 2015
Isn't mineral oil an odd choice? Isn't it a petroleum product?
Ashley M. August 11, 2015
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!
Michelle B. July 2, 2015 Yes, I actually make this stuff and my boards and tools seem to love it. My hands don't complain much either. Enjoy.
Thibeault's T. July 2, 2015
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
Susan L. July 2, 2015
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.
Paige B. July 2, 2015
THANK YOU for the cutting board cleaning tricks! Perfecto!
Thibeault's T. July 2, 2015
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.
Ioane F. July 2, 2015
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??
Edie July 2, 2015
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.
Laura415 January 15, 2016
I don't usually need to cut raw chicken on my wooden cutting boards but I would have no problem doing this if the cleaning procedures above are used right after doing so. Wood has antibacterial properties and when it is cut it is self healing. After working with meat I simply rinse, wash with soap and hot water. Then I clean with salt and acid. Rinse and let dry in the sun. Even this is over kill but I do it just to be sure. Plastic boards on the other hand are not self healing or antibacterial so if you cut raw meat the juices can get into those cuts and will not necessarily be washed out even in the dishwasher. Wood in my opinion is as safe or safer for raw meats. PS Vegetables also harbor bacteria like e-coli so clean all cutting boards after using for food preparation.
EL February 16, 2016
As a microbiologist, I use wood or bamboo boards. That wooden cutting boards are more sanitary than plastic is a well kept secret for some reason (Google wood cutting boards kill bacteria California -- because CA is where the original work was done). You can look here:

I've completely switched to wood/bamboo. If I ever get to design a lab course, I'm going to include the cutting board experiment in it.

I think David Leibowitz has an oil that he uses rather than mineral oil that is available in this country. I just use a very light olive oil on my bamboo board and haven't had any problems, even on the "sweet" side of the board.
Joan May 31, 2015
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.
A.ndrea January 21, 2015
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.
zeldie July 25, 2014
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?
Judi January 6, 2014
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.)
Patty C. December 1, 2013
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.
msmely September 17, 2013
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.
Tessa F. September 12, 2013
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.
lovehandles September 11, 2013
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?
Jason December 26, 2013
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