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Bamboo and wooden cutting boards are popular with knife owners because they are knife-friendly and are made from natural products. Any surface used in the kitchen for food preparation must be kept scrupulously clean. What are the best methods to clean wood and bamboo cutting boards and keep them germ-free?
These 4 methods are proven to clean and protect wood and bamboo cutting boards, preventing bacteria from contaminating food.
- Use lemon and salt to clean the board.
- Seal the board with mineral oil.
- Clean with vinegar and water.
- Use hydrogen peroxide to clean the cutting board.
Wood and bamboo make for great cutting boards to preserve the integrity of the edge of your knives used on the board. The organic nature of these materials makes it important to clean and sanitize the cutting boards the right way to keep them pathogen-free and safe to use in your kitchen for food preparation.
If you are interested in checking out the best mineral oil for cleaning cutting boards, we recommend buying knives made by the Thirteen Chefs company. You can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
How Do You Properly Clean A Wooden (Bamboo) Cutting Board?
Bamboo and wood are favored as materials for cutting boards in the kitchen because they have some give in their structure, allowing for a certain amount of flex in the fibers. This flex in the fibrous structure of wood and bamboo makes them more suitable for use as a cutting board than harder materials such as glass or stone.
Bamboo and wood are easier on knives because of the flex in the organic material. Knives will stay sharper for longer when used on these types of cutting boards. While the fibrous nature of wood and bamboo is good for knives, it also makes it important to clean these cutting boards thoroughly.
Wood and bamboo are similar in their characteristics, but bamboo is more porous than wood because it is grass rather than wood, which is denser. The porous nature of bamboo cutting boards makes them a little more difficult to clean, but they are stronger than wood cutting boards.
The pores and fibers in wooden and bamboo cutting boards allow space for food particles and bacteria to become embedded in the material’s structure. Since these materials are similar, the same methods can be used to keep them clean.
Keeping these cutting boards clean and food-safe requires cleaning them correctly. Washing these cutting boards is important, but they also need an occasional deep clean with treatments to sanitize them and kill any bacteria that may be lingering in the cutting board structure.
Cutting boards made from wood or bamboo should be washed after every use by gently scrubbing the cutting board with a kitchen sponge and hot, soapy water. Always wash both sides of the board, even if you only used one side. This prevents uneven drying of the material, which could cause the board to warp.
This type of washing gives a general all-purpose wash to clean your cutting board, but occasionally you need to give the board a deep clean, especially after you have used the board to cut or chop ingredients that promote bacterial growth, such as meat.
1. Cleaning A Wooden Cutting Board With Lemon And Salt
One method to give your wooden or bamboo cutting board a deep clean is to use lemon and salt. These ingredients are often commonly available in most kitchens, making it an easy go-to method for cleaning your cutting boards.
The lemon juice is acidic, which is known to break down fats and grease. This exposes all the bacteria to the acid in the lemon juice, effectively killing them since they dislike acidic environments. You can use fresh lemon or bottled lemon juice; both perform equally well.
The advantage of using a lemon rather than the juice is that the lemon itself can be used as a scrubber. If you use bottled lemon juice, you will need a sponge or a brush to scrub the board.
The salt has two purposes in the cleaning operation; it acts as a light abrasive, and the salinity also kills certain bacteria. The best salt to use is a coarse ground salt, which has larger granules that provide more abrasion.
Cleaning a wood or bamboo cutting board with lemon and salt has the added advantage of removing strong odors such as garlic and onion from the cutting board.
Give the cutting board a rinse with clean water to get the worst of the grime off the surface. Sprinkle the salt on the surface of the board.
If using a lemon, cut the lemon in half and use the cut side to scrub the board in small circles following the wood grain. If using lemon juice, use a sponge to scrub the board in the same way described for the lemon.
Give both sides of the cutting board the same treatment, and then let the board wit with the salt and lemon juice on the surface for at least 5 minutes.
After the 5 minutes have elapsed, rinse the salt and lemon juice off the board, wash the cutting board using a little dish soap and a sponge, and dry the board.
TIP: Should you be considering getting your knives sharpened professionally rather than learning how to do it yourself? Find out the answer in the article below:
Get Your Knives Sharpened Professionally: Why, Costs & How Often
2. Cleaning A Wooden Cutting Board With Mineral Oil
Mineral oil is not a cleaning agent and should not be used to clean a used or soiled cutting board. Mineral oil can be used as a treatment for wooden or bamboo cutting boards, but not to clean the boards.
Cleaning the boards using one of the other methods we have discussed is preferred before treating the cutting board with mineral oil.
Mineral oil should only be applied to a clean cutting board. Food-grade mineral oil is a mineral oil that has undergone additional processes to make it suitable for use products used in the kitchen.
Applying mineral oil to the cutting board is more to maintain the board material and prevent it from cracking, absorbing moisture, and preventing juices and germs from penetrating deep into the surface.
To treat your cutting board with food-grade mineral oil, make sure the board is clean and dry. Use a kitchen paper towel to wipe mineral oil over the entire surface of the cutting board. Let the cutting board sit for about 10 minutes to give the oil a chance to penetrate, and then give the board a second coat.
Let the board stand for several hours, or overnight, with the second coating of mineral oil on the board. Then, wipe the board off and buff it with a piece of paper towel or a clean, soft cloth. At this stage, the board would benefit from a light coating of food-grade beeswax to seal the mineral oil in the board.
TIP: If you are interested in checking out the best mineral oil for cleaning cutting boards, we recommend buying knives made by the Thirteen Chefs company. You can find them by clicking here (Amazon link).
3. Cleaning A Wooden Cutting Board With Vinegar
Vinegar is another common kitchen ingredient that is useful for cleaning, disinfecting, and deodorizing your wood or bamboo cutting boards.
The acidic properties of vinegar will kill mold and bacteria in the wood pores and fibers and remove strong odors from the material.
A spray bottle is useful for applying vinegar to the cutting board. Mix four parts water with 1 part vinegar, and keep the spray bottle on hand for when you need to disinfect your cutting board.
It is best to wash the cutting board to get rid of the surface dirt before treating the board with vinegar.
Spray the vinegar solution over the entire board and wipe the board with a kitchen sponge or a cloth to ensure the entire board is covered with the mixture. Rinse the vinegar solution thoroughly off the board, wipe the board down with a clean cloth, and allow the board to air dry.
While treating your cutting board with mineral oil does not clean the board, it seals the upper surface of the material to prevent liquids and bacteria from penetrating deep into the fibers and pores. This makes cleaning your cutting board easier and keeps it sanitary for use in your kitchen.
4. Cleaning A Wooden Cutting Board With Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is a well-known disinfectant that is safe to use as a germ killer in the kitchen. The main problem is that most kitchens do not commonly use hydrogen peroxide. However, you can pick some up from your local pharmacy the next time you go shopping and keep a bottle in your kitchen to clean your cutting board.
The best way to apply the hydrogen peroxide to the cutting board is to lay the board on a flat surface and pour a little hydrogen peroxide onto the middle of the board. Use a clean kitchen sponge to spread the solution over the entire upper surface of the board.
Let the board stand for 2 to 3 minutes, and watch as the hydrogen peroxide begins to bubble and fizz as it disinfects the cutting board. Wipe the board down, turn it over, and apply the hydrogen peroxide in the same way.
After both sides of the cutting board have been treated, rinse the board in clean water and dry the board thoroughly.
TIP: It goes without saying that you need to take care of your knives regularly. Especially when it comes to expensive knives. Find out how to care about Japanese knives in the article below:
How To Care For Japanese Knives: The Complete Guide
How To Sanitize Wooden Cutting Board
Cutting boards used for cutting meat and poultry need particular attention to sanitize the board to prevent dangerous pathogens from multiplying in the wood grain and pores.
Improperly cleaned meat cutting boards can contaminate your food the next time you use them and cause food poisoning or salmonella contamination, which can be dangerous.
One of the best methods to sanitize your meat cutting board is to use a dilute bleach solution to kill all the germs.
The best bleach to use is unscented, pure chlorine bleach with no other additives. Mix one tablespoon of chlorine bleach into 1 gallon or 4.5 liters of water. Make sure to mix the solution well to ensure an even distribution of the bleach throughout the solution.
Wash the cutting board in this solution, gently scrubbing the surface with a kitchen sponge. Ensure all cutting board surfaces are immersed in the solution to get complete coverage and eradicate the germs. This includes washing the handle of the cutting board if your board has a handle.
After washing with the bleach solution, rinse the board well in warm water or wash it again in clean, unbleached water with a little dishwashing soap. Dry the board thoroughly after washing.
TIP: Whetstones are one of the most efficient and accurate methods of maintaining your knives. Whetstones themselves require care and maintenance, too. Find out more in the article below:
14 Care Tips For Better & Longer Endurance Of Your Whetstone
How To Care For Wooden (Bamboo) Cutting Board: PRO Tips
There are several tips to care for and maintain your bamboo or wooden cutting board that will extend their lifespan and keep them clean and protected.
Follow our pro tips to maintain your cutting board, and you will minimize the risk of damage to the board and food contamination.
- Do not soak the cutting board. Never let your wood or bamboo cutting board coak in water, especially dirty kitchen sink water. The water penetrates deep into the fibers, causing them to expand and allowing more germs and bacteria to penetrate deep into the wood. Frequent soaking and drying cycles can also cause the cutting board to warp and crack.
- Wash both sides to prevent warping. Always wash both sides of the cutting board to prevent uneven drying, which can cause the board to warp.
- Do not wash bamboo or wood cutting boards in the dishwasher. The dishwasher’s high heat and high pressure can cause the cutting board to crack and warp, and the expanded fibers and pores of the heated material will allow more bacteria to penetrate. The heat and high water pressure also strip out any protective oils and treatments, such as mineral oil, in the wood.
- Use separate cutting boards for meat and vegetables. Use one cutting board exclusively for meat and poultry and another for cutting and chopping vegetables. This strategy adds another layer to prevent cross-contamination of foods in the kitchen.
- Do not use olive oil or other vegetable oils on your cutting board. Vegetable oils do not provide the same protection for wood and bamboo as mineral oils. These oils will penetrate the wood and become rancid and tacky over time, making the wood smelly and allowing it to harbor more bacteria.
- Oil your bamboo or wood cutting board once a month. Treating your cutting board once a month with food-grade mineral oil will help to protect your cutting board by sealing the surface layers to prevent moisture and bacteria from penetrating the material. Your cutting board will last longer if you regularly apply the oil.
- Choose the right wood for a cutting board. Choosing the right wood species for your cutting board will help liquid and bacteria penetration and increase the board’s lifespan. Tight-grained wood, such as cherry, maple, or walnut, keeps out moisture and potential contaminants much better than loose or open-grained wood, like oak or ash.
BTW: If you are interested in buying the best cutting board, you can find our recommendations below:
- The best overall: Virginia Kitchen Boys Cutting Board (Amazon link). This fantastic cutting board is made from sustainable walnut wood from the United States and brings almost perfect safety when cutting with your knives.
- Alternative: Yoshihiro Cutting Board (Amazon link). Professional traditional Japanese cutting board that chefs around the world use.
- Cheaper option: Shun Cultery Cutting Board (Amazon link). Another Japanese cutting board stands out, especially for its simplicity and affordable price.
The Importance Of Cleaning Wooden Cutting Boards
Proper maintenance and cleaning of wooden and bamboo cutting boards are crucial for several reasons, primarily concerning hygiene and longevity of the boards.
These natural materials are preferred in many kitchens for their knife-friendliness and aesthetic appeal, but they require regular care to properly maintain their quality and safety.
Potential Hazards of Poor Maintenance
Bacterial Contamination: Wood and bamboo cutting boards are porous, meaning they can absorb liquids and harbor bacteria.
If not cleaned properly, these boards can become breeding grounds for harmful microorganisms like E. coli and Salmonella, especially after cutting raw meat, poultry, or fish.
Cross-Contamination: Using poorly maintained cutting boards can lead to cross-contamination. This occurs when bacteria from inadequately cleaned boards transfer to other foods, potentially causing foodborne illnesses.
Mold Growth: Moisture retention in wooden and bamboo boards can also lead to mold growth, which is not only unhygienic but can also cause allergic reactions or respiratory problems in sensitive individuals.
Reduced Lifespan and Efficiency: Without regular maintenance, these cutting boards can crack, warp, or lose their smooth surface, rendering them less effective and shortening their lifespan.
The Importance of Proper Cleaning and Maintenance
Ensuring that your wooden and bamboo cutting boards are well-maintained is not just a matter of hygiene; it’s an essential practice for anyone who values kitchen safety and wants to extend the life of their kitchen tools.
Regular cleaning prevents the buildup of dangerous bacteria and food residue, while proper maintenance ensures the boards remain flat, stable, and free of splinters or cracks.
Best Methods for Maintaining and Cleaning Wooden and Bamboo Cutting Boards
Regular Washing: After each use, wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water, scrubbing gently to remove any food particles. Rinse thoroughly and dry upright to prevent warping.
Deep Cleaning with Lemon and Salt: For a deeper clean, especially after cutting strong-smelling or color-rich foods, use lemon and salt. The high acidity of some fruits, such as lemon, helps to break down residues and neutralize odors, while salt is a gentle abrasive to scrub away stubborn particles.
Disinfection with Vinegar: To disinfect the board, use a solution ratio of 1 part vinegar and four parts water. This natural disinfectant will help eliminate bacteria and mold without damaging the wood.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Sanitization: For an extra level of sanitization, especially after cutting raw meat, hydrogen peroxide is effective in killing bacteria.
Oiling with Food-Grade Mineral Oil: Regularly applying food-grade mineral oil helps to fill the pores of the wood or bamboo, creating a barrier against moisture and bacteria. This oiling also prevents the wood from drying out and cracking
Avoiding Harsh Chemicals and Dishwashers: Never clean your wooden or bamboo cutting boards with harsh chemicals or in the dishwasher, as this can damage the material and tarnish its natural oils.
Regular and proper maintenance of wooden and bamboo cutting boards is not just a good practice for kitchen hygiene, it’s a necessary step in ensuring food safety and prolonging the life of these essential kitchen tools.
By following these recommended cleaning and maintenance methods, you can keep your cutting boards in peak condition, making them safe and enjoyable to use for years to come.
Wooden and bamboo cutting boards provide a cutting and chopping surface that protects your knives and your kitchen countertops from damage.
Cleaning bamboo and wood cutting boards correctly is crucial to prevent bacteria and other potentially harmful pathogens from contaminating your food. Regular protection with mineral oil and beeswax will extend the life of your organic material cutting board!
TIP: The choice of cutting board material is key, especially if you have expensive kitchen knives or knives with specific cutting board requirements. Check out the best cutting boards in the article below:
3 Best Cutting Boards For Your Knives (Materials Compared)