How To Oil and Maintain Wood Cutting Boards in 5 Minutes a Month

Cleaning Lessons from The Kitchn

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My wooden cutting boards are one of my most used and beloved kitchen tools. In fact, while a good chef's knife is often the sexier choice for most favorite kitchen implement, the truth is a good knife is nothing without a good board to use it on. In my household, the choice of material is wood for its ease and beauty.

Read on for some simple advice on caring for your wooden cutting boards. Do this regularly and they'll never warp or crack.

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Wood or Plastic? A Personal Choice

I use wooden cutting boards for most of my kitchen prep, which is often very fruit and vegetable-centric. I appreciate wood because it's the best choice for maintaining a knife edge and I like the way it looks. I find most plastic boards quite ugly, especially over time as they stain and get roughed up. Eventually plastic boards need to be tossed in the garbage bin, whereas I've had some of my wooden cutting boards for over 10 years. They only get more beautiful with time, especially if well cared for and I often serve food right on my cutting board for a homey, rustic look.

They do take some maintenance, but I don't mind. In fact, I enjoy the opportunity to tend to and take care of my kitchen tools. I use a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax on my boards (more on that later) and I love the scent of honey that rises up as I rub it in.

What About Healthy Safety?

There have been many tests on whether plastic cutting boards are safer from contamination than wood. Most tests prove that wood can actually be safer. Here is a study from UC-Davis on the comparison of bacterial contamination on wood and plastic cutting boards.

How To Maintain, and How Often

Wooden cutting boards need to be kept clean and daily maintenance is often a good scrub with hot soapy water after using. Do not soak your boards in water or they'll warp! Some people use a very weak bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide to clean their boards after they've been used for cutting raw meat as a precaution against bacterial contamination.

Depending on how often you use your boards, you should also give them an oiling to help maintain their surface and keep them from drying out. In my household, this happens about once a month but I know some people who do it once or twice a year and others on a weekly basis.

This is my homemade 'spoon oil' which consists of mineral oil and beeswax. I use it on all of my wooden kitchen utensils, but especially my cutting boards.
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The oil should be food grade and not prone to rancidity. Mineral oil is an inexpensive and popular choice. I like to use a homemade mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, such as this one. There are also brand-name cutting board treatments and oils available for purchase. I have not tried them because frankly, they can be quite expensive.

Before you start, be sure your boards are very clean. I like to give them a scrub with lemon and salt, as shown in this method. The boards should also be dry before oiling, so be sure to build that into your timing. The oil should be left to soak in as long as possible, too. I try to apply the oil in the evening before bed and then just give them a quick wipe the next morning to take off any excess oil.

How To Oil and Maintain a Wooden Cutting Board

What You Need

Wooden cutting board
Clean, soft cloth or paper towel
Mineral oil or other food-grade oil or favorite mixture

Instructions

  1. Start with a clean board. Be sure your cutting board is as clean as possible and thoroughly dry.
  2. Apply the oil. Using a clean, soft cloth or paper towel, apply the oil in an even layer over the wood.
  3. Let it soak in. Leave the oil to soak in, overnight if possible, or for at least a few hours.
  4. Remove the excess. If the board feels oily or sticky, buff off any remaining oil with a clean dry cloth or paper towel. Enjoy your beautiful wooden boards!

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(Images: Dana Velden)

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