Can a Lemon and Baking Soda Really Bring an Old Cutting Board Back from the Dead? I Asked a Pro.

published Mar 17, 2023
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Someone cutting lemons on cutting board.
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

I’ve had the same wood cutting board for several years and, if I’m being honest, it’s seen better days. It doesn’t exactly stink or look gross — I’m pretty diligent about cleaning and sanitizing it to prevent cross-contamination — but it does look a little dingy, due to repeated use. It’s probably time for me to get an entirely new board, but until I run to the store, I was curious if a viral TikTok hack that uses lemons and baking soda to refresh a wood cutting board could tide me over. 

@hollicleans 🍋My mom taught me to clean the cutting board this way and honestly—nothing compares🍋 #FomotionalFinds #cleaningtiktok #cleantok #asmrsounds #asmr #fyp #cleaningasmr ♬ Love You So – The King Khan & BBQ Show

I happened to have both items on hand, so I grabbed them and followed the video as precisely as I could. First, I got my (clean) wood cutting board wet in the sink and generously sprinkled baking soda on the entire surface. Then, I squeezed lemon halves over the baking soda until it started bubbling, and used the lemons to scrub the baking soda into the wood for a minute or two. To finish, I gave the cutting board a good rinse and dried it with a towel. 

My observations: Wow! The board honestly looked a lot cleaner than when I started. Some of the visible marks and stains were gone after I scrubbed with the lemon. Also, the board smelled super fresh. There’s no mistaking an old cutting board for a new one, and I was definitely surprised by the results. 

I wanted to understand what the pantry ingredients were actually doing, and in what context I should be pulling out the lemon and baking soda. According to Jessica Ek of The American Cleaning Institute, lemon can be useful in breaking down stains that soap alone won’t remove (Ek recommends using a little salt as an abrasive for scrubbing). Baking soda, she says, can be helpful for absorbing odors, but keep in mind some cutting board manufacturers advise against it, as it can discolor wood. 

That said, lemon juice and baking soda won’t disinfect, so while this method is a nice spa treatment for your board, don’t use it to kill germs. Instead, Ek recommends washing your cutting board with hot, soapy water after each use, then rinsing with clear water and pat-drying with clean paper towels. 

If the cutting board was used for uncooked meat, fish, or poultry, sanitize it after cleaning with one tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. “Flood the surface with the bleach solution and allow it to stand for several minutes,” Ek says. To finish, rinse with water and air- or pat-dry with clean paper towels.