A Sure Sign You Need to Throw Away Your Wooden Cutting Boards and Spoons

published Jun 12, 2019
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Credit: Marge Perry

No collection of kitchen utensils would be complete without wood spoons or a cutting board, but how do we know when it’s time to get rid of one?

Believe it or not, wood, particularly pine and oak, has natural antibacterial properties, so it can actually stop dangerous bacteria from growing and spreading on surfaces. This ensures that your wood boards and spoons are safe to use over a long period of time. (Way longer than plastic!)

However, when cracks start to appear — you might have a problem.

Why Wood Spoons and Cutting Boards Crack

Cracks can occur in wooden spoons and cutting boards for a number of reasons. Exposure to extreme temperatures (like a spin in the dishwasher) can cause your wooden utensils to dry out and split. While prolonged exposure to water and excess moisture can weaken the wood.

The problem is that that those tiny cracks, even the hairline-thin ones, can collect and harbor food particles and the kinds of bacteria that even the strongest woods can’t dispel. So when they start to appear, it’s usually time to take action.

Credit: Coco Morante

How to Fix a Crack in a Cutting Board

In most cases, a crack is a sign to toss or professionally fix your wood tools. In some instances, you can fix a fine hairline crack at home using food-safe wood glue and sandpaper. And if a cutting board crack is no more than a millimeter or two thick, you can always take it to a woodworker to get it professionally repaired.

When to Toss Your Wood Utensils

Unfortunately, even if you find a paper-thin hairline crack in the business end of your wooden spoon, because of all the food particles and bacteria it can harbor, you’re better off saying good riddance. And if you’re stuck with a crack in your cutting board that’s more than two millimeters thick — i.e. one that can’t be fixed, even by a pro — it’s time to say adios.

You may be able to recycle or compost your wooden tools, depending on the services you have available in your neighborhood and whether or not the wood is stained or treated. Call your local recycling center or composting company to learn more about your options.

How to Prevent Cracks in Wood Utensils

With proper care, your wooden tools can last a long, long time. To prevent your wooden utensils from getting cracks in the first place, you can make a habit of hand-washing them with hot water and mild dish soap. That goes even for tools that say they’re dishwasher safe—if you have longevity in mind, hand-washing is always the best bet.

You can also take care to rub your wood tools from time to time with a non-food based mineral oil or beeswax — food-based oils such as olive oil can go rancid — to keep the wood from drying out and splitting.

This post originally ran on Apartment Therapy. See it there: One Sign You Need to Throw Away Your Wood Spoons (and Cutting Boards)