Everyone wants to keep their cutting boards looking great and in good shape. No one wants a lingering odour or stain. There is a variance of care instructions out there that, while well meaning, some suggestions will actually damage and stain your boards. Below is a list of the DO’s and DON’Ts of how to maintain your wooden boards, bowls and utensils.
Shower not a bath. This means you can hold it under running water and scrub but do NOT immerse or soak the board in water. Soaking will cause boards to warp and crack or in the case of the more durable end-grain it will cause the blocks to expand and break the glue joints. Use warm water only; scalding hot water will take off the finish by remove the conditioning oils from the wood.
Soap is fine. You can use a mild phosphate free version. You don’t need a lot to break up unwanted surface contaminants but soap will also remove some surface oils and a bit of the finish or seasoning. Remember to apply a small amount of our board conditioner after washing.
Lemon Juice (mildly acidic)
When used in combination with salt it makes a very good cleanser. You can use a piece of lemon and use it as a scrubber to rub in salt to the board (then rinse). This will remove the conditioning and any oil build up on your board. A good way to remove a rancid oil like a nut oil that you may have put on your board. Do not use lemon juice with baking soda because baking soda will permanently stain your board.
Salt (coarse, kosher or sea salt)
A natural abrasive. Can be used together with lemon to really give your board a good cleaning. Remember to apply a small amount of board conditioner after scrubbing.
Vinegar (mildly acidic)
Similar to lemon juice – but lemon juice makes a better board cleaner. DO NOT mix with certain ingredients such baking soda (sodium acetate) when cleaning your cutting board.
Never use baking soda on your cutting boards or wooden countertops. Sodium bicarbonate will interact with the oil, staining and dehydrating the wood. The stains will be PERMANENT. A dark green to grey. This is a chemical reaction with the natural oils in the wood and the severity of the staining caused will vary depending upon the species of wood and what environment it grew in. Do not use lemon juice and baking soda, the resulting mix is carbon dioxide gas, water and salt – do not use.
Never use abrasive or chemical cleansers. They will scratch the wood, seriously dry them out and possibly stain wood. Never use bleach as it will dehydrate (dry out) the wood, change the colour of the wood, weaken the fibers of the wood and does not work as an antimicrobial on an organic surface such as wood.
Sponges and soft bristled brushes
Are fine to use on wood. Scrubbers made of plastic are great! Metal scubbers or wire brushes can be used but use gently and with caution. We recommend using a piece of lemon and coarse salt as this has the same effect and possibly even better because it will also gently break down any unwanted oils.
Conditioning with Oils and Waxes
In general end grain boards that are well conditioned or oiled will repel water and be super easy to clean with a soft sponge. This process is often called “seasoning” and is a similar process to how to treat cast iron pans. It is a little counter intuitive but if you regularly oil your board and don’t scrub off the build up of finish then you board will do the work of cleaning for you. Smells and stains will not penetrate fibres that are moisturised.
There are many block and board conditioners on the market. Look for ones that have a combination of both a good quality wax and an oil that will not go rancid. If you can, find a local provider and support them. Many bee-keepers make wood conditioners and sell them at farmers markets.
Olive oil is a great conditioner for boards and utensils made of olive wood.
Walnut oil is a great conditioner for walnut wood products.
– Food grade mineral oil is good, penetrates deeply and doesn’t stay on surface
– Coconut is good and will take a long long time to go rancid
– Jojoba is good but expensive
– Rice oils is good but also expensive
– Hemp oils still product testing in Canada
– Tung oil creates a more permanent finish and is not recommended for regular use
– Linseed oil not all versions are food grade safe
– Rapeseed or Canola oil is not recommended as it will go rancid