How to Clean and Disinfect Cutting Boards for Safe Meal Prep

Keep this kitchen essential in top shape with our guide to cleaning both plastic and wood cutting boards using natural ingredients.

The cutting board is a kitchen essential that comes in handy when crafting your favorite meals for family and friends. And depending on your menu, you might even have several cutting boards made of various materials to get the job done. Wood and plastic are the two most popular types of cutting boards and are also considered the safest. No matter which material you have, you'll want to make sure that you're taking time to clean it properly to keep any unwanted bacteria or viruses at bay.

Due to their porous composition, cutting boards can be the perfect playground for pesky bugs like E. coli and salmonella, which can find their way into your food while you're prepping. To make sure this kitchen tool is squeaky clean and free from germs and viruses, follow these steps for cleaning cutting boards.

person washing wooden cutting board in sink
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How to Clean Wood Cutting Boards

Set aside a few lemons from your next grocery trip. Paired with two pantry staples (salt and baking soda), citrus delivers strong cleaning power that goes beyond the surface. Lemons make a wonderful cleaning tool thanks to the antibacterial properties of their acidic juice, and the abrasive quality of salt works well to scrub cutting boards. Baking soda is a gentle abrasive; it also has brightening properties and is a natural deodorizer, helping to remove lingering fragrances from onions, garlic, and other food items.

What You Need

  • 1/4 cup coarse salt
  • 1 lemon
  • Knife
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • Sponge or cloth
  • Bristle brush or toothbrush
  • Vegetable oil (optional)

Step 1: Salt the Cutting Board

Place the wood cutting board in the sink and sprinkle coarse salt generously across the board's surface.

Step 2: Scrub the Cutting Board with Lemon

Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice from one half on top of the salt. Scrub the board with the lemon half. Repeat this treatment on the other side of the board, and allow the cutting board to sit for five minutes before rinsing off the lemon and salt.

Step 3: Rinse the Cutting Board

Rinse both sides of the cutting board with warm water and a sponge or cloth.

Step 4: Treat Heavy Stains

For heavy stains, sprinkle the cutting board with baking soda, and use a bristle brush or toothbrush to scrub the board. Repeat on the other side.

Step 5: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the board again with a sponge and warm water, then dry thoroughly with a clean towel.

Step 6: Oil the Cutting Board

If you have an end-grain cutting board, be sure to oil it once it has completely dried off, so that your board can activate its "self-healing" properties and restore its fibers back to their natural condition. Edge-grain cutting boards should be oiled regularly as well. Face-grain boards, the cheapest available and prone to warping, do not require oiling to maintain.

How to Clean Plastic Cutting Boards

Plastic cutting boards are often more affordable and easier to clean, making it easy to collect various colors or designs that you can assign different purposes. By cutting your vegetables on a green cutting board and your raw chicken on a yellow cutting board, for example, you can minimize cross-contamination and make sure your cooking environment is as safe as possible.

Regularly examine the condition of your plastic cutting board for visible signs of wear and tear. The more scratches and knife scores, the easier it is for microorganisms to hide and thrive, and the harder it becomes to properly clean plastic cutting boards.

What You Need

  • 1 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. water
  • Small bowl
  • Spoon
  • Bristle brush or toothbrush

Step 1: Apply Paste to Cutting Board

Mix the baking soda, salt, and water together in a small mixing bowl, stirring together until it forms a paste. Apply the paste to one side of the board with a spoon.

Step 2: Scrub Cutting Board

Use a bristle brush or toothbrush to scrub the surface of the plastic cutting board. Rinse with warm water, flip over, and repeat.

Step 3: Rinse and Dry

Rinse the board off with warm water, and dry with a clean cloth.

If you have a dishwasher, you can opt to skip steps 1-4 altogether and toss your plastic cutting board in the dishwasher for a spin. The hot water will sanitize it effectively, minus all the elbow grease.

Best Methods for Cleaning Cutting Boards

While salt and lemons provide powerful natural cleaning properties, there are other common household products that can be used to effectively clean cutting boards. For an added cleansing boost when your board needs a little extra attention, try treating it with either bleach, hydrogen peroxide, or vinegar.

Bleach: Mix 2 tsp. bleach with 1 gallon of water. Carefully soak the cutting board for 2 minutes before rinsing with warm water and letting dry.

Hydrogen Peroxide: Banish unwanted bacteria from any cutting board by wiping it down on each side with a paper towel soaked in hydrogen peroxide. Let it stand for a few minutes before wiping away with warm water and a clean cloth.

White Vinegar: Apply distilled white vinegar to the cutting board and wipe down. To remove odor from your cutting board, sprinkle some baking soda over the board, then spray it with vinegar. Allow the vinegar and baking soda to work their magic for 5-10 minutes (you'll see it bubbling up) then rinse the board with a cloth and cold water.

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