6 Best Products for Cleaning Butcher Blocks and Wooden Cutting Boards
The top oils and cleaning supplies to keep that wood looking good.
Butcher blocks and wooden cutting boards are a fantastic choice for your kitchen prep: They’re heavy enough to stay put as you work, and they’re easy on your knives. Plus, they can last a long time if you give them a little TLC.
In a nutshell: Keep them clean and dry, and rub them with some oil from time to time. Each step is simple enough, but what’s the best way to clean wooden cutting boards, and what products will keep them looking great.
What to Know About Caring for Wooden Cutting Boards
- Don't put them in the dishwasher: It’s really the cardinal rule of wooden cutting boards. The high heat and prolonged exposure to water inside the dishwasher can cause the boards to split or warp.
- Do wash them by hand: You should clean your cutting board after each use. Use hot water and a mild dish soap to clean and sanitize. Opt for a soft sponge — rigid brushes, scrubbers and steel wool can strip the exterior and damage the wood.
- Don’t leave stains or odors: If you were prepping ingredients that have a strong aroma, like garlic and onion, or foods that are likely to leave a stain, such as parsley and beets, you may need to take an extra step before rinsing: Sprinkle the area with coarse salt or baking soda, which will serve as a mild abrasive, then scrub the area with the cut side of a lemon. This will lift the stain and remove any odors. Rinse well.
- Do sanitize them: If you were working with raw meat, you may want to sanitize with more than just soap and hot water. Bleach can be harsh on the finish of your board. Choose white vinegar or 3 percent hydrogen peroxide to help kill any lingering bacteria. Dilute one part vinegar or peroxide with four parts water and spritz or drizzle it on. Let it stand for a few minutes, then rinse well.
- Don’t dry them flat: Making sure the wood is dry is critical to preventing warping as well as mildew. Wipe all sides of the board dry with a towel, then stand it upright to air dry completely. Exposing both large cutting surfaces to the air ensures that the board will dry evenly.
- Do protect them with mineral oil: About once a month, treat the wood with a food-grade mineral oil (see below for our favorite). Treating the board with oil creates a barrier that helps the wood resist bacteria and water. It also keeps the wood moisturized and conditioned so it’s less likely to split. When the board is clean and dry, wipe on the oil with a paper towel or a microfiber towel. Let the oil soak into the wood according to the oil manufacturer’s directions, and don’t worry if you’re a little bit heavy handed: You can wipe away any excess that doesn’t absorb. Note that cooking oils are not a substitute for mineral oil: They can leave the board sticky and tacky and produce off flavors with ingredients you’re prepping.
Best Products for Cleaning and Maintaining Your Wooden Cutting Boards
Keeping the wood moisturized will greatly extend the life of the board. This mineral oil has no fragrances or preservatives, so it won’t harm the wood. Apply a generous amount of oil to the board with a soft towel, and let it soak in for at least 20 minutes. Wipe off any excess oil and be sure that the board is completely dry before using.
Instead of mineral oil, you can opt for a cream to condition your board. Boos Block, an established producer of quality wooden boards and butcher blocks, sells this creamy formula that you can apply to the board to keep it moisturized. It's made with unbleached beeswax and food-grade mineral oil and is fragrance free. You wipe on a thin layer, let it penetrate overnight and then wipe off any excess.
These 100 percent cotton towels will soak up water without shedding or shredding, which means your board will be free of lint when you're ready to use it again. They're 16 by 19 inches, so they can handle drying large boards, and they’re also great for buffing in your mineral oil.
For the most mild dish soap, choose one free of both dyes and perfumes like Seventh Generation’s Free & Clear. This soap is also a responsible and sustainable choice that doesn’t test on animals, is 100 percent biodegradable and uses 100 percent recycled bottles.
This handy kit provides all your board-maintenance supplies and a step-by-step guide to help you learn the ropes. It includes cotton pads you can use to apply the organic wood oil to prevent cracking as well as the organic wax to further seal the wood against water and stains. There's also a coconut scrubber that will help remove stains and a sanding sponge to smooth over any damage the board might endure over time.