Cutting boards are an essential part of every kitchen – commercial or residential.
Manufactured in pretty much every material, from wood to composite, finding a design to suit your style has never been as easy as it is today.
However, as with all kitchen tools, bacteria growth is of utmost concern.
So, with so many different materials in use, how can you be sure you’re following best practices to disinfect, clean and care for your kitchen’s cornerstone?
How to Clean a Cutting Board
All cutting board care should follow the same steps to ensure that microorganisms don’t have a chance to spread and multiply.
Owners should (1) clean any food and debris away before (2) disinfecting, and finally (3) drying.
- 1.5 tablespoons of bleach in one gallon (3.785 Litres) of warm water. Be careful with coloured cutting boards, as too much bleach may cause discolouration.
- Use a clean cloth to apply this mixture to your cutting board, making sure to come in contact with all areas. You will want to thoroughly rinse with hot water after disinfecting.
- 1 tablespoon of baking soda, 1 tablespoon of water, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1 tablespoon of salt. This solution utilizes the naturally high pH balance of the lemon juice and lower pH of baking soda to kill bacteria at both ends of the spectrum. While the salt is used as an exfoliate. Let the solution sit for 2-3 minutes before rinsing with hot water.
- 3% hydrogen peroxide is great for cutting boards used for meats and poultry. Cover the surface and let sit for a few minutes before using a sponge to wipe off excess liquid. Once again, rinse thoroughly with hot water.
- If you are experiencing odor from your cutting board, cover the surface with baking soda and add 1 cup of white vinegar. The oxidative reaction will lift organic materials, such as bacteria and fats, which cause smell and stains.
- In the world of “still technically a disinfecting solution,” the advantage of using plastic cutting boards are their ability to be cleaned in a dishwasher. Just ensure you use the hottest setting possible, as this will guarantee death for bacteria.
Caring for your Cutting Board
How to Clean a Plastic Cutting Board
Begin by cleaning off any visible or loose food particles using a cloth, sponge or brush with hot soapy water.
After cleaning, you will want to ensure that your board is still fit for use. Check for nicks and deep scars left by knife cuts.
Many damaged plastic cutting boards can be saved from minor surface damage by using a steel scouring pad or wire brush to scrape any plastic particles created from knife marks.
You can achieve an even smoother finish by implementing the use of a belt sander.
Just be sure to wear safety equipment when operating any sort of machinery.
After cleaning and ensuring the board is still safe to use, you’ll want to disinfect any bacteria you might have missed.
Plastic is fairly resilient, and all of the disinfecting solutions above can be applied without fear of damaging your board.
After disinfecting and rinsing with hot water, leave your clean plastic cutting board upright to dry.
How to Clean a Wood Cutting Board
Wood is more porous than its plastic counterpart.
Given this, wooden cutting boards are naturally more susceptible to bacteria build-up within its many crevices.
Even so, with proper care, wood cutting boards are less prone to scarring (read “easier to keep clean”) and are friendlier to a knife’s edge.
Begin by cleaning with the usual soap and hot water mixture.
Be sure to clean away any food particles or messes left behind.
As wood boards require treatment to maintain its surface, owners should not sand or scrape their board at this step, unless they are prepared to reseal.
The same disinfecting solutions used for plastic cutting boards can be applied to wood, omitting dishwashers.
It is important for owners to avoid embedding moisture into their wooden cutting boards. Doing so will help prevent warping or cracking.
After disinfecting, rinse well with hot water and dry upright.
If you plan on resurfacing your wooden cutting board, you’ll need to seal the wood to protect its integrity.
The best products to seal a wooden cutting board would be preferably linseed or Tung oil (WARNING: Tung oil is made from a nut tree and can potentially cause an allergic reaction!).
Both will penetrate the wood’s pores and seal it from the inside, while also hardening the material.
Food-grade mineral oil or beeswax are also viable alternatives; however, these methods only provide a surface-level treatment.
Apply the oil with a lint-free clean cloth, working with the grain of the wood. Leave for 10-15 minutes before removing any excess oil and let dry upright overnight.
Avoid using olive or vegetable oils, as these turn rancid quickly, and will lead to odors and pathogen build-up.
How to Clean a Bamboo Cutting Board
Bamboo cutting boards are the perfect medium between plastic and wood.
Knives maintain their edge longer when compared to plastic and bamboo is less porous than wood. Because of these differences, bamboo can maintain its health for many years when taking proper care of your equipment.
Simply follow the same instructions one would for wooden cutting board care. You can even resurface and seal bamboo in the same manor.
Cutting Board Best Practices
While cleaning and disinfecting your cutting board is the best way to extend its lifetime’s usefulness, there are some more general best practices that you can implement into your kitchen to avoid contamination.
Use Multiple Cutting Boards
Plastic and wood are most likely the two most popular materials for cutting board manufacturing.
Regardless of their popularity, both styles are susceptible to creating grooves within the surface.
These imperfections make the perfect home for bacteria and viruses to nestle away from cleaning efforts.
Devoting a cutting board to meat, poultry or seafood and another for fresh produce helps cut down on any bacteria being trapped within grooves and, ultimately, cross-contamination of food that requires no further cooking.
Replace Cutting Boards
They don’t last forever, folks. Sometimes, no matter how much you clean or care for your kitchenware, eventually it will serve its usefulness. But how can you tell when your favourite cutting board needs to be replaced?
The general rule of thumb when gauging the life left within your cutting board is all to do with surface damage.
Of course, use your judgement. If there is a large crack down the center, do yourself a favour and purchase another one.
However, if there are nicks and grooves that have become too deep for a thorough cleaning, that is a good sign you should replace your cutting board.
As mentioned before, wood and bamboo boards are a little more flexible in this area, as surfaces can be planed or sanded to look brand new.
So, if you are a woodworker or know a carpenter willing to resurface your cutting board, it can be an effective way to save some money and extend its life.
Just be sure to reseal your board with oil for the best protection.
How Ultra-Fresh Antimicrobial Additives Can Help
Advancements within microbiology have given us a deeper understanding of how bacteria feed and grow. So, luckily, cutting board care doesn’t have to be such a chore.
By adding a safe and effective antimicrobial agent during manufacturing, growth of odor and stain-causing bacteria are limited, keeping your cutting board clean and fresher for longer.
Note: Ultra-Fresh is not incorporated into items to control illness-causing bacteria. The intent of the Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial feature is to prevent the growth of bacteria that lead to unwanted odors and stains.
Check out some of the companies and brands we work with.
How Does Ultra-Fresh Work to Prevent Odors and Stains Caused by Bacteria
The photos below demonstrate how an antimicrobial treated product prevents staining and odours caused by the proliferation of bacterial growth.
Two plastic cutting board samples, one treated with Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial and another without, were tested using the ISO 22196.
The same amounts of bacteria (E. coli, as per the test method recommendations) were added to each sample and then incubated for 24 hours.
Afterwards, both samples were assessed to determine how many bacteria were remaining.
As seen in the below photos, heavy amounts of bacteria were recovered from the untreated cutting board sample. In contrast, no bacteria were recovered from the antimicrobial treated cutting board.
The chart below demonstrates how an antimicrobial treated cutting board performs over time and after use.
The bacteria on the untreated cutting board grew exponentially (from about 50,000 to over 500,000!).
However, the Ultra-Fresh antimicrobial treated cutting board, had 99.9% fewer bacteria as compared to the untreated liner after the same time period.
Therefore, the conclusion is very simple: fewer bacteria = less unwanted odours and staining.
The addition of antimicrobial technology delivers a product that helps prevent, or reduce, smells and stains.
Our Antimicrobial Expertise
Thomson Research Associates (TRA) is a global leader in the field of antibacterial, antifungal and antimicrobial, and anti-dust mite treatments (see regulatory information), providing antimicrobial protection to finished products for over 60 years.
Our ultimate goal is to satisfy our clients’ specific needs through excellence in service, science, and support. Find out how we work with you through our scientific testing laboratory, highly-qualified technical and regulatory specialists.
We offer a selection of products, including options that are US EPA registered, BPR compliant and OEKO-TEX® listed. Please refer to product label or contact us directly for region-specific approved end-uses.
Furthermore, acknowledging our social responsibility, we have partnered with bluesign® in our joint initiative for the removal of harmful substances and practices from the manufacturing process.
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