A quick scan of internet articles on this subject will likely leave you royally confused. It seems that everyone has their own ideas about how to maintain wooden cutting boards. Never one to keep silent on controversial topics, I decided to chime in with my own methods.
I have two main methods for the regular maintenance of wooden cutting boards and one which is for longterm storage. Having moved cross-country a few times over the years (Washington to Georgia, Alabama to Alaska, and Alaska to Hawaii), I feel qualified to address preparation for storing cutting boards. It should be noted, too, that I use wooden cutting boards for all of my chopping needs but I am careful about cross-contamination. We have dedicated a wooden cutting board for beef/venison/chicken/turkey but do not use the “meat” cutting board for fruits and vegetables. We have several cutting boards for fruits and vegetables exclusively. If you are interested in reading it, the University of California, Davis released their research findings on the bacterial retention of plastic and wooden cutting boards (click here). With that bit of knowledge in my back pocket, I created a care plan for my beloved wooden cutting boards which has not failed me.
For regular and near-daily maintenance of wooden cutting boards:
1.) Wash the cutting board with hot water and some mild detergent. I really like to use Mrs. Meyer’s Dish Soap or make my own castile-melaleuca dish soap (recipe to be posted soon). I do not stick my cutting board in a sink full of soapy dishwater but instead wash it in an empty sink.
2.) I then pour a bit of lemon juice or vinegar over the board and use a scrubby to work it into all the tiny cracks in the board before rinsing the board with water. Don’t you like how real I’m keeping this post? Yes, that image is how we really live… full dishrack, crooked blinds, and cluttered counters.
3.) Allow the board to dry and then place some oil (olive oil or coconut oil is fine for a board you use every day or nearly every day) on a cloth. I used a paper towel in the photos because my child handed them to me. He’s my favorite helper. Goodness, I love that little boy!
4.) Smooth the oil over the board evenly and let it soak in. I like to rub the oil into the grooves of the board, too. Feel free to add more oil during this process. Store the boards in a clean and dry place. Never put them away dirty or dripping in oil.
For longterm storage of wooden cutting boards:
I follow the four steps above but I am sure to use coconut oil. Coconut oil will go rancid after two years and many sites say to use mineral oil because it lasts forever. Mineral oil is petroleum product, so I prefer to use coconut oil and never store my cutting boards for more than a few months. If I thought that I might have to store my cutting boards for more than two years, I’d probably just give them to someone who could use them.
A well-maintained cutting board is a terrific tool in the kitchen. See how the tomato juice just sits right on top of the board? The wood grain and the scars from cutting have oil in them so the moisture wicks away from the cutting board. If you are good to your wooden cutting boards, they will not crack and they will last for many, many years.