By Jalene Howard, Produce Assistant, Storekeeper
Any investment requires proper care to ensure that you get what you pay for. Common investments such as a car, home, appliances, career, and even ourselves require daily care and preventative maintenance. A wooden cutting board is no different. If properly taken care of it can become an essential part of a well-functioning kitchen for many years to come. But when mistreated, a wooden cutting board can turn into a warped, smelly, moldy mess.
To prevent this, it is necessary to properly clean, disinfect and dry your cutting board after every use. Putting a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher is not recommended, as this can easily warp or crack the board. Rather, clean the cutting board with running warm water, a small amount of soap, and a sponge. Scientific evidence states that the volume of water when cleaning matters more than anything, as it washes away bacteria and particles. So be sure to rinse thoroughly!
If there are any pesky stains (think beet juice) and dish soap just doesn’t cut it, then it’s time to bring out the big guns: coarse salt and lemon juice. Sprinkle the salt generously on the cutting board, slice a lemon in half and use it to rub the salt into the board. The salt acts as an abrasive, lifting the stains, while the lemon disinfects and leaves everything smelling real nice. White vinegar or a mixture of 2 tablespoons of chlorine bleach and 1 gallon of water can also be used to disinfect your cutting board. Soak a cloth in the solution, wipe the board, and rinse thoroughly. (As a rule of thumb, steer clear of raw meat, because wood is quite porous and is the perfect place for bacteria from raw meat to hide.) Lastly, if your board has an undesired smell, you can sprinkle a cup of baking powder on the board and then pour a cup of white vinegar on top. When combined these ingredients will oxidize, removing stains and hopefully any lingering smells.
After you have washed and disinfected your cutting board it is very important to wipe your board with a dry cloth and stand it up. This allows as much air to hit the surface of the board as possible, helping it to dry faster. When water gets trapped in the grain it can turn to mold quickly. Therefore it’s always best to avoid soaking your board and thoroughly dry your cutting board after each use.
Just like a car, your wooden cutting board should receive an ‘oil change’ at least 3 times a year as preventative maintenance. Food grade mineral oil is preferred and does well to hydrate your thirsty cutting board. (Don’t use oils that need to be refrigerated, as they can go rancid in a warm kitchen environment.) Use a soft clean cloth to spread an even coat of oil over the wood. Let it soak in for several hours, blotting any excess oil when finished. For a longer lasting finish you can use a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil such as this one.