In my kitchen, I have several cutting boards that I use every day. They are probably the most used kitchen tools that I have. They come in various sizes and shapes. I use a separate one for pungent things like onions and garlic. I use the tiny one for chopping fresh herbs. I even use a particular one for photo shoots for this blog. The one thing they all have in common is that they are all made out of wood.
Why wood over plastic??
I have always been a fan of wooden cutting boards. I like to avoid plastics in the kitchen as much as I can. The main reason is that plastics can leach into the foods you are preparing. YUCK!!! Just take a look at any used plastic cutting board and notice all the nicks and scratches in it. It’s very likely that small little shards of plastic are finding their way into the foods being prepared on them. The chemicals in the plastic can leach into your foods also when the food is sitting on the cutting board waiting to be cooked. Many plastic cutting boards contain BPA or phthalates, which are both hormone disruptors. Plastic cutting boards are also undesirable because they take a long time to biodegrade. So when the board is tossed out after being worn, it sits in the just sits in the landfill. Not a very “green” choice, I would say.
Bamboo Cutting Boards are Awesome!
It is my opinion that some of the best wooden cutting boards out there are made from bamboo. These are the ones I currently have. Bamboo is a 100% renewable resource and is harder and denser than most hard woods. It does not need to be replanted as it grows back and can be re-harvested in a little over 4 years. Bamboo does not require the use of pesticides or herbicides for growth and also has naturally occurring anti-bacterial properties. Sounds good to me! As long as you take a little time to properly care for them, they will last you a long time.
Some folks would disagree with me and claim that more traditional wood cutting boards made out of maple are better. I have been told that it is questionable whether bamboo is renewable and sustainable. Also, some claim that bamboo cutting boards will dull your knife more quickly. I decided to find out. I ordered a beautiful maple cutting board (like this one) and have been using it regularly. I have to say that I do love it. It is very durable and looks pretty in my kitchen. I haven’t noticed a difference in the dullness of my knives when using either bamboo versus maple. I find my bamboo ones easier to move around, but the maple one is heavier so it stays in place better. I’m continuing to research the sustainability of bamboo. Your comments and feedback is humbly accepted and appreciated.
How to Care for Your Wooden Cutting Boards
- Hand wash your wooden cutting boards ~ Don’t submerge your wooden cutting boards in water, and do not put them in the dishwasher because of the potential for cracking and splitting. Gentle surface cleaning with hot water and a a tiny bit of soap is best for lightly soiled boards.
- Give your wooden cutting boards a little love ~ Occasionally rubbing a titch of coconut oil over your dry cutting boards will extend their life span. Unrefined coconut oil is a perfect choice because it has anti-bacterial properties and a long-shelf life. Unlike olive oil, it will not go rancid very quickly. All you have to do is rub a small amount of melted coconut oil over your cutting board, let it soak in for a bit, then lightly rub off any excess with a dry cloth.
- Use separate cutting boards for specific things ~ Using a separate cutting board for things like onions, garlic, and chilis will keep your other fruits and veggies from being contaminated with the smell of these delicious, but pungent foods. I also recommend not using a cutting board for raw meats. My mother taught me to use sharp kitchen shears to cut meat rather then using a knife. I do it right over a kitchen plate which washes easily in the kitchen sink.
- Lemon is a natural deodorizer ~ To naturally deodorize a clean but smelly cutting board, simply cut a lemon in half, sprinkle some sea salt on it, and gently rub the lemon half over your cutting board. If the smell persists, add a little baking soda and scrub lightly again. Rinse and let dry. Always good to reapply coconut oil after this method.
- Naturally sanitizing your wooden boards is easy ~ Once in a while, the wooden boards may need to be cleaned more deeply. With just a few ingredients found around the house, you can naturally sanitize without any harmful chemicals. Both vinegar and hydrogen peroxide can be used. You can also use essential oils combined with vinegar as many essential oils have antiseptic properties. My favorite that I use to clean my cutting boards are Thieves, Melaleuca (or Tea Tree) and Lemon.
All Natural Cutting Board Cleaner #1
- 1/2 cup apple cider or white vinegar
- 1 cup of water
- 5 drops of Thieves, Melaleuca, or Lemon essential oil (where to buy good quality essential oils)
- Simply add essential oils to vinegar/water mixture. Spray cutting board and allow to sit for 10 minutes.
- Gently rise and allow to completely dry.
- After completely dry, follow with a light oiling with coconut oil to protect the surface.
All Natural Cutting Board Sanitizer #2
- 1/2 cup apple cider or white vinegar per cup of water in a spray bottle (like this) (or like this)
- 3 % hydrogen peroxide in a separate spray bottle (like this)
- Simply spray cutting board with vinegar mixture and allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then rinse off completely.
- Follow with a liberal spray of hydrogen peroxide and allow to sit for another 10 minutes.
- Gently rise and allow to completely dry.
- After completely dry, follow with a light oiling with coconut oil to protect the surface.
NOTE: Do not combine the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide at the same time as combining them creates peracetic acid, which can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system.
A word about quality:
Please note that I am only talking about pure essential oils.
My essential oil of choice is Young Living Essential Oils. They own their farms and they run a very tight supply chain. I trust their essential oils above all others because they are pure and unadulterated and are manufactured for therapeutic use not just for smell.
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Photos by: Harshit Sekhon & MiDo Creations and depositphotos.com/ Observer
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I would have to disagree with you on a few things. I am a woodworker and have made my share of cutting boards. The best boards are made from locally grown maple. End grain, maple cutting boards to be exact. The wood is hard enough to last but not hard enough to wear on the knife edge.
When I studied abroad in Taiwan, I noticed that the students all carried there own chopsticks and none of them were bamboo. They said that bamboo is highly commercialized and is full of pesticides and many forests are being wiped clean to grow more bamboo. Not so sustainable.
On the treatment of your cutting boards. Coconut oil and lemon are fine but coconut oil is quite solid at room temperature and will not soak into the grain very well. My favorite treatment is to make a scrub of vinegar and salt to neutralize and deodorize, then a wipe down with walnut oil to protect the wood.
Thanks for your feedback…. I agree that maple cutting boards are great. I do, however, still believe that bamboo is best. From all the research I have done, Bamboo IS a renewable resource. I cannot find anywhere that it is a problem with sustainability. Also, bamboo has very few pests so pesticides are not necessary for growth. I have, however, read that edible bamboo (for young bamboo shoots) can contain pesticides as growers in China often spray the young shoots heavily. If you have research that shows otherwise, please share. I am open to learning. I also think that coconut oil works well when slightly warmed. It absorbs beautifully into my cutting boards. It’s what I have in the kitchen so it’s what I use.
Karen P says
Coconut oil melts at body temperature. I rub it between my palms and then rub on my bamboo cutting boards. I agree they are the best…they last the longest.
I have to agree with Steven. Bamboo can carry lots of pesticides and fertilizers, – if I can find the documentary I watched, it stated how many growers don’t disclose what they are actually doing to the bamboo. I’ve been told by many chefs to never ever use bamboo. Not so much from the chemicals, but for the fact that it will destroy and ruin your knives. The grain is too hard and it’s pretty much just like chopping on glass. Say good-bye to any expensive cutting tools you have.
Hannah J says
Wow, I never thought of not using a cutting board for meat. I think I’ll have to invest in some kitchen shears! Such a great tip.
Check out my blog at:
I prefer a traditional wood cutting board. Trees are a renewable resource as well. We are starting to build our log cabin and in doing our research learned that national forests GIVE AWAY trees because they grow fast (relatively speaking) and need to be cleared to keep fire danger down, etc. Colorado is especially anxious to give away trees.
I have also found tha bamboo cutting boards dull my knife much faster than other woods like maple.
Lastly, wood from trees (as opposed to bamboo which is technically a grass) has antibacterial properties. Here is one study: http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/faculty/docliver/Research/cuttingboard.htm
Thanks for the feedback. Free wood is awesome. I hadn’t noticed that my bamboo boards dull mu knoives more, but will have to pay more attention. I did know that wooden cutting boards have anti=bacterial properties, but it is my understanding that bamboo boards do as well. Thabnks for stopping by.
Linda Ann says
I actually got rid of my bamboo boards for end-grain wood boards. My knives don’t dull as quickly.
I do appreciate the tips (from everyone) on cleaning and care. Thanks for the thread.
I love all of the feedback….and tips. I will have to try my old wooden one again to see if my knives stay sharp longer. 🙂
Seth Fitol says
You make a lot of spelling mistakes!
Katja Heino says
Hi, Seth! Ha! I have to admit that I am guilty of poor grammar at times. I am a terrible editor. And the fact that English is my third language may be part of that. I will try harder to be better. Have a sweet day!
I was just thinking the same thing. I remember that shortly after the poly-something boards came out there were numerous studies showing the dangers of bacteria collecting within the microscopic (and larger) groves left by knives in the poly surfaces. However, researchers were surprised to learn that the wood cells in the wood cutting boards actually “consumed” the bacteria and that they were in fact safer to use. I have always wondered why this isn’t more widely known. . . ..
Laura James says
I like your various methods. I also use a light coating of salt to scrub my cutting boards. After cleaning I occasionally set my cutting boards in the sun and let the sun kill bacteria. For conditioning the boards I was using an edible wood conditioner but eventually decided to make my own using beeswax and edible oil. This is great, but I like the idea of using coconut oil too! Also I have heard that wooden boards are better because when you cut on wood it releases a natural antibacterial. The cuts can also heal unlike plastic. Love my wooden cutting boards but do have some small bamboo ones which seem fine.
I have heard of using beeswax but have never tried it. Will have to experiment with that. Thanks for the tip. 🙂
how is beeswax used to sanitise wood?
Katja Heino says
I do not use beeswax to sanitize my cutting boards. I use the recipes above. 🙂
Suzanne Williamson says
I just found your site from the Real Food Wednesday linky party. Thanks for the tips on sanitizing my cutting boards. I also use wooden boards and haven’t ever sanitized them. I’ll be trying your cleaning formula with peroxide and vinegar this week.
Home Change “frugalorganicmama.com”
Just an FYI after reading the comments… Bamboo grown in the US typically does not have pests, and doesn’t need pesticides. It is not native and thus, the pests that usually attack it aren’t here to attack it. Our native pest don’t typically attack non-native plants (take Kudzu for example). Bamboo in Asia has plenty of pest that feed off of it, and maybe grown with pesticides to keep the pests off… So I guess it just depends on where the bamboo came from as to level of pesticides that could be present.
thanks for the info. I have been researching pesticides in bamboo grown in Asia and have not been able to find much info. If you have any, please pass it on. Thanks for stopping by.
Daryl Bender / Benders Woodcraft says
I make cutting boards. The key is to use tightgrain hardwoods. I use Walnut, Cherry and Maple for my boards. I seal them with a mixture of Beeswax, foodgrade mineral Oil and Carnuba wax. These woods have a natural antibacteria agent in the wood that kills bacteria naturally. If you wash them off with dishsoap and periodically recoat themthey will last forever. Coconut oil may be ok but I dont believe it will soak into the wood as well.
thanks for sharing…. 🙂
What about glass cutting boards?
Glass cutting boards are really hard on your knives. Plus, too fragile for my kitchen. Too much going on all of the time. 🙂
What about mineral oil?
I generally stay away from petroleum products, especially near my food. I like coconut because it’s a stable oil that is not harmful to your health. Plus I always have some around 🙂
Will it become rancid eventually by using a cold press coconut oil on the cutting board ?
Katja Heino says
Coconut oil has a long shelf life. My guess is that the oil will wash off from use before it has time to get rancid. My cutting boards see A LOT of action daily.
Kendahl @ Our Nourishing Roots says
I love this! I will start using this technique 🙂
Susan P says
Who knew cutting boards were such a hot topic! I’ve always just used them and occasionally threw some oil on them to condition them (I bought Bamboo oil – I should probably check what it’s made of!) What is end cut wood? Just what it sounds like?
I have a lovely cutting board made by a friend and a bamboo cutting board. I’ll have to experiement between the two and see which works the best (although the hard wood one is so heavy that I like my lighter weight bamboo one better for that aspect)
Thanks for the post. I’ll take the ideas to heart and start treating my boards better 😀
I am enjoying all the feedback and opinions. Fun to learn from everyone….
End grain refers to the direction of the “grain”, the way the wood grows. Almost all lumber is cut “along the grain” the fibers go vertical as the tree grows vertical. Imagine you are holding a bunch of wood skewers, the length on the skewers all going in the same direction is the grain. If you imagine these were all glue together, if you started cutting on it, the fibers might tear with time… If you rotate the skewers so that you are seeing the ends, this would be caked the end grain. If you imagine using this as a cutting surface, how would the fibers behave? They might split apart but naturally they will be pushed back into place. You won’t get the same (microscopic) splintering that you eventually get when you are cutting along the wood.
However end grain cutting boards are more expensive because they will (generally) take more time to manufacture because the lumber would have to be cut to the desired width of the board, then glue together along the grain with the end gains facing up. It takes a lot more skill and practice to hand-make an end gain board, but if made and maintained well, the glue will not split and the fingers will not splinter. The surface can be sanded and reconditioned over time. They will literally last a lifetime.
Good information, coconut is ok but food grade mineral oil is better. I have been making end grain cutting boards for years using maple and cherry. I have always used numerous coats of mineral oil letting it absorb for atleast an hour before the next coat. The I use a mineral oil and beeswax mixture for protecting the surface.
I am glad you wrote about this, most people don’t have a clue. Love your site… check out my cutting boards and Beeswax mixture – wood conditioner.
End Grain Cutting Boards
Mineral Oil Beeswax Wood Conditioner
Thanks for the tip!
Linda Ludwick says
If you’re using *mineral oil* on cutting boards you may want to reconsider it’s use since it’s a petroleum distillate. Would you pour gasoline on your kitchen equipment? For further information regarding it’s possible toxicity I’d suggest that you start here, with the section titled “Toxicity” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mineral_oil Best wishes to all for a healthy and happy kitchen! 🙂
Normal coconut oil can go rancid; I believe you were referring to Fractionated Coconut Oil, which is typically used in organic cosmetics, though not for food prep. The coconut oil you can buy at grocery stores have not been refined to the point of their fractionated counterparts; thus, run the risk of going bad just as any oil.
I use unrefined coconut oil which has a much longer shelf life then any refined vegetable oil. A properly purified unrefined coconut oil will keep much longer than refined oil and this applies to other vegetable oils as well. Unrefined oils contain natural anti-oxidant agents, which protect the oil against atmospheric oxidation and rancidity. Thanks for coming by! 🙂