How To Clean A Cutting Board


Can You Clean A Cutting Board?  Yes!  Don’t Throw It Away!

plastic and wood cutting boards

If you’re like me, you have a favorite cutting board that you use for most of your food preparation in the kitchen.  That means food stains building up on it – over time – eventually reaching the point that you can’t stand looking at it or using it anymore.  Thus, it’s time to discover how to clean a cutting board and remove all those dirty ole blemishes and discolorations!

But how?

bleach and salt to clean cutting boards

Well, a quick Google search advised me to use baking soda, or white vinegar, or salt, or a couple drops of bleach in a gallon of water.  And, scrub the Holy Bejeezus out of it!  Over – and over – and over – and over again – until the dirty blot is “lessvisible.”

Well, I’m here to tell ya that these methods are a waste of time.  I went through this song and dance – from beginning to end – and, realized that these cleaning techniques were minimally effective – at best – and utter failures – at worst!

In the beginning:

Jim's dirty cutting boards.

I mean – a couple of my cutting boards reached “heavy stain” level – to the point that I couldn’t even look at them anymore – much less use them for cutting food.  All I was able to do was very slightly lighten the color of the stain – but, I couldn’t get rid of it – especially, in the grooves!

I was ready to just toss them in the trash and buy some brand new pristine cutting boards and start all over.  But, I knew that – one day – I would be at this same point again – staring down at nasty, discolored cutting boards with stains deeply embedded in the cracks and crevices.


Then, I Decided To Get EXTREME !!!

 I was bound and determined to make those awful looking cutting boards look like brand spanking new again!

Here’s what I did:

  • To start, I gave both sides of the cutting boards a good cleaning with hot water and Dawn dishwashing liquid. This got rid of any loose dirt and grime.

Dawn dishwashing liquid

  • Then, I placed them into a couple of tops from my plastic tote boxes.

Tote box tops to hold cutting boards.

  • I found some old (I mean really old…) Clorox bleach and, using it FULL STRENGTH – not watered down – immersed the boards in it – and left them to sit outside – soaking – overnight.

The next morning, I looked them over and I STILL SAW STAINS!  The stains were not as deep and dark – but, they were still there.  I couldn’t believe it!  “Why were the stains still readily apparent?”  I asked myself.  I had used Clorox bleach on other projects and it worked great!

After the first overnight full strength Clorox bleach soaking:

Very little progress on cleaning the cutting boards.


What Happened?  Why Didn’t It Work?

After some research, I discovered that the active ingredient in Clorox bleach – Sodium Hypochlorite – begins breaking down about 6 months after the bleach is manufactured.  After a year, it’s less than 80% effective – and, in two years, it has almost no cleaning and disinfecting capabilities.

The bleach I used was way more than several years old.

Fresh, new Clorox bleach.

Thus, I realized, it was time to buy some fresh Clorox bleach and try again.


Once More Unto The Breach

Using a fresh bottle of Clorox, I immersed the cutting boards again – and, again, left the boards soaking in the bleach overnight.


The next morning, those cutting boards were so white and bright, they looked like they were just recently purchased!  The difference was no less than mind-blowing!


Finishing Touches

I just had a few more steps I needed to do – to complete the process of cleaning the cutting boards:White vinegar to remove the bleach odor.

  • I took those lily white cutting boards and rinsed them off with water.
  • Then, I washed them thoroughly with hot water and Dawn dishwashing detergent – and rinsed them again.
  • After the second rinsing, I worked some white vinegar into the cutting board surfaces – to eliminate that bleach odor.

And, now, they’re good to go!  Ready for future countless kitchen culinary episodes!


Here they are!  Aren’t they beautiful???

Thoroughly cleaned cutting boards.


Will This Far-Reaching Technique Work For You?

It will!  I double-dawg guarantee it!

It doesn’t matter if you are using HDPE plastic – or wood – cutting boards.  The results are the same.  Just don’t forget the Finishing Touches.


HINT:  Make Sure To Always Have Good Quality Cutting Boards!

Cheap cutting boards actually end up getting more expensive over time.  Since they don’t clean well – even with Clorox bleach – they continually need to be replaced.  Thus, eventually the overall cost is greater than if better quality – yet higher priced – cutting boards are obtained in the first place.

Top quality cutting boards could and should last a lifetime – or two.

When buying a new cutting board, choose the correct cutting board surface.  Select either plastic (HDPE – NSF rated) or wood (Maple or Teak).  These materials are designed to keep knives sharper – longer.  Other materials for cutting boards may actually damage knives due to their hardness or abrasiveness.


Wood Cutting BoardsJohn Boos Block RA03 Maple Wood Edge Grain Reversible Cutting Board, 24 Inches x 18 Inches x 2.25 Inches

Rock Maple, like this one from John Boos, is the best option for in-home cutting boards.  This cutting board’s wood, made from hand-selected Northern Hard Rock Maple, is hard enough to be more scratch resistant than Beech, Bamboo, Cherry, Oak, or Walnut boards.  And, you can apply a lot of pressure without too much knife damage.  The only hitch is that these boards should be treated every couple of months with some food grade mineral oil, to keep them sealed and waterproof.  Get boards that are at least 2 inches thick – it will help discourage warping and, they’re heavy enough that they won’t slide around on the kitchen countertop.

Sonder Los Angeles, XXL Thick Teak Wood Cutting Board with Juice Groove, 23x17x1.5 in Large

Teak is the “cutting board of choice” among some of the finest top chefs.  Mostly, because teak requires very little upkeep and is great at hiding stains and knife marks.  The downside is that teak dulls knives very quickly.  But, since chefs pride themselves on always keeping a sharply honed edge on their knives – a dull knife is never a problem because, they are constantly sharpening their knives to keep them cutting at top efficiency.  As a tropical wood, teak contains oily resins that resist moisture and warping – as well as providing a barrier against fungus, microbes, and tendencies to rot.  Make sure your teak cutting board is a minimum 1.5 inches thick. Sonders Los Angeles makes a great Teak Cutting Board that also has a juice groove to keep juices from foods from getting all over the countertop.

TRIVIAMaster Chefs use different cutting boards for each food.

The famous Master Chefs of the world have a habit of using different colored (or numbered) cutting boards for each type of food preparation.  When preparing a mountainous amount of various foods, this is a great way to avoid cross contamination.  Their breakdown is usually a specific cutting board for each of the following groupings:

  1. Dairy (ex: cheese) and breads
  2. Poultry
  3. Raw seafood
  4. Raw red meat
  5. Cooked meat
  6. Vegetables and fruits



  • More often than not, shallow knife cuts in wood cutting boards close naturally on their own.
  • Wood contains antibacterial properties to ward off harmful microbes that can cause food to become toxic.
  • Wood cutting boards that have excessively deep knife grooves can and should be refurbished by planing or sanding – and applying a new coat of oil (i.e. food grade mineral oil) and wax. These deep-seated furrows are great homes for bacteria – making it a must chore to remove the knife ruts to minimize food contamination.


Plastic Cutting BoardsWinco Cutting Board, 18 by 24 by 1/2-Inch, White

Made of polyethylene (PE), either through injection molding or extrusion, these plastic cutting boards may not have antiseptic properties like wood, but, good quality boards can last a very long time.  Choose high-density polyethylene plastic (HDPE) boards that are rated NSF (National Sanitation Foundation).  HDPE cutting boards are expressly designed to be almost as easy on knives as the wood boards.  And, they can be subjected to a much harsher cleaning procedure.  A thickness of half an inch will suffice.  This Winco cutting board fits the bill for me.  NOTE:  I prefer white plastic cutting boards because, it is easier to see the stains and to know when to aggressively clean them.


Cutting Boards I Won’t Have In My Kitchen

Don't use these types of cutting boards!

  • Silicone cutting boards – Though they have excellent antiseptic properties, are easy to clean, and are easy on knives, silicone cutting boards are easily damaged with sharp knives and I keep my knives extra sharp at all times – just like the top chefs!
  • Glass cutting boards – Exceptionally easy to clean and can stand up to pretty high temperatures. But, those are the only pluses in my humble opinion.  It seems like 99% of glass cutting boards have some sort of seasonal picture on them – very few are just plain, clear glass.  They are extremely hygienic – bacteria have no place to grow on them.  The REAL downside is that they will dull your sharpest knives in a New York minute!
  • Steel cutting boards – Same comments as for glass cutting boards. If you get one of these, at least make absolutely certain that it is Stainless Steel (SS).
  • Pine cutting boards – Oh God! Don’t use pine!  These may have antibacterial properties – but, that is all they have going for them.  This is a “soft wood” that will harbor any number of nasty germs after your sharp Ginsu knives tear into them!  And, their germ fighting properties will not be enough to stave off food contagions!


The Wrap-Up

I hope you learned a few things about cutting boards.  I know I have learned a plethora of good things in the last couple of months – as I explored all the options of how to clean the plastic and wood boards I have in my kitchen.

I leave you with a comment I make to my family when I cook for them:

“For your dining pleasure, I am offering two choices…

Take it - or Leave it !



Feel free to drop me a line if you have anything to add – or need a little friendly “cutting board” advice!


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

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