Are you stumped when it comes to cutting boards? You wash them and rinse them, but those stains, smells and germs just won’t go away. Here’s some help…

Separate boards: You know to keep raw meat on a separate cutting board from your other food, such as raw salad produce. It also makes life easier to have one cutting board for garlic and onions and a different one for fruit (or anything that you don’t want to smell like garlic). We usually use plastic boards for raw meats, garlic and onions…wood for everything else.

Simple smell remover: If there’s a smell that’s lingering too long on your cutting board—or someone chopped up onions on your “fruit” board—cut a lemon in half and rub it vigorously over the board. Rinse. Sniff. No smell!

Sanitize safely: To sanitize your plastic or wood cutting board, spray with a one-to-one ratio of white vinegar and warm water. Wipe completely with a cloth or sponge. Now give it a spray of hydrogen peroxide (from a separate bottle). Dry thoroughly. Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute found that this system kills germs better than chlorine-based bleach. It’s safer, too. Important: Do not mix vinegar and hydrogen peroxide together—it can create a harsh, chlorine-bleach-like substance.

Cutting boards in your dishwasher? The US Department of Agriculture states that nonporous acrylic, plastic, glass and solid wood boards can be washed and dried with sanitizing high heat in the dishwasher. But it’s best to keep a wood board that you want to last (solid or not) out of the dishwasher. Besides splitting and warping, the wood board can pick up water stains that are tough to remove. Laminated wood boards also can crack and split in the dishwasher.

Lemony stain remover and freshener: To remove a food stain from your plastic or wood board, sprinkle kosher salt on it, then rub it with half a lemon. Rinse and dry. The salt draws out the grease and acts as an abrasive, while the lemon juice helps bleach out the stain. Wood board conditioner: Do the lemon-salt treatment once a month to “freshen” your wood cutting board. Then gently rub with food-grade mineral oil (do not use vegetable oil, which can turn rancid). Your cutting board will love you back!

Cuts run deep: Cuts in your cutting board? It happens. But those grooves and gouges harbor germs. Cuts are impossible to disinfect, so it’s best to replace your board, especially if it’s plastic. (Damaged plastic cutting boards and containers can release toxins into your food.) If you just can’t part with that scratched-up wooden board or butcher’s block, lightly buff the cuts away with fine sandpaper…then give it a little oil massage (see above).

Thanks to,, and Mandy O’Brien, coauthor of Homemade Cleaners: Quick-and-Easy, Toxic-Free Recipes (, for help with these tips.

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