I got wooden cutting boards, wooden cooking utensils, and a beautiful wooden salad bowl because I know that if cared for properly, they can last a lifetime (or more!). Plus, they’re pretty, they can actually harbor fewer germs, and you avoid that whole bits-of-plastic-getting-into-your-food thing. I love all of my wooden tools and serving items, but I’ve been a little negligent in my care of them. I wash them with lukewarm water and mild soap (which is how you should clean them)—but I definitely haven’t always dried them immediately and haven’t deep cleaned or oiled them. Big no-nos. I kept putting it off thinking it was a pain to do, but now I’ve got super dry wooden tools, some of which are even cracking or warping, that have food stains deep in the grain that don’t come off with a quick wash. 😦
This is not where you want to be. And my excuses have been flimsy—because it turns out (through a little research), it’s actually really easy to deep clean and oil your wooden utensils! If it saves me having to ever purchase wooden tools again, it’s worth a bit of my time once in a while. Here’s how to properly care for your wooden cutting boards, tools, trays, bowls, etc.:
What you need:
Mild Soap or White Vinegar
Clean Cotton Rags
*Oiling your board keeps it moisturized and prevents cracking and warping. It can also prevent liquids from seeping in. This can be done as frequently as once a week and as rarely as once every few months—it really depends on how often you use your wooden items! If they start looking or feeling dry, it’s time. Definitely get mineral oil—you can purchase online or most home stores (some are more expensive than others). Here’s a good one. This type of oil doesn’t go rancid so you never have to worry about that affecting your boards. It doesn’t leave behind any type of smell. Make sure it’s food-safe.
**Applying a beeswax conditioner like this one to your wooden tools helps to shine and waterproof your items. This doesn’t really need to be done – and definitely not often.
After Every Use
(Mild Soap or White Vinegar)
Wash your item with warm / lukewarm water (anything too hot will dry it out faster!) and mild soap OR rub it down with a cloth soaked in white vinegar and rinse with warm water. The sooner you clean it, the less likely any food soaks in. Dry it immediately! This will prevent cracking / warping.
To Deep Clean
(Lemon and Salt)
Cut a lemon in half and then rub the lemon (pulp side down) all over the item, slightly squeezing to wet it. Leave the lemon juice on for a few minutes – the juice will deodorize and the acidity disinfects. Pour a coat of salt all over that. Let this sit for at 10 – 30 minutes. The salt will absorb any remaining moisture, smells, stains—you name it. When your time is done, use the lemon half to scrub the salt in and then wipe everything off. Rise with warm water and dry.
This needs to be done every time you deep clean—but it can also be done routinely on clean, dry wooden items if they need to be moisturized. Before you begin, your board/tool needs to be clean and completely dry. Pour mineral oil directly onto your board or bowl (for wooden utensils, it’s easier to apply to a cotton rag first, then to your item). There’s no precise measurement for how much—but be generous. Rub the oil in with your cotton cloth. You want everything to be very oily when you’re done. Let the oil seep in for several hours (preferably overnight). Most of it should be absorbed but any remaining oil can be wiped off with a clean cotton rag.
Bonus Deep Cleaning
This is for those pesky stubborn stains. Beets. Fresh turmeric. A giant bunch of cilantro that you chopped up for late-night guacamole that was so delicious you entered a food coma and promptly forgot to clean your board. You know who the culprits are. Rinse your item then sprinkle some baking soda on the stubborn area. Wet a cotton rag with hot water. Use this to rub the baking soda into the stain. Add a little more hot water as needed to form a thick paste onto the stain. Let that sit for a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly with hot water and dry. Condition as needed.
Bonus Deep Cleaning
If you’re worried about germs from meat or fish, this method is for you. Clean your board first using the every day method. Wet a clean cotton rag with hydrogen peroxide and use that to wipe down your item. Rinse with warm water and dry.
Start with a clean and dry item. Apply your beeswax cream / conditioner (a mixture of beeswax and mineral oil, which you can make yourself or buy premixed) the same way you apply mineral oil for regular oiling. Let sit for several hours or overnight and wipe off any excess with a clean cotton rag.
See? Doesn’t that feel better now that everything’s all clean and shiny? 🙂 Does anyone else have any wooden cutting board / kitchen tool care tips?