No kitchen can do without a good cutting board, and many people prefer a particular type, especially a wooden board. Wooden cutting boards will last for years and years, but some amount of care is needed, and the following steps will help ensure that your board lasts a long time and is always safe from any food-borne bacteria. For an interesting article about the safety of wood cutting boards, click here.
If a board is used for fruits, veggies, meats or fish, it can be cleaned with a damp cloth and a mild anti-bacterial soap or commonly available 3% Hydrogen Peroxide. Peroxide is much more effectively used than chlorine bleach to sanitize wood. A few words are needed here about common chlorine bleach solutions. Bleach, even at full strength, is not always effective at sanitizing wood cutting boards, because the disinfectant quality of bleach can be neutralized by the organic composition of wood. A common sanitizing solution is one part bleach to 9 parts water. What many people do not know is that a diluted chlorine bleach solution is short-lived. It has a half-life (a 50% reduction in strength) of only about 2 hours. After 4 hours, it's only at 25% strength, and so on. If you need to use a bleach solution to sanitize a wood cutting board (or anything else for that matter), it should be prepared fresh for each use.
After sanitizing, rinse with hot water, wipe with a clean cloth, and allow it to dry in an upright position. All cutting boards, and other food surfaces, should be kept dry when not in use. Resident bacteria survive no more than a few hours without moisture. Do not soak wood cutting boards, and do not put them in the dishwasher.
Warpage can be caused by several factors. Improper construction will cause a board to warp, but I will not address that here. Typically, a cutting board will warp when only one side is used. Moisture migrates into that side and actually causes the wood fibers to swell and expand in relation to the other side. Using both sides equally will help prevent possible warpage.
All of my boards are finished with a coat of olive oil. Conventional wisdom indicates that mineral oil should be used for re-oiling a wood cutting board because of a slight risk of olive oil rancidity. I use olive oil initially because it will dry and 'harden-off' as opposed to mineral oil, and a well built, tight-grained new board will not absorb enough oil to cause a problem. Oil rancidity should not be confused with bacterial growth. Just remember that bacteria need moisture to survive.
Oiling a cutting board is essential because detergents and soaps used for cleaning tend to dry out the wood, causing splits and an overall shorter useful lifespan. Bread boards can simply be brushed off with a dry towel. The board pictured above is my 25 year old bread board. It has never been washed and has never been re-oiled either.
Mineral oil, beeswax, walnut, almond or coconut oil will work. Re-oil the board depending on the frequency of washing, as the soaps will eventually remove the oils in the wood. This could be as often as every few weeks to several months. As wood dries out, it gets a 'thirsty' washed-out looking appearance, but as a general rule, a monthly coat of mineral oil will keep it ready for action. Apply the oil liberally, and rub into the wood with a clean cloth. A paper towel will work also. Stand the board on end, or prop up for a few hours, re-oiling until the wood does not absorb any more oil. Wipe off any excess.
Remove stains by generously sprinkling regular table salt over the surface of the board, and rubbing it with a sliced lemon. Rinse well with hot water. Baking soda also works to remove odors, especially if you've been working with onions, garlic, or other strong scented foods.