Cutting board with chopped sliced avocados and tomatoes. Photo by Megan Swiertz

Cutting board with chopped sliced avocados and tomatoes. Photo by Megan Swiertz

When it comes to deciding what kind of cutting board to purchase, I’ve heard advocates for both wood and plastic cutting boards, each claiming that their preferred material fights pathogens better than the other. Personally, I prefer plastic cutting boards as they tend to be cheaper and require less care than wooden ones.  In the end, pathogens are going to be involved no matter which material you choose. As a result, it is important to make sure that you practice proper care and safety techniques when it comes to maintaining your cutting boards.

One of the simplest ways to avoid the risk of unwanted pathogens is to use separate boards for each food product. To avoid cross-contamination, it is most important to make sure that you have a cutting board used exclusively for raw meat.  Although all produce can share a cutting board, many people like to have a separate board for fruits and a separate board for vegetables as well. An easy way to keep track of which board is for what product is to color code the boards. For example, the cutting board for meat can be red, while fruit is blue and the one for vegetables is green.

Cutting boards must be washed after each use. Before washing my cutting boards, I like to spray them with a homemade solution of 1 teaspoon bleach and 1 quart water. Let the solution sit on the board for a minute to disinfect.  Note that this may damage wooden cutting boards.

Just like any other dirty dishes, cutting boards can be washed with hot water and soap. However, it is important to rinse them before immersing them into the dishwater to avoid the transmission of potential pathogens to other kitchen supplies in the sink. One advantage of using plastic cutting boards is that many of them are dishwasher safe. However, sometimes the water can get hot enough to warp these boards.  On the other hand, wooden boards should always be hand-washed to prevent the splitting and warping effects of being submerged in water. Cutting boards should always be stored in an upright position in a dry place to prevent the retention of water which attracts bacteria.

After being used multiple times, cutting boards may develop stains and absorb odors from food. This is more common with wooden cutting boards since they are porous. To remove stains, sprinkle some salt and baking soda over the affected area and scrub it with hot water and a sponge. A white vinegar solution of 3 tablespoons vinegar per 1 cup of water can help to rid of odors and also act as a disinfectant. Unlike bleach, this solution should not harm wooden cutting boards.

Once there are deep cuts and nicks in your board, it is time to replace it because bacteria can hide inside these grooves. No matter how well you care for your cutting boards, eventually they are going to need to be replaced. However, proper maintenance and care can help to prolong the life of your cutting boards.

About The Author

Leila Shinn

Hi, I’m Leila! Yes, like the Eric Clapton song, but spelled wrong. I am a junior studying to become a dietitian. Until the day that I can afford to drop everything and finally relax and travel the world, I try to get involved in as much as I can. I also work as a research assistant, facility assistant, and a cooking instructor. I am obsessed with Hello Kitty and cartoons.  

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