Whether your cutting boards are made of wood, plastic, glass, marble or stainless steel, here's how to keep them spick and span.

Krissy Brady
February 21, 2020
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Credit: Getty / Nirut Saelim / EyeEm

Keeping your kitchen clean and organized isn't just a matter of personal preference or efficiency, but of health and safety—and if there's one kitchen tool we could all do a better job of maintaining, it's our trusty cutting boards.

Even if you're using one board for cutting raw meats and another for fruits and veggies to avoid cross-contamination, not cleaning them between uses (or taking the time to regularly disinfect them) can still leave you vulnerable to food-borne illnesses.

"Cutting boards are like any other food-contact surface," says Janilyn Hutchings, a food safety specialist for StateFoodSafety. "If you don't clean them properly after using them, germs (like salmonella and E. coli bacteria) can build up on them and contaminate everything the cutting board touches afterward."

To minimize cross-contamination as you're cooking, "it's best to both clean and disinfect your cutting boards after every use, as well as in between working with different types of food," says Leanne Stapf, chief operating officer at The Cleaning Authority. (Yes, even if you're just prepping salad ingredients.)

What your cutting board is made of determines the best way to clean and sanitize it—here's how cleaning experts recommend getting the job done.

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board

Put your cutting board in the sink and run hot water over the surface to remove any loose particles. "Never soak your wooden board in water, as it will cause expansion of the fibers or warp the board," says Jennie Varney, brand manager for Molly Maid, a Neighborly company.

Scrub it down with hot water and dish soap, until all traces of stains, food particles and soap have disappeared. Pat the excess water off with a paper towel or clean microfiber cloth, then stand it upright to dry.

To disinfect the board, soak a clean microfiber cloth in distilled white vinegar and wipe the board down, letting it sit at least five minutes. Rinse it well, then wash it again with soap and warm water.

"If your cutting board has an odor, sprinkle 1/3 cup of coarse salt evenly over the board," says Stapf. "Let it sit for 10 minutes, then take half a lemon and gently scrub the salt into the board." Rinse with hot water and let it dry in an upright position.

To preserve the lifespan of your wooden cutting board, rub mineral oil over the board once a month. "This will help keep the wood hydrated and will act as a water-repellant barrier," says Stapf.

If your board is filled with cuts, cracks and scratches and refinishing it isn't an option (or it starts to warp), it's time to replace it. (We love this large-sized one from Boos, $86.)

"Cuts and scratches can harbor pathogens, and if the scratches on your board are deep, even sanitizing won't kill all the germs that get on it," says Hutchings.

How to Clean a Plastic Cutting Board

Start by scrubbing the cutting board with hot, soapy water and rinse it well.

Next, disinfect your plastic cutting board by soaking it in a mix of one part distilled white vinegar to four parts water. "Once the board sits for at least five minutes, wash it again with soap and water," says Stapf.

Let it air dry, or pat the board dry with a paper towel or clean microfiber cloth.

"It's best to replace plastic cutting boards once every couple of years, or when hard-to-reach grooves begin to form," says Stapf. "If it's been exposed to heat and shows melted spots, this also means it's time for a new board." (We love this $20 set of plastic cutting boards from OXO.)

How to Clean a Glass Cutting Board

To clean your glass cutting board, run hot water over the surface to remove loose particles. Wash using hot, soapy water, then rinse the board thoroughly.

To disinfect, slowly and thoroughly pour a pot of boiling water over the cutting board right after you've cleaned it. Then, let it air dry or pat it dry with a paper towel or microfiber cloth.

"Like plastic cutting boards, glass boards can't be resurfaced," says Hutchings. "If your glass cutting board starts to look scratched and cut up, you should replace it." (Need to replace yours ASAP? We love this $25 set of glass cutting boards from Amazon.)

How to Clean a Marble Cutting Board

It's best to avoid using abrasive and acidic cleaners on a marble cutting board, as these can wear away the finish. The same goes for super-hot water—abrupt temperature changes can cause the board to crack.

To simultaneously clean and disinfect, wipe down the cutting board with a solution of 2 cups warm water, 1 cup distilled white vinegar and 2 teaspoons liquid dish soap. (Yes, vinegar is acidic, but in this case it's diluted to be safe on marble surfaces.)

"The soap cuts through any grease buildup and removes any remaining food particles, while the distilled white vinegar disinfects the surface," says Stapf.

Once rinsed, dry your cutting board with a clean microfiber cloth (leaving it to air dry can result in pesky water stains).

"You should consider replacing your marble cutting board if there are a lot of cuts and scratches on its surface," says Hutchings. If it's cracked, it should absolutely be replaced to prevent bacteria buildup. (This one from Amazon is absolutely stunning, and it's only $89.)

How to Clean a Stainless Steel Cutting Board

After rinsing off any loose particles, wash the cutting board with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.

"Only use pH-neutral products, such as soap and water," says Varney. "Anything acidic will strip the shine off and possibly make your cutting board more vulnerable to damage."

Disinfect it by slowly and thoroughly pouring a pot of boiling water over the cutting board post-wash, and keep it spot-free by drying it with a paper towel or clean microfiber cloth.

"When your stainless steel cutting board starts to acquire deep grooves, scratches or scuffs, it's time to replace it," says Hutchings. (Try this $36 one from Amazon.)