How to Oil and Maintain a Cutting Board

Maintaining a cutting board is a quick and easy task that will keep your board sanitary, looking new and extend the life of your board. The most common question we receive each week at CuttingBoard.com is “How do I maintain my cutting board?”, so we’ve put together this short set of instructions to help you out.

Proper Cleaning and Washing

Washing the cutting board

Wash your cutting board with soap and warm water and scrub well. The volume of water and mechanical scrubbing is more important than soap in flushing bacteria and other food particles off the board. After washing the cutting board, dry immediately with a towel and let it air dry standing up or on a raised rack with air flow.

DO NOT:

  • Put the board in the dishwasher. The heat and water will warp and splinter the wood AND void warranties from most manufacturers. Only plastic, composite or glass boards can go into the dishwasher. 
  • Dunk or let the board in stand in water. The wood will absorb water and potentially warp.
  • Use bleach. This will stain the wood and/or excessively dry the wood.
  • Put a wet board flat to dry. If the board dries on one side, it will cause the wood to warp.

If your board has stains or smells, you can use lemon juice or white vinegar directly on the area. The acid in these liquids will neutralize the organic material or fats causing the problem.

How to Apply Cutting Board Oil and Board Cream

Putting oil on cutting board

Once your cutting board is thoroughly dry, apply the oil directly onto the surface of the board. Be generous with the application, especially if the wood is dry or you just purchased the cutting board or butcher block. You want the surface to be dripping wet on all sides and we recommend using a small bar towel or new paint brush to spread the oil (try not to soak up the oil), as using your hands may lead to accidental splinters. Most importantly, let the oil soak into the cutting board for as long as possible; at least a few hours or overnight if possible. If you purchased our cutting board kit, a microfiber towel is included.

Wiping oil across board

Let your cutting board sit on a wire rack or upright to dry when done. If you are restoring an old, dry or seasoning a new cutting board, you may wish to repeat this process two more times, to ensure your cutting board is completely seasoned.

To apply board cream, wait until the board is dry after washing or oiling, then apply a small amount of cream onto the board. Using a soft cloth, buff the cream/wax into the wood in a circular pattern, forming a thin coat. Repeat over the entire surface of the board and especially the sides. It's not necessary to let the wax soak into the board. 

We recommended you oil your cutting board every month or when dry to the touch.Board cream should be applied at the same time as oiling.

*John Boos will void warranties on boards that are not properly maintained or oiled each month.

Why Use Cutting Board Oils and Board Creams?

The goal of board oil is to penetrate the wood and saturate the wood fibers, in order to stop any other liquids (blood, bacteria) and moisture from soaking into the board. As well, a well-oiled cutting board will keep the same shape when the wood fibers are saturated, so it will not expand and shrink compared to a board that is left to completely dry, then exposed to water. This shrinking and expanding effect is the main cause of warped cutting boards.

Here is a picture of a "no maintenance" bamboo cutting board that has been oiled on one side and left dry on the other. In other words, all wood cutting boards need to be oiled periodically:

Before and after oiling

While board oil penetrates the wood, board cream/wax acts as a physical barrier on the surface of the wood that protects against stains and liquids. The wax also aids in sanitation, as it fills and seals in knife scars and microscopic cracks where bacteria would otherwise gather.

Used in conjunction, cutting board oil and cream provide an effective combination of protective outer layer and sealed wood that is sanitary, easier to clean and won’t warp.

Recommended Products

CuttingBoard.com recommends only the use of food grade substances for use on our cutting board, as it will be in contact with food. All of the cutting board oils and creams we carry on our site are appropriate for food contact. These include:

You can read more on what types of oils we recommend on our blog.

Please note that we do not recommend natural oils such as vegetable, corn, olive, peanut or walnut oil, as these are rich in fats that will eventually oxidize and go rancid, creating a foul smelling board. Also, never use standard mineral oil from a hardware store that is not rated as food safe, as that is meant for machine lubrication and not for contact with food. It is not worth jeopardizing your health for a few dollars!

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Maintaining your cutting board is very simple if you know how, so we hope this short guide will ensure you have a sanitary and happy cutting board for many years to come.