There is a huge difference between cleaning and sanitizing cutting boards.
If you pick up only one thing throughout this post, please let it be the difference between the two.
If I’m cleaning my cutting board, aren’t I also sanitizing it?
Nope! In a nutshell, cleaning is using soap and water, or detergent and water to remove physical remnants of food, dirt, grime, grease, etc.. It does wash some of the germs away, but cleaning should never be confused with sanitizing.
Aren’t sanitizing and disinfecting the same thing?
Nope. When you sanitize something you’re reducing the growth of the bacteria, virus and other bad stuff. It’s like shooting an elephant with a shotgun full of turkey load. It may stun him and keep him quiet for a half a second, but it sure as heck isn’t gonna kill him. When you’re disinfecting, you’re killing the microscopic organisms. Since I’m talking about elephants, this time it would be like shooting that elephant with an elephant gun.
***Disclaimer** for all of you animal rights activists, I’m using this as an example. I don’t believe in killing any animal for sheer sport; especially when we’re talking about Dumbo!
Talk dirty to me about cutting boards.
I have a lot of cutting boards. I have wooden ones, bamboo ones, plastic ones, and even disposable ones. Mine are not beautiful and will not be displayed to make my friends and family envious. My cutting boards have been through the battlefields of years of chopping, dicing, falling on the floor, and even having a dog lick it, but you know what? My overly worn, much loved and abused cutting boards may not be as pretty as the other ladies on the block, but I’m sure mine are bacteria free due to proper sanitization methods.
Don’t think, if you’re cutting up some chicken on a wooden or nonporous cutting board and you just wash it quickly with some hot soapy water before cutting your non-cooked vegetables, you’re going to be safe. You’re not. What you are doing is putting you and the health of your loved ones in jeopardy.
Easy way to avoid cross-contamination
The most important thing you can do when it comes to cleaning a cutting board is to avoid cross-contamination. According to the USDA, if you’re cutting raw meat and poultry, you should use either a wooden or nonporous surface for cutting.
It’s really important to have a minimum of 2 cutting boards in your home. One for raw meat and one for food that doesn’t require cooking, such as fresh fruit, vegetables, or even chopping nuts or canned tuna fish.
I have “meat” and “other stuff” written in a black sharpie on the top front and back of my cutting boards. I highly recommend you do the same. When the sharpie wears off, re-write it again. Don’t chance your memory on this one.
How simple is sanitizing cutting boards?
It’s super easy to disinfect a cutting board and I will be listing the information down below.
Before I move on, let me just say this. You can clean your cutting boards any which way you like, but you can only disinfect them one way, and that’s with liquid chlorine bleach and water.
How to clean wood cutting boards.
After each use, wash your wooden cutting boards with hot soapy water for a minimum of 3 minutes. Rinse with clear water and either air dry or pat dry with a paper towel. DO NOT dry it with a dishtowel, as they harbor nasty germs and will ultimately defeat the purpose of washing the cutting board in the first place. You can read more about that in my earlier post, How To Destroy Kitchen Germs and Bacteria.
How to sanitize a wood cutting board.
Per the CDC, FSIS and the USDA, the only way to sanitize a wood cutting board is to mix a solution of 1 tablespoon unscented liquid chlorine bleach (Clorox) per 1 gallon of water. Soak your board in the bleach bath and allow it to sit for 3-to-4 minutes. Rinse it off for around 45 seconds to 1 minute with clear water and air dry or pat it dry with a paper towel.
Please do not use industrial-strength liquid chlorine bleach as that does hold a much higher concentration of sodium hypochlorite which can be dangerous and cause tissue burns in your mouth, esophagus, and stomach. Household chlorine bleach holds much lower levels of sodium hypochlorite. Also, DO NOT use scented bleach as it is not food safe.
How to clean glass, plastic or acrylic cutting boards.
Nonporous acrylic, plastic, and glass, cutting boards can be washed in the dishwasher. Always wash it off with warm-to-hot soapy water before putting in the dishwasher. The dishwasher itself acts as a sanitizer due to the extreme heat. Make sure you go through a full cycle. That includes the heat setting at the end.
There’s no cheating when it comes to sanitizing.
How to clean and sanitize bamboo cutting boards.
The best want to clean a bamboo cutting board is to wash it with very hot, soapy water. Follow it up with a bleach bath. Once done, rub it with mineral oil to help retain the moisture in the wood to prevent it from cracking.
Bamboo cutting boards are harder and less porous than solid wood cutting boards. Bamboo absorbs very little moisture and resists scarring from knives, so they’re a lot more resistant to bacteria than other types of wooden cutting boards.
Can I clean my cutting boards with hydrogen peroxide?
Yes, you can use 3% hydrogen peroxide to clean your cutting boards. First, wash all the food particles off with hot soapy water, then apply the peroxide directly onto your cutting board. Let is soak for 10-12 minutes. Blot dry with a clean paper towel.
Please DO NOT use this method if the cutting board you’re cleaning was used for raw meat or poultry.
Can I disinfect my cutting boards with hydrogen peroxide?
To a degree. Hydrogen peroxide doesn’t kill all fungus and bacteria. How are you supposed to know what types of bacteria are lying on your cutting boards? This is why you really need to use a broad-spectrum disinfectant such as bleach.
Superhero tip: Keep in mind, bleach can discolor certain surfaces. If ingested it can cause irritation. Scented bleach has a higher pH which can cause alkaline burns. Make sure to use gloves while cleaning and good ventilation while using bleach and never use with ammonia.
Can I use vinegar to sanitize my cutting boards?
No! Sorry to burst your bubble, but you can not sanitize with vinegar. This comes straight from the mouth of the CDC, the USDA, and FSIS. It is NOT a disinfectant and it should NOT be used to clean cutting boards that either raw chicken, pork or beef were sitting on.
Once again, DO NOT and I repeat, DO NOT, use vinegar alone on a cutting board that you used to cut meat or poultry. Regardless of what Google results show you, DO NOT do it, unless you want to give you and your family food poisoning.
How do I clean cutting boards with vinegar?
If you’re going to clean your cutting board with vinegar, first wash it with hot soapy water, then dry with a clean paper towel. You can either rub or spray on the vinegar (1 cup to 5 cups hot water).
Feel free to use a vinegar wash on cutting boards you typically shop fruits, veggies, nuts, etc..
Does lemon and baking soda disinfect cutting boards?
No, even though lemon is acidic and it has some antibacterial properties and acts as an antiseptic, it will not kill E.Coli, Salmonella or other foodborne pathogens.
The combination does not act as a disinfectant, although it will burn the spit out of a cut you may have on your hand. Lemon and baking soda do make for a pretty awesome cleaner.
Are wooden cutting boards sanitary?
Yes, a wooden cutting board is sanitary; however, special care must be given to it after you use it to cut raw meat. I would highly recommend you wash it with hot soapy water, then disinfect it with household bleach.
When it comes to using a wooden cutting board, you really need to be extra cautious when it comes to properly clean it. Bacteria have a way of finding a small little sliver and burrowing its ugly head deep into the fibers of the wood.
Personally, I don’t like using my wood cutting boards for raw meat. When I do use it, I’m usually chopping nuts, garlic or ginger. Don’t ask me why because I don’t know why I use it for that; I just do.
How often do cutting boards need to be replaced?
That’s totally up to you, but as a point of reference, always replace your nonporous plastic and wooden cutting boards once they become excessively worn, or develop a lot of very hard to clean groves from your knives.
According to my mother who’s still using the same solid wood cutting board for 58 years; “Cutting boards last forever. I’ve never had a problem with this one”.
Really…really mom? If I told you how many times both my mother and father had food poisoning it would blow your mind.
Although there are many different ways to clean your cutting boards, please remember with everything, there is never a substitute for hot soapy water followed by a good bleach bath for sanitizing cutting boards.
What do you use to clean your cutting boards? Let me know in the comments.
Until we meet again,
For more information about cutting boards and food safety, please visit USDA FSIS.