Well, it’s not terribly glamorous, but it is important to clean your cutting boards regularly. Many people seem to think that bleach is necessary to clean a cutting board. So so wrong!
First, I never use anything on my cutting boards that I wouldn’t eat. Second, bleach is caustic just to inhale; it should never be used in an open environment and certainly does not belong in the kitchen.
So how shall we attack the bacteria and such that accumulate wherever food is prepared? It will depend on what kind of cutting boards you use, so let’s look at the options.
There are basically three kinds of cutting boards: wood, bamboo, and plastic. That’s it. Good knives should never be subjected to a surface harder than these substances.
Of the three, which is the best choice? Personally my least favorite material is plastic. The “cuts” that the knives make on plastic become little bacteria breeding grounds and are unsightly.
Bamboo is great because the bamboo itself is a natural and readily renewable resource. And it’s attractive. Be aware, however, that it is harder than wood and therefore a little harder on your knives.
Wood, however, is the material of choice. It’s kind to your knives, and it’s beautiful. It’s also self-healing, so the cuts of the knife don’t become scars. It requires a little more care than plastic but will repay you with generations of service.
Cleaning Plastic and Bamboo Cutting Boards
For most people, cleaning plastic and bamboo cutting boards is as easy as placing them in a dishwasher and pushing the button. Even so, there are a few helpful tips.
Most importantly, be sure the board is absolutely dry before putting it away. Bacteria flourish in a moist environment, so you always want to be sure to keep your kitchen equipment dry.
Second, you want to be sure to “freshen” your cutting boards regularly with a spritz of antimicrobial, antibacterial essential oils. Just spritz the essential oils on, wipe them in, and allow them to air dry. See below for some recipes.
For those of you who, like myself, do not have a dishwasher, wash your plastic and bamboo cutting boards with lots of hot, soapy water. Spritz with essential oils after every use.
If your plastic cutting boards get really scarred and ratty looking, you could go to the trouble of resurfacing them (http://www.instructables.com/id/Refresh-that-old-plastic-cutting-board/) or you could toss them. I have tossed mine.
Cleaning Wood Cutting Boards
Wood cutting boards need to be cleaned, obviously, after each use, but they also need to be “refreshed” and oiled regularly. These processes are quick and easy. Let’s start with the “every use” procedure. (Note that you can treat your wooden salad bowls in the same manner.)
Wood cutting boards should never go in the dishwasher, but they can be cleaned with hot, soapy water. Be very careful, however, to dry your cutting board immediately and thoroughly so the moisture doesn’t have a chance to seep into the wood. After drying the board, allow it to stand and continue to air dry for a few hours just to be sure.
For a more thorough cleaning, sprinkle some coarse salt on your wood cutting board and scrub it in using the cut half of a lemon. Lemon juice is antibacterial — and smells good — so it’s a perfect “scrub brush” for this operation. The best time to perform this cleaning operation is when you have a half a lemon or two.
Wood cutting boards also need to be oiled on occasion. I try to oil my boards whenever I do a spring or fall cleaning or when a board begins to look a little dry. Or when I just feel like it.
The best oil to use is mineral oil, which is edible but does not turn rancid over time. You can apply the oil with a cloth or paper towel, but I just use my hands. It feels good to get my hands into my work and to feel the wood as it responds to the oil.
It’s okay to slather on the oil. Some will soak in over night, and the rest is easy to wipe off in the morning.
Essential Oil Spritzes
Essential oil spritzes are easy to make. You’ll need an opaque glass spray bottle, some water, and the essential oils of your choice. Some wonderful oil choices are Lavender, Lemon, Tea Tree, and Peppermint.
To a cup of water, add about 10 drops of your oil or blend of choice. You can even conjure up your own blend — I love Lavender and Lemon together. Mix and spray. It’s that easy. And while you’re spritzing your cutting boards, spritz around the entire kitchen area. It’s cleansing, and it smells great.
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Hope this blog post has been helpful. Want to know more about cleaning with essential oils? Comment below or contact me directly. Look forward to hearing from you.