The ultimate guide to caring for your wooden chopping board

The ultimate guide to caring for your wooden chopping board - Papa Oki

Wooden boards are beautiful, sustainable and practical but they need a little more TLC than their plastic equivalents – regular cleaning and occasional oiling are the main tasks. While wooden boards are usually more expensive than the average plastic board, in the long run, we think that the overall, lifetime cost is lower because wooden boards don’t have to be replaced as frequently.

In fact, with proper care you can keep a quality wooden chopping board for a lifetime. To properly care for your board, the good news is that it’s more about what you shouldn’t do. We’ve tried and researched all these board care ‘ideas’ and more often than not, they cause irreversible damage or worse.

Let's start with the bad stuff (skip these if you want to skip to the things you should be doing)

1. Don’t soak your wooden board or put it in the dishwasher

Wood absorbs water so extended time spent with or in water means the board can warp and crack. It can also make the joints expand and break. If this happens there’s not much you can do about it – it’s ruined.

2. Steer clear of abrasive or chemical cleaning products like bleach or rubbing alcohol

There’s very few upsides to using these cleansers on your board. Here’s a few things that we’ve observed:

  • They really dry out the wood and change its colour in whole or in patches. Dried out wood is also more prone to absorbing smells or take on the colour of the food you’re preparing e.g. red fruits. Not good
  • They seem to weaken the surface fibres which makes it look shredded and in bad cases look furry
  • We don’t want to prep food on a surface that might have absorbed any toxic compounds like bleach

3. Baking soda can cause more harm than good to your chopping board

Also called bicarbonate of soda, baking soda is a really good product to have around the house – it has so many uses: cleaning fridges, pots and pans, treating heartburn (we haven’t tried this – not medical advice!), removing pesticides from fruit and veg, healing bug bites and many more, but as a way to clean your board, we’d strongly recommend you don’t.

Lots of sites recommend baking soda as a way to cleanse your wooden cutting board and while it may actually clean it, in our own testing, we’ve found it can leave patchy stains and noticeably dehydrates the wood (see above for the impact of dried out wood). It does fizz and it feels like a clever, natural hack, but in the long run it’s not good. Avoid.

4. Not all oils are good for your board or your family’s health

We’ve tried all of these oils (and researched them as well to be safe). Some can make the wood look great, but there are serious downsides that may not be obvious. We think you should avoid all of them.

  • Tung oil: is made from the tung tree that also produces nuts. You may not be allergic to nuts but others are. Some tung oils also contain chemical additives
  •  Linseed oil: Raw linseed oil is safe for human consumption but we’ve found that it makes the wood rancid and creates a really unpleasant smell. Boiled linseed oil is treated with chemicals that make it toxic for humans
  • Walnut oil: like tung oil, walnut oil is nut based oil so a big no no when treating your wooden board. It’s also eye wateringly expensive to put on your board
  • Vegetable or olive oil: it’s handy because every kitchen has one or both of these, but over time we’ve found it also becomes rancid and creates a nasty smell. We’ve never tested it but we suspect it would also affect the taste of the food you’re prepping

So what should you do? How to properly care for your wooden board

All of these recommendations don’t take much effort – just a few minutes every month will make all the difference between having a tired old board crying out for the recycling bin and one you can proudly keep on your countertop for years.

After every use

Wash your chopping board with soap and warm water and scrub it with a sponge or brush. Free flowing water and the scrubbing motion is more important than soap in flushing bacteria and other food particles off the board.

After washing make sure you let the board dry properly. Use a towel and let it air dry standing up or on a raised rack with air flow. Try not to leave your wooden board flat on your worksurface to dry – it can encourage warping as one side dries faster than the other.

If you’re board starts to smell or is stained

It’s rare for well looked after boards to do this but if you’re cooking up some fatty fish or chopping beetroot, you may need to fix it. The best way is to combine rock salt and lemon juice. The rock salt acts as a gentle abrasive and the lemon juice (or white vinegar if you prefer) contains mild acids which neutralize the organic materials or fats causing you problems.

If you find deep gouges or scratches

If you avoid serrated blades like breadknives or electric carving knives this shouldn’t be a big problem, but over time you board will start to show knife marks. Some people sand down their board using progressively finer sanding paper (our manufacturing progresses from 80, to 120 and finally 240 grits).

Do this if you want to maintain a glass smooth finish but we actually like the knife marks – they’re a hallmark of a trusty chopping board and testament to all the meals you’ve prepped over the years.

When your board looks tired, faded or dry

Depending on how much you use your board, you’ll need to periodically apply food safe mineral oil to all the surfaces. It’s also a good idea to do this when your board is new (that’s why Papa Oki adds a small bottle of food safe mineral oil with every new board).  

Treating your board with food safe mineral oil is important because it:

  • Minimises the amount of moisture the board absorbs which lets bacteria thrive
  • Protects the board from warping and cracking
  • Is 100% food safe which some other oils aren’t
  • Is odourless unlike other oils
  • Really helps the wood ‘pop’ leaving it looking great

Applying a good, food safe mineral oil is easy:

  1. Make sure your board is completely dry
  2. Apply liberally to all surfaces using a cloth or your hands – it’s oddly satisfying!
  3. If you want to be really thorough, place the board in a plastic shopping bag overnight. If you’re pressed for time, just wipe away the excess and leave it for a few hours

In summary

As you’ll have read, there’s not too much to good chopping board care. In summary:

  • Avoid exotic or drastic treatments – if in doubt don’t do it
  • Stay on top of your board care by cleaning it after every use
  • Keep it in tip top shape by treating it with mineral oil once in a while to protect and nourish your board – it also helps make the natural grain of the wood look fantastic

We hope that’s helpful but drop us an email if you have any questions.




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