How to clean and sanitise wooden chopping boards

Banish bacteria chop-chop!
Credit: Photo: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes

Despite their ubiquity in most modern households, you’ll rarely see a professional chef using a plastic cutting board. If you know how to clean a wooden chopping board properly and take good care of it, you’ll never look back. That’s because wooden chopping boards naturally resist bacteria, are much gentler on sharp knives and won’t release microplastics into your food. They also look incredible positioned out and proud on your kitchen bench.

Wooden chopping boards, for all their good qualities, do however, require special care. Some modern iterations can simply be placed in the dishwasher, while others require gentler handling and regular oiling to avoid warping and splitting. Wood can also absorb the taste of aromatic foods (think onion and garlic), so knowing how to clean, dry, deoderise and sanitise wooden cutting boards correctly is essential. Here are 6 ways to clean wooden chopping boards with ease.

(Credit: Ema Peter)
  • Unless your wooden chopping board is dishwasher safe, avoid placing it in the dishwasher, as it can cause the board to crack or warp.
  • When drying cutting boards, place them in a position where air can circulate. This allows the board to dry out completely, eliminating any further bacteria that can live in moisture.
  • Wooden chopping boards with deep scars or visible mould spots should be discarded.
  • While some sources claim that vinegar or lemons can disinfect a chopping board, this information is incorrect. Vinegar and lemon are not effective sanitisers.
Quick wooden chopping board care tips

How to clean a wooden chopping board

To clean a wooden chopping board, scrape away any food remnants before washing the wooden cutting board in warm water with mild dishwashing liquid and a firm dishwashing brush. Wipe away excess moisture with a soft tea towel and allow to air dry completely. If you feel your chopping board needs a little extra TLC, follow up a wash with one of the following cleaning methods.

1. Bicarbonate of soda

Mix one tablespoon of bi-carb soda, one tablespoon of salt and one tablespoon of water to form a paste. Give your chopping board a good scrub with the paste, then rinse thoroughly with hot water and dry. For a more effective cleaner, add a little white vinegar and lemon juice. 

2. Vinegar

Vinegar is great for deoderising wooden chopping boards. After washing your board, give it a wipe with full-strength, white vinegar. You can boost the deodorising power by sprinkling the vinegar-coated board with bicarbonate of soda followed by a spray of white vinegar. Leave for ten minutes, whilst it foams up, then rinse off and wipe dry.

3. Lemons

Whilst they don’t disinfect, lemons are great for de-odourising your board, which is handy for boards that are used for chopping up onions and garlic. Cut a lemon in half and rub it all over the board. You can also add salt to help absorb odours.

gray quartz kitchen splashback
(Credit: Photo: Louise Roche | Styling: Kylie Jackes)

How to sanitise a wooden chopping board

So there’s clean, and then there’s clean and sanitised. Sanitising (or disinfecting) a chopping board refers to the process of eliminating bacteria from an already clean surface. This may be necessary after using the board to chop raw meat or after prolongued use. Here are three ways to sanitise a wooden chopping board.

1. Chlorine bleach

There is only one chopping board sanitation method the NSW Food Authority endorses, and that is washing the board in a solution of chlorine bleach and water. Dilute the bleach in water according to the product label and immerse the clean chopping board in the solution for the recommended time to kill off any bacteria. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry completely.

2. Hydrogen peroxide

You can use food grade 3 per cent hydrogen peroxide to disinfect chopping boards that have been used for chopping up raw meat. Spray enough hydrogen peroxide around the chopping board for it get into the cuts and rub it in with a clean cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water, then dry.

3. Microwave

This tip will only work for wooden chopping boards that are small enough to fit in the microwave. A 1996 study found that microwaving a wooden chopping board for 3-4 minutes on high achieved “almost total elimination of vegetative cells”. The results varied depending on the board size, the amount of bacteria present and the amount of moisture contained in the board.

Now that your wooden chopping board is clean, maintain it by applying a food safe oil to the surface regularly. Oil prevents the board from absorbing moisture and harbouring mould and bacteria.

Masterclass recommends coating the board in linseed oil or beeswax and rub in the oil using a soft cloth or paper towel. Wipe away excess oil. Repeat once more before allowing the board to dry out overnight.

How to oil a wooden chopping board

Wooden chopping board care essentials


Peer Sorensen chopping board

From $135, David Jones

If you hate the feeling of finding sand in places you shouldn’t – all over your home post beach day – then a sand-free beach towel is a must. This olive-hued one from Sand Society is made from recycled microfibre, sand-free, and quick-drying.


Gilly’s chopping board oil 100mL in citrus/beeswax

From $20.95, Biome

If you hate the feeling of finding sand in places you shouldn’t – all over your home post beach day – then a sand-free beach towel is a must. This olive-hued one from Sand Society is made from recycled microfibre, sand-free, and quick-drying.


ProH202 Food Grade Hydrogen Peroxide 3%

From $26.19, Amazon

Food grade hydrogen peroxide is a powerful and versatile disinfectant that will sanitise chopping boards and all manner of kitchen equipment, including benchtops, sinks and pots and pans. This product comes in a handy spray bottle that makes cleaning your chopping board a breeze. 


Joseph Joseph Folio steel bamboo 3-piece board set in stainless steel

From $189.95, Myer

Because wood can hold odours, having numerous boards dedicated to specific tasks can help. Joseph Joseph’s chopping board set comes with three bamboo boards contained in a slimline case that allows air to circulate around each of the boards. Hand wash only. 


Baccarat waterproof bamboo chopping board 25x18cm 

From $24.99, House

Love the idea of a wooden chopping board but reluctant to deal with the maintenance? Bacarrat’s waterproof bamboo chopping board is the product you need. Made from 100% bamboo it is naturally resistant to food bacteria and can easily withstand the high temperatures of a dishwasher. 

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