Sometime in your future (if it has not already happened), you are likely to find yourself finely chopping some onions on your wood cutting board, while trying not to cry, and suddenly it will occur to you that your cutting board does not look like it did when you first got it. Being the responsible adult you are, you will probably stare into the cleaning cabinet and think what the heck does one use to clean a wooden cutting board. Thankfully, you live in the 21st century and a quick Google search from your phone will pull up a blog post like this to quickly educate you on the topic.
The first thing we need to get out in the open, and clear up any confusion on, is that you cannot put your wooden cutting board in the dishwasher, add detergent, press a couple buttons and then come back an hour later expecting it to be clean. If you want to do that you should probably be using a plastic cutting board. Wood naturally wants to retain water so placing a wooden cutting board in the dishwasher will cause it to retain water, swell, and possibly crack. You can simply wash your wooden cutting board with soap and water and place it on a towel or drying rack to dry, but this will not restore it to its original condition. To restore the wood, you need to clean it by oiling the board with some type of polish or oil like you would any other piece of wood (i.e. furniture) in your home. When considering the best cleaning product to use for your wooden cutting board there are a few important factors to consider: effectiveness of the product in restoring the wood, how the product is made, the safety/warnings of using the product as a cleaner used on a food-prep surface such as a cutting board, and cost effectiveness.
1. Linseed Oil
Linseed oil ranks high in the category of effectiveness for its ability to return the luster and shine to your wooden cutting board, while also acting as a sealant to help repel water from getting into the wood grain. In regards to how the product is made you can rest easy knowing that linseed oil is harvested by pressing the seeds of a flax seed plant, meaning it is naturally sourced. Just make sure you get raw linseed oil to lather on your cutting board, because other linseed oils have been treated with chemicals and heat making it toxic for us to consume. Another thing to consider with linseed oil is that it is an organic oil. Organic oils, like linseed oil, have fats in them that autoxidize and have been known to cause rancidity (i.e. your board might develop a stench or leave an aftertaste on your food). In regards to cost effectiveness, linseed oil will is the cheapest cleaning product for your board at just $10 per liter.
2. Walnut Oil
Walnut oil is another great cleaning solution worth considering for getting your wood cutting board back to its original glory. Walnut oil is also very effective as a polish and will do a great job conditioning and oiling your board. Another benefit of using walnut oil is the wonderful aroma walnut oil leaves on your board, an aroma good enough to maybe even cover up that lingering onion odor. Like linseed oil, walnut oil is also naturally sourced (from the walnut in case you were wondering). Because of this, walnut oil would not be a good choice for people with any sort of nut allergies. Walnut oil is also an organic oil and may eventually develop a rancid smell. Priced right around $10 for 8 fluid ounces, it is one of the pricier options.
3. Mineral Oil (Food-Safe)
The next oil to consider is mineral oil. In regards to effectiveness, mineral oil ranks high and will provide the same shine and sealant benefits as linseed and walnut oil. The main concern with mineral oil is how it is made. Mineral oil results from the refining process for petroleum oil. Like with linseed oil, make sure you are purchasing food-grade mineral oil that has been deemed safe for human consumption. There are other mineral oils used for lubricating machinery that you can find at stores like Home Depot or Lowes, but these are generally a lower grade and not safe to consume. In regards to rancidity, you do not have to worry about that with mineral oil because it is non-drying and will not support the growth of microorganisms that cause that rancid smell. At an average of $11.00 for 12 fluid ounces, mineral oil is one of the more cost effective options.
Our last product to consider is a little different than all the other products considered above. All the other products have been oils, but oils are not the only product that can be used to clean your wood cutting board. In fact, wax is another great cleaning option. The most common wax used to clean wood cutting board is beeswax (naturally sourced from bee hives). Beeswax is highly effective in restoring your wood board, while also offering that continual water-repelling protection you are looking for to protect your board during future use. Beeswax is not an organic oil; therefore, comparable to mineral oil, rancidity is a concern we can cross of our list. To use the beeswax to clean your board, you will have to melt it down into a liquid before applying it to the board. Beeswax pellets, that would be easy to measure and melt down, cost around $12.00 per pound. Beeswax can possibly also be attained at a cheaper rate or for free if you know a local beekeeper who has some you could use. Beeswax is also commonly combined with mineral oil (use 2 parts mineral oil and 1 part beeswax), during the melting process, then lathered onto the cutting board.
After considering several different products you can use to clean your wood cutting board, it is clear that there are an array of options that each have their benefits and drawbacks. The good thing is that whether your personal preferences lead you to choose linseed oil, walnut oil, mineral oil, or wax to clean your cutting board these products all ensure that you will meet your ultimate goal of having a cutting board that looks like new with minimal cost and effort.