How to care for cutting boards


If you cook, there’s a very good chance you have a cutting board or two in your kitchen. Cutting boards might seem like a basic kitchen necessity, but there’s actually a lot to know: Which type should you use for which task? Are they dishwasher safe? What’s the best size? Setting the facts straight can make a big difference.


  1. You’re cutting meat and vegetables on the same board.
    Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards for meat and poultry, and vegetables. Consider a color-coding system, only using a red plastic cutting board for raw meats and a green one for vegetables. If you prefer wood cutting boards, color code with a small piece of electric tape, which will hold up under water.
  2. You’re chopping on a slippery cutting board.
    Save yourself time—and a finger—by securing your cutting board before you start chopping. Buy a cutting board with grips or place a damp paper towel under your cutting board.
  3. You’re using the wrong size.
    Just like too-small area rugs plague living rooms, too-small cutting boards plague kitchens. Give yourself ample space while you’re slicing and dicing to prevent any hiccups. To make sure your cutting board is large enough, place your knife diagonally across the board. If the length of the knife is longer than the cutting board, scale up; the board’s surface area should be a couple of inches larger than the knife.
  4. You’re putting it in the dishwasher.
    Whether it’s wood or plastic, cutting boards should not go in the dishwasher, where they have prolonged exposure to heat and water, which can cause warping and cracking. Instead, scrub your cutting boards in hot soapy water, and when you want to be extra safe (like after dealing with raw meat), soak the board in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 4 parts water before cleaning.
  5. You’re not oiling your wood boards.
    With enough hand-washing, wood cutting boards can begin to dry out. Oil them with a food-safe mineral oil (also called liquid paraffin) or beeswax. Both will help prevent water absorption.
  6. You’re cutting on glass or marble
    These cutting boards are purely decorative: Their materials will dull your knives with incredible speed. Plus, they’re really slippery.
  7. You’re using bamboo with dull knives.
    Bamboo is much harder than wood, which means it’ll dull your knife faster. If you prefer bamboo over wood for environmental reasons, invest in a knife steel for quick at-home sharpening.
  8. You’re hoarding your old cutting boards.
    Once your cutting boards start to develop deep grooves or indentations that are tough to clean—and easy for bacteria to live in—it’s time to replace them.
  9. You’re refusing to follow the dishwasher rule.
    If it’s too tough to hand-wash your cutting board, buy a composite one, which is made of natural and synthetic materials.