Long term relationships often get taken for granted. I noticed that my wooden cutting boards and bowls were looking over-worked and sad. They just needed a little TLC. And look how beautiful and happy they are now!
My salad bowl, cutting board and cheese board were dry and thirsty, they needed a drink! Once they were oiled they came back to life and looked young again.
This is an overnight job, so the perfect time to do it is after dinner once the dishes are washed. If you take the time once every 6 weeks or so, all the wood in your kitchen will stay vibrant for years. Doing this will not only make your wooden dishes and utensils look nicer, but it will prolong their life. And isn't it satisfying to do a job that has immediate, positive results?
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The Care and Feeding of Your Wooden Kitchen Tools
Use food-grade Mineral Oil or Butcher Block Oil*. Place a small amount on a paper towel and rub into the wood. Once the wood is shiny gently wipe off any excess. Leave the boards, bowls, and utensils sitting out overnight to fully absorb the oil. In the morning simply buff them with another paper towel or soft clean rag.
But don't wooden tools harbor bacteria?
It seems intuitive that a plastic cutting board would be safer and harbor less bacteria than a wooden board. Apparently wooden cutting boards that are cared for and oiled regularly are not as bad as you would think. The worst kind of cutting board for trapping and allowing transference of bacteria is an old, worn board, either plastic or wood, because bacteria can live and multiply in the scarred surface.
Bamboo is a good choice if you want wood because it's less porous than other woods and less likely to become scarred from sharp knives. Also, bamboo is more moisture resistant.
Can I disinfect my cutting boards?
Yes, be sure to wash them throughly after each use with soap and hot water. Or, put them in the dishwasher. (If you have a laminated board, you may not want to put it in the dishwasher, as it may split.) To disinfect, use a tablespoon of liquid chlorine bleach to a gallon of water. Let the solution sit on the cutting board for a few minutes before rinsing with clear water. Then either air dry or pat dry with clean towels.
The best solution to ensure no bacterial cross-contamination occurs is to keep all your kitchen tools clean and maintained and be sure to keep your cutting boards for meat and poultry SEPARATE from cutting boards used for fruits and vegetables.
Here is the USDA's guidelines on Cutting Boards and Food Safety.
*Food-Grade Mineral Oil or Butcher Block Oil can be found in some grocery stores, definitely at specialty kitchen shops and I even saw it at my local hardware store the other day. Or, you can order it from Amazon.
This post was edited on June 25, 2018, from the original version, published April 6, 2015.