A myth has been around for years that wood cutting surfaces, often called butcher block, harbor bacteria. Research has proven that the wood itself is actually anti-bacterial and superior to the plastics used for cutting boards. Both get “scarred,” from use, but the wood allows the bacteria to move deeper into the fiber where it is eliminated by natural substances that occur there.
When using wood as a cutting surface it’s finished with a mineral oil mixture rather than any kind of varnish or polyurethane. Naturally, some foods will stain the surface. Keeping it clean and conditioned is easy and pays off in both the sanitary factor and the look of the piece.
Wiping the area clean with a damp cloth each time its used will help discourage juices and oils from penetrating the wood. Some people use a mild soap solution on their wood cutting surfaces and there are those who apply a very diluted chlorine bleach now and then. These cleaners do the job but can cause the wood to dry out more than it should.
We recommend using the natural approach to cleaning your wood. Wipe the surface each time you use it and don’t allow liquids to remain on it longer than necessary. Using more water in the cleaning doesn’t mean a cleaner surface as it may with other material. Just dampen the cloth and don’t soak the wood.
For a serious cleaning after wiping the area with a damp cloth simply use a cut lemon to scour the surface with coarse salt. the combination takes out stains, brightens the color and eliminates bacteria. Then back to the damp cloth to wipe away all the residue. For everyday disinfecting use a mixture of 1 part white vinegar to 3 parts water. This can be put into a spray bottle making it quick and easy to use.
The next step is to restore some of the lost moisture to the wood and provide protection from more stains and water damage.
The work of a few minutes done approximately once a month will keep your wood cutting surface in good shape for many many years. A great product to use is butcher block conditioner, a combination of mineral oil and bees wax.
So use and enjoy that cutting board or butcher block countertop. Chop on!