Every kitchen should have a cutting board that’s clean, sanitized and safe to use. And this is especially true if you prepare raw meat and other foods.

Because foodborne pathogens can move from the foods you prepare to the cutting board if it isn’t cleaned and sanitized properly. These pathogens can make you – and everyone you serve – sick.

Bacteria Buildup

A cutting board, and a good one being this, the Best New Japanese Cypress Cutting Board on Amazon, is a prime place for foodborne pathogens to hide, especially when you don’t clean it and sanitize it regularly. During chopping, your sharp knives create tiny grooves in the surface of the board, and these trap bacteria that can transfer into foods you cut on it. If you have a board with deep grooves, it may be time to get rid of it and replace it.

Bacteria buildup can be even more dangerous if the germs are resistant to antibiotics. These multidrug-resistant germs can cause infections that are difficult or impossible to treat. Handling a cutting board that has come into contact with germy produce or raw meat can cause these resistant bacteria to contaminate your hands, too, Swiss researchers found.

When you use a wooden cutting board, the grooves created by your knife blades trap moisture. The moisture causes the wood to expand, which can damage and warp the board. Bacteria can then grow in the resulting crevices, making it harder to remove the bacteria when you wash and sanitize your board.

Wooden boards that have a crack or split are particularly susceptible to moisture and bacteria growth. If you have a cracked or warped board, line the crack with food-grade wood glue and allow it to dry before using. Then, clean the board and apply a thin coat of mineral oil to it. This nontoxic, odorless oil helps protect the board from future moisture and keeps it sanitized.

It’s important to use separate cutting boards for different types of food, and not to mix raw and ready-to-eat foods. If you use the same cutting board for raw chicken and tomatoes, bacteria like Salmonella from the chicken can contaminate the tomatoes and make you sick. You can also accidentally contaminate food for someone who has allergies if you chop peanuts on the same board that you use to cut fruits and vegetables for a child with peanut allergy. This is called cross-contact, and it can make the child very ill.

Food Particles

As you chop foods like chicken, tomatoes or carrots on your cutting board, your sharp knives create grooves in the wood or plastic. When these grooves become dirty, they can harbor food particles and bacteria that can make you sick.

As a result, it is important to clean your cutting boards after each use to keep them as hygienic as possible. To do so, you can soak them in a solution of hot water and bleach, or wash them by hand with hot soapy water. You should also season your cutting board regularly with food-grade mineral oil to keep it in good condition.

Even if you are meticulous about cleaning and sanitizing your cutting board, you could still get sick from it. This is because all cutting boards can transfer bacteria from raw foods to your next meal if not properly cleaned and sanitized. This can happen if you use a wooden cutting board to cut raw meat, and then chop vegetables on it, as the bacteria from the meat can transfer to the vegetables.

Another way your cutting board can make you sick is by releasing microplastics into your food, according to a study published in ACS’ Environmental Science & Technology. The researchers found that plastic and wood boards slough off tens of millions of microplastics when repeatedly struck by knife blades. These tiny plastic particles are known to be harmful if ingested and have already been found in sea salt, honey, beer, bottled water and organic fertilizers used by backyard gardeners.

If you have a plastic cutting board, it is best to stick to using it for only raw produce as it will be less likely to release microplastics into your food. As for wooden boards, the only sure way to avoid this is to line the cracks in them with plastic glue rated safe for food contact or to purchase a new one every few years. The latter is a good idea as old, worn-out cutting boards can have bacteria trapped in the grooves that are difficult to fully disinfect.


Your cutting board is one of the most important kitchen tools in your arsenal, and it’ll last a lifetime if cared for properly. However, many people make mistakes when it comes to their wooden boards that can damage them. These mistakes can lead to stains, bacterial growth, and other issues that can compromise your health and the quality of your food.

If you’re not sanitizing your cutting board properly, it can become covered in bacteria and contaminated with toxins from raw meat. Even if you only use your cutting board for fruits, vegetables, and dairy, it’s important to wash and sanitize it after every use to prevent cross-contamination.

While a wooden cutting board does trap less harmful bacteria than plastic ones, it’s still not safe to cut raw meat on. This is because the board can easily become covered in toxins from the meat, which will transfer to the next foods you’re cutting on it.

Aside from the fact that this can affect the flavor of your food, cross-contamination can be dangerous for anyone who suffers from allergies or sensitivities. For example, if you’re allergic to peanuts and use the same cutting board to chop nuts and other ingredients that contain peanuts, there will be traces of the nuts on the board after cleaning. This will then be transferred to the food you’re preparing and could cause an allergic reaction for those in your household who have nut allergies.

Another way you can damage your wood cutting board is by sanding it down too soon. This can create tiny grooves in the surface that are difficult to clean and can trap pathogens. This can also cause the board to warp or crack.

If your cutting board starts to develop deep grooves, it’s time to replace it. You can try to repair a few small scratches with sandpaper, but if you’ve got deep grooves that aren’t going away, it’s best to get rid of the board and invest in a new one. Always sand your board with a piece of sandpaper that’s rated for wood and then finish it with food-safe mineral oil (not cooking oils, as they can go rancid quickly).


Everyone knows that you should only prepare food on a clean and sanitized surface. What less people realize is that the same applies to kitchen tools, including cutting boards. Whether made of wood, plastic or another material, your cutting board can harbor harmful bacteria that can make you sick if not properly cleaned and sanitized between uses.

This is called cross-contamination and it occurs when unclean food items or kitchen tools transfer pathogens from one food item to another. For example, Bob debones a raw chicken on his cutting board and then immediately chops tomatoes without washing his hands or switching to a different knife and board. This contaminates the tomatoes with Salmonella from the raw chicken and can cause illness in anyone who eats them.

Cross-contamination can also happen when a food allergen — instead of a pathogen like Salmonella or E.coli — transfers from one food item to another. For example, if someone chops nuts on the same cutting board they use to prepare food for someone who has peanut allergies, the traces of nuts left on the board can transfer to the prepared food and trigger an allergic reaction in that person.

If you’re unsure whether your cutting board is safe, it’s best to invest in a new one. Look for one that’s solid wood and not plastic. Wooden cutting boards can be easier to sanitize than plastic ones, which have grooves and cracks where food and bacteria can hide.

Finally, be sure to sanitize the board and let it dry thoroughly after each use. Bacteria needs moisture to grow, so letting your board sit in a damp or wet state can allow it to thrive.

To keep your cutting board in good shape, apply a food-safe cooking oil to it every few weeks. What’s Cooking America recommends a mixture of mineral oil and beeswax, while Good Housekeeping suggests coconut oil. You should also replace the board if it develops deep, visible cuts and scratches that trap food particles and bacteria. UF/IFAS Extension teaches food safety classes that can help you learn more about safe food handling practices and how to care for your home kitchen equipment.