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Jan 14, 2003 11:57 AM

my cutting board stinks

  • i

I have a Boos Block cutting board (see link below - I have one of the chop-n-slice reversible numbers) that has - on one side - developed a nasty dark stain on the surface and a noticeable food stink. Mostly, it smells of onions and garlic with some rot thrown in. This odor will transfer to anything that is cut on the board.

I'm not really sure how this started, but I think that some moisture got stuck between the board and the counter and went unnoticed for a few weeks. I noticed the dark spot when I flipped it over. I assume the stink is somehow associated.

I've tried cleaning this in very hot water with soap to no avail; the dark stain remains as does the stink. I've also tried some gentle household cleaner on it (Ecover) but don't think I should try anything that is much harsher for fear of further damage.

Does anyone have any suggestions to how I can restore my once beautiful cutting board to its former stink-free glory?

Thanks in advance!


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  1. Try sprinkling on a good amount of salt, then rubbing it with the cut side of a lemon. If this doesn't work, try sanding out the dark, smelly spot. If either of these succeed, proceed to treat it with mineral oil, which will help seal the board to prevent future similar occurrences

    1 Reply
    1. re: kjhart

      Thanks, I'll give that a try. I have been applying mineral oil pretty reguarly...but not regularly enough, obviously!

    2. Sanding, then re-oiling is likely to be your best bet. Bleaching may help, but will lighten the color of the wood.

      21 Replies
      1. re: AlanH

        You can, however, wash the board with bleach diluted with water, or water, with bleach added, to disinfect and de-smell..It probably won't help the stain, but we used to do our wood counters on a boat once a week..No color-change...

        1. re: galleygirl

          Thanks much - I'm going to give them all a shot. I'll start with salt and lemon (see post below) and move onto diluted bleach and then, if needed, sanding. Do you think the stain runs very deep?

          1. re: iain

            no way to tell without seeing it, but it could be a deep stain. hopefully not. good luck.

            1. re: AlanH

              This is why cutting boards have two sides.

              1. re: Paul H

                This is why you should stand your cutting board on end when not in use.

            2. re: iain

              My experience with cutting board stains is that they run deeper than you can sand out, unless you plan on using a high-powered belt sander and taking off something like an eighth of an inch.

              Also, it's a good idea to bleach the hell out of a wooden cutting board every once in a while -- there's all manner of nasty shit that can be living in there. When I worked in a restaurant kitchen, it was standard practice to wash down every surface with a dilute (but not too) bleach solution and use it straight on wood surfaces that had been used for butchering. Every night. Yeah, it lightens the wood, but I prefer to sacrifice aesthetics for cleanliness. And the health department demands it.

              1. re: GG Mora

                And to add to that, since most of us don't do restaurant levels of butchering on a nightly basis, a washdown with a warm water damp towel and white vinegar works to eliminate a good deal of odor, bacteria and *stuff* for the stain, in my opinion stains are the well earned battle scars of good kitchen workin....


                1. re: THM

                  Actually, now that you mention it, I did try white vinegar to get rid of the odor, but it didn't really work. I actually care little, though, about the stain.

                  I think (if anyone really cares what I'm going to do) that I'm going to pass on sanding, assuming that I can deal with the odor in some other way. Tonight, I'm going to try a three-pronged approach of lemon juice, vinegar, and bleach. That should take care of the stinky

                  1. re: iain

                    Don't mix the vinegar with the bleach!

                    1. re: AlanH

                      Acetic Acid plus Chlorine == ??

                      1. re: Paul H

                        A variety of toxic gases are possible. I recall chlorine gas and nitrogen trichloride being mentioned. One year a while back in my state, an elderly woman apparently decided that it would be a good idea to clean her toilet by mixing bleach and ammonia in the toilet tank. I recall three people died.

                        1. re: ironmom

                          Bleach and Ammonia are bad news. However, I am not certain that bleach and vinegar will cause any problems whatsoever. In fact, I think that vinegar is sometimes used with bleach (and water) to make a pH-neutral disinfectant solution. I have seen suggestions that the bleach should be diluted (1 to 2) first with water before adding the vinegar, but I think this is mainly to avoid spattering.

                          However, I am not a chemist and I am not suggesting that anyone do anything whatsoever.

                          1. re: Paul H

                            I have no idea if either of you is correct, (except that bleach and ammonia is BAAADDDDDD), but it sounds like that cutting board is way past vinegar, and bleach in water would be a good solution, once a week for an at-home cutting board used for meat and chicken...And mineral oil after, as everyone says, to seal...

                            1. re: galleygirl

                              And store it dry, not sitting in a puddle of liquid on the counter.

                              1. re: ironmom

                                Gosh, this discussion makes me want to run and bleach my cutting board! Any suggestion on the ratio of bleach to water?

                                1. re: L

                                  This will sound VERY scientific, but I just fill a small bowl of water, and add two "glugs" of bleach...More can't hurt you....

                                  1. re: galleygirl

                                    Now where can I find a measuring cup marked in glugs?

                                    Anyone have any suggestions on how often to oil? I've never even done that.

                                    1. re: squid-kun

                                      I got a new cutting board for Xmas that came with a bottle of mineral oil. The instructions were to oil every day for a week and then once a month.

                                2. re: ironmom

                                  Better yet.....dry it off with paper towels right after washing.

                                  1. re: ironmom

                                    Also another tip that you may already know about,

                                    Even though it's a pain, I always store all my cutting boards, wood, plastic, and glass, on-end rather than on the countertop. Yes, this means I don't always have an available spot to cut, but I store them on-end, stacked in a corner of the counter, with one of those tension rods between the top cabinet and the countertop to keep them in place. They have air flowing all around them and they are always put away spotlessly clean and dry (as they are dried on-end too, before putting away), and they never develop spots or smells. This way I can keep my bleaching to a minimum on my wood boards, and I don't bleach my plastic and glass ones (used for poultry and meats) because I run them through the dishwasher.

                                    Since you have such a nice Boos board, consider storing it on it's end. You'll always have a clean, dry board to work with.

                                    1. re: Mrs. Smith

                                      Me, too.

                                      All the sanitizing in the would isn't going to help if the board is stored on a wet counter.

            3. Remember, moisture is the enemy of your wooden cutting board. Once you get the board clean (I recommend bleach water too) let it dry completely. Then seal the wood with paraffin wax melted in mineral oil. Maybe a couple or three coatings, depending on how much the wood soaks up the oil. Scrape off the excess wax and you should have a good lookin', much more sanitary work surface. I do this to my own board appx. every 6 months.

              1. You can also use Hydrogen Peroxide that you get in the first aid section of your store.

                1. "SANITIZE YOUR BOARD: After washing it, sanitize your board in the dishwasher or by rinsing it in a dilute chlorine bleach solution of 1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon water. You can keep such a solution handy in a spray bottle near the sink."