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Smelly Cutting Board

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I made fresh sardines last night and this morning my cutting board still smells very fishy. I've tried scrubbing it extensively with lots of soap but that has not worked. The cutting board is made out of wood and is relatively new. Am I doomed with a fishy board forever? Any suggestions? Thanks!

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  1. I would try rubbing with cut lemon or bottled lemon juice. If that doesn't work, sprinkle with baking soda and scrub with a wet sponge.

    1. I'd wash it down with diluted bleach.

      1. Both good suggestions. For the future - you might want to consider using a plastic board for fish/meat - then you can just stick it in the dishwasher.

        1. Sprinkle kosher salt on your board. Then scrub with a cut lemon. The salt should act as a mild abrasive. Good luck.

          1. Try diluted distilled vinegar; 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water.

            1. Lemon should work. Vinegar and diluted bleach (well rinsed) are used commercially - not just for odors, but for bacteria. Remember to rub in some mineral oil after it's cleaned and dried thoroughly to keep your board conditioned and going for years.

              1. The smell is probably coming from fish oils, not any sort of bacterial problem,
                so bleach isn't necessary yet. I'd follow a soak in soapy water (not too long, maybe
                an hour at most, you don't want the glue holding the board together to start
                coming apart) with a rinse with boiling water straight out of the teakettle. Complete
                drying and a light wipe with oil. I generally use walnut oil (from the salad oil
                section of the grocery store), but mineral oil works too. That stuff sold as "butcher
                block oil" or "cutting board oil" is just mineral oil in an expensive package.

                If it's still a problem after trying all the suggestions in this thread, you could
                get some 110-grit sandpaper and a big jar of elbow grease and go to town.

                1. I've read that you should only use wood boards for things like pizza, bread, etc. Anything that gives off liquid when cut (including veggies and fruits, but especially meats) should be cut on glass or plastic boards to ward off bacteria from cutting and mold from cleaning.

                  The fishy smell may not be bacterial now ... likely just fish oil ... but the more you wash it the more you risk possible mold and bacteria growth.

                  I second those who suggest cleaning with lemon and salt. I can't recommend soaking in water or going the bleach route.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Daisy Gatsby

                    There are a number of competing theories on the wood/plastic bacteria thing. And
                    they go both ways. Wood is not a very absorbant material and bacteria tends not
                    to survive very long in the light in dry places. And humans have been using wooden
                    cutting surfaces for several millennia and we're not all dead. I'm not sure at all
                    how washing a wooden board increases the risk of mold? Just remember to dry it
                    afterwards.

                    The argument against plastic claims that knives can slice deep thin cuts into the plastic
                    which close, sealing moisture in. While the action of a knife on wood produces wide,
                    shallow gouges which dry easily.

                    Both sides probably have elements of reality associated with them. But in practice,
                    basic hygene seems to ward off all problems.

                    I only suggested soaking because scrubbing had already been tried and failed.
                    Normally it's not such a great idea to soak a cutting board, but in an exceptional
                    circumstance like this, go ahead.