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My wood cutting board smells. HELP!

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So here's the thing. I've got 3 wood cutting boards: one for stinky onions and garlic, one for fruits, and one for "extra". Problem is, the onion and garlic one usually gets used for veggies and sometimes, fruits. When that happens, all of the foods cut on the board stink to high heaven. (Or is it hell??)

Does anyone have any ideas as to how to get rid of the smell? I've used lemon juice, but to no avail. And yes, I do wash the board with soap and hot water after each use.

Also, when I do finally decide to buy a new board, what can I do to stop the funky smells from getting deep into the wood?

Thanks for all the help!

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  1. I saw Martha Stewart rub hers with lemon and put it outside in the sun for a few hours.

    5 Replies
    1. re: mojoeater

      - the UV rays in sunlight would help destroy bacteria.

      And you should oil a board surface before preparing chicken etc - otherwise the bacteria in the raw food juices can sink in the grain and contaminate future food contact.

      But there's nothing like a quality hardwood board! Close-grained and sanded very smooth to minimize food moisture 'soaking' the wood.

      1. re: JonasOftoronto

        "otherwise the bacteria in the raw food juices can sink in the grain and contaminate future food contact."

        Not really. They will die in the grain.

        1. re: Chemicalkinetics

          I'm citing articles on use of wood cutting surfaces for raw chicken, to minimize possible transfer of salmonella bacteria. The oil is meant to help create a barrier.

          But hope you're right most of the time.

          1. re: JonasOftoronto

            He's right. Here's one link...


            In the UK they forced all butchers to remove all the huge traditional wooden butchers block. They ended up with higher levels of contamination on well-used boards.

            (Whoops - this is an old thread)

        2. re: JonasOftoronto

          I read on CH several months ago that some people put their wooden boards in the dishwasher. Since the board I use for raw meat and poultry is a pretty cheap one, that's now what I do. My really nice end grain board is used for veggies and sometimes for cooked meat.

          There is a long and sort of scary article in Consumer Reports about salmonella contamination in home kitchens. I will be even more conscientious than I have been in washing my hands. The article even recommends not washing poultry because water can splash bacteria around in the sink.

          I agree that a good quality board is great. I really like my thick artisan board. But I also like putting the cheap board in the dishwasher after use.

      2. Also try cleaning with diluted bleach.

        6 Replies
        1. re: HPLsauce

          I also saw Martha Stewart use lemon on hers, I think she used kosher salt and rubbed it in with half a lemon. I believe she cleans her copperware the same way. Worth a try. In the future you may to use the wood cutting board for veggis only and something else for your meats.

          1. re: HPLsauce

            Ditto the diluted bleach...it is what we use in our commercial kitchen for the few butcher block tables we have....(If I see another Martha Stewart mention....AAHHHH!!!)

            1. re: nyfoodjoe

              I wouldn't use bleach on wood cutting boards. The organic matter cuts in the way of the bleach's effectiveness... and makes it look bad. Distilled white vinegar is better for wooden boards.

              1. re: shezmu

                Chlorine is disgusting and bleach should only be used when you need it - counter stains, toilets. Why would we soak food utensils in endocrine disruptors?

                Wood naturally has antimicrobial properties for the tree to protect itself, it's just a matter of quality boards & caring for them.

                1. re: JonasOftoronto

                  How about hydrogen peroxide solution?

                2. re: shezmu

                  "Distilled white vinegar is better for wooden boards."

                  This is what I use on my boards. Keep a spray bottle of vinegar under the sink for a wash and quick spray with vinegar.

            2. I just use plastic cutting board , replace it every few month

              1. Ditto the diluted bleach (just a tablespoon or so in a quart of water is enough). And when you get a new board rub it with food-grade mineral oil (not vegetable oil). Do this two or three days in a row when the board is new, then once a month or so. Might help your old boards too.

                I get my mineral oil at IKEA. I've heard you can find it at drug stores as well.

                13 Replies
                1. re: Zeldog

                  Wood boards are great, but they take on whatever you put on them. The only to keep them from smelling is to wash them well with soap and water, let it dry and rub some good oil on them. When you cut into wood and you introduce acidic things and oily things togather, you get that smell of a dumpster. I like wood, but I also have colored plastic cutting boards just for certain foods. Red for meat, blue for fish,green for veggies and Don't mix. You can still use wood, just be picky abaout wheat you cut on them and always wash them well before mixing

                  1. re: traumachef

                    > I like wood, but I also have colored plastic cutting boards just for certain foods. Red for meat, blue for fish,green for veggies and Don't mix.<

                    Meat, fish, veggies.........then what do you cut on your wood board?
                    For me, if I were going to use plastic to cut my food up on, (to protect my wood board) then I wouldn't want or need a wood board.(unless I wanted it for decoration) I would just use the plastic ones and forget the wooden ones.

                    1. re: dixiegal

                      There you go being logical again... :-)

                  2. re: Zeldog

                    - for the first oiling of a wood board, I might apply mineral oil, but the body doesn't really deal with it so well - for re-oiling (or just before food prep) I rub on the same olive oil I would eat or cook with.

                    I use & wash the board so frequently the oil does not ever rancidify. (And I have a very sensitive nose for rancid oil.) I'd risk the longevity of the board (unlikely) in trade for not ingesting re-applied mineral oil (a given.)

                    1. re: JonasOftoronto

                      "- for the first oiling of a wood board, I might apply mineral oil, but the body doesn't really deal with it so well - "

                      First, for years people used mineral oil as a laxitive, so I guess you could say the body doesn't deal with it so well, but it isn't harmful to you, even by the spoon full, it's FDA approved for internal consumption. Second, the oil soaks into the wood, it's not like there is a puddle of oil on the surface of the cutting board. The whole point is to fill the wood pores with mineral oil so other "stuff" doesn't penetrate the board. Third, just how much oil do you honestly think laying an onion on a cutting board is going to be absorbed into it. It just isn't enough to cause concern.

                      Disclaimer: This is not meant to be personal and not aimed at a specific individual, but if people had any idea of what kind of "stuff" is allowed in their food, they sure as heck wouldn't worry about a lot of the things that get worried about on these boards. Early in my life I worked for a company that had an agricultural division and I was exposed to just enough information on food stuffs, that I could easily puke jsut thinking about it. Seriously, mineral oil aint nuttun.

                      1. re: mikie

                        No argument, that's well-known information, but mineral oil is just another 'foreign substance' I can mostly live without (in the unavoidable accumulation of so many others.)

                        That's really my point about exposure to substances that aren't food-based - if I don't need it I don't use it. It's adapting a total life mindset - to not be an FDA guinea pig, and to learn (and physically feel) the difference of industrial food VS 'real' food etc. It's both a life education and the honing of our innate sensibilities.

                        This is ChowHound - we wouldn't be here if we were not super-tasters & smellers, and very curious-minded, detail-conscious people. We don't take the Status Quo for granted. Cheers! JK

                        1. re: JonasOftoronto

                          "to not be an FDA guinea pig, and to learn (and physically feel) the difference of industrial food VS 'real' food etc."

                          The idea that real food based products are always better is too much of an assumption. Olive oil in a cutting will eventually go rancid. You cannot just wash the board to remove all the oil. If you can, then what is the point of applying oil. The entire idea of putting oil in a cutting board is to repeal water going in. If you can indeed remove the oil but a few washes, then I suggest you not to use oil at all because it isn't doing anything. By the way, oil repeals water, but water also repeals oil. So if you get water into the cutting board, the oil won't able to get back in.

                          Rancid olive oil is known to be harmful. You are focusing on the remote possibility that mineral oil may have some UNKNOWN side effects, but instead jump to use something which has a KNOWN problem -- rancid oil. The truth is that even if you believe in the potential hazard of mineral oil. Olive oil is probably one of the worst nature oils to use. There are more stable natural oils than olive oil. Coconut oil, walnut oil, almond oi....etc ...etc. There are tons of other natural oils which would rank above olive oil for a cutting board.

                          Sure, we don't take status quo for granted, but we also don't take random positions unless there is a solid reason. People don't randomly go out and say polar bear cause global warming.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            "People don't randomly go out and say polar bear cause global warming."

                            Well, (think of Jack Benny here) maybe if they'd quit tinkeling in the ocean, poeple would quit saying that. ;-P

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              "Olive oil is probably one of the worst nature (sic) oils to use."

                              - there are far less stable naturally-pressed cooking oils, olive oil happens to be convenient. But you've made me curious about coconut oil. Walnut oil, seriously though? It gets bitter so fast (unless maybe you mean heavily processed, which case I'll go with EVOO.)

                              Our reliance on heavily-processed, stabilized denatured oils such as Canola (rapeseed) is a major current health concern. These oils are inflammatory foods, but they are also cheap, efficient and stable to sell us and put in all our mass-produced foods. We now suffer from alarming occurrences of inflammatory illness, food intolerance and autoimmune disease linked to 'irritating' industrial foods.

                              A little bigger problem than oiling a board, is all this crap we eat. And we don't question that!

                            2. re: JonasOftoronto

                              >but mineral oil is just another 'foreign substance' I can mostly live without (in the unavoidable accumulation of so many others.)<

                              Just keep in mind that olive oil goes rancid and rancid oils is very unhealthy too. I made the mistake of olive oil on my wooden bowles and totally regretted it. They got gummy and the rancid smell of the oil was very offensive. Took lots of scrubbing and washing to get rid of the smell and I have yet to completley get rid of the sticky gummy feel.
                              I would never, ever use vegetable oil on my wood stuff. I don't even use it on my cast iron. For I find it goes rancid too. unless the oil is immediately baked on. I am very sensitve to the smell of something rancid. I have thrown out more nuts, oils, chips, ect when I detect that smell. I once walked through a flea market booth full of old cast iron that had been wiped down with vegetable oil. I could smell the rancidity before I even walked in the booth.

                              So while, I agree, that petroleum products are not good for us, at least it doesn't smell or gum up my wooden stuff. I guess I am only mildley worried about petrolium products as most everything I put on my lips has it in there. The only thing that doesn't, is some lip balm that I made myself.

                              1. re: dixiegal

                                Olive oil, like all natural plant oils does rancidify, for that we have a nose with a highly-evolved sense of smell. This is not something to ignore.

                                It's convenient the olive oil coating on our kitchen equipment does lets us know when it's 'off' - usually because it's been on the unused item far too long (like cast iron you've put away for months with the lid on.)

                                Cutting boards used every day? Pleeease... I'll take my chances there's effectively no harmful amount of spoiled olive oil on there, or I'd smell that on the board or in the chopped tomatoes. Good chatting with you, thx.

                          2. re: JonasOftoronto

                            "... but the body doesn't really deal with it so well ..."

                            What does that mean, anyway?

                            "I use & wash the board so frequently the oil does not ever rancidify."

                            The oil in the board is not completely removed by washing. If you use oil which can become rancid, the oil in the board eventually will. As for oil coming off the board into food, it is not significant unless you are putting oil on the board just before using it, and using something which doesn't soak in. I just oiled my new board with mineral oil yesterday. It feels completely dry today, not oily or sticky. It may be that after several treatments with mineral oil the board would be protected from damage by olive oil, but I wouldn't count on it.

                            Mineral oil is the right product to use on cutting boards. Olive oil is not. All manufacturers of butcher block that I am aware of recommend it and most sell it, to ensure that their customers use the proper stuff.

                            1. re: GH1618

                              Well do what works for you. The body can't process or absorb petroleum-based oils, that's all I was citing from known fact.
                              Butcher block manufacturers do need a stable product to showcase their goods, and moreover they don't mind having an oil product to keep selling you. It may be a personal choice between evils (and degree of maintenance VS convenience.) I'm still adhering to the 'risks' of olive-oiling boards when needed + UV sun exposure + the smell test, so thanks for the comment.

                        2. With proper care you only need one board. Just washing with soap and water is not enough - as has been recommended, you do need to oil with mineral oil too. This will keep smelly stuff from soaking in and getting stinky next time.

                          1. All wood is not created equal.
                            I have a couple of hard rock maple cutting boards. Indestructible. I have had them for years and never have any problems with them. No smells. Use them for everything. Wash them with soap and water. Dry them standing on end. Sad to say I rarely remember to oil them as I should but they keep on going.
                            I have a couple of thin boards that were freebie promotionals that I quickly learned weren't worth much. No idea what kind of wood. Problems from the get-go. The grain would raise and even oiling them didn't help. I finally cleaned them up really well and they've been relegated to use for cheese and fruit boards for buffets and things like that.

                            There are woods with very close, tight grains that moisture doesn't enter - like maple - that make great food cutting surfaces and then there are other woods that might look nice but aren't worthwhile.using. When you get ready to replace what you've got, get a really good board. Start your research with the Boos website and then do some research about other woods which you might like. It really is hard to beat maple.
                            Good boards are expensive but you get what you pay for. For something you use every day, it's worth buying the best. You'll have it for a lifetime.

                            1. What do I know about cooking, etc.? Not much. But I do know that bamboo is harder than maple and seems to make the ideal cutting board. They are beautiful because of the grain and are not very expensive. I would try a board made out of end-grain bamboo
                              in addition to the other suggestions made by the much more knowledgable people who have responded.

                              1. A soapy sponge and fast rinse are all you need... assuming that you oil with mineral oil periodically. The oil blocks stuff from getting into the wood. Sometimes (like now, it sounds) you could sand down the board surface, and re-oil. I have two, 4-ft butcher block counter tops in my kitchen, and I do the sanding maybe once every couple of years, and oil liberally. They have held up great for 15 years, and I cut everything on them, all the time. If you sand, a palm sander works great, and you go from rough to smooth grit, e.g., first with the 80, then the 100, then the 160, then 200, that kind of thing. Gives a very smooth, hard finish. And you must wipe with a damp sponge in between, to bring up the nap (sp?) of the wood, which you then sand down again. End result is fabulous.

                                1. I am stunned and astonished that no-one mentioned baking soda. Baking soda can be used as a wet scrub -- make a 1:2 ratio paste of water:baking soda, scrub well, rinse and dry. It can also be used as a dry treatment -- sprinkle a layer of the soda over the stinky cutting board, and let rest over night. Follow up in either case with mineral oil -- I oil my board once a month, or whenever I've had to really scrub it.

                                  1. Clean the board with baking soda.

                                    Everyone should keep the use of bleach to a minimum. It is very toxic to people and to the environment, and it pollutes groundwater.

                                    14 Replies
                                    1. re: tinyTinyKitchen

                                      whoa, let's not spin bleach into a boogie-man like HFCS...for cleaning and disinfecting, a capful per quart container is all that is needed, and it certainly does NOT pollute groundwater...and it's a hell of alot more effective than baking soda

                                      1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                        Bleach does indeed pollute groundwater.

                                        1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                          I know a few people that are "household cleaner addicts", and maybe the exposure risk is cumulative. One had a pre-cancerous thyroid gland removed, another died of leukemia at age 50.

                                          So why not use judgment rather than risk daily exposure wiping & scrubbing with bleach. We don't live in a surgically sterile bubble anyway (and how often do we really NEED to bleach?)


                                          1. re: JonasOftoronto

                                            I keep a spay bottle of bleach solution....can't say I use it daily. Definitely after a chicken prep session, (once week?) and maybe once every coupla months on the boards. And Tiny, may I guess correctly you live in a large city? Public drinking water? Treated sewage? Outrageous density of humans living so close to one another? There's a bunch more evil in the world harming mother earth than my clean kitchen and bathroom my friend

                                            1. re: BiscuitBoy

                                              Bleach solution is very useful for professional kitchens, but not so much in residential household.

                                            2. re: JonasOftoronto

                                              >I know a few people that are "household cleaner addicts", and maybe the exposure risk is cumulative. One had a pre-cancerous thyroid gland removed, another died of leukemia at age 50<.

                                              I totally understand your concerns here. I think about avoiding cancer a lot. But look up rancid oils and the health risk involved. Including cancer. Though food oils were intended for us to injest, rancid oils are oils that have gone bad. And just like food that has gone bad, we don't want to injest it.

                                            3. re: BiscuitBoy

                                              The risk of bleach may be overstated, but it's not the best way to clean a wooden cutting board.

                                              Using paper towels, wipe with distilled white vinegar, then dry and let air dry. Repeat using household hydrogen peroxide solution instead of vinegar. When dry, treat with a mineral oil based butcher block oil as directed. Mineral oil wil not turn rancid. If the board has already been treated with olive oil, as some have suggested, and it is rancid, I don't know what to do about it.

                                              1. re: GH1618

                                                oh I use a few methods....the lemon thing, vinegar as you suggested, kosher salt butcher thing....depends on what the board has been exposed to, and how much am I willing to work to clean it...and every 6 months or so a scraping and a re-oiling

                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                  >Repeat using household hydrogen peroxide solution instead of vinegar<

                                                  Just a note for any that is worried about hydrogen peroxide and food. You can get food grade hydrogen peroxide at health food stores or order it on line. However, it is very strong and must be diluted as well as kept in the fridge because it has no preservatives in it.

                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                      FDA warning: "High-Strength Hydrogen Peroxide"


                                                      That's why I said it had to be diluted. Once properly diluted, It is the same as drugstore peroxide except it has no preservatives, thus would be considered, by some, safer than the run of the mill peroxide that you buy at the store. No toxic residue left behind to contaminate food.

                                                      With that said. I think if I were going to attempt to disinfect my wood board, I might would consider, pure grain alcahol or maybe some 'white lightning' if I could get a hold of some. That stuff will disinfect anything. :o)

                                                  1. re: GH1618

                                                    Why all the different solutions. Why not just wash/scrub with soap and hot water, rinse well and then wipe dry with paper towel following by air dry. Has worked well for me for decades on every size board.....and it's so simple.

                                                    1. re: escondido123

                                                      There was a study done on the cleaning of cutting boards and surprisingly soap and water didn't kill as much as vinegar and water.

                                              2. Q: Anyone ever microwave a wooden board to sterilize it?

                                                It probably can't catch fire, and the moisture in the wood ought to reach a high temperature very quickly - destroying bacteria.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: JonasOftoronto

                                                  "destroying bacteria"

                                                  and the board. Fortunately, if the board fits in your microwave, it's a small one, so your loss will be correspondingly small.

                                                2. Here's a link to board care instructions from John Boos:


                                                  1. I don't bother to deodorize my boards. I just keep several, one for stinky stuff (no fruit allowed), one for bread and fruit, one for meat, etc. I've written on each one what it is used for so that no one (heaven forbid!) uses my bread board to cut garlic or salami.

                                                    1. I coat mine in coarse (kosher) salt, cut half a lemon or lime and use that to throughly scrum the board (the salt is abrasive). When dry oil it up with your favorite cooking oil... viola. I do this once a month or so

                                                      1. Onions and garlic do not stink, so if you think they do, that might be part of the problem.

                                                        1. Okay, I just got the most beautiful John Boos 20x15 x2.25 maple edge grain cutting board from irawoods.com, great price. Then I started thinking, and you know what happens when I start thinking! (Or maybe you don't but read what follows). Anyway the beee-yooo-tiful board was pretty dry when I got it,. so I started researching, how do we oil this masterpiece? So what I found was "food grade mineral oil". And I thought (always thinking) what in the H is "food grade mineral oil"?. More thinking. More researching. And what I found, I didn't like. Ick. Ick. Ick. I had a pretty good idea it wouldn't be a very good thing. More research. (!)

                                                          So long story short: Are you ready??????? Here we go: 5 parts coconut oil to one part grated beeswax. Heat until melted together, very low heat (patience is called for) in double boiler, or microwave. New cutting boards: Oil once a day for one week, once a week for a month after and once a month after that. It doesn't get any better I promise you. Put your lovely concoction in a special little jar, tie a ribbon on it, and go to town.

                                                          As far as cleaning the beautiful board, I am committed to 50-50 vinegar/water spray bottle/ cloth. There we go. Problem Solved. At least in my tiny corner of the woods.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: mobius981

                                                            or another great one - already mixed up. Very easy to apply. Don't forget to do all sides of the board.
                                                            Claphams Salad Bowl Finish


                                                          2. I use lemon and salt and time (put juice on sponge, and salt on board, and scrub!) - but then reapply a combo of beeswax and mineral oil that penetrates deeply as the lemon/salt will take of a protective layer.

                                                            If your board is 'stinky' you may have a wood that is molding? Or an oil that is rancid.

                                                            new board - oil well - end grain is more lasting and worth conditioning well and regularly.

                                                            1. I periodically clean my cutting boards with OxiClean. Make a thick paste of OxiClean and water and cover the board with it. Let it sit for about an hour. Then rinse thoroughly with hot water -- as hot as you can get it.

                                                              1. How is it no one suggests sanding and/or planing a few mm.off the boards. Even a horizontal scraping with a knife also works nicely (should be done with plastic too - as the cuts do harbor this and that - not always coming out even in dishwasher)

                                                                Oil acting as a displacement or barrier is not terribly effective either - it mostly preserves the wood from dampness.

                                                                Check into some advice from various schools of public health re food safety.

                                                                And if one uses bleach, please do not believe what has been written on another thread - that bleach 'evaporates' - it does NOT.

                                                                1. I make a paste of white vinegar and baking soda rub it into the board and let it soak for about 60 mins before rinsing it off and letting it dry. both natural and safe.

                                                                  13 Replies
                                                                  1. re: johnny101golf

                                                                    you might think of using those agents separately - with good rinse in between - vinegar's cleaning action depends upon it also being an acid - and the soda immediately neutralizes it

                                                                    and vice versa with the soda - it wants to act as an alkali - and the vinegar will immediately neutralize it

                                                                    I am sure you are getting decent results now - but give it a try separately and I think you will notice the result to be even better

                                                                    1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                      I'm surprised nobody has suggested sanding down a wooden board, then cleaning it and sealing with mineral oil. That is my process, though I have recently put some deeper gashes than usual in my wooden board. Sanding wasn't enough to get the cracks, which will trap odors and bacterial, out. It's not a great board, so I'm going to replace it. I'd love some suggestions for a good end grain thick wooden board, but I'll ask in a more appropriate thread as well.

                                                                      1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                        yes - as I said - I'm surprised no one is sanding and/or planing 1-3 mm.

                                                                        But don't get caught up with oil 'sealing' anything. If anything oil can help microbes get down deeper (remember there are anaerobic buggers as well) as it acts as a solvent medium!

                                                                        Cutting boards need constant attention - perhaps that's why plastic is often used - but even plastic requires care as the cuts in plastic can hold the little 'friends' too - and so a horizontal scraping with a knife is good now and then - and putting thru the diswasher as well.

                                                                        1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                          The thought has crossed my mind that the oil on a wood board (especially end grain) can carry the odors down into the wood. I have made my own lotions and potions with carrier oils used to hold and carry the essential oils and herbs.
                                                                          I think end grain boards are the worst for holding odors. I know longer use mine for cutting smelly foods. I use my cheap face grain wood boards. They do not seem to hold and absorb odors. Once they dry after washing, the odor goes away. I think I am going to stop oiling my end grain board, unless it looks to be extremely dry. I don't see how the oil soaked in that board could disappear anyway.

                                                                        2. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                          I suggest you don't insist on end grain. This is useful for a heavy chopping block, but just adds expense to a cutting board, in my opinion. I am completely satisfied with my modestly priced Catskill cutting board.

                                                                          1. re: 1sweetpea

                                                                            Believe me, I tried sanding, scraping, cleaning with white vinegar, and sanding again on my expensive and favorite large cutting board made of end grain maple. So far I've gone through 10 sanding disks for an orbital sander, and they still gum up! It IS a little better, but still has a rancid oil smell. Next I'll try the baking soda paste. The board is over 30 years old, properly maintained and was great until we moved and put it in storage for five years. It'a smelled rancid ever since. I'm about out of ideas!

                                                                            1. re: bweed

                                                                              I guess you can try hydrogen peroxide or even diluted bleach. It sounds like the problem is pretty deep, so it may be difficult to fix.

                                                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                Hydrogen peroxide seemed to help! The smell is less. I think I'll finish with a light paste of baking soda to see if it will absorb more of the smell

                                                                                1. re: bweed

                                                                                  Thanks for the update. Let's us know how things turn out.

                                                                                2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                                  Thanks to everyone who responded! Here is t5he progression: scraped as much of the oil as possible off the board. went through 10 sanding disks on an orbital sander, cleaned with white vinegar, cleaned with hydrogen peroxide, put baking soda on the damp board (both sides) for 30 minutes. The person who said "don't leave it on long" understated the case. I no 30 minutes the board was blotchy to the point bare wood! Applied a fresh coat of mineral oil (food grade impossible to find, found the mineral oil sold in drug stores the same thing) and restored the board to previous beautiful look. Rubbed with 0000 steel wool and washed with soap and water to refine the roughness from wet grain and final cleaning. Only7 a faint smell left. I'm ok with that. Comments on suggestions: Didn't try bleach because the other stuff worked; I have small plastic cutting boards but don't like them as much. My wood board is 14" X 18 1/2" and two inches thick. It was 14 X 20 but a well meaning guest washed it and left on a wet counter overnight and it was warped into a "U" shape with severe cracks on both sides of the middle in the morning. I drenched it in mineral oil (it smelled before this), put it in a large plastic bag, hump up, put some weight on it and left it over the summer. That straightened it out, then I cut the 1 1/2" damaged part out and glued it back together with biscuits. As you can see from the original picture, it worked well. I don't recommend putting a wood board on a wet towel or in the dishwasher, as you might imagine! I have used mineral oil for the 30 year life of the board with good success, except when I left it in storage for 5 years. Mineral oil is odorless, tasteless and not supposed to get rancid, so the storage may have affected it or maybe the board was corrupted with something else before I stored it. BTW, Consumer Reports did tests on cutting boards a few years back and my recollection is that wood boards are the best for avoiding bacteria growth. I see that's a very controversial subject! Thank you one and all and Happy New Year. Wish me luck on the prime rib now in the oven to be sliced on my refurbished board!

                                                                                  1. re: bweed

                                                                                    Thanks for the detail update. Much appreciated. It sounds like that the damage may not be as deep as I thought. Good.

                                                                                    1. re: bweed

                                                                                      Health departments everywhere decided about 35 years ago that wood boards were not safe. No testing, no discussion, someone just made a decision. Since then harsher and harsher chemicals have been used to try to kill bacteria where before the natural oils in the wood did the job. Someone finally did some tests and found that plastic was worse because it gets deep cuts in it where bacteria thrive.
                                                                                      Btw my cutting board is 5 feet long 3 feet wide and has been scraped down over the last 50-60 or more years to about 3 inches thick from its original 4. It is the board I learned to cut meat on. Bought it and a spare for $50 30 years ago.
                                                                                      Total weight about 200+ lb.

                                                                              2. re: jounipesonen

                                                                                And be careful with baking soda on your wood board. Don't leave it on too long as it has a tendency to age the wood. Leave it on long enough and it will begin to look like wood taken from the side of a barn. Been there done that.

                                                                            2. What you can do to cut some of the smell is one of two things. The first thing I would attempt would be any tomato-based vegetable juice to rinse with it, and try to rub it in really good. Tomato juice is notorious for getting rid of skunk odors, remember?

                                                                              Second thing I would try to absorb the last of any remaining odor is about two tablespoons full of salt. Rub that in as deeply as you can, then wash thoroughly. Salt absorbs the moisture, and thus the smell.

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: aslovesfood

                                                                                I would think tomato juice would stain a wood board. Of course a stained one might be better than a smelly one.

                                                                              2. Gosh. Who has the time to do all this board cleaning? I sure don't.

                                                                                Just buy a plastic board (we have two--one small, one large) and in one corner, in very small print, label it "fruit." Obey the label and there will be no more garlic strawberry shortcake :)

                                                                                Oneida and Dexas make boards in really fun colors and the quality of their plastic (not too hard) is perfect for knives.

                                                                                4 Replies
                                                                                1. re: kitchenknifeguru

                                                                                  Just don't forget to do some cleaning of the plastic ones too - as I said - the stuff in the 'cuts' often survives the dishwasher even.

                                                                                  1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                                    There is a new post - at the top in case Chow's dating priority thing not working:


                                                                                    Plastic worse than wood? Hmmm. Yikes - this cutting board stuff seems to be totally problematic.

                                                                                    1. re: jounipesonen

                                                                                      For the record--I was just addressing the issue of taste and smell from garlic and onions getting into fruit. That's what the original post was concerned with--not contamination. Cutting board cleanliness is a whole different subject.

                                                                                      The simplest and least time consuming solution for cutting and eating fruit that doesn't taste of onion, etc. is to have a separate plastic board for fruit. If you want to wash the board with hot water and soap, that's fine, but it doesn't need anything more thorough than that! It's fruit--not chicken thighs :)

                                                                                      1. re: kitchenknifeguru

                                                                                        All well and good - but I think the resulting conversation which centered on contamination was a touch of serendipity because I believe many learned things that might be even more advantagrous than avoidance of getting 'garlic strawberries'

                                                                                        And besides fruits and vegetables can end up 'polluting' boards with unhealthy microbes of all sorts - and they probably also 'smell.' :-) :-(

                                                                                2. lemon. Been a butcher for 40 years. Lemon even takes out fish smells. Just wipe it on.
                                                                                  Don't oil it. It does not need it. The natural oils in the wood will kill bacteria. Yes, that flies in the face of what your health department told you but you can check it out online. The natural oils in the wood suck the moisture out of the bacteria and they die.

                                                                                  1. If you have a sink large enough, lay the board in it and cover with an inch or two of water. Add a Tbsp or two of bleach and let it sit for a few minutes. Remove and let air dry.

                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                    1. re: JayL

                                                                                      B L E A C H ! ! ! OMFG! Call the national guard! Don the tin foil hat! Consult with Walter White!

                                                                                      1. re: JayL

                                                                                        This seems a high risk for glue joints if your board is made of many pieces of wood laminated. Same with putting in the dishwasher! Not recommended if you are not ready to replace your board.

                                                                                        1. re: JayL

                                                                                          rereading your suggestion, I see you mention "a few minutes." Probably ok if you don't forget and leave it too long. My board is bigger than the sink so I wash it standing on edge.

                                                                                        2. bleach! buy a plastic cutting board next

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: betsydiver

                                                                                            It's probably been said above some place - but if you are using plastic be sure to scrape it down - with a knife sidewise, sharp paint scraper or something of that type - don't be shy - take off 1-2 mm. Those cuts from use contain a terrific amount of microbes - and don't really get removed with a dishwasher either.

                                                                                            1. re: betsydiver

                                                                                              You can get away without bleach on your wood cutting board as long as you do not immediately switch from chicken or meat to something else due to the natural bacteria killing properties of wood. If you are using plastic you should be using a weak bleach solution. Plastic is much worse than wood for bacteria growth. That said, you should be using a mild bleach solution on your boards plastic or wood.

                                                                                            2. My wood cutting board used to smell too, no matter how hard I cleaned it and what I used to clean it. Then I realized that it could be because it never got a chance to dry completely.

                                                                                              What I used to do after each wash was, dry the board with a dry towel, then lay the same towel (now damp) flat on the countertop, and put the damp cutting board flat on top of the towel.

                                                                                              Now, what I do instead is, after drying the cutting board with a dry towel, lean the damp board against the backslash, leave it there vertically overnight for it to dry completely. Next morning, the board doesn't smell.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: CookieCookies

                                                                                                After I wash my board, I stand it on edge on a paper towel to dry both front and back equally. My board is 2" thick so it will stand upright. If yours is too thin for that, try leaning it against an appliance. See my post about what can happen if you lay it flat on a damp surface! I don't recommend that.