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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!
Nader

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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...

            http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/fac...

            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.