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How often do you disinfect your chopping board?

I have 2 plastic ones, and I tend to disinfect them with a multi-surface cleaner after I've cut meat on them, although I have flatmates who probably don't (either wash it with soap and hot water, or leave it for someone else to wash up.

Is that safe?

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  1. I think soap and water is just fine. Myself I usually put them in the DW if I've used them for meat. But if I need it again before that, soap and hot water is all they get. I don't really "get" the need to use a cleaner. After all, our mothers and grandmothers only used soap and water. And yes, I know I'll get a lecture now about how today's food supply is so much more dangerous than it was back in the day.

    5 Replies
    1. re: DGresh

      I guess you have a point. But I reckon most peoples granmas had a wooden chopping board which has some level of antibacterial protection; the plastic boards don't and they're susceptable to knife-grooves which are a good hiding place for baddies.

      You're supposed to chuck them after about 6 months, but I haven't...

      1. re: Soop

        good grief. I've had my plastic boards for at least a decade. I'm not tossing them.

        1. re: DGresh

          Ditto, some of mine are over 20 years old. They either get soap and water or go into the dishwasher.

      2. re: DGresh

        I just stick my plastic ones in the dishwasher after I've put meat on them. I haven't gotten sick yet. Everything I've read suggests that soap and hot water tends to do a better job at disinfecting than anti-bacterial agents, so I don't see the need of putting excess chemicals on things when the soap/water does fine.

        1. re: queencru

          Soap and water and dishwasher, 40 years and still alive ...

          Guess I did something right. Now and then every month or so I do use bleach and disinfect. Grama and Gramps never did, who knows.

      3. Watch enough food TV and you'll here over and over again about the risk of cross contamination, typically it's recommended that we keep a plastic cutting board just for cutting meat. The reasoning, if we keep meat and produce apart it reduces the risk of illness from food born pathogens.

        Having a board that is used for nothing but raw animal protein is not enough without proper sanitation.

        I don't like the look or feel of plastic, and have yet to see a plastic butcher block.

        Whether you prefer plastic or wood cutting boards, they still need to be sanitized after each use, a plastic cutting board can be sanitized in the dishwasher, if it will fit.

        Wooden cutting boards and plastic's which are to big for the dishwasher must be cleaned by hand.

        Rinse the board under hot running water, use a dough scrapper or putty knife to remove any meat or other detritus thats stuck to the board. Wash it with mild detergent and hot water, rinse it again then dry it with a clean towel.

        Now spray the board with undiluted, distilled vinegar and let it dry.

        5% acetic acid (household vinegar), has been shown to kill these bacteria that are commonly the cause food poisoning;

        Campylobacter jejuni; raw or under cooked meat, poultry and shellfish.

        Escherichia coli 0157:H7; raw or rare ground beef, uncooked fruits and vegetables.

        Salmonella; raw or undercooked eggs, poultry, meat, and seafood.

        A few thoughts...

        Whenever possible, cut fruit and vegetables that are to be served raw before anything else, followed by those that will be cooked and animal products last.

        Don't forget to wash the knives used for cutting meat before using them to cut anything else.

        If you have the time and means, grind beef, pork, etc... yourself. Commercial grinders are often the cause of bacterial contamination in ground meat.

        Staphylococcus infections are transmitted from people-to-food through improper handling. These bug live in your nose, in pimples, on your skin and in infected cuts, Wash Your Hands!

        Sprouts; E. coli and salmonella can get into seeds through cracks in the shell before the sprouts are grown. Washing can not get rid of pathogenic E. coli or Salmonella. Even cooking sprouts is not a solution to potential bacterial contamination.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Demented

          Thanks for the great response!

          "Whenever possible, cut fruit and vegetables that are to be served raw before anything else, followed by those that will be cooked and animal products last.

          Don't forget to wash the knives used for cutting meat before using them to cut anything else.

          If you have the time and means, grind beef, pork, etc... yourself. Commercial grinders are often the cause of bacterial contamination in ground meat.

          Staphylococcus infections are transmitted from people-to-food through improper handling. These bug live in your nose, in pimples, on your skin and in infected cuts, Wash Your Hands!"

          Indeed, I do all of these, even if it seems a hassle turning over a steak, washing hands, using salt and pepper grinder etc.
          Unfortunately, I don't have a dishwasher though. Perhaps another good reason to get separate boards.

        2. I;m 54 years old, have been using the same wooden cutting board for the past 31 years and have never disinfected it. I do wash it with hot water and lots of soap each time I cut meat, but that's it. Lucky? Maybe, but on the other hand i've never won the lottery.

          4 Replies
          1. re: jnk

            Wood has natural antibacterial properties, so you're a lot safer with them

            1. re: jnk

              Have you read's Sam's "magic house" thread? I live in one and clearly you do also :)

              1. re: jnk

                My favorite wooden board and I have 5 years on you and yours. I've washed it with varying degrees of effort, never disinfected it. Once won 100 $1 scratch tickets in a raffle but they yielded only $61 and the ticket cost $10. Most of the planet prepares food without access to running water. Swallowing a few germs now and then is important in maintaining a properly-functioning immune system!

                1. re: greygarious

                  I've been using my favorite wooden board daily for the last 39 of my 61 years - never disinfected it, never even thought about doing it. Most days it just gets a wipe down in hot water, sometimes with a soapy sponge. It's been off to the local cabinetmaker's shop twice for a run through their planer to get the top flat again. Other than that, no maintenance at all. I do get a cold or two every year, so maybe that damn board is to blame.

              2. >> Wood has natural antibacterial properties

                No it doesn't. [citation needed]

                And the wood vs. plastic "scientific" question has equal evidence on both sides. Which puts it cleanly in the "who knows" zone.

                If you are considering dis-"infecting" you should have some idea what infection you are combatting. Are you bringing infection-laden food into your home? Then by all means a clorox dunk and scrub after every use is called for. Are you preparing fresh foods from reliable sources? Then a little soap and warm water should take care of it.

                If you don't have any specific infection you're going after, then the question is somewhat close to asking how to remove Cooties. And that's a really, really difficult question. Because even though we're all grown-ups and all, there seems to be a very specifically hardwired thing in our brains that makes imaginary contamination a very real thing. I've got an old cast iron pan, for example. And this pan sits on a shelf in the back of the garage and I'll probably never use it again. Because of something a cat did on it a half dozen years ago. And even though I know that absolutely every trace of what that cat did, as well as the cat itself, has vanished from the earth, it is impossible for me to ever again imagine eating a fried egg out of that pan.

                So if it's Cooties you're worried about, and with a pair of messy roommates that's a real possibility, then I'd suggest disinfecting as often as you feel like.

                4 Replies
                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                  you are very funny. And how on earth did the cat get into the pan? What a visual.

                  1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                    "...wood vs. plastic "scientific" question has equal evidence..." -- citation needed. I've seen the evidence for wood (experimentation involving inoculating strains of common food poisoning bacteria onto each surface, and testing survivability), but I have never seen any literature for plastic boards. Please provide some information! Thanks!

                    1. re: mateo21

                      University of Arizona sez plastic is best:
                      http://web.archive.org/web/2008021200...

                      University of California sez wood is best:
                      http://faculty.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/fac...

                      Somewhere around there's a French meta-study that studied a dozen other studies
                      and concluded that they were all flawed in one way or another.

                    2. re: Chuckles the Clone

                      Heh... ritual contamination! It's "just" in our heads, yes, but is it ever -firmly- in our heads!

                    3. I put my plastic ones in the dishwaser after every use. Tell your flatmates that you don't want to get sick and insist that they not cut raw meat and then not wash the boards. Washing something by hand never killed anyone -- but salmonella has.

                      1. you can buy plastic sheets to put over the board if you're worried about what beasties might be hiding in the plastic

                        1. Just FYI, I don't have a dishwasher.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: Soop

                            Hey Soop,

                            I have a dish washer, it's been used for storage for 5+ years.

                            Truth is, don't need a dish washer to sanitize a cutting board, soap and water will remove most of bacteria, a vinegar wipe and time to air dry will finish the job.

                            http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Cutboa...

                            1. re: Demented

                              I think it helps that I know the water has to be damn hot. Like, I can't even keep my hand in there. I think that's gonna do a lot to kill the bacteria. Maybe I could get some vinegar when the cleaning stuff runs out, it's cheaper. Do you wipe surfaces with the vinegar too?

                              1. re: Soop

                                >>I think that's gonna do a lot to kill the bacteria

                                Well, not necessarily. Maybe you've got some of these:
                                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermophile

                                That hi-tm.com study doesn't show anything more than that wiping
                                off a cutting surface after use might sortof help. Bacteria is a -huge-
                                group of organisms only a few of which cause human disease
                                and it's not clear at all that any of the harmful ones were involved
                                in that study. So we've learned precisely nothing about the behavior
                                of harmful bacteria in the presence of vinegar.

                                You realize that 90% of the cells in your body are bacteria, right?
                                If you're serious about it, the question needs to go a little deeper than
                                the fearmongering "OMG Bacteria!" ads for orange-colored soaps on
                                television and address specific issues. How can I keep e coli, shigella,
                                staph, and salmonella bacteria out of my kitchen and how can I mitigate
                                their effects if they do get in?

                                The answer, which has apparently kept our species alive for the past
                                quarter million years, seems to be, "a little soap and warm water after use."
                                and "buy fresh food from reliable sources" and "wash your hands after using
                                the bathroom."

                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                  The hi-tm study speaks directly to the issue of removing bacteria found in food from wood and plastic cutting surfaces, also to sanitization of stainless steel.

                                  They express clearly in the Experimental Procedure, exactly what was used to contaminate the three surfaces. The number of microorganisms found on said surfaces before and after treatment.

                                  As to the temperature of the water, it's stated that 100°-110° water was used for a duration of 30 seconds with a scrub brush.

                                  Reading the whole paper shows the purpose of the study was in an attempt to get the FDA to approve vinegar as a sanitizer. Since there's no money in that, it will likely never happen.

                                  The surfaces had been contaminated with raw ground beef that had been left at room temp for 24 hours. Vinegar outperformed hot water and quaternary ammonium compound solution (FDA approved sanitizer) on all three surfaces.

                                  1. re: Demented

                                    Yes. I read that. There are many types of bacteria. Almost none of them are human pathogens. All of them have different characteristics which often vary drastically even among nearly-identical strains . The study fails to make even a feeble attempt to distinguish among them. The absolute most generous interpretation of his data is, "vinegar seems to have an effect on some microorganism but we have no idea what that microorganism is". Anything more specific is not supported by the data -at- -all-.

                                    Saying "bacteria" is a lot like saying "fish". It's a huge domain. There are certain kinds of fish that you eat and there are certain kinds of fish that eat you. A study purporting to show the effectiveness of some particular kind of bait would be absolutely worthless without some mention of what kind of fish you were attempting to bait. But that is exactly what he did.

                                    Sorry to be so blunt but this is crap science and would have trouble (or should have trouble) making it into a highschool science fair.

                                    That you found it on some random guy's website rather than a peer-reviewed journal tends to support that assertion.

                                    1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                      The research of Dr. Snyder's, (some guy as you call him), has been published in hundreds of books, refereed and professional journals, Food industry publications, University of Minnesota publications, military, IFT and IAMFES/IAFP. And of coarse in the publications of the company he founded in 1983.

                                      Here's a link http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Opspub...

                                      Lacking any formal education or personal research of my own in the science of food safety... I'll take the word of an accredited academic in this field over that of “Some Guy” posting on an internet forum.

                                      1. re: Demented

                                        I'm sure. The cool thing about science is you don't have to "take the word" of anyone. No matter how many letters they attach after their name. For over 400 years the "scientific method" has proven to be extremely effective in discovering things. And it's a very, very simple process. If you look at something that appears to be "sciency" it's extremely simple to determine if it has any value or not. And if it has value, what realm that value is good for. This particular study, if you look at the hypothesis and the actual data presented, has limited value in a very restricted domain and concludes nothing whatsoever about human health, which is what I thought we were discussing here.

                                        And his "findings" with regard to salmonella are? Oops, he doesn't mention salmonella in the paper. Shigella? Nope. Listeria? As far as we can see there was no listeria on his board either. Can we reproduce his study? Nope, because "spread board with meat" hasn't been professional-level protocol since at least the eighteenth century. So any conclusions you infer that he makes regarding actual human pathogens are your conclusions, not his.

                                        And what did the actual scientists at the FDA do with his findings? Apparently they tossed them. Professional response to crap science or evil conspiracy? Well, they also approve sodium hypochlorite which is, at least at my local grocery, cheaper than vinegar. So there goes the "no money in that" hypothesis.

                                        1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                          True, but vinegar in your food or drink isn't likely to kill you.

                                          How does the omission of exactly which bacteria made up the colony-forming unit left after contact with spoiled ground beef make this Crap science?

                                          1. re: Demented

                                            Because as far as we know it was completely harmless bacteria. And because by presenting it the way he does he could lead people to believe that they could expect the same effect on harmful bacteria. But there is no reason at all to believe that. And because if the untested assumption that harmful bacteria react similarly to harmless bacteria is false, the worst-case result is dead people.

                                            But wait, now you've got me on the wrong side of my fence! I'm firmly in the "warm water and soap, and heck some vinegar can't hurt" camp, because that's what people have been doing for at least ten thousand years and I look around and I still see people. I'm just arguing against a weak presentation of that position. In all likelihood, "that guy" is probably absolutely right. It's just that you can't tell from his paper.

                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                              Hey Chuck,

                                              According to the FDA, vinegar (5% acetic acid) kills harmful bacteria.

                                              There's also a standard set by the FDA, requiring that a certain amount of vinegar has to be added to all commercial mayonnaise, the reason for this?

                                              5% Acetic Acid (household vinegar) kills harmful bacteria.

                                              1. re: Demented

                                                Interesting that you mention mayo. Decades ago I used to hear (worked at CDC for a few years in my youth so perhaps there) that mayo was the "perfect medium. So I was always super careful with it. Then I read that it was actually much safer than many other products. But I couldn't remember why. Obviously, that's why. Thanks for filling in the (all too common) blanks.

                                                1. re: c oliver

                                                  You are welcome.

                                                  What I've read about mayo and food poisoning, seems to point homemade mayo that was prepared without a sufficient amount of acid to kill the bacteria.

                                                2. re: Demented

                                                  >> 5% Acetic Acid (household vinegar) kills harmful bacteria.

                                                  Cool!.So take a spoonful of vinegar before your meal and stop worrying
                                                  about your cutting board.

                            2. When I see threads like this I keep meaning to comment on operating room personnel and how they scrub before surgery. It's not a quick wipe. It appears to be lots of hot water, soap and a brush. And for a considerable period of time. If vinegar were the solution (haha, vinegar? solution?), wouldn't they be using that? I'm not arguig this point because I'm not in that field but it makes sense to me. I probably don't need my cutting board to be cleaner than their hands. But I live in a "magic house" so worry less than many.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: c oliver

                                Hey C,

                                Having read your "Magic House" thread, I understand why you haven't a worry.

                                1. re: Demented

                                  Actually Sam's "magic house" but I think of it at times like this :) An eye-opener for those of on either side of the question.

                              2. Chuckles challenges the science of the hi-tm study. The methods look OK to me. The findings deal with aerobic bacteria. Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni would respond the same way, as the article mentions.

                                What is odd however is the lack of citations of other work, that there is no indication as to if it was published or of a journal (appears to be an in-house pubilication), and stuff like so-and-so, "PhD".

                                9 Replies
                                1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                  Google, O. Peter Snyder, Jr., Ph.D. not many pages but enough to show his work is fairly well published and used as reference material for other publications.

                                  This page list publications other than those from his company http://www.hi-tm.com/Documents/Opspub... along with the topic of each publication.

                                  1. re: Demented

                                    More confusing. Most of his publications are in-house. In fact, from "...1982 to present [he has been] the President of the Hospitality Institute of Technology and Management (HITM)". He did his BS, MS, and PhD while in the military - which is a bit unusual. In any case, I stick with my comment above that the methods used in the study appear sound and that I cannot fault the results.

                                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                      I don't see a single publication in this list of books that came from HITM.

                                      Juneja, V.K. and Snyder, O.P. 2007. Sous vide and cook-chill processing of foods: Concept development and Microbiological safety. (Ch. 8) in: G. Tewari and V.K. Juneja, Eds. Advances in Thermal and Non-Thermal Food Preservation. Blackwell Publishing. Ames, IA. pp. 145-163.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 1993. Hazard analysis and critical control point in foodservice. In VNR’s Encyclopedia of Hospitality and Tourism. Khan, M., Olsen, M, and Var. T (Eds.) Van Nostrand Reinhold. New York. 185-219.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 1995. The applications of HACCP for MAP and sous vide products. In: Principles of Modified-Atmosphere and Sous Vide Product Packaging. Eds. J.M. Farber and K.L. Dodds. Technomic Publishing Co. Inc. Lancaster, PA. 325-383.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 1995. HACCP-TQM for retail and food service operations. In HACCP in Meat, Poultry and Fish Processing: Advances in Meat Research Series Vol. 10. Eds. A.M. Pierson and T.R. Dutson. Blackie Academic & Professional. London. 230-299.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 1997. Food law in the United States. In Food Hygiene Auditing. Ed. N. Chesworth. Blackie Academic & Professional. London. 12-29.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 2000. Food safety information and advice for travelers. In Safe Handling of Foods. Farber, J.M. and Todd, E.C.D., eds. Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York. 455-478.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 2001. Foodservice operations: HACCP principles. In Foodborne Disease Handbook: Vol. 2. Hui, Sattar, Murrell, Nip, Stanfield, Eds. Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York. 425-426.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 2001. Foodservice operations: HACCP control programs. In Foodborne Disease Handbook: Vol. 2. Hui, Sattar, Murrell, Nip, Stanfield, Eds. Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York. 457-496.

                                      Snyder, O.P. 2003. HACCP and regulations applied to minimally processed foods. In Microbial Safety of Minimally Processed Foods. Novak, J.S., Sapers, G.M., and Juneja, V.K., Eds. CRC Press. Boca Raton, FL. 127-150.

                                      Snyder, O.P. and Juneja, V.K. 1999. Involvement of regulatory bodies. In Encyclopedia of Food Microbiology. Robinson, R.K., Batt, C.A., and Patel, P.D., Eds. Academic Press Ltd. London, UK. 1001-1008.

                                      Snyder, O.P. and Juneja, V.K. 2001. Management of microbial control in HACCP systems. In Control of Foodborne Microorganisms. Juneja, V.K. and Sofos, J.N., Eds. Marcel Dekker, Inc. New York. 47

                                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                        Lots of PhDs in the US military officer corps. Not many people make it to Colonel without one.

                                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                          His methods are impeccable. His findings are irrelevant.

                                          The point is, he has shown absolutely nothing about human pathogens.
                                          And the only point of concern is human pathogens.

                                          Like was mentioned before, if you are concerned about sharks, and you
                                          develop some means of handling a puddle full of minnows, you're going
                                          to get screwed if you haphazardly apply those minnow techniques to sharks.
                                          He has proven that he can reduce the population of minnows. And that's it.
                                          Anything else you imagine he has done is just that, imaginary.

                                          And as far as the mayonnaise analogy:
                                          1. Mayonnaise is -defined- as containing an acid. Check your Larousse.
                                          2. Mayo is often kept around longer than spooge on your cutting board.
                                          3. It's not really possible to scrub your mayonnaise with soap and water anyway.

                                          And as far as the list of publications "this guy" has, I'm sure your dad is a smart
                                          fellow. It's just that this particular paper is not proving the thing you think it is proving.

                                          1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                            Reply to this: "findings deal with aerobic bacteria. Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni would respond the same way, as the article mentions."

                                            1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                              "His methods are impeccable. His findings are irrelevant"

                                              This post will most likely get deleted, but under what qualifications do you make this statement? Are you at all versed in food science literature? Do you have an advanced degree in the subject?

                                              You make a lot of grandiose statements on these boards and many people just believe it. But I have to fault you on your absurdly vague and trite generalizations (e.g. your minnow vs. shark analogy) which anyone could make about many scientific discoveries.

                                              How could he make his deductions better? Let's see a suggestion about this -- not debased his findings as irrelevant.

                                              1. re: mateo21

                                                Advanced degree? No. Versed in the literature? Yes. Undergraduate work: yup. Training: lots, some of it even relevant. But that's actually irrelevant, I think.

                                                Since my point is, "be very careful about what you read" rather than, "I'm here to baffle you into buying something", and that's your point too, it looks like we're in at least some sort of agreement. So treat that study with the same circumspection you treat everything I've said.

                                                Look, I'm sorry I've seemed too heavy-handed. There are really only two things here that have really gotten my dander up: Green Bags and radioactive countertops. In both cases, the shysters are using sciency-sounding arguments to sell crap to people who aren't paying careful-enough attention. I guess I've gotten a little too oversensitive and it spilled over here.

                                                Sam, that sentence (and the entire paper) hinges on the word "would". He has a responsibility to demonstrate that or provide a reference that demonstrates it.

                                                1. re: Chuckles the Clone

                                                  C the C, the sentence in my last post was from me: I work with agricultural pests and pathogens and know that the cited experiment is relevant to aerobic bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter jejuni. There is a long term wealth of literature to support this simple concept.

                                      2. i don't disinfect my wooden board. i scrub it with salt and fresh lemon juice. lots of salt, lots of lemon juice, lots of elbow grease. then i rinse thoroughly and let the board dry. i probably haven't killed microbe one (what's a microbe?) but the board looks and smells good!

                                        1. I use the same wood board for proteins and vegetables. Use common sense and cut vegetables first then protein. Wash with soap and hot water. After cutting poultry a spritz of white vinegar after the soap and water cleaning.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. I use a mixture of 1 part bleach and 5 parts hot water once a month. Let it soak for a couple of minutes then rinse with hot water. I also have a green board for veggies, red for meat and white for chix and a butcher block board for carving.

                                            1. Soop, if you have a dishwasher, just put them in there, on the heated cycle if available.

                                              If you don't have a dishwasher, just use hot hot water and soap with a plastic scrub brush every time you use them. Bleach won't hurt, but make sure you rinse very well.

                                              The only real danger is cutting meat before something uncooked without a proper sanitization in between.

                                              But since you have two, just use one for meat and the other for everything else.

                                              1. I have never disinfected my 3 plastic ones and 1 wooden one and I use all of them to cut raw meat & veggies (whether to be eaten raw or cooked) and have never gotten sick. That said, I do wash them thoroughly with soap and hot water after cutting raw meat and don't use the same board to cut something that will be eaten raw until it's thoroughly dry. That probably explains why I have so many boards... I'm not that fastidious about washing them right away either. Sometimes I get lazy & leave them in the sink after cutting raw meat and let those nasty germs multiply... buwahahaha..

                                                1. I disinfect every time I use it. I use a wooden cutting board that is stamped "dishwasher safe." I wash it with dish soap immediately after using it, then put it in the dishwasher later with everything else, where it gets sanitized.