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solution for smelly cutting board?

Does anyone have a solution for getting rid of the smell from my wooden Boos block cutting board? I have conditioned it religiously and kept it dry but it continues to smell like rotten garlic...

Also, does anyone have a recommendation for a cutting board (wooden or otherwise) that works well in a small kitchen?

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  1. Baking soda, or lemon juice, vinegar .... followed by soap and water, drying and mineral oil.

    1 Reply
    1. re: knet

      I use white vinegar as a disinfectant after scrubbing with soap and water. Never have had any smelly problems and cut a lot of garlic. If all else fails the OP can sand it down and re-treat

    2. You said you condition it religously and keep it dry. Does that mean you don't wash it with soap and water with a little bleach water once in awhile. It needs to be washed after every major use.

      1 Reply
      1. According to Joe and Ed (the furniture guys) the old timey butchers spread salt on their blocks overnight to remove moisture and odors...This has never worked for me. I use a weak bleach solution spritzed over paper towel on the boards, let it work for an hour, then soap, water, dry. Re-scrape and oil when they start looking really ratty. Some folks keep a small board exclusively for garlic

        1. Like Knet said. Typically, baking soda, lemon juice, white vinegar will do the job. Since your board smells bad, there is probably bacteria growth in it. What I will do is to wash it very thoroughtly with soap and hot water, scrub it and scrap it if you can. Then, dry it with papertowel or towels. Then, either apply (a) straight white vinegar or (b) diluted bleach on the board and let the solution sit on top of the board for at least 10 minutes. Make sure you apply sufficient amount on the board. It should look wet and not dry. Finally, wash and rinse the board again.

          The idea is to first remove as much stuffs by washing and scraping, and then use vinegar (acid) or bleach to kill the remaining bacteria below the surface.

          Like everyone else said, you do have to wash the board once awhile. You cannot just oil the board. Finally, what do you use to oil the board. I hope you use minermal oil and not any cooking oil. Avoid using oliver oil, peanut oil, corn oil.... etc.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            What if she just threw the board in the oven at the self-cleaning setting? Would that do the trick?

            1. re: ipsedixit

              it would be a trick for sure...and there'd be a new cutting board purchase in her/his future

              1. re: ipsedixit

                In that case, I would suggest to chop the board into pieces and use it for fire woods. At least you get something out of it.

              2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                You have to wash the board more than"once awhile." It should be wiped with soap, bleach water or vinegar after light use and actually washed after "wet" use like cutting fruits, veggies, meats etc. Wood does have some anti-bacterial properties, but it still needs to be washed. What butchersmight have done in the old days would turn your stomach today.

              3. put the board outside in full sun for 2-4 hours. repeat if necessary. after cutting garlic on a wood board, give it a swipe with a cut lemon, in future.

                1. Thank you all for your great advice. I do wash with soapy water frequently. I allow it to dry and then use the fancy wood oil for cutting boards.

                  Any advice on my the brand and/or type of board I should buy next time?

                  19 Replies
                  1. re: doctron

                    If you do wash your cutting board frequently and do use non-food oils for cutting board, then I cannot pinpoint the reason for the smell. Usually, a cutting board starts to give off odor because (1) food residues got in the wood and decomposed by bacteria or (2) eatable oil was used for cutting board and the oil went rancid. Try to apply a good layer of white vinegar on your cutting and let the solution sit on the board for 10-20 minutes and see if that help.

                    Boos makes top-of-the-line cutting boards. Although there are more artistic cutting board, I don't think a different brand of wood cutting board would have made much difference in this case. Maple is still maple and walnut is still walnut.

                    You can try a rubber cutting board. I have one. It is easier to take care off:


                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      Have never used mineral oil on a wood board and disagree with its use as recommended above. If anything, it seems to be an odor and dust magnet, especially on a moderate to badly-scored board. Bleach? No thanks! If you're that OCD about boards and/or don't like wood, simply get cheapo plastic boards(like IKEA's)and wing 'em into the dishwasher.

                      1. re: Kagemusha

                        Why do you have a problem with using a little bleach water? That is a very diluted disinfectant that does a great job. It's certainly not OCD to wnt to keep boards clean....though me ex mother in law went overboard and ended up with almost white wood--but then she certainly was a little nutty.

                        1. re: Kagemusha

                          Mineral oil has always been the standard for upkeeping wood cutting boards. I don't use it, but I don't disagree using it. Bleach solution is recommended by CDC, FDA, USDA as an disinfectant for various objects including cutting boards. It is a standard reagent for disinfection. This is what many restaurants and food service do. I don't use it because it is a hassle to prepare the bleach solution comparing to white vinegar.

                          Considering the original poster's cutting board is already giving off unpleasant smell, it is not OCD to try to disinfect an already infested object. What do you suggest him to do?

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Not sure what point you're trying to put across. A friend who makes maple cutting boards recommends a light to moderate sanding for stinky boards. Often, neglect, improper washing after use, and scoring are the problems behind stubborn odors. I've never owned a wood board that didn't retain a hint of a smell. If it's disagreeable, use plastic and run it thru the dishwasher.

                            1. re: Kagemusha

                              I just prepped onion, garlic and ginger for curry on my IKEA cutting board. I then took it to the sink, washed it with soap and a scrubbie, and then rinsed well and dried. Not one bit of an odor.

                            2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              CK, I stopped using bleach water and instead use straight white vinegar. Unlike bleach it doesn't break down so fast and has a excellent kill rate for both bacteria and virus. No mixing or worry about bleached cloths when handling. Are you using bees wax on your wood boards? I'm still working through a jar of board wax from JKS. Bees wax and mineral oil I'm pretty sure.

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                I told me husband, an avid cook, about this discussion. He said "Why are these people oiling and waxing their boards? The boards will do just fine without it." I have to admit that we oiled so infrequently I can't really believe it made that much of a difference. I really think keeping the board clean and used frequently is the most important things.

                                1. re: escondido123


                                  You have an excellent point. Cowboyardee and I talked about this. If we think of these cutting boards as replaceable, then there are fewer reasons to oil/wax them. In fact, the cheaper the cutting boards are, the fewer the reasons are to spend time and money to upkeeping them. Afterall, the cost of replacement is cheaper. On the other hand, there are expensive cutting board for more than $200, $300, and these owners have a better reason to take great care of their investment.

                                  Me? I am just doing it for fun. I spend more on my maintainence than my chopping block. I think my block was ~$30. Just tell your husband that there are some crazy people around.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Why should a cheap board do better with little or no maintenance than an expensive one? I have had both and treated them the same--scrubbing with soap and water after use, drying lightly and then putting away until the next time. Same with butcher block countertops. The only time I had to recondition one was a large piece of butcher block that I had put through a planer at a lumber yard after five years. Aside from that, cheap or expensive, they have all been just fine.

                                    1. re: escondido123

                                      Cheap boards are easier to replaced. I was talking about "opportunity cost":


                                      You put a planer on an end grain cutting board?

                                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                        No not end grain. It was a big piece I bought from a butcher block counter place. I've never seen the need to spend the money on end grain...I want a good size that is too expensive and heavy in end grain---if I could even find it.

                                        1. re: escondido123

                                          I see. I think end grain will be tough to use a planer. I tried it once, and I was horrible at it.

                                          I will say from my experience that edge grain cutting boards are easier to clean. I hope you didn't pay $200-300 for an edge grain cutting boards unless it is a very large board. Most of those >$200 cutting boards are end grain boards.

                                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                            Oh no, the large one I use right now was the top that came with an IKEA stand alone cabinet. My husband cut it in two and created a slot in a base cabinet so I can store it easily when not in use. Love it!

                                2. re: scubadoo97


                                  I agree. Overall, I like white vinegar too. As you said, vinegar is very stable, so I don't have to prepare a solution of it every day. Moreover, bleach may be too reactive too. Although it kills germs and virus under contact, it also reacts with many things, which means its effectiveness may not reach very deep. Another thing I had used to sanitate my cutting board is hydrogen peroxide. It is expensive I suppose, but its by product is pure H2O (water) and O2 (oxygen).

                                  Yes, I use beeswax. I bought a block of it from an art store for $20, maybe Michaels. More expensive than I had wanted, but it is a 1-lb brick which I will have a hard time finish using it. I think it is this one:


                                  It claims it is natural, and nonthing is added. In fact, it states that because it is unaltered, there may be dead honey bees or body parts of bees in it. So far I have yet to find my dead bees.

                                  For disclosure, I initally applied tung oil (drying oil) to my chopping block. After the tung oil has dried, then I applied the beeswax. I have applied beeswax 2-3 more times since then.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    Comments on cutting board care. No I don't get tired of telling people about wood.

                                    Yes I have run a number of end grain cutting boards through a Delta surface plainer, the key is to take very light cuts, I take about 0.008 inch deep cuts per pass, you also have to bevel the exiting edge to avoid chip out. It's not reccommended, but it can be done safely, I've run over a dozen new boards through this way after I glue them up.

                                    Wood needs to be oiled or treated in some way to control moisture uptake and loss, otherwise it's going to crack, split, or come apart at the glue line. When I make a new end grain cutting board I saturate it a couple of times with mineral oil (pour about a tablespoon on and spread it around, let it soak in for 15-30 min. then wipe off any excess), then in a couple of days I put on two applications of a mineral oil bees wax mixture that's about the consistancy of vasoline. I let this sit for an hour or two and buff. I also do things like raise the grain of the board and sand it again with 220 or 320 grit sand paper before I put oil on it, this keeps the board from getting fuzzy.

                                    If you use too much mineral oil, it will come to the surface of the board, but is easily wiped off. I don't think that's the problem.

                                    We typically wash the board over the sink with soap and water and a sponge, I put the beeswax and mineral oil solution on it every couple of months, it lasts a little longer than jsut mineral oil. Since mineral oil is FDA approved as a laxitive, I figure there's a lot of other stuff I need to worry about.

                                    1. re: mikie


                                      A very good walk-through for a brand new board. I used to use mineral oil and got a bit lazy about oiling it regularly, so I now opt for a drying oil like tung oil and then top the wood surface with pure beeswax - melt it then coat it.

                                      Again, I think mineral oil is a really great and inexpensive solution for many people.

                                      As for a planier, I think BiscuitBoy has kindly told me that it can be done. I have only used a hand-planier and that didn't work out too great.

                              2. re: Kagemusha

                                "If anything, it seems to be an odor and dust magnet, especially on a moderate to badly-scored board."
                                I use mineral oil on my nicer end grain board (I also have an old cheap edge grain board which is untreated and serves as a nice comparison) and haven't noticed any such effect.

                                Anyway, to the OP - I second (or third or whatever) the white vinegar idea. Does the trick for me.

                            3. re: doctron

                              Do you really scrub it with a scrubbie until it is really clean? Also, you did not need to oil it after every use, you may be building up the oil on the board and that can allow smells to remain.