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Wooden cutting boards, smells and oil

After reading the topic about smelly wooden cutting boards, I got to thinking. If the board smells of, say, onion and garlic, even after cleaning it, several times. If you then oil it with mineral oil or mineral oil and beeswax, will you then just seal in the smell? Then again, the oil and beeswax didn't keep the smell out of the board, so maybe it can't trap it in either?

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  1. If it's trapping onion smell then you might want to try a light sanding with a fine grit to help remove surface scratches.
    is this an end grain or edge grain cutting board?

    I would try sanding it down and then applying the oil/wax coating.

    I've not seen odors/flavors trapped in by a coating of wax but the theory is sound, I'm curious to hear what others chime in with.

    5 Replies
    1. re: cannibal

      is this an end grain or edge grain cutting board?

      Mine is an end grain. Only a slight smell of the onions I cut up on it last week. Can only smell it if I put my nose very close to it. LOL.

      I have always washed my cheap wood boards we a quick rinse and a quick wash with a soapy dish rag and then the smell would always fade away. But since this board is bigger and heavier I just wiped it down with a clean wet dish rag, then wiped it off with some vingegar. The next day I could smell it when I went in the kitchen the next morning. So I covered it with bakingsoda for half the day, cleaned that off. it helped but that was all. So I covered with baking soda and left all night. It continued to improve. Then I started wiping down with lemon, cleaned that off, let it dry for a day, then wiped down with lime. All of this had continued to help, but not completely done away with the smell. This weekend when I get through preparing the food to cook for the week, I think I will wash it with dishwashing soap at the sink or tub, and see how that goes. I just don't really want to re coat with the mineral oil and beeswax until the odor is gone. I would try putting it in the sun, but I think it is going to rain here this weekend.

      Anyway, this board is a new adventure for me, so I am sorta on a wing and a prayer as I learn how best to care for it.

      I seldom oiled my cheap wood boards and what smells they may have picked up from onion and such, would fade away.

      But I don't want to risk this end grain board drying out. I intend to keep it oiled and waxed.
      Oh and I love the way the limes smell. But it fades away quicker than the onion smell. I am sure if I would leave it alone and not use it for awhile the odor would fade away. All odors do. (that is once the cause of the odor is removed)
      Even the odor where the skunk sprayed at our back door has pretty much faded away. And that was about 2 or 3 weeks ago. However, I still can faintly smell it on the dogs.;o)

      1. re: dixiegal

        So does that mean you will be oiling and waxing all sides to keep the moisture inside? I am having a hard time understanding how you keep a board clean if there is wax and oil to soak up the food particles/odors,

        1. re: escondido123

          >So does that mean you will be oiling and waxing all sides to keep the moisture inside? I am having a hard time understanding how you keep a board clean if there is wax and oil to soak up the food particles/odors,<

          The board is only oiled and waxed when completely dry. It keeps the board from drying out and helps to keep water and juices from the food from soaking in. After oiling a wood board, water just puddles up on it instead of soaking in the wood. Like a newly waxed car.

        2. re: dixiegal

          Hey dixigal "But I don't want to risk this end grain board drying out. I intend to keep it oiled and waxed"
          Keep waxing and oiling your board.I don't think it'll keep oders locked in,but it will definitely keep moisture out.Whatever you do DON'T put it the sun.Warm soapy water will help.
          Chop some fresh thyme or rosemary on the board and you'll hardly notice the onion smell..

          1. re: petek

            Thanks petek. My husband did not think the board in the sun thing to be a good idea either. Lke I said. Th onion smell has faded to the point I can't smell it unless I am very close to it. But I bet for those that cook and chop on theirs everyday, the smells could get strong.

      2. I think the cleaner you keep your board--for me that means soap, hot water and a scrubby sponge--the better off you are...with no coatings of any sort. I have never used oil on my board, cut everything on them and they are all in great shape--and none of them are end grains.

        1. Hey dixiegal,

          Have you tried emailing Dave/BoardSmith & asking him for any additional tips? It sounds like you're doing all of the standard methods of odor reduction, but he might have another trick or two.

          My board is small enough (12 x 18) that I can muscle it under the faucet each time, but yours is too big, I remember! Still, I only give it a rinse after cutting any veggies & I don't notice any strong odors afterward. Hmmm... maybe my sniffer's broken?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Eiron

            I just checked the John Boos site and they say wash with warm soapy water, dry with paper towel/air dry, oil 3/4 weeks depending on frequency of us. Hope that helps.

          2. The better it's oiled the better it will resitst the juces associated with the onion smell.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                >Don't worry about it too much.<

                Thanks Chem. As always, the voice of reason.:o)

                I did have a scary moment though. I decided to just take the board to my tub where I could wash it with a slightly soapy dish cloth. Apparently, I washed and rinsed a tad too long, because a short time later, I was checking it to see how it was drying and noticed it was a little warped. My heart just dropped. So I got on line and looked up the warped board problem and learned that it sometimes would happen if one side of the board was wet and the other was not. That would be my problem. So I wet the other side and stood it up on end and waited. After a couple of hours, the board was looking better, so I put it back on the coasters (for air circulation) with the concave side down and left it all night.

                It is ok this morning. So, I won't be doing that again, and I learned that whatever you do to one side, (washing/oiling) ya need to do to the other.

                As soon as I am sure it is completely dry, I will be oiling and waxing the whole board. :o)

                1. re: dixiegal

                  For a fairly new board, I would oil it first, every day for a week, you want to get as much penetration as you can. Then I would switch to the oil/wax combo, once a week for the first month, then you are probably good for once a month.

                  Good luck,

                    1. re: dixiegal

                      I have a Boos cutting board and I sprinkle sea salt on it and give a scrub with the cut side of half a lemon. I also periodically use the cutting board oil from Williams & Sonoma.

                      I love my cutting board :-)

                      1. re: LynneLynne

                        And I hope you clean it thoroughly before adding more oil.

              2. The idea of being willing to continue preparing food on a cutting board that smells is gross...but then I assume if it smells it is not clean.

                3 Replies
                1. re: escondido123

                  >but then I assume if it smells it is not clean<.

                  Maybe and maybe not. My hands smell of onions even after I wash them. But it fades after a while. My dogs still smelled of skunk, even after I washed them. But I assure you they were clean after the the washing. (I guess you could say that they smelled like a clean skunk ;o))

                  And then there is the fact you can sometimes cover up smells from something unclean, but the object is still unclean. And then something can look clean, even when it isn't, and vice versa......

                  1. re: dixiegal

                    If my board smells like onion, and I put a warm Danish on it, I bet that Danish will get some onion smell on it, which I would not want. So I guess we just have different ideas of what is problem when a board smells. Everyone finds the solution that works for them.

                    1. re: escondido123

                      >If my board smells like onion, and I put a warm Danish on it, I bet that Danish will get some onion smell on it, which I would not want. So I guess we just have different ideas of what is problem when a board smells. Everyone finds the solution that works for them.<

                      You made the assumption (in another post) that if a board smells that it was not clean. I was not adressing whether or not a board with smells was a problem. I was just addressing as to whether or not a board (or anything else) that smelled was either clean or dirty.

                      Smells do not necassarily indicate either. Such as. I like to store things in my drawers that make my clothers smell good. The fragrence that my clothers take on does not mean my clothes are either clean or dirty. It just means they smell.

                      I agree with you. If food tastes transfers to each other on a cutting board. That would be a problem for me too. But so far. That has not happened to me, as long as I clean the board between use.