Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Cookware >
Jul 16, 2012 05:22 AM

End grain cutting board problem?

Well it seems I have changed the looks of my Boardsmith maple board. And I am not sure why, so I thought I would throw it out there for ya'll.

In the past when my board got smelly, I smeard some wet baking soda all over the board and left it to dry over night. I then scraped off the dried baking soda, wiped the board down and did it again. This really helped with the smells and made no changes to my board.

Well, I tried this again yesterday, and now my board is looking grayish and mottled. Not very attractive. It reminds me of wood that has weathered. Like a log or wood sided house that is left untreated or an untreated deck or wood fence. The wood itself feels and looks no different. Just the color. I guess for those that is into rustic looking stuff, one might even like it.

I don't know what the difference is this time. The only thing I can think of is that before, I had not yet treated my board with wax, just the mineral oil. I also added a little essential orange oil to my mineral oil to help with smells. That is different and I am wondering if the baking soda is reacting to the wax. I know baking soda can remove wax from floors. As can vinegar. And earlier, before the baking soda, I had cleaned my board with vinegar. Maybe I did not get all the vinegar off and that caused a reaction.

I saw on kitchen knife forum that another guy had the same thing happen to his maple boardsmith board. He never mentioned ever using the vinegar on his board prior to the baking soda, but he does wax his board. His solution was to take a belt sander to the board and sand it down. He posted pictures of his board, so I had a comparison. My board does not look quite as bad as his.

I am going to experiment on one of my cheap wood boards, to see if it changes. This board is not and end grain, but it still might work for an experiment.

So, have any of you experianced this with a wood board?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Well. In doing some more searching. I found where baking soda and water is used to age wood. Like if you want your new fence to look like an old weathered one, or if you are replacing deck wood and want the new to look like the old. So I guess the baking soda and water is to blame for my board turning gray. But I still don't know why that didn't happen before when I put baking soda on my board.

    I guess the only way to fix it, is to sand it down. Even the baking soda and water that dripped down the sides left a gray streak. Ugggggg. I so should have baught a cheap end grain board, until I figured out all the mistakes.

    But, the board isn't harmed. It is just fine. But just a warning to others of what could happen with washing your wood boards with baking soda and water.

    I applied baking soda and water to my old board. Only on half of one side. Yep, it is slightly gray. No doubt if I keep applying it or leave it on longer it will make it more gray. And some of the wet baking soda run off onto my bamboo trivet. Guess what? It affected it too. Actually, I kind of like what it did to the bamboo. It turned it a greenish gray kind of color. About the color of pantina on copper. I am thinking I might just wash the whole trivet in the wet baking soda mixture.

    I just can't figure out why it didn't happen the other time I did this. Maybe my board was soaked with enough mineral oil it prevented it? Other people clean their boards with baking soda and never mention their boards changing colors. Wonder why? Maybe they put theirs on dry and don't leave it on, just wash it right off.

    19 Replies
    1. re: dixiegal

      I would suggest a good washing with soap, water and fine steel wool. I would bet the baking soda has mixed with the wax and created a gloppy mess that has now seeped into the grain of the wood. Get rid of all of that with some good elbow grease, give it a good rinsing with warm water and see where you are. Maybe sanding won't be necessary.

      1. re: escondido123

        >I would bet the baking soda has mixed with the wax and created a gloppy mess that has now seeped into the grain of the wood<

        I thought so at first. But my other board has no wax on it and it is graying after the baking soda and water wash as well. I might check in with Dave the Boardsmith on sanding ideas. If he thinks I can do it with just a sanding block by hand and what grit I should use. The other guy that had this happen to him, Dave offered to sand it all down for him if he wanted to ship it back to him. I don't want to do that. I am scared something will happen to my board during shipping. As well as paying for the cost to ship it is pricey.

        1. re: dixiegal

          It's not hard to sand down yourself, if you decide to go that route. I've refinished a couple boards without too much difficulty. Cost shouldn't be too high either. Most likely you'll only need 2 or 3 grits of sandpaper, 2 or 3 sheets each.

          OTOH, I'm only guessing that your problem is pretty superficial - if not, a powered sander might be in order.

          1. re: cowboyardee

            Yes it is superficial. I don't think it would take much sanding at all to take off some of that grayish look.

            You can get an idea of how my board looks on the Kitchen Knife Forum. Look under the Boardsmith topics and find the post titled something about using Baking Soda on the board. There is a guy on there that has pictures of his board. Mine does not look nearly as bad as his.

            II don't know how to post a like on here to the exact post.

            1. re: cowboyardee

              I forgot to ask. Would using a tack cloth be ok to get the sawdust off? or would the tack cloth leave a residue on the board.? Maybe just a brushing off of the sawdust and going over it with a damp cloth would be better.

            2. re: dixiegal

              <I can do it with just a sanding block by hand and what grit I should use>

              You probably can. I have a Norton hand sander, but if you need something more powerful than you will need a powered sander:


              It may be cheaper for you buy a power sander than to have pay for the shipping (both way). I think you can probably get a cheap and effective powered sander for ~$50.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                >It may be cheaper for you buy a power sander than to have pay for the shipping (both way). I think you can probably get a cheap and effective powered sander for ~$50.<

                ugg. Me and power tools is a scary thought. Perhaps I can get my husband to do it. I probably even has a hand sander some where. The big woodworking equipment is in his dads basement and has not been used in years.

                I do want to warn others about the wet baking soda on their wood boards. It even turned my non-end grain board to a weathered look. Though I like weathered and old things, and love the looks of things made from reclaimed wood, I just don't want my new maple end grain cutting board to look like it was made from an old barn.

                Well, it isn't quite that bad, but would soon be that bad if I continued applying the baking soda and water. I will remember that should we need to replace some of our decking boards.

                So everyone, be careful of putting baking soda and water on your wood cutting boards.......

                1. re: dixiegal

                  <Me and power tools is a scary thought>

                  I am not a handy man at all, but I do want to point out that a powered sander is very safe. It isn't like powered drill or saw or anything like that. It will be difficult to hurt yourself with a powered sander -- I assume everything is possible, but very unlikely in this case.

                  <So everyone, be careful of putting baking soda and water on your wood cutting boards>

                  Thanks for the suggestion. Much appreciated.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Yup - about the only way you can accidentally hurt yourself with a power sander is by inhaling dust. You might well want to buy a cheap mask so that doesn't happen. I don't think maple is particularly toxic but as a general rule inhalation of dust is just not a good thing to do.

                    1. re: kagemusha49

                      <hurt yourself with a power sander is by inhaling dust>

                      Thanks so much. Yes, excellent point about the cheap mask. Beside the maple is not particularly toxic, I also do not think that dixiegal will need to take out more than a factor of a mm thick (a very thin layer). Still, you are absolutely correct that it is always good to get a mask. It is so cheap and so easy to do.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        "Beside the maple is not particularly toxic, I also do not think that dixiegal will need to take out more than a factor of a mm thick (a very thin layer)."

                        I'd be surprised if she had to remove even 1/2 mm. I think CBAD's recommendation of a few sheets of sandpaper is all she'll need.

                        dixiegal, just remember to use light pressure & circular, overlapping motions. You want to avoid rubbing in one area more than another or you'll end up with an uneven surface. Light pressure, overlapping motion.

                        Wax On - Wax Off ....

                        1. re: Eiron

                          So .... should dixiegal asked her neighbor kid to wax on-wax off for her?

                    2. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      New Rubberwood board sucking up mineral oil as we speak. Thanks again. If Dixiegal wants to sand, good palm sander (about $30.00 - $50.00) 80 grit paper, then 120 grit, then 220 grit. As said, dust mask and do it outside, on a trash can, if need be.

                      Friend gave me a huge slab of 1 inch thick white poly board badly gouged up. Belt sanded same, then palm sanded, then cut into nice big boards, then took jig saw and rounded the corners, then took a router and made gravy grove on one side. Amazing what can be done when you put your mind and elbow into it.

                      1. re: Tom34

                        Actually, this is one thing which rubber cutting boards (not rubberwood) excel. Unlike poly plastic boards, the rubber cutting boards are very easy to regenerate by sanding them.

                        Let us know if you like your rubberwood board after you get some uses out of it.

                        1. re: Tom34

                          <Amazing what can be done when you put your mind and elbow into it.>

                          Sounds like a quote from Spartacus.. :D

                          1. re: petek

                            Yes, and we have a new actor for that. Mr. Spartacus. I heard Eiron was trying out for that role.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              LOL!! I'm a little old for that role! As much as I'd love to play it, I no longer have either the physique or the hair! :-D

                              But I did just shoot a short promo segment for a local religious publisher. It paid enough for me to get some new cycling shoes & shorts! :-)

                      2. re: dixiegal

                        Dixiegal, if you want a board to not smell, then you should be using a salad bowl finish, GF Salad Bowl Finish is about the best out there, Mineral spirits is good also, but you have to keep redoing it ever so often

              2. Sorry to hear about your board problems dixigal :(

                If you already haven't,maybe shoot Dave the boardsmith an email for some expert advice.

                I'm sure he'd be happy to help you with your dilemma.

                Good luck!

                1. It sounds like your cutting board just needs a bit of TLC. This will happen from time to time if you do not oil and wax your board often. A good rule of thumb is oil and wax your board once a day for the first week you have it, once a week for the first month, then once a month for the rest of the boards life. Occasionally you will have oil and wax your board after a good cleaning.

                  Check out for some more tips about cutting board care. As for what you should do right now? Sanding the cutting board down and then reapplying a couple coats of oil and wax should have it looking like new again. You can use a coarser grit sandpaper at first to take off the bad layer, then a finer grain such as 280 or so to finish the board and make it smooth. Then season it again with an oil and wax mixture. It may be wise to season it often, maybe once a day for the first week after you re-sand the board. After that make sure and season it regularly to keep it looking like new.

                  11 Replies
                  1. re: JoWeb

                    I've heard it suggested many times to oil your board in the manner you prescribed (and I've done so myself, incidentally). But I'm not so sure it's a good idea to wax your board daily for the first week. Wax (beeswax anyway) tends not to penetrate a board much beyond the surface, and it can build up. It also seems to limit the amount of mineral oil (and other substances like water) that can penetrate your board.

                    I'd suggest doing what I did with my board - oil it often initially, and then apply a layer of oil mixed with melted beeswax, wiping off any excess. From then on, reapply only when needed.

                    In fairness, I've never tried applying wax often, and I'm not really sure that you're talking about the same kind of wax that I am. If anyone else can say they've actually added wax on a daily or weekly basis with good results, I'd love to hear about it. But it seems like overkill to me.

                    1. re: cowboyardee

                      I add beeswax whenever the boards start to get dull/dry. Usually, a layer of beeswax last about 1 year or more for me. However, I may not cook as much as some of you guys do since I don't cook for a big family.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        Seems like just about the same here. You probably know a little more about board maintenance than I do - does applying wax daily at the beginning sound right to you?

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          I used an unusual protocol since I used tung oil for my cutting board. First, I applied tung oil daily for ~3 days, let's it dry, then I applied beeswax, and that is. In short, I only applied beeswax once. It is unlikely to make a huge differene had I used mineral oil because once the beeswax is added, it basically saturated the entire surface, and there is not more to add.

                          JoWeb probably is talking about wax mixture which the wax has been heavily diluted by oil like those beeswax lotion and beeswax cream, which are more liquid than solid.



                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                            Yes I was speaking about a very dilluted wax to oil mixture. I find it best to normally melt a small amount of bees or parrafin wax, say 10 parts oil to 1 part wax. I know I have read in in a few other places then the one I linked above. I suppose it is splitting hairs and for the first week and month you could just oil, but I am a believer in doing the oil/wax mixture on a monthly basis.

                            1. re: JoWeb

                              Yeah, I'm using a much higher wax to oil ratio when I apply wax, and then I don't retreat the board for a long while. The main reason I wouldn't keep treating with wax is because the way I do it, the board is pretty much sealed after the first coat - but sounds like that might not be an issue if you use significantly less wax per treatment.

                              1. re: JoWeb

                                Sound great JoWeb. I think each of us does it a bit different, and sometime we are just too interested what others do as well.

                      2. re: JoWeb

                        >It sounds like your cutting board just needs a bit of TLC. This will happen from time to time if you do not oil and wax your board often.<

                        So a heavily oiled and maybe waxed board would not react to the baking soda this way? My board seemed to be in good shape. I mean if I rubbed my hand across the surface, I could see the oil on it afterward. And I have used the beeswax and oil mixture on it, but reluctant to use too much wax, for worry of build up. So I oil it more than the wax mixture.

                        Thanks for the sanding recomendations. I might just try hand sanding it at first, then maybe move to a palm sander if needed. I saw a guy on you tube resurfacing a board (not end grain) with a palm sander. But he never said what grit sand paper he used.

                        1. re: dixiegal

                          If you will return it to me I can refinish it for you at no charge.

                          Using a belt sander is a fine idea. The oil and wax on the surface will clog the belt in just a few seconds making cleaning the belt manditory. The oil will have penetrated enough to make the belt clog often for the first 10 minutes or so. The deeper into the surface you go the easier the sanding. Once sanding is finished, a new coat of oil and wax will make it look new.

                          1. re: BoardSMITH

                            >If you will return it to me I can refinish it for you at no charge.<

                            Aww thanks Dave. But it wasn't your fault I put the baking soda on my board. The board is just fine, just slightly discolored. My husband may have a belt sander somewhere. I just don't want to take off much. I don't want to loose any of that pretty bevel around the edges.

                            I just can't figure out why the other time I put the baking soda on the board it did not discolor it. Perhaps the first time I used the baking soda and water, my board may have been more oily?

                            Anyway, I am loving my board. You do great work and are so helpful.

                          2. re: dixiegal

                            I honestly don't for sure whether frequently oiling and waxing would prevent the board issue with your baking soda. I have always been a fan of course ground salt left on the board over night to take care of odors, but I would imagine it would have helped some.

                            I would definitely give hand sanding it a try first. Start with a 50 grit paper, then a 100 grit, the wet a 325 for the final sanding. I imagine that and a new coat of oil/wax will have it back to as good as new.

                        2. For future, you can use half a lemon to refresh your cutting board. Chop a lemon in half and rub the exposed half on the surface of your cutting board.