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When to Throw Away a Cutting Board

A cutting board is a kitchen essential, but it doesn’t last forever. Here’s how to tell when it’s so stained that it can’t be salvaged.

Whether you’re trimming tenderloin, slicing tomatoes for a salad, or mincing a few garlic cloves for pasta sauce, you can’t cook without a cutting board.

The cutting board is one of those kitchen essentials we use every day, often multiple times a day. They help protect our tables and counters by giving us a sturdy and durable surface to cut, chop, slice, dice, and mince on.

As sturdy and as durable as your cutting board is, you will eventually have to replace it. The golden rule is that you should throw your cutting board out when it is cracked, warped, or shows obvious signs of wear and tear.

In this article, we will review the different types of cutting boards, focusing on how long they last and how to know when it’s time to get a new one.

When Should I Throw My Cutting Board Away?

While an older cutting board might not look nice, the main reason to toss it is food safety. Excessively worn or, worse, damaged cutting boards can be a breeding ground for pathogenic bacteria that can cross-contaminate your food and make you sick.

Most cutting boards are made from wood, plastic, or glass. Here’s how to know when they need to be replaced.

Wooden cutting boards:

You’ll know that your wood cutting board needs to be replaced if you see cracks in it. Bacteria can get into the cracks of the wood, making it difficult to clean thoroughly.

Cracks in a wooden cutting board often occur if the board has been soaked in water. Since wood soaks up water, and it expands and contracts in reaction to moisture, the changes in the moisture level can cause it to crack as it dries.

Very hot water can cause a wooden cutting board to crack, and so can prolonged exposure to it. So it’s best to avoid putting it in the dishwasher. (Even if your board survives a cleaning cycle or two, it will pick up the smell and taste of the harsh dishwater detergent, imparting it on your food.)

A wooden board should also be replaced if it becomes warped. This is also frequently caused by soaking the board in water or not drying it thoroughly after cleaning. A warped board can let in bacteria and it creates an uneven surface which can be dangerous when cutting.

Plastic cutting boards:

Plastic cutting boards are not as porous as wood which means they don’t crack or warp. Over time, they will accumulate cuts and grooves in the surface which can harbor bacteria. When these cuts get too deep, it is hard to clean them properly.

When your plastic cutting board accumulates too many cuts and grooves, it’s time to throw it away and replace it with a new one.

Glass cutting boards:

Since glass cutting boards are non-porous, they are the easiest material to keep clean. Glass boards will not get grooves in them from the knives so you don’t need to worry about bacteria accumulating if you clean them regularly.

The main reason that a glass cutting board should be thrown away is if it has cracked or chipped. Like any broken or damaged glass, this can present a safety risk as you can cut yourself on it. 

How Long Should a Cutting Board Last?

How often you replace your cutting board will depend on how often you use it, how well you clean and maintain it, and the type of material it is made from.

Wood cutting boards last anywhere between 5 to 10 years if maintained properly, while plastic boards should be once a year. Glass cutting boards last the longest, and they only need to be replaced if the glass cracks.

How Do I Clean a Cutting Board?

Cutting boards, regardless of their material, should be cleaned with hot, soapy water after each use. After rinsing with clean water, the board should be patted down with a clean rag or paper towel and air-dried on the drying rack.

For cutting boards that have stains, try using salt and lemon. Sprinkle coarse salt over the surface of the board, then rub a halved lemon over the surface to remove stains.

Cleaning helps you get rid of food smells and leftover particles. Sanitization, described below, helps you eliminate the pathogenic bacteria on the cutting surface.

How Do I Sanitize a Cutting Board?

The best way to sanitize a cutting board is to use bleach. You’ll want a diluted solution of one tablespoon of bleach to one gallon of water. If your cutting board is made of plastic or glass, soak the cutting board in the bleach solution for several minutes. Rinse with clean water and let air dry.

Wood cutting boards should not be soaked as this can cause the board to warp. To sanitize a wood cutting board, use a clean cloth or sponge to wipe down the board with a bleach solution. Then rinse, pat down, and let air dry.

Another option for sanitizing your cutting board is to use vinegar. Be sure that the label says 5% distilled white vinegar as other types will not work as well. Soak a sponge or a cloth with the vinegar and then thoroughly wipe the cutting board before rinsing and leaving to dry.

Hydrogen peroxide can also be used to sanitize your cutting board. Use a 3% hydrogen peroxide to wipe down the surface of the board, then rinse with clean water and allow to dry.

Cutting boards should be sanitized after they are cleaned.

Boards that were used for raw meat, poultry, or seafood should be sanitized after each and every use. Cutting boards that are used for other food items can be disinfected less frequently, ideally once a week.

Do I Need More Than One Cutting Board?

You should have at least two cutting boards–one of which should be used only for raw meat. Since the juices from raw meat can contain bacteria that cause illness, it’s important not to use this cutting board for any other foods.

If you have the space, you can have designated cutting boards for poultry and fish, as well as fruits and vegetables. Many plastic cutting boards come in sets with different colors, which makes it easy to remember which board is what type of food.

What is the Best Type of Cutting Board?

Each material has pros and cons, so you need to consider which factors are most important to you when purchasing or replacing a cutting board.

Glass cutting boards are easy to clean and since they don’t get grooves in them, they don’t accumulate bacteria. Unfortunately, this material is very hard on kitchen knives and causes them to dull faster than other materials.

Plastic cutting boards are inexpensive, easy to clean, and come in a variety of colors to help you avoid cross-contamination. They are not as porous as wood but they do harbor bacteria if the cuts in them are too deep.

Cutting boards made from wood are the most durable type. The porous material means that they absorb the moisture–and smells–of everything that is placed on them. Wood boards require a bit more attention when it comes to cleaning and maintaining them.