How To Keep Your Kitchen Cutting Boards Safe From Contamination

best-cutting-board-for-vegetables

Do you have more than one cutting board? Who doesn’t, right?

We have a small stack of cutting boards sitting on a counter somewhat near the sink, leaning against the side of a cabinet for easy access.

Here’s the thing… a general concern should be that of food-borne illness or cross-contamination on your cutting boards. It can happen easier than you think – and you won’t know it until it’s too late.

Contamination can occur as a result of bad habits. Poor cleaning. Cross contamination.

(UPDATED – and a reminder…)

Here is an important (and simple) health safety tip – how to keep your cutting boards safe from cross-contamination…

Separate Cutting Boards For Meat and Vegetables

ONLY use a particular cutting board for meats and ONLY use a different board for vegetables. And keep it that way, even if they’re clean.

I told you it was simple!

Color Coded Cutting Boards

Here’s one way to do it. Purchase cutting boards that are color coded (that’s one way that we identify which cutting board to use for meat and which one for vegetables.

For example, you might use the following cutting board with red edge grips for meat (e.g. red meat).

Gorilla Grip Cutting Board (3 Piece) Red
#potential amzn fee earned at no extra cost to you

Similarly, the product linked above is available in a variety of edge colors. Perhaps choose the green one for vegetables.

Suggested colors

Red – Beef
Yellow – Chicken
White – Pork
Green – Vegetables

OR…

Just decide which of your cutting boards will be used for meat vs. vegetables and leave it at that!

Cutting Board Contamination

Note: Even though you washed your cutting board, it doesn’t necessarily ensure that you got everything disinfected (the ‘bad’ stuff is invisible).

Note: The tiny grooves in a cutting board caused by the knife provides a potential breeding ground for bacteria that may have resisted your last washing.

MSB reader tip:
“Disinfect everything that might have come in contact with raw chicken in the kitchen. Hot soapy water wipe down on the counter followed by bleach wipe-down. Wet sponge goes into the microwave for 2 minutes afterwards.”

Ken adds: Careful with how long that wet sponge is in the microwave! I generally do 30 seconds to a minute. Keep an eye on it…

Best Way To Get Germs Off A Kitchen Sponge

How To Disinfect A Cutting Board

If your dishwasher has a high temperature ‘sanitary’ mode, use it! Be sure that the cutting board is dishwasher safe. Not a good idea to put a wooden cutting board in there…

Or, wipe the cutting board with full-strength white vinegar after each use. The acetic acid in the vinegar is a good disinfectant, effective against E. coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus.

Use bleach or a bleach solution.
Disinfectant Bleach-Water Ratio

What about this one… For even more effectiveness (e.g. after cutting poultry?). Wash in sink with hot soapy water (pretty obvious, right?). But then use a paper towel to wipe the board with vinegar. After that use another paper towel to wipe it with hydrogen peroxide. Ordinary 3% peroxide is fine. Hydrogen peroxide is a surefire bacteria-killer.

“Friction and disinfectant solution. There is no substitute for scrubbing off gross contaminants and using soap and disinfectant solution to remove the pathogens.”

another MSB reader tip

How To Deep Clean A Cutting Board

Scrub it with a paste made from the following recipe:

1 tablespoon baking soda
Tablespoon of salt
1 tablespoon water

Rinse thoroughly with hot water.

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33 Comments

  1. interesting post…

    I run mine through the dishwasher…

    (please don’t tell me this does not sanitize them????????)(ok, if it is so, go ahead….??????????)

  2. Haven’t sanitized them lately so thanks for the reminder. I put them in dishwasher also. Hydrogen peroxide is a good idea as is the paste. We could replace water in paste with peroxide-double duty. I used to use bleach, rinsing well.

  3. When you work in a kitchen red boards are used for meat, green boards are for vegetables, white is used for any other items. You should never use the same board for more than one item at a time. Sanitize between use to prevent cross contamination. You can never be too careful.

  4. Dishwashers I would think would do a good job. However, you have to be certain that your cutting board will be dishwasher safe. Shouldn’t put wood into the washer, the heat and moisture will affect the board over time. Thanks Ken for the tips, we have a set of thin cutting sheets that are all color coded, green for veggies, red for red meat, yellow for chicken, and white for pork.

    1. Northern Boy

      Thank you, yes, all are dishwasher safe. Some type of that “plastic” stuff or glass (don’t think it is plastic, just no idea what to call it).

      Now having said that I use dishwasher to sanitize them, I should also mention, I most always add vinegar to the dishwasher rinse, so that should help too.

      Did you all know, that most dishwashers (and the new front load washers) tested, tested positive for Black Mold? One way to make certain this does not “establish” itself, is running a cup of vinegar through the machine (dishwasher or washer). (of course one can buy expensive /toxic chemicals also). Apparently Vinegar is quite thorough in eliminating Black Mold in these machines.

      1. I use white vinegar by the gallons! completely organic, non toxic and cleans wonderfully. For those who can not stand the scent….I keep large pickle jars and add orange and lemon scraps and peels regularly. Let sit for 48 hours and the vinegar scent is gone with a nice citrus replacement. I rotate the jars a couple times per week so I always have some handy. This is even good to clean cat boxes…just FYI

    1. kevin

      pretty sure plain bleach is excellent. It is what I used prior to dishwasher (was always told to use). I would put a plug in the sink, pour bleach on it, rotate/repeat, and leave to soak for a while.

      Also, when I have raw meat / turkey / chicken / especially, I wipe the cupboard and sink and taps down with a cloth with straight bleach on it.

    2. Bleach is my friend. LOL
      I have 3 cutting boards. Only 1 is used for meats and it’s because of bacterial issues. My meat cutting board is wooden and I have only used bleach to disinfect. After cutting meats, I rinse the board in hot water and scrub off any meat particles w/ a knife’s side or my nails. Then I use a hot water and Dawn dish detergent. After that, I use bleach as a wash-over, let it sit, and then rinse after two minutes.

      Veggies and any kind of dough are used with different cutting boards. I only use Dawn dish detergent on those.

  5. I used to bleach mine….after raw chicken especially. now I used white vinegar and baking soda creating a sort of volcano active paste. works great to get bacteria out of the cuts and crevices…not unlike peroxide.

  6. Use a natural wooden cutting board.
    They have natural sanitation.
    However make sure properly washed after cutting poultry

    1. That was an interesting statement. A quick look on line showed tannins do have antibacterial properties. I presume that this is what would give wood germ killing properties. It does go against my gut feelings though. The multitude of cuts in wood are an invitation to an invitation for bacteria. Tannin might kill them but it would take time. Personally, when I use wood I disinfect with bleach. Plastic goes in the dishwasher and if that’s not available I’d use bleach on that too. Having had salmonella from bad chicken I disinfect everything that might have come in contact with raw chicken in the kitchen. Hot soapy water wipe down on the counter followed by bleach wipe-down. Wet sponge goes into the microwave for 2 minutes afterwards.

      1. That’s a good reminder. No point in cleaning or wiping things down if the sponge is contaminated too. You’re just spreading germs all over the place.

    2. totally agree used wooden cutting boards all my life i just have 2 ,1 for meat 1 for all else .
      washed in hot water with soap then dripped dried until totally dried .

  7. White vinegar is good for many things, and using it on cutting boards is a great idea. Many severe storms have rolled through our area taking out the electricity several times. Each time the power goes out, it sharpens my skills & knowledge for a grid-down situation. Thank you for adding one more bit of knowledge!

  8. Interesting

    I guess I live dangerously, when cooking most foods that reach a temp of over 180 (think frying, Stir Fry, and Ovens), I use the same board for cutting up everything. And yes Mildred even the dreaded chicken.

    Of course afterward I do clean the boards first with a good scrubbing of Dawn and a Scotch-Brite. than into the dishwasher with the “sanitize” setting, yes even the wooden ones. A good White Maple/Black Walnut cutting board is just “nice” to work on, good and heavy and wont move when whacking it with a 2 pound meat cleaver… HAHAHA

    And yes I will use the same board to cut up a salad before I use it for the main meal food stuff.

    FYI, GREAT idea on the vinegar rinse cycle for cleaning the Dish Washer. Good call Anon.

    NRP

    1. NRP

      Thanks re vinegar

      all else aside, if bought in big sales etc, fairly cheap
      and cheaper and much less toxic than the chemical they sell
      to put in rinse cycle.

  9. I guess it’s an Asian thing but my wife has 10 different cutting boards.6 plastic boards.1 each for beef,chicken,pork,fish and 2 for vegetables. 2 thick and 1 thin bamboo boards and a big 4″ thick board she got from her Granma.All with a specific use and woe unto me if I use 1 for the wrong food!She keeps white vinegar in squeeze bottles and cleans them with it.I don’t dare stand still in the kitchen when she is cleaning orI get a vinegar cleaning and a bleach wipe down!LOL!

  10. @NRP..I live dangerously too. Same cutting board for everything. Then I wash it down with some Dawn and a scrubber, then off to the dishwasher on the sanitize setting.

    Honestly haven’t tried the vinegar in the rinse cycle, but I will give that a try.

    I mainly use bleach for the bathroom toilets. I have to be careful with cleaners that have strong smells. Because of the migraines.

  11. I know this isnt “organic” but
    I spray mine down with clorox cleanup and scrub them with that and Dawn dish liquid,

  12. I just bleached my board by soaking it in the dish tub, then it disinfects the dish tub, then used remaining bleach to wipe the counters and rinse with a wet sponge. The diluted bleach that gets on the wet sponge disinfects the sponge too and with it diluted sitting in the sponge for a few seconds, doesn’t eat up the sponge and brightens it. Boy am I thrifty…

  13. Lessons I learned in Microbiology:

    Two things needed to clean surfaces: Friction and disinfectant solution. There is no substitute for scrubbing off gross contaminants and using soap and disinfectant solution to remove the pathogens. My wife and I are both in health care so we both took Microbiology (and got A grades too.) A final step in some cases involves flaming metal tools to burn off any contaminants.

    My own kitchen has many small cutting boards along with many knives and many bowls. I only have a few big cutting boards as I like to slice, dice and process foods on the board and transfer the cut items into a bowl. I prep my food before turning the burners on. I clean up as I go . I use standard Dawn dishwashing soap and hot water. I will wipe down the counters and sink after processing a bunch of raw meat with bleach solution on a rag. No secrets here. just scrubbing with hot,soapy water along with scrubbing.

    Yes, NRP , you are right, the dog helps out a lot with the “Pre-scrubbing” to remove gross contaminants. She mostly like to help me out at the BBQ. (her favorite kitchen appliance)

  14. I use a real wood cutting board and clean with coarse salt. This has worked for hundreds of years, no reason it won’t keep working.The coarse salt provides grit for scrubbing and desiccates any remaining icky stuff.

  15. Clorox cleanup!
    I spray them down, scrub with dayn and Clorox cleanup an run them through the dishwasher whenever i need to

    1. Agree, I use Clorox Cleanup a lot. After meat I set board in sink and spray, let sit then clean with hot water and soap by scrubbing. Color coded boards. How fancy! I still use the old fashion way of cutting veggies and fruit a knife and fingers, most of the time….. and yes sometimes I still nick myself…….

      1. Ya,
        Color coded boards,,,,
        I have one of each size of plastic for kitchen, was a set from costco, then have a couple wood laminated boards i made in the shop,,,
        And a couple big comercial foid institution size boards in the packing/cutting/canning kitchen
        I run em all for whatever i need em for

  16. Please remember after extended us most (not glass) cutting boards will have multiple cut lines or grooves that make disinfecting much more difficult. Sometimes it is better after a few years to throw out the old and buy new.

  17. Hmmm. Interesting article. I have two wood cutting boards, one smaller for dicing vegetables, and a larger one for chopping up salad etc. Also several of those white (nylon?) boards of assorted size, for meat. I usually just wash them with Dawn soap and hot water, and then a quick wipe down with vinegar. Never seem to have had a problem. I’m not so sure about that bleach thing though. Especially with wood boards. I just don’t like that smell around my food, even if it does eventually go away.

  18. I don’t know folks. I use the same cutting board for everything. I wash it down when done with liquid dish soap. I have been doing this for years and with multiple boards. I have always thought people are way too concerned with germs and bacteria as these are a way of life. Just my .2

    1. In theory, and in practice (if good practice), like you said – it shouldn’t matter. If the board is cleaned properly and holds no residual contamination, then you’re good to go.

      But I still like my own advice in the article ;)

  19. On the two minutes in the microwave for the sponge, Dr. Oz used to recommend it and now says no. It doesn’t get all of the bad bugs. I would imagine boiling for ten or fifteen minutes would as would running it through a canning cycle in the pressure cooker. I still nuke mine as although it may not kill all of them it does kill most of them.

    I’m a big proponent on bleach. I’m also a proponent of the MSR SE200 for disinfecting water with the bleach solution it produces from 12 volts, water and salt. I keep meaning to do an article on mine but just never seem to have enough time. The manufacturers of it also has a chart as to what can be disinfected with it.

    Ready Made Resources has them in stock. I think mine was one of my better prepping investments. Go to their site and do a search for SE200.

    [ Ken adds: (here’s the link) ]

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