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How to Clean a Wood Charcuterie Board

September 26, 2021

Clean and Season Your Charcuterie Board

What can I do to clean and preserve my charcuterie or cutting board wood?

This is one of the most common questions we get about these wonderful kitchen icons.

mineral oil treatment for charcuterie and cutting boards
Before and after board cleaning, surface treatment and sealing

In our cutting board shop, we make a variety of charcuterie boards, and typically use hardwoods (maple, walnut, etc). Our Charcuterie Boards are best sellers, and we routinely get questions on how to care for and extend the life of a maple, walnut or wood charcuterie board. It’s a pretty simple process, but needs to be done in the right sequence to be effective. Your boards can be a growth medium for bacteria, as the longer you leave them out with all the goodies onboard, the more they need to be properly cleaned and sanitized.

Here are some steps to cleaning the board and having a safe, clean environment for lovely food.

Step 1: Determine your wood type

Most charcuterie boards are made from a hardwood with a tight grain, but most board owners will not know maple from bamboo. Beware of cheap charcuterie boards! Only the top hardwoods (maple/walnut) resist scratching and deep cuts. Softer, cheaper wood can allow deep wood penetration which can harbor bacteria and make you ill. More importantly is you board’s ability to shed moisture and resist scratches and cuts from a knife. If you have a softer wood, you will need to pay particular attention to the cut “channels” that build over time, and spend a little more time sanitizing. Those knife wounds on your board are where the bacteria like to hide. Hardwoods like maple will have scratches that seem to sit on the surface.

how to refurbish a cutting board
Hardwood charcuterie boards are easy to clean and condition

Step 2: Clean and Sanitize Your Charcuterie Board

Why Clean Your Charcuterie Board? Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s important to understand why regular cleaning is vital. Charcuterie boards come into direct contact with food, and without proper cleaning, they can harbor bacteria and odors. Cleaning your charcuterie board properly is a requirement and a mandatory first step. Here are some techniques to properly clean your board. Below are the basics, and what you will need to sanitize and scrub your board.

Materials You’ll Need

  • Soft cloth or sponge
  • Mild dish soap
  • White vinegar or lemon juice
  • Mineral oil + beeswax (for conditioning)
  • Salt (for tough stains)

Step-by-Step Cleaning Guide (quick and dirty…pun intended)

  1. Rinse with Water: Immediately after use, rinse your charcuterie board with warm water to remove any food particles.
  2. Apply Soap: Use a soft cloth and mild dish soap to gently scrub the board. Avoid using abrasive sponges, as they can damage the wood and create wood fuzz surfaces which harbor hhharmful bacteria. Be sure and wash both sides to prevent warping.
  3. Disinfect Naturally: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and water, or use lemon juice to naturally disinfect the board. This is especially important after using the board for meats or cheeses.
  4. Rinse and Dry: Rinse the board thoroughly with water and dry it with a clean towel. Ensure it’s completely dry before storing it.
  5. Remove Tough Stains: If your board has tough stains, sprinkle salt on the surface and scrub gently with a lemon half. The acidity helps lift stains without harming the wood.
  6. Condition the Wood: To prevent drying and cracking, regularly apply a thin layer of mineral oil to your board. This keeps the wood conditioned and extends its life.

A little more detail for the charcuterie geeks.

Method 1: Soap and Water

The simplest way to properly clean a charcuterie board is with soap and warm water. Just lather up a sponge or cloth and wipe down the whole board. Wash away the soap, towel dry the surface and let it air dry. DO NOT SOAK. Soaking or washing the board in a dishwasher will cause it to warp.

Pro Tip: Always, always wash both sides of your charcuterie or cutting board. As the wood fibers absorb the moisture and subsequently dry, they shrink and if you just wash one side your board will warp.

See our vintage inspired charcuterie boards made in the USA with US hardwoods

Method 2: Lemon Juice and Salt

Squeeze a fresh lemon onto the board surface and sprinkle with sea salt. Take a sponge or rag and rub the mixture into the surface and let it sit for 5 or so minutes. Wash off with water and towel dry. The acids from the lemons and salt chemicals will give you a natural, clean disinfection.

Again, Be sure and always clean both sides of your board. Only cleaning one side leads to warpage over time.

Removing scratches from a charcuterie
Clean deep and condition to remove scratches

Step 3: Condition Your Charcuterie Board

Over time, the surface of your board gets nicked, and knife marks are a great place for bacteria and food bits to hide. Conditioning your board makes it safer to use and easier to clean. If you use a high quality board balm, it can also swell the wood fibers and partially heal cut marks and scratches.

Method 1 : Mineral oil

The simplest method is to apply food grade mineral oil. Pour the oil on the board, and use a clean rag to wipe and distribute the oil on the surface. Heavily coat the board, and let it sit until the oil is absorbed into the grain. Repeat on the other side. The wood grain will absorb the oil, swell the fibers and give you a nice finish.

Method 2: Mineral Oil and Beeswax

A mix of food grade mineral oil and organic beeswax is the best combination. The oil soaks into the scratches and nicks and will swell the wood, closing the openings. The wax provides a sealing effect to make cleaning easier. You can buy separate products online and apply them sequentially, or a buy a combined conditioner like our popular Celtic Board Conditioner to make the process dirt simple.

Generously apply the conditioner to one side and let it soak in. After about 10 minutes wipe off the excess and do the other side and edges.

cleaning a charcuterie board with mineral oil and beeswax
A Board Conditioner is Perfect for the Charcuterie Job

Step 3: Sanding and Reconditioning

Want to DIY? Step by step using board oil and board balm with beeswax sealer

Everyone has that one Aunt that goes to war with their charcuterie, attacking that fine brie with the cheese knife like she is on a Scottish battlefield. Fear not, even the most seemingly damaged charcuterie board can be salvaged. Just get some 80 and 120 grit sand paper. Use the 80 to remove deep scratches, and the 120 or 180 grit as a finishing step. When you are done, recondition, and your board will look new.

Frequently Asked Questions about Cleaning and Conditioning Wood Charcuterie and Cutting Boards

  1. Q: Does the type of wood matter when cleaning my charcuterie board? A: The cheaper the board, typically, the higher the likely hood of deep cuts and bacteria. Tight grain, heavy hardwoods like maple and walnut resits scratches and can help prevent bacterial growth.
  2. Q: How often should I clean my wooden charcuterie or cutting board? A: Ideally, you should clean your board immediately after each use to prevent bacterial growth and food contamination.
  3. Q: Can I use soap and water to clean my wooden board?A: Yes, mild dish soap and warm water can effectively clean your wooden board. However, ensure you rinse and dry it thoroughly afterward to prevent moisture damage.
  4. Q: Is it safe to soak my wooden charcuterie or cutting board in water? A: No, soaking a wooden board in water can lead to warping or cracking. Instead, wash it briefly and dry it immediately and thoroughly.
  5. Q: Can I place my wooden charcuterie or cutting board in the dishwasher? A: It is not advisable to put your wooden board in a dishwasher. The intense heat and prolonged water exposure can cause your board to warp, crack, or split.
  6. Q: How can I eliminate stains and odors from my wooden board? A: For stain removal, you can scrub the board with a mixture of baking soda and water. To combat persistent odors, rub a cut lemon across the board’s surface.
  7. Q: How often should I condition my wooden charcuterie or cutting board? A: Conditioning frequency depends on how often you use your board. However, it’s generally recommended to condition your board once a month with food-grade mineral oil or a blend of mineral oil and beeswax.
  8. Q: Why do I need to condition my wooden board? A: Conditioning helps to keep your wooden board hydrated, prevents the wood from drying out and cracking, and creates a barrier against bacteria and food particles.
  9. Q: Can I use cooking oil to condition my board? A: No, cooking oils like olive oil or vegetable oil are not recommended because they can go rancid. Instead, use food-grade mineral oil or a combination of mineral oil and beeswax.
  10. Q: How do I condition my wooden charcuterie or cutting board? A: Apply a generous amount of food-grade mineral oil or a mineral oil/beeswax blend to the board’s surface. Rub it in using a soft, dry cloth and let it soak overnight. Wipe off any excess oil the next day.
  11. Q: My board is full of knife marks. Can I still save it? A: Yes, you can sand down your board using medium-grit sandpaper until the knife marks are gone, then condition the board as usual.