How To Revitalize A Neglected Cutting Board + Keep It Maintained Forever
Follow the step-by-step guide below to keep your cutting board looking great forever!
STEP 1. INSPECT
If you haven’t oiled or waxed your cutting board before, or in a long time, follow the steps below for a deep revitalization treatment to bring your cutting board back to life. With proper maintenance a quality cutting board will last a lifetime.
Survey your cutting board, does it look dry or ashy? That’s ok. Has it begun to warp or twist, does the board have deep cracks or its splitting apart, then refer to the section on “Structural Repair” below. If your board doesn’t have structural damage, read on!
*Note: These instructions can be used on nearly any wood item that interacts with food, not just cutting boards, but also butcher block counters, charcuterie boards, bread boards, wood bowls, wood utensils, etc.
STEP 2. CLEAN
Use the included brush with warm soap and water to thoroughly clean your board. Work the brush vigorously to release food particles or smells. Rinse well.
If your cutting board needs more serious cleaning, refer to the section on the back entitled “Heavy Cleaning”.
*Note: Never run a wood cutting board through the dishwasher.
STEP 3. DRY
Wood must be completely dry before an oil and wax treatment.
Be sure to wipe off all water on the surface of the board, blot excess moisture with a towel. Stand the board up to dry, do not lay it flat, allow as much air circulation as possible for the board to dry completely.
STEP 4. SAND
Use the included sanding sponge to remove any rough spots in the wood. It’s common for wood grain to slightly raise over time creating a rough surface, especially on boards that haven’t been regularly oiled well. Use swirling motions to sand the surface of the board until its silky smooth.
Hot dishes fresh off the stove or oven can cause burn marks on cutting boards. Remove these marks by sanding, severe burns might require a lot of sanding. When finished sanding, remove any sawdust from the board.
*Note: After a few applications of sanding, if the sanding sponge looks clogged up, you may gently wash it in the sink to make the sponge look new again.
STEP 5. OIL
A liberal treatment of oil will repel water and stains from making their way deep into the fibers of the wood. Apply the Organic Wood Oil to your cutting board by pouring a little on to the wood, and then use your fingers to spread it all over the board.
*Note: If desired, you may use a cloth to rub the oil in instead of your hands. We recommend using your hands because a cloth will soak up a lot of the oil when you apply it, when we really want the wood to soak it up. Roostmade organic wood finish products are safe for skin contact and will actually nourish your hands as well as wood. If you get Roostmade organic wood finish products on your hands, cleanup only requires warm water and soap.
The goal here is to give the wood as much oil as it will accept, so keep working the oil into the board with your hands until the wood is saturated with oil. It’s normal for some spots of wood to absorb more than other spots.
Allow the oil to penetrate deep into the fibers of the wood, for at least 15 minutes, longer (like overnight) is better, just don’t let excess oil dry on the board.
Once you have finished the oiling process, it’s important to completely wipe off all excess oil.
STEP 6. WAX
Waxing your cutting board offers additional protection, and leaves the surface feeling silky smooth.
Apply a thin layer of organic wood wax to your board, you may do this with your hands, or with the organic cotton pads included in the cutting board care set.
A little wax goes a long way. Work the wax into the surface of the wood by rubbing. Work in as much wax as the wood will allow. Then let penetrate for 15-30 minutes. Then follow the steps to buff off. Two coats of wax recommended.
STEP 7. BUFF
Use one of the included, clean, organic cotton pads to buff off any excess oil or wax on the surface of the board.
Buff vigorously and thoroughly, apply a little elbow grease and really buff off any remaining product on the wood, this step removes any excess oil that was not soaked into the wood, but more importantly maximizes the benefits of the two waxes included in the product.
We use organic beeswax, and organic carnauba wax for a very specific reason. The beeswax has excellent nourishing properties, and the carnauba wax has excellent protective qualities. Buffing the surface of the board very well polishes the waxes into a very thin natural layer that will repel water and stains, while also feeling silky smooth to the touch.
*Pro Tip For The OCD: If you really want to test how well you've treated your cutting board, drop some water on the surface. If it beads up and does not sink in at all, you nailed it. If it doesn't, don't worry. Just give the cutting board another coat, wait another day and try again. The goal here is to flood the pores with as much product as the wood will take.
*Still sticky? This means excess oil or wax was not buffed off entirely, buff again more vigorously. Still having trouble? Try again with #0000 ultra fine steel wool, found in the paint aisle at the hardware store.
STEP 8. MAINTAIN
Now that your cutting board looks amazing, it’s easy to maintain this in only a few minutes a month.
The natural oils and waxes of Roostmade products aren’t meant to last forever, this is by design, they need to be replenished as you use and wash your cutting board.
How often do you need to apply more oil and wax to your board?
The short answer is, It depends. Heavy use of a cutting board, and heavy washing will result in more frequent oiling and waxing. A general rule of thumb is to oil and wax your cutting board whenever it looks dry or ashy, this is usually every 4-8 weeks.
For more detailed reading on cleaning your cutting board refer to the section entitled: “Sanitation + Maintenance”.
Printable version can be found here.
Cutting boards with “structural” damage like large cracks, splits, warping or twisting will require some further help to bring back to life. While these problems can almost always be prevented with regular oiling and waxing, once you have these issues, don’t stress! These problems can often easily be fixed by a woodworker, likely for less time and money than you would expect!
The fix may be easier than you assume. Let someone with some experience help you make this decision as every scenario is different and there are too many possibilities to cover them all here.
There are always local garage woodworkers hidden away in every neighborhood. Finding local woodworkers can sometimes be tricky so find your local woodworking store (Rockler, Woodcraft, or google “hardwood lumber supply” in your area) and visit them in person, bring your board too! Ask the employees who they know nearby who can help you, odds are they can easily connect you to lots of capable woodworkers in your area.
For heavy cleaning such as stubborn stains (think: beet juice), deep smells (think: onion juices), or a small spot or two of mold, we’re going to step up the cleaning game with a natural remedy, if that doesn’t work, we’ll bring out the big guns.
The natural cleanser option is to sprinkle coarse salt on the board, slice a lemon in half, and use the lemon to work the salt into the wood by rubbing vigorously.
For more serious stains, smells or mold, Mix 1 teaspoon bleach to 2 quarts of water, apply a little to the board and scrub with the included brush, taking care not to saturate the wood too heavily. Wipe off excess.
For deeper mildew or mold problems, step up the ratio of bleach + water to 50/50 (do not exceed this ratio) allow the solution to soak into the wood for 15 minutes. Neutralize the bleach by rinsing with a 50/50 solution of vinegar + water. Bleaching removes a lot of oil and wax, allow plenty of time and good air circulation for all moisture in the board to evaporate before giving another liberal treatment of oil and wax.
WHY OIL + WAX MY CUTTING BOARD?
Water is the enemy of wood. Neglected cutting boards over time will absorb water and stains, dry out, crack, split, or warp.
When a dried out cutting board absorbs water, the fibers of the wood swell and expand, then shrink and contract as it evaporates. Over time, again and again, this expanding and contracting causes cracks and splits in wood, can damage glue joints, and cause warpage to even the best made cutting board.
Regular treatments with Roostmade products prevent these problems from happening, here’s how.
Our products are made out of a finely tuned blend of natural oils and waxes. The fibers of the wood soak up the oil instead of water, and since oil and water don’t mix, water is naturally repelled. Our wax blend builds a thin layer near the surface of the wood leaving it further protected and safe. Together this is the ideal one-two punch to keep a cutting board naturally protected, while being completely food safe, natural, and harmless.
*Note: Don’t be afraid if your cutting board gets wet though, wood is very resilient and strong, and getting your cutting board wet is totally fine, just don’t soak your board in water, never put it in the dishwasher, and after its wet, dry it off well, wipe it down and then set it on its side or in a dish rack to completely air dry.
YOU MADE YOUR OWN CUTTING BOARD?
First off, good for you! Most cutting boards come pre-seasoned (already oiled) but if you just made your own cutting board, applying oil for the very first time to wood is a fun and simple process. The instructions on the other side of this page only need to be tweaked slightly.
Obviously since your board is brand new, it won’t have mold, smells, or stains, so you don’t need to clean the board heavily, just remove the sawdust first.
Next, bump up the oiling process to 2-3 rounds of oiling. A fresh and untreated cutting board will drink up copious amounts of oil the first time you apply it, so give the wood as much as it will take. Then follow the steps for waxing and maintaining the board from then on.
WHY WE DON’T USE MINERAL OIL
Short Answer: It sucks.
Long Answer: Mineral oil is a common way to protect cutting boards. I’ve used it, and I don’t like it, that’s why I started Roostmade. Many other experienced woodworkers and people who value quality and care for the environment feel the same. Mineral oil a byproduct of manufacturing crude oil to make gasoline. Mineral oil is a highly refined form of petroleum oil and similar to the oil used in the ink of newspapers, it never truly dries, stays somewhat tacky, and therefore indefinitely attractive to grime.
Manufacturing mineral oil is dirty for the environment, it’s not natural, and feels icky on your skin.
Some use coconut oil or olive oil for cutting boards, which is NOT recommended as a way to finish wood. These other oils will never dry or cure, ever, they will eventually go rancid when exposed to air which will makes a cutting board stinky and sticky.
Roostmade organic wood finish products are made out of cold-pressed organic walnut oil. Walnut oil is one of the very few natural oils classified as a “drying-oil”, which means it combines chemically with oxygen in the air to dry into a tough, plastic-like finish. This “drying” process is called polymerization.
Master woodworkers have praised walnut oil for centuries, and you know who else loves walnut oil? Renaissance painters. Leonardo DaVinci always made his own oil paints out of walnut oil, he chose it because it was the most clear and non yellowing of all of the drying oils.
Your hardware store will sell other oils that polymerize, many of these oils labelled “polymerized” or “boiled” have actually had harsh chemical driers mixed into the oil to speed the drying. The trade off is that these oils contain hazardous solvents, so save them for projects outside of the kitchen and away from your food.
At Roostmade we treat our oil to a proprietary natural and harmless process to aid the drying time. We include this naturally treated oil into every bottle of Roostmade because we are committed to creating the highest quality product on the market, using only the most innovative natural methods. Lastly, our walnut oil has been refined properly by the professionals who produced it, this process reacts with the proteins in the oil, so their allergenicity is virtually eliminated. For scientific references on allergenicity go to the FAQ section of our website.
SANITATION + MAINTENANCE
Food safe “penetrating” wood products like Roostmade need to be reapplied regularly for the lifetime of the board. How often do you need to reapply? That depends on use and how you clean the board.
It’s likely you don’t need to wash your cutting board with warm water and soap after every use, in fact, this can be quite excessive and will simply dry out your wood by washing away the oil and wax faster, causing you to use more Roostmade products than necessary. “Most” of the time, simply wiping down a cutting board with a damp rag is enough to keep a board clean.
Numerous scientific studies have confirmed that wood is an amazing material for cutting boards, and is far more sanitary than plastic cutting boards. Surprising isn’t it? If you’re curious, go online and look up the studies performed by Dr. Cliver. Here is an excerpt from the New York Times where they discuss this.
“The scientists, Dean O. Cliver and Nese O. Ak, stumbled upon the finding while seeking ways to decontaminate wooden boards and make them as "safe" as plastic. Much to their surprise, they found that when boards were purposely contaminated with organisms like Salmonella, Listeria and E.coli that are common causes of food poisoning, 99.9 percent of the bacteria died off within three minutes on the wooden boards, while none died on the plastic ones. When contaminated boards were left unwashed overnight at room temperature, bacterial counts increased on the plastic, but none of the organisms could be recovered from the wooden boards the next morning.”
This means that the natural properties of wood have a way of killing nearly all bacteria on its own, very quickly.
We recommend that you still wash your cutting board with warm soap and water after you cut raw meats on it, but understanding the science behind what happens in the wood is very comforting when it comes to keeping a kitchen clean and safe. Isn’t it?
ROOSTMADE: PASSION + PURPOSE
At Roostmade we exist for the makers. Our passion is to empower you to work with your hands again, and to protect the environment. That's why we invented the first organic wood finish, and for every product we sell, three trees are planted to fight deforestation.
The current reforestation efforts are focused in Madagascar, where our business partner Eden Projects, gives jobs to locals, and Mangrove trees are not only planted but maintained to maturity. One Mangrove tree removes over 680 lbs of CO2 from the atmosphere over its growth life. 680 lbs x 3 trees = 2,040 lbs of CO2. Literally a TON!
Thank you for supporting my tiny little business, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this work and I love seeing how much my customers love using my products, so I invite you to please snap a photo and tag us on social media @roostmade.
Founder | Roostmade Company.