Keep Your Cutting Boards Germ Free

Tips on how to clean, sanitize and maintain your plastic or wooden cutting boards so that they stay free of germs and mildew.

Cutting boards are a necessary kitchen staple. They protect our surfaces from chips and scratches incurred while cutting food and give us a flat surface for meal preparation. If you're like most people, you own at least one, but most likely, several cutting boards in different shapes, sizes and materials. What many people don't know, however, is that cutting boards must be properly cleaned and maintained. If not, they can harbor germs and bacteria, which can make you and your family sick.

If you're someone who prepares food on a regular basis, you should probably consider having more than one cutting board. In order to prevent cross-contamination, it's a good idea to have one board for cutting meat and fish and another for prepping vegetables. Otherwise, if not cleaned properly, your cutting board can pass on bacteria from foods cut days before. Even though you most likely clean your cutting board after each use anyway, there's a good chance you're not cleaning and caring for you boards properly. This can be the difference between a healthy lifestyle and contracting a virus due to bacteria collecting on your cutting boards.

If your cutting board, especially the one designated for cutting meat, has many cracks and cut marks, you'll want to consider replacing it. Do the same if the wood is splintering or if the board has indentations and grooves. These areas are all hard to clean, and food particles, as well as dirt and germs, can hide in the crevices, creating an unhealthy environment.

To clean your cutting board, first scrape all food off into the trash. When all solid matter has been removed, dip a sponge into warm soapy warmer and clean thoroughly. Make sure to get into all grooves and crevices where bacteria can hide. Anti-bacteria dish soap works best for this task. If the care instructions on your cutting board's indicate it's dishwasher safe, by all means clean it in the dishwasher which will sanitize it as well. This isn't recommended for plastic or wood laminate cutting boards, however, as they can become damaged in the 140-degree temperatures recommended for sanitizing.

Once a month or so, sanitize your cutting board with a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach to one quart of water. Pour this over the surface of the cutting board and let dry.

To dry your cutting boards, stand them in the dish drain and let air dry. To prevent your wooden boards from drying out completely, rub periodically with warm mineral oil. Don't use olive, vegetable or other food oils, as they can turn rancid.

Store your cutting boards in a clean dry area away from food. If they're touched by food for any reason, clean them with warm soapy water. As soon as they begin to show signs of wear, or begin to get scratched, it's time to replace them. It's easy to care for your cutting boards. Taking a few minutes after each use to properly maintain your boards means healthy meals for you and your family.

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