How to Remove (and Avoid!) Cutting Board Odors

by | Updated: January 22nd, 2021 | Read time: 4 minutes

That bag of fresh Honeycrisp apples is calling your name, so you grab one and chop it up on your wood cutting board. But, as you bite into a juicy slice, you’re also tasting an essence of raw onion, garlic and something…meaty – blecch!

You just washed this cutting board yesterday, so why does it still smell like the ingredients you used days ago?

The problem is not your washing; it’s that beautiful wooden board, itself.

Person Who Learned How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board Scrubbing Board Under Running Water in Sink |

Why do wooden cutting boards retain odors?

If you own a wooden cutting board, chances are, it’s retaining odor, especially if you use just one board for all of your dicing and slicing.

Because wood is so porous (think of the lovely smell natural cedar wood emits in a rainstorm), odors from stronger-smelling foods can be easily absorbed. When this happens, there’s no amount of dish soap or scrubbing that will remove the odor effectively.

Avoid cross-contamination by using different cutting boards

One of the simplest ways to ensure your cutting boards don’t acquire funky odors is to dedicate a few different boards (or sides of one board) for specific uses; i.e., one for fruits/veggies, one for meat and one for ‘aromatic’ foods like garlic and onions.

Not only will this keep like-smelling foods together, but it will also help you avoid cross-contamination of ingredients – keeping all your meals food safe!

Before you start shopping for new cutting boards, let’s review the pros and cons of each material so you can choose the best board for your needs.

Types of cutting boards

The three main types of cutting boards are:

  • Wood
  • Plastic
  • Glass

Wooden Cutting Boards

Wood cutting boards are a fan-favorite because they’re a strong, natural material. Though they require a bit more maintenance (such as regular seasoning and deodorizing), wood cutting boards will age beautifully, preserve your best knives and function as both a cutting board and a serving platter!


  • Beautiful
  • Sturdy
  • Durable
  • Possess ‘self-healing’ properties, which also makes them naturally hygienic
  • Most gentle on knife edges


  • Porous (absorbs food odors)
  • Heavier
  • Generally more expensive

Plastic Cutting Boards

Plastic cutting boards are the easiest to care for of all the cutting boards. They’re lighter, shed water and won’t absorb food smells. However, they are still made of petrochemical and typically don’t last – especially after a few years of hard use.


  • Lightweight
  • Inexpensive
  • Odor-resistant


  • Non-recyclable
  • Not as durable

Glass Cutting Boards

While glass cutting boards are great for many uses – especially as display platters – they’re not so great when it comes to chopping. Their very hard surface is tough on knives, leading to more wear and tear, dulling and even damaging the edge over time.


  • Beautiful
  • Strong
  • Stain and odor-resistant


  • Heavy
  • Breakable
  • Dulls (and can damage) knife edges

How to Clean a Wooden Cutting Board (and Remove Odors)

Though wood cutting boards are arguably the best, those pungent odors they so easily absorb can be a serious deterrent.

The good news is: you don’t need to compromise or throw out your old wood cutting board! While normal washing doesn’t typically do the trick, you can eliminate unpleasant smells with this in-depth, all-natural, odor-busting method below.

Step One

Sanitize with hot water and white vinegar

Combine one-part vinegar with three-parts hot water into a spray bottle, then shake it up. Spritz the solution over the surface of your wood cutting board, then scrub with a dish wand.

Rinse your board with hot water.

Step Two

Scrub with lime & coarse salt

This step is a treat for your senses! Sprinkle a generous amount of coarse salt along the damp board. Slice a lime in half, squeeze fresh lime juice over the salt, then, using the lime slice like a sponge, scrub the entire surface. Enjoy that lovely lime-smell, the sound – and the satisfaction – of really scrubbing that salt into the wood!

Rinse the surface with hot water, then set aside to air dry.

Step Three

Sprinkle with baking soda

Once your cutting board is nearly dry, sprinkle a generous amount of baking soda across the surface. Allow it to sit for about 10 minutes, then rub the baking soda into the board until it turns into a powdery paste.

Rinse with hot water, then set the board aside to air dry.

*Depending on the intensity of the odor, it may take a couple of tries – so repeat these three steps as needed!

The final step

Season/condition your wood cutting board

Apply a food-safe mineral oil, board cream, or some olive oil or coconut oil to the cutting board to seal in all that hard work.

Conditioning your wooden cutting board not only helps to protect it from absorbing smelly ingredients in the future, but it also increases the board’s longevity and helps it to stay looking its very best!

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