Plastic or Wooden Cutting Boards?

Cutting boards are kitchen essentials! For everything from cutting, chopping, dicing and every other food preparation. I have been a long time user of plastic cutting board, that is, until recently. Why is that? Have you every considered that using plastic cutting boards might just be the easiest way to actually eat plastic? If your cutting boards look anything like mine, they get nicked, cut and scratched. Guess where all the plastic shards end up? And those lovely little nicks and cuts are a favorite nesting spot for bacteria to grow. Hard plastics can contain bisphenol A, which makes plastic strong but can damage the reproductive system, disrupt hormones, mimics estrogen, and is linked to bread and prostate cancer. Sound appetizing?

Consider a better alternative…wooden cutting boards. My dad built me a fabulous sturdy cutting board last Christmas and I am now using it primarily. I love it! It is so much more solid, doesn’t slide around the counter as you put it to use, and cleans easily!

And no, plastic unfortunately is not more sanitary than wood boards just because you can put them in the dishwasher. According to Renee Loux in Easy Green Living:, “First dishwashers don’t get hot enough to sterilize – sorry foks. (Dishwashers typically reach temperatures of 120-140F, but solid surfaces need to be at a temperature of 250F for 15 minutes to be properly sterilized.) Second, washing plastic cutting boards wears them down, which may make more plastic leach into foods, especially fatty and oily foods.”

Which to choose?

The best wooden cutting boards out there are made from bamboo, but any wood cutting board will do. Bamboo is 100% Renewable resource and is harder and denser than most hard woods, it is16% harder than maple, which is the most common wood used for most cutting boards. After harvesting, bamboo grows back and can be re-harvested every 4 ½ years.  Bamboo does not need re-planting.  Most hardwood have a 30 to 60 year growth cycle.

Totally Bamboo is a highly recommended source that makes every effort to provide a safe and sustainable product. They use a non-toxic formaldehyde free food grade glue for their cutting boards. They range in price depending upon the size, but they will last longer than plastic by far and are actually quite reasonable.

How to care for wood cutting boards?

Don’t submerge it in water, and massage it gently with vegetable oil (olive oil or coconut oil) from time to time. Here is a simple homemade recipe for sanitizing your cutting boards:

Homemade Cutting Board Sanitizer

Courtesy of Renee Loux in Easy Green Living

I personally did not use the extract or oregano oil as they run a little expensive.

1/4 cup 3 percent hydrogen peroxide
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
4 drops grapefruit seed extract (optional)
4 drops essential oil of oregano (optional)
1 Tbsp baking soda

Mix the hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, extract and essential oil in a spray bottle. Sprinkle the baking soda on the cutting board. I keep a small shaker bottle of baking soda next to my sink for this purpose. (It’s also a great tool to use for washing dishes!) Spray the board with the peroxide/vinegar mixture. Allow to fizz up and sit for a few moments. Wipe the board thoroughly with fresh water before using it. Keep the spray bottle beneath your sink for future use!

Still desiring an option similar to plastic? Well then, check out this Preserve By Recycline Paperstone Cutting Board made from recycled paper and BPA free!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

53 Responses to Plastic or Wooden Cutting Boards?

  1. Brian July 2, 2013 at 9:59 am #

    Bamboo is not as renewable as they like to advertise as they generally clear-cut forests to make room for planting the bamboo.

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  4. krissi February 21, 2010 at 3:12 pm #

    I just threw out my solid wood cutting board because I feared all the bacteria build up. I haven’t bought another board yet beccause I was looking for reviews of glass, plastic, and wood. After reading this post and all the comments… looks like I will go buy another wooden board and stock up on my sanitizing spray and baking soda. Thank you for all the helpful information!

  5. Chole Ray November 12, 2009 at 5:48 am #

    Since I just got some new knives I thought I’d do a search on this. The info was very helpful for me making a decision on which kinds of cutting boards to use. Thanks. By the way I hope your bread(typo in first paragraph)doesn’t have cancer! lol

  6. ~M August 9, 2009 at 5:02 am #

    Do you know whether these Epicurean cutting boards are like the Preserve ones? A friend asked me about them. Thanks!

    http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?order_num=-1&SKU=108737&RN=2059

    • Lindsay August 11, 2009 at 2:28 am #

      I am not sure. You would have to check with the manufactor.

  7. Devin K April 16, 2009 at 2:13 pm #

    I’m building a wooden cutting board for my mom on mothers day. Is it safe to put stain on it? And what kind of stain if you can would be the best?

    • Lindsay April 16, 2009 at 3:24 pm #

      I am not familar with safe stains. I would search google. Personally, my dad made me one without a stain and it works fine. I simply have to oil it regulary with olive oil or a safe mineral oil.

  8. Pamela March 23, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Wood cutting boards vs. plastic… I just saw on that show on the food network a show called Food Detectives and they tested brand new (never been cut on) wood and plastic boards, used (with knive cuts all over each) wood and plastic boards. They then proceeded to mush raw chicken over all the boards and then washed all in soapy hot water as you would at home. Then they tested 5 areas on each board and ran tests for bacteria. The brand new boards, both plastic and wood had the least bacteria and the same amount of bacteria on each, the knifed up boards also had about the same amount of bacteria and it was more than the never used ones. THEN they pulled out a plastic and wooden board that had been rubbed with the raw chicken and washed with hot soapy water 24 hours earlier and tested in the same 5 areas on each board. Interestingly the wood board contained much less bacteria than the plastic. So each board was the same until time had passed. Wood wins!

  9. Jenn December 7, 2008 at 11:54 pm #

    We use wooden boards, and have labeled one “meat” in small writing in permanent marker, to avoid any cross contamination. For cleaning I scrub them with hot water and a plant-based detergent, without actually submerging them in water.
    Great post!

  10. Donna December 7, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    I use a glass cutting board. Anything bad about those? They seem very safe and clean.

    • SarahMichelle December 8, 2008 at 8:39 am #

      I used to use a glass cutting board also, but the problem with glass is that it ruins your knives.

  11. Mrs. Dawson December 6, 2008 at 1:19 am #

    Great post! I actually have a glass cutting board, which I’ve used for years and it’s held up beautifully. Since we’re vegan, meat to vegetable contamination isn’t an issue, and the glass board isn’t porous and is easy to clean, as it can be submerged or put in the dishwasher. I have been wanting a larger board though, and for that I think I may try bamboo.

  12. Rosie December 5, 2008 at 6:28 pm #

    Hi Lindsay,

    Thanks for the article on cutting boards. I always wondered if plastic cutting boards were really best. I am glad to know how to clean my wooden cutting board.
    God bless!

  13. Anna December 5, 2008 at 5:25 pm #

    I’m still new to all this. I was hoping that maybe someone can explain to me why some plastics are bad (like the cutting boards) while other plastics (like the ziplock bags) are ok to use and reuse. Thanks.

    • Lindsay December 6, 2008 at 8:57 am #

      The best guide on plastics is the Smart Plastics Guide.

      This will inform you that some plastics are more dangerous than others. Ziplocs for example are #4 plastic and thus not currently known to be toxic in any way. #3, #6 & #7 are the worst offenders as they carry toxic chemicals and many cannot be recycled.

      Hope that helps get you started!

  14. Michele @ Frugal Granola December 5, 2008 at 3:21 pm #

    I was able to find a bamboo cutting board at Win-Co, rather inexpensively. It’s great! :)

    Blessings,
    Michele

  15. Mrs. Taft December 5, 2008 at 1:01 pm #

    Lindsay, great article! For truly sanitizing purposes, though, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide should never be mixed together beforehand. The initial reaction is, studies have shown, what destroys germs. I keep them in separate spray bottles, and you spray one on and then the other. It doesn’t matter what order. The baking soda/vinegar reaction is also not shown to sanitize, but it can lift particles so it could be helpful. I’d put the oils in that solution in with the vinegar, and keep the hydrogen peroxide separate until use. I’d personally forgo the baking soda until after it was sprayed on, to allow the hydrogen peroxide and vinegar to react. :)

  16. Shellie December 5, 2008 at 12:40 pm #

    What about the chemicals used to treat or cover the surface of the wood? My mom had a wooden cutting board that was so old that wood splinters would come off as she used it. She had it “resurfaced” where they sanded it down and revarnished it. We must have eaten a lot of varnish off of that board over the years!
    Shellie

    • Lindsay December 5, 2008 at 2:31 pm #

      Another reason to choose your brands wisely. Totally Bamboo does not use any dyes or stains on the surface of the wood.

  17. Mandi December 5, 2008 at 9:58 am #

    One thing you could also use for a cutting board is a pizza stone. I know that the brand Pampered Chef has is really nice and good quality. This will also sharpen your blades as you cut!
    I’ve used mine for years as a cutting board, although I am guilty of pulling out the other ones because they are more accessible!
    What do you think about this Lindsey?

  18. Jesse Clark December 5, 2008 at 6:33 am #

    Very interesting post. I hadn’t really about cutting boards before, but I have been always leery of plastic (how safe can anything be when it’s usually made from thousands of years of death), so very helpful.

    I did have a suggestion regarding the wood types issue. This is just a thought, as I haven’t researched on this particular issue, but red cedar is a type of wood used because its natural oils repel pests, the wood literally doesn’t rot…it’s so good that Solomon used it to build the temple. Perhaps it’s natural defense against the germs and bugs that cause rotting would also be effective against other bad germs?

    • Mrs. Taft December 5, 2008 at 1:04 pm #

      Cedar is somewhat toxic to humans when ingested, so I don’t know if I’d want to risk bits of cedar getting in my food. Certain woods are not considered “food grade”, as in safe to come into contact with foods.

    • Lisa Beth W. December 5, 2008 at 2:24 pm #

      I believe that cedar is quite soft, thus not really good for a cutting board, but you are right about the anti-rotting quality. :)

  19. Marliss Bombardier December 4, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    I grew up with wooden cutting boards, and bought plastic ones a few years ago because I thought plastic was better. I was disgusted by how damaged they were after even one use! I threw one away, and the other is being used for something else.

    My favorite cutting board is one of my mother’s, which must be 30-some years old now. It is a solid piece of walnut and looks almost brand-new. It’s not ecologically correct, but once a month or so I fill the sink with a mild clorox solution and soak my cutting boards for several minutes. It disinfects the cutting boards and bleaches coffee/tea stains on the sink at the same time.

  20. Kerry December 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm #

    Great post! I actually use tempered (I think?) GLASS cutting board. It makes me feel safer with either veggies or meats. :)

  21. Jessica December 4, 2008 at 2:12 pm #

    Thanks for the post. Just wated to put in a warning about mineral oil. It is petroleum based, I think, and has been linked with lots of cancers, etc. Best to use gently melted coconut oil or olive oil rather than letting mineral oil get in your food!
    By the way, my family has thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog over the last few months!

    • Lindsay December 4, 2008 at 2:14 pm #

      Thanks for sharing. I will make that change. I honestly have never used anything on mine…but olive oil or coconut oil are definitely close at hand!

  22. Jill December 4, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    I actually read somewhere that bamboo cutting boards aren’t any good either, because of the glue used to hold the bamboo together. You’re still eating chemicals. The best cutting boards are solid wood ones, probably like the one your dad made. I’m going to get my dad to make me one too.

    • Lindsay December 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm #

      That would really depend upon your source. We recommend Totally Bamboo because they use a non-toxic formaldehyde free food grade glue which they use exclusively on their cutting boards.
      Bamboo is actually harder and denser than most hard woods, it is 16% harder than maple, which is the most common wood used for most cutting boards.

      • Jill December 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm #

        That’s good to know. I’ll look into Totally Bamboo. Thanks!

      • Mrs. Taft December 5, 2008 at 1:06 pm #

        I LOVE Totally Bamboo products :)

  23. Annette December 4, 2008 at 1:29 pm #

    Another amazing post. I had heard that wood is better – my old wooden board is falling apart. =/ Looks like it is time to purchase a new bamboo board.

  24. Shannon H December 4, 2008 at 1:19 pm #

    I LOVE my wooden cutting boards, and wouldn’t trade them for anything. For those of you fearing that they will dull your knives, Alton Brown, from the Food Network said that wood is the absolute BEST.

    Also, My mom and I both WASH our boards in HOT soapy water. I am sure to dry them well and lay them flat. They haven’t warped yet. You can oil them for extra care.

    Blessings, Everyone!!
    Shannon H
    Texas

  25. Babychaser December 4, 2008 at 12:17 pm #

    Ok… so I’m sold on the whole idea. DH and I have decided (just the other day) to omit BPA. Bye bye kitchen things and baby toys. We’re still working through what has to go, and doing some research as to which plastics are ok and which ones aren’t.

    Re: the cutting boards though… I’ve always been taught not to use would for meat. Any thoughts? I imagine glass would work. Thanks!

  26. Andrea in Alaska December 4, 2008 at 11:50 am #

    I read that too, Ella. The wood is actually BETTER at not harboring bacteria than the plastic.

    Just one more thing to purge! I just bought a set of glass left-over storage bowls (with plastic lids–but I’m not planning on having the lids touch the food) so that I can purge my plastic dishes. It’s hard to be frugal and keep making these changes, but I know they’ll pay off in the long run!

    By the way, my VERY frugal BPA-free water bottle is a large glass mason jar with a lid (it came free as a sauce jar). It holds three cups and I try to drink three full glasses a day to get the hydration the baby and I need. It’s nice not worrying about leaching chemicals. I fill it up with my filtered water at home, but when I’m out, I can get water free at any place that has a facet. I cleaned out a narrower olive oil jar for my husband (someone suggested a Sobe bottle-Duh! and I wouldn’t have had to wash and wash to remove every last bit of oily residue!). Just some thoughts.

  27. EllaJac December 4, 2008 at 8:46 am #

    Research has shown that hardwood (not sure about bamboo) actually has antibacterial properties. I use a grapefruit seed extract spray (Spent $20 on a bottle years ago, and it’s still useful and mostly full! – that oregano oil, THAT’S pricey too! $30 for 1 oz last I bought!), when I remember.

    Also, I’ve recently found your blog and am very blessed by it! Thank you!

  28. Narelle December 4, 2008 at 8:09 am #

    I like to use glass! That way I don’t have to worry about the plastic problems, and I don’t really like the wooden ones as they need the extra care to stay sanitary.

    • Lindsay December 4, 2008 at 2:17 pm #

      Vinegar, peroxide and baking soda cost pennies! Not that much to maintain clean cutting boards.

  29. Sarah December 4, 2008 at 7:09 am #

    About dishwashers and sanitizing…what if you run the extra hot water option, where the dishwasher heats water already heated by your home water heater?

    Either way, I agree about the wood thing. My dream wedding registry (5 years down the road haha) has all stainless steel, glass, and wood kitchen items.

  30. Kelly December 4, 2008 at 7:02 am #

    Hmm, that is very interesting. I always use my plastic ones because I thought they were easier to sanitize by putting in the dishwasher. And it didn’t even occur to me about the BPA. I made such efforts to eliminate everything with BPA from our house and didn’t even think about the cutting board that was indeed getting nicked constantly. However, isn’t BPA leached out with extreme heat, like heating in the microwave? And if a dishwasher doesn’t get hot enough…I am still getting rid of mine, but I love to play devil’s advocate.

    • Lindsay December 4, 2008 at 2:20 pm #

      BPA is more susceptible to leach after being put under heat true, but when you put them through the dishwasher or even hand washing it comes in contact with heat. The main concern here is the nicks or splinters of plastic entering your food.

  31. Jennifer S December 4, 2008 at 6:39 am #

    Thanks! I read about this in a book over the summer, think it was called “Organic Housekeeping” and I was really surprised. But the author shared the results of some studies that had been done with simply appalling results. And, the wooden cutting boards actually kill bacteria!

  32. Alison December 4, 2008 at 6:19 am #

    What about for cutting meat? My mom always said that wooden cutting boards can’t be used for meat because of sanitizing issues. Do you simply rinse them and then use the hydrogen peroxide mixture to sanitize after cutting meat? What do you think of glass cutting boards? I know they dull knives, but wouldn’t they be safer when cutting chicken or pork? I hate to think of possible cross contamination!

    • Lindsay December 4, 2008 at 2:22 pm #

      I actually use a regular plate for cutting meats. You could also have a dedicated cutting board just for meats, if you are concerned. Another thing to keep in mind, you can actually cut both vegetables and meats on the same wooden cutting board. The major thing to keep in mind is that you need to cook everything that has come into contact with raw meat. As long as you cook it all, you are fine.

      Glass cutting boards are another good option. I personally do not care for them, thus the use of the plate. While easier to clean than wood or plastic, glass cutting boards damage knives, precisely because of their durability. Since glass is harder than the steel of even the highest quality knives, cutting on glass tends to dent, roll or even chip edges. Additionally, if used incorrectly, glass can break or chip itself, introducing glass to the food.

      • Julie December 4, 2008 at 4:32 pm #

        A knife store told me that BOTH glass AND plastic cutting boards dull knives.

        That’s when I switched to all wood.

        • alecat December 15, 2008 at 5:32 am #

          Thank you so much for this information. I have a glass cutting board and was considering going back to wooden as I was concerned about it dulling my knives. You’ve just confirmed my suspicions. :)

        • Vicki February 19, 2009 at 4:04 pm #

          Just some clarification: Yes, glass and plastic cutting boards do dull knives. Acrylic cutting boards, however, do not. Acrylic actually “gives way” under the pressure of the knife while glass and plastic resist. As far as acrylic being better for your knives than wood…I do not know.

  33. Carol December 4, 2008 at 5:54 am #

    Thank you for writing this! I have long hid my cutting board habits, fearing people would drop their jaws when they realize I only use a wood cutting board. I’ve always been nervous about the plastic ones.

  34. sara December 4, 2008 at 4:40 am #

    I love my bamboo cutting board — I was just thinking that I should replace my plastic ones with more bamboo boards. Thanks for the post.