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Thread: Smelly wood cutting boards

  1. #1

    Smelly wood cutting boards

    The biggest problem I have with my cutting board is keeping it from smelling like onions and garlic. I spray it down after every use with vinegar water and then wash it down with soap and water, do the salt scrub or baking soda rub, but I can never seem to get the smell out without stripping it down. So, before I reseason it, again, is there a trick or some method to keeping this thing from smelling like an onion field? I've got a small edge grain cutting board I got from Belize on my honeymoon 13 years ago that had some sort of finish on it but even though most of its worn off it still doesn't retain any smells and I don't do anything differently with it. Will I ever be able to cut a watermelon on it without it tasting like a garlicky onion or should I just resign myself to getting a different board for fruits?

    I've got several things to season it with. Coconut oil/beeswax butter, mineral oil/beeswax butter, mineral oil, boos mystery oil. I've also got flaxseed oil from seasoning my CI pans as well as Danish oil I use on my wooden utensils, though I don't think those two are recommended for a cutting board.

  2. #2
    Senior Member
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    Maybe it's my constant allergies but none of my boards smell and all I do is wash them, dry them with a dishtowel, and oil them as needed. I wonder if the wood is to porous?

  3. #3
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    I've found the boards can start picking up odors if they are overdue for mineral oil. if the board has enough oil the liquid carrying the odors will not get into the ends of the wood fibers. I wonder if your cleaning regimen is removing the oil/ wax faster then it would normally disappear.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member EdipisReks's Avatar
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    cover the surface in salt, and spray with water until it's damp, but not soaked. Let that sit for a while, then scour with the salt. Let it dry, then hit it with mineral oil and then a beeswax/mineral oil compound, after the oil is soaked in (everybody with good boards should have their own wax compound). I guarantee this will fix the issue.

    If you keep your boards well saturated with oil, and surfaced with wax, this is a non-issue. After the boards are really soaked, it doesn't take much maintenance. I use a steel bread scraper to surface after using the boards.

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    I'd mentioned this problem of garlic and onion odours on boards in another thread. My main board is an endgrain Tasmania Blackwood one and I do keep it well oiled and cleaned well. But there's still a faint odour if I cut garlic and onions on it even after washin, especially if I cut fruit or salad ingredients. ER, your suggestion of using salt sounds good and I'll try it. So far my solution was to get a second board (a side grain one in my case) just for the stronger smelling stuff. I like having a second board as well.

  6. #6
    Senior Member EdipisReks's Avatar
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    I regularly use three big end-grain boards (two 20x15x3 maple boards and an 18x13x2 birch board). The method I suggest is the way to go, until such a time as they are sufficiently oiled and waxed for it to not be an issue. Scraping the boards with a flat piece of steel on a regular basis is smart, too.

  7. #7
    I can't stand the garlic stank on my boards....onion I can live with. Like David & Jacob mentioned I too feel that the level of oil/wax on the board is key to the prevention of the stank. I like to have my board coated to the point where a drop of water does not leave a mark after it sits for however long. My older walnut board is like this and it doesn't take the stank on easily but my newer mahogany board has been neglected by me on the oiling routine and it does get the stank easily. Since I won't give up on using garlic I'm going to re-commit to getting the oil/wax level built up in my new board and hope that this helps like it did with the older one.

    As to cleaning out the stank? I've just done the soap/water wash thing followed by vinegar/water wipe down and then oiling but to be truthful this method sucks because it doesn't remove 100% of the stank but does remove 100% of the oil which just makes the situation worse. I guess the next time I run into this problem I'll be trying Jacob's method above.

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by EdipisReks View Post
    cover the surface in salt, and spray with water until it's damp, but not soaked. Let that sit for a while, then scour with the salt. Let it dry, then hit it with mineral oil and then a beeswax/mineral oil compound, after the oil is soaked in (everybody with good boards should have their own wax compound). I guarantee this will fix the issue.

    If you keep your boards well saturated with oil, and surfaced with wax, this is a non-issue. After the boards are really soaked, it doesn't take much maintenance. I use a steel bread scraper to surface after using the boards.
    Do you do this after each use? I'm wondering if, as mentioned by wildboar, my vigorous cleaning after every use is taking off the finish a lot faster than what I was thinking. The board was extremely well oiled and waxed originally to the point I thought it may be overly saturated so I didn't do it as often as I'm guessing I should have.

    ETA: I have a walnut/maple end grain if that matters

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Erilyn75 View Post
    Do you do this after each use? I'm wondering if, as mentioned by wildboar, my vigorous cleaning after every use is taking off the finish a lot faster than what I was thinking. The board was extremely well oiled and waxed originally to the point I thought it may be overly saturated so I didn't do it as often as I'm guessing I should have.

    ETA: I have a walnut/maple end grain if that matters
    That would be my guess.

    I hardly do anything to my board and never have issues. I oil it thoroughly maybe 2-3 times a year and when it's dirty I clean it with a sponge, usually without soap. If the top starts to get too heavily marked, I'll sand it down, but that hardly ever happens because a good board will self-heal from all but the deepest gouges.

    I guess most people want to give them more thorough cleanings than that for sanitation reasons. The thing I try to keep in mind is bacteria can't grow without moisture and wooden boards are very good about getting very dry if you just leave them be. The oil is good because it makes the wood less porous and the sanding is good because it gets rid of grooves that moisture and bacteria can linger in. I've never really seen the point of using a bunch of salt or anything to clean a board. Not only does it seem like a waste of good salt, but it also just seems like a bunch of work for me that I could do without.

    Oh, I should add that this probably wouldn't work as well in a commercial environment. It's important that the board dry out completely, which wouldn't happen if it's constantly in use.

  10. #10
    I actually washed my cutting board (beech wood) with bleach because of the same problem, and that completely removed all odour and left me with a nice pale yellow-white surface.
    Make sure to rinse thoroughly afterwards and saturate with new oil.

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