Cutting boards take a beating all year round, but especially during the holidays. Think carved turkeys, chopped vegetables, rolled pie crusts, and on and on. You may have multiple boards in a variety of materials, including wood and plastic—and you'll need them all when preparing a big meal.

"To prevent cross-contamination, designate one cutting board for ready-to-eat items such as bread and fresh produce, and a separate cutting board for raw meat and poultry," says Sana Mujahid, manager of food-safety research and testing at Consumer Reports.

Nonporous materials such as acrylic, plastic, and glass are easier to clean because you can put them in a dishwasher (unless otherwise noted by the manufacturer). Wood cutting boards require more care and attention to prevent the spread of microorganisms such as E. coli. and salmonella, and to preserve their beauty.

Here’s a step-by-step guide from the cleaning experts at Consumer Reports.

Step 1: Wash It Regularly

Even if you’re using your wood cutting board just to slice bread, it’s a good habit to wash it after every use as quickly as possible. Use a sponge and hot, soapy water, then rinse with cold water and pat dry with a towel. Never immerse wood boards in water, because that can cause warping. Store the boards on their side. In addition to allowing the wood to dry fully, oxygen is a good sanitizer. 

Step 2: Sanitize It Periodically

Every few months, disinfect your wood cutting board with a solution of 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. We also recommend creating a barrier on the surface to prevent the absorption of liquids. First rub food-grade mineral oil and then a beeswax-based cream into the wood using a paper towel.

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Our tests have found that Clapham’s Beeswax Salad Bowl Finish works well on wood countertops, so it should do the trick with a wood cutting board as well. Reapply the mineral oil and beeswax every time you disinfect, or whenever the wood starts to look dry or becomes noticeably lighter in color.

Step 3: Remove Odors

Even with diligent washing and sanitizing, odors might start to cling to your wood cutting board. Tackle them with the one-two combination of lemon and salt. Slice the lemon in half and dip the cut side into a bowl of coarse salt, then rub vigorously into the board. Rinse in cold water, pat dry, and store upright.

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Step 4: Prevent Warping

A wood cutting board can start to lose its shape over time, especially if you make the mistake of leaving it immersed in water. Open joints in the board can create a trap for bacteria. Try "swelling" the board back into shape by laying it flat and covering it with a damp cloth and heavy books for a few hours. Then let the board air-dry and wipe it down with mineral oil or vegetable oil.

Need knives? If you could use a great set of knives to go with your well-maintained cutting boards, see our knife set ratings of nearly 30 forged, stamped, and ceramic kitchen knives.

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