Non-Toxic Cutting Boards
Non-toxic cutting boards, what does that really mean? Are they readily available? Which ones?
You might be thinking: Wait–What toxins?!
Here’s a partial list.
TOXINS to look out for
- BPA bisphenol A: (building block of polycarbonate plastics) Hormone Disruptor (3)(17)
- Phthalates: (added to polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics) “Hormone disruptors and are detrimental to human health”. (4)(17)
- Triclosan (antibacterial and antifungal agents): Disrupts Thyroid Function. Liver fibrosis, Cancer, Hormone disruption. (1)
- Formaldehyde (resins, plastics, textiles, wood products, adhesives) A Group 1 carcinogen. (2)
- Plastics (can accumulate in the body and release monomers/additives during cooking)(8)(16)
- Melamine (specific toxic effects on the kidney after prolonged or repeated exposures)(18)
Today’s Post Non-Toxic Cutting Boards We’ll Cover
- 3 Non-toxic cutting board materials, along with
- Pros, Cons, and a Tip or Two to help you decide
- Research and Resource links to save you time.
- A QUICK Section on Cutting Board Materials to Avoid and WHY.
What does a Non-toxic cutting Board really mean?
A non-toxic cutting board means it doesn’t leach or shed toxins into your food while using it. The biggest culprits are plastics, composites, toxic glues/adhesives, finishes, and treatments with things that are antimicrobial or antibacterial.
To avoid the toxins used in cutting boards, consider those made out of
- water-based adhesive,
- are free of plastics
- and don’t use finishes laden with common toxins, a few of which are listed above.
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3 Non-toxic Cutting Board Options
3 Non-toxic Cutting Board options for a SIMPLE Self Care Swap that’ll help you reduce toxins your body is exposed to.
These 3 cutting board options do not expose you to harmful chemicals and are better at protecting you from food-borne contamination, making food preparation safer for you & your family. Listed in no particular order, we’ll start with Bamboo.
Non-toxic Cutting Boards made from Bamboo
Bamboo Cutting Boards are a popular choice for those looking for a non-toxic option. It is a sustainable material that grows quickly and does not require the use of pesticides or fertilizers.
Hygienic, Hypoallergenic, Durable
Bamboo is a hygienic choice for food preparation with its natural antimicrobial properties (resistant to bacteria growth).
It is considered to be hypoallergenic and is known for its durability, even with heavy use.
Caring for Your Bamboo Boards
Even though Bamboo cutting boards are basically non-porous, you still need to clean them after each use.
Bamboo doesn’t hold up to the dishwasher, but there is really no need for such an intense cleaning.
Simply hand wash your board with non-toxic dish soap (I use Bronner’s Unscented Castile Soap, or Seventh Generation Free and Clear for washing dishes by hand) and hot water, then rinse well. Allow the board to dry before storing it away.
When to Oil?
Heavy use will need more oiling. Check your boards post rinsing them off, and if the surface is looking too dull and dry, take 60 sec to oil.
Pros, Cons & What to Look For
- Made from sustainable bamboo,
- Naturally antimicrobial /resistant to bacteria growth.
- Hypoallergenic. (5)
- Durable, Lightweight.
- Resilient to Stains (Even Beets have come off for me after washing a few times)
- Easy to clean.
- When the knife comes in contact with the bamboo board, the noise is sharper and louder than the sound when cutting on a wooden board, sort of like a ‘clack.’ This may be unpleasant for some.
- Some professionals say knives get dull quicker when using a bamboo board. That has not been my experience, but I am not a knife aficionado. Plus, the boards I have listed are touted as ‘knife safe,’ so maybe it is due to the brands I have chosen.
The source of Bamboo matters. Bamboo boards are created by placing strips of bamboo together, pressure-steaming, and then kiln-drying. The strips are pressed together with glue into boards.
To be non-toxic, it is important to check that the board is 100% Bamboo material and that the adhesive used is:
- water-based and
If it does not clearly state that, choose another brand.
Also, be sure that the finish is:
- all-natural with
- food-grade finish
Organic Bamboo Boards
Non-toxic Cutting Boards made from Marble
I use a white marble cutting board between my stove and sink multiple times a day for cutting raw meat. I’d like to note that using a marble board for cutting purposes outside of pastry making and cheese platter is discouraged by multiple online ‘best’ cutting board posts.
The reasoning: Raw meat is slippery and tough to handle, and it also ruins your knives. I have not experienced the meat being too slippery. Plus, often, I use parchment paper. As for dulling my knife, I am slicing my raw meat, not chopping repeatedly.
So it seems so far, I’ve happily worked around both and enjoy the added peace of mind that my sealed Marble Board is non-porous and prevents all the raw meat drippings from lingering or cross-contaminating my other foods.
My three workarounds:
- If needed, use parchment paper beneath the meat if I think it is too slippery.
- Slice mindfully, always aware not to scrape my knife into the marble surface once I’m through the meat.
- And if my knife feels dull, I have the simple knife sharpener that Milk Street recommends, always handy for a quick resharpening. A few swipes, and I’m all set. (Remember, I am not a person passionate about knives. My focus is on reducing my body’s burden. You may love your knives and opt for one of the other materials. 👍🏻)
Hygienic, Hypoallergenic, Durable
Marble is a hygienic choice for food preparation with its:
- Non-porous material (nothing seeps in, so no unwanted bacteria once I’ve cleaned it).
- It is also hypoallergenic.
Caring for Your Marble Boards
Even though Marble cutting boards are sealed to be non-porous, you still need to clean them after each use.
Marble does hold up to the dishwasher, but my board has feet, and I prefer to use my soap and hot water followed by a few sprays of Force of Nature.
Simply hand wash your board with non-toxic dish soap (I use Bronner’s Unscented Castile Soap or N on-toxic and GF, CF, SF, dishwashing soap for washing dishes by hand) and hot water, then rinse well. Dry it with a towel, and it’s ready to go.
Pros and Cons of Marble Cutting Board
- Non-porous smooth and hard surface. No bacteria seeps into crevices.
- It doesn’t warp.
- Cleaning is a breeze. Wash with Soap and water, then wipe. You don’t need to wait for it to dry. It can handle the dishwasher if you want. (if it does not have rubber feet)
- Marble can handle heat well, so it can be used as a trivet.
- It can chip or break if dropped.
- If you drop it, it can chip or break a counter or tiled floor.
- Dulls knives.
Non-toxic Cutting Boards made from Wood
Every non-toxic cutting board recommendation I read online would repeat –important things– they thought buyers should know when choosing a non-toxic wooden board.
- The ‘BEST’ Type of wood is hardwood.
- That end grain cut was the best and
- The non-porous finish was safer.
Is that really the correct advice? Here is what I uncovered.
Is There Really ‘A Best’ Wood?
I just couldn’t find the research or, more specifically, recent research to back up the suggestions when it came to wooden boards.
Over the past months I’ve emailed companies, called them, and asked for research or documentation. I searched and read through a ridiculously high number of other posts, all focused on non-toxic cutting boards (I had no idea it was a popular topic).
Diving into the references and resources (if I could find any on these posts) was not satisfying my desire to uncover whether the TYPE of wood and the open/closed/end grain suggestions really did make a difference.
2023 Study on Wooden Cutting Boards and Their Finishes
I finally found current research on wooden cutting boards and their finishes. As always, I have listed it in the references for you below.
The study is short and walks through why they have
- A different take on the Type of Wood (15)
- One Piece, Closed or End Grain (15)
- And the Finishes touted as making the board better against bacteria may not work as intended and instead add toxins. (15)
Starting with Wood Type
The Typical Advice online for the best Wood when it comes to Cutting Boards:
The study shares that the above advice is missing the understanding of how amazing wood’s water-seeking mechanism is an effective protective mechanism.
What the study is saying is that a more porous wood is not necessarily going to harbor more bacteria.
They gave the example of the bacterial recovery from European beech wood (a more porous wood) was significantly lower compared to the other three wood species against Salmonella.
All this to say, when reading the best woods are hardwoods for cutting boards, take it with a grain of salt. This study showed this is not necessarily the case.
Segueing from a grain of salt to the wood grain, is it better to have 1 piece of wood, closed or end grain?
One Piece – Open or Closed Grain – End Grain
One piece of wood means reducing the toxins that adhesives and glues emit. That’s my vote.
Open Grain or Closed Grain?
Open or Closed Grain refers to the size of the pores. Woods with large visible pores are ‘open-grain’, and those with pores so small you can’t really see them are ‘closed-grain’.
The study showed open or closed was not a factor as much as was the type of wood. And so I wouldn’t place my focus on the open or closed grain for our purposes of choosing a non-toxic board.
Wooden Cutting Boards that are End Grain are made from strips of wood glued together with the ends of the strip as the top of the board. End grain cutting boards are made up of MANY pieces of wood glued together.
Above is a photo of end grain boards. The ends of the wood offer more fibers to be exposed to the cutting surface. This is done with the intention of creating a soft landing for the knife’s edge.
The knife squeezes downward between the wooden fibers. The fibers close when you lift the knife back up. The idea is to reduce the amount of scratches knives create on the boards while being gentler on knives.
The glues/adhesives and chemicals that are needed to produce end grain Boards.
Most adhesives contain harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde which is well known as a carcinogen. I understand the benefit to the knives, but I’m prioritizing reducing exposure to toxins, especially since I use cutting boards multiple times throughout the day. This makes them a less attractive option when the desire is to reduce toxin exposure.
It is all about being aware so we can make choices that fit our individual self care lifestyle the best.
Water Based Adhesive
Water-based adhesives were listed all over as the best solution – the problem I had was finding the information of what glue/adhesive was used for boards I was interested in.
Finding the labeling of adhesives and finishes used on bamboo boards is much easier.
I haven’t given up on finding a Wooden Board Source, though, and am still waiting for manufacturers to get back to me about their European Beech board glue. As well as an Oak option. And any that have one-piece options with a non-toxic finish. Bringing us to Finishes.
Finishes and Their Effect on Bacterial Growth
Staying with the research: Wood Cutting Board Finishes and Their Effect on Bacterial Growth, they concluded that finishes, especially finishes that harden end up having a higher bacteria load.
*Wood Cutting Board Finishes and Their Effect on Bacterial Growth showed all coatings interfered with the wood’s ability to move bacteria, causing increased surface bacterial loads with linseed coatings having the most.
The bottom line- the finishes that harden less allow the wood pores to stay open enough for the bacteria to migrate away from the surface. A protection mechanism the wood offers.
What to Choose for a Finish?
I have multiple emails out trying to get an understanding of which Wooden Board Company does this best. I will update this in a future post.
In the meantime, I found the post: A Guide to Wood Finishes That Are Food Safe helpful, and at the bottom, there is a recipe for making your own wood food-safe finish that uses
- melted beeswax.
- organic coconut oil.
- Walnut oil.
- vitamin E
- Essential oil.
If you find a one-piece raw board you like, that could be a great option!
Which Raw Board is the Most Hygienic Option
What to choose?
I would look for a cutting board made of a single piece with a food-grade finish of coconut/beeswax if you can find it.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m still on the hunt for a Wooden board that covers all the non-toxic requirements. Years ago, this was my same hurdle and why I landed on my Bamboo and Marble choices.
If you have a wonderful wooden cutting board source that does check the Non-toxic requirements, I’d LOVE for you to share! Email me: email@example.com
As answers to my inquiries roll in from the different companies that I have reached out to, I will be sure to post the boards and brands.
Caring for Your Wood Boards
The recommendation is to use soap and hot water and be sure to let it dry completely. (I would follow with a few sprays of Force of Nature on the surface of the board).
Food grade oil/wax or combo to keep from overdrying and cracking.
Pros and Cons of Wooden Cutting Board
- Has the natural ability to pull bacteria away from the surface.
- Wooden cutting boards don’t dull knife edges quickly.
- Difficulty finding Wooden Cutting Boards that label their glue type and finish type.
- Take longer to dry
- Need more care
Which Boards I Use
This post began when I was asked which cutting boards I use.
I use 3 different sizes of Bamboo boards.
- Large for Vegetables
- Medium and Small for Fruits.
Plus, my white Marble boards for Raw Meat multiple times a day. Remember, this suits me personally. It may not be your cup of tea. I really like it is nonporous and is SUPER easy to clean.
I let go of my wooden boards. There was a time I had multiple, but at this point, Bamboo is my preferred material due to how:
- Light and
- Durable it is.
- The fact that I have a source I trust and
- It’s so easy to clean.
This wraps up the Non-toxic cutting boards section, but before we wrap up a quick outline of why to avoid:
- plastic, poly granite.
- melamine and
- Antibacterial/antimicrobial treated boards.
I decided to add this section because I’m thinking you might be like me and have them around – I had a lot of them! They were cute, fun to use outside, and inexpensive but, unfortunately, TOXIC on many levels. A quick rundown of cutting board materials to avoid.
Cutting Boards to Avoid
A QUICK Section on Cutting Board Materials to Avoid
Here are a few reasons to AVOID cutting boards made with Antibacterial Coatings, Melamine, Plastic, and Poly Granite. and even most Wood boards.
Downfalls of Popular Cutting Board Materials
Antibacterial ‘treated’ cutting boards (antibacterial and antifungal agents): Disrupts Thyroid Function. Liver fibrosis, Cancer, Hormone disruption. (1) They also are implicated in “the evolving problem of antibiotic resistance“(19)
Plastic and Poly granites
Plastic Cutting Boards
Two big downfalls stand out to me.
One, it is concerning that they can be a significant source of microplastics.
Two, each cut of plastic cutting board can create a crevice for bacteria to harbor. Even placing it in the dishwasher is not suggested because you may feel confident it is clean and not going to cross-contaminate other food, and that is not the case. (A good reason to choose separate boards for separate food types.)
Melamine; Wood fiberboards
Melamine, Wood, and Wood Fiberboards also slough off into foods.
The really hard plastic material you probably know best as shiny plastic plates, bowls, cups, spatulas, stirring spoons, and trays is Melamine.
They are often cute and seem like a great choice for kids or outside entertainment, but they leach, they leach a lot more when used for warm food, soup, tea, etc. Cutting on them repeatedly inevitably creates scratches and grooves. Placing a hot piece of meat on it to cut invites toxins much above the FDA-allowed melamine and formaldehyde limits set.
Side note. Avoid using Melamine utensils for stirring soups, sauces, stews, and spaghetti in boiling water. Reach for stainless, non-toxic brands of bamboo or wooden spoons instead.
Wood Fibers for Cutting boards
Avoid cutting boards made of ‘wood pieces ‘ that are glued together. The issue is in what the fibers are held together to make the ‘durable’ board. Typical products you’d be exposing yourself to include plastics, resins, adhesives, formaldehyde maybe antibacterial chemicals….
You can find today’s Post Link and the products highlighted today on the Shop for Your Home page. This way, when you are ready to make your Cutting Board Swap, you’ll have easy access to BOTH the products and information. (Thanks for the suggestion Serrah!)
Products for Your Home
Non-toxic Kitchen, Laundry, Bedding, & Living Space Products…
Instead of regurgitating some ‘scary’ facts about cutting boards, I opted to place the SIMPLE Self Care Swaps at the forefront of the post and provide you with:
- 3 Non-toxic cutting board materials, along with
- Pros, Cons, and a Tip or Two to help you decide
- Research and resource links to save you time.
I prioritized the focus of this post to be on the Self Care Micro Decision we could take action on by listing the Non-toxic boards, and because I felt it’d be amiss not to point out a few reasons behind eliminating using cutting boards made of blatantly toxic materials that can slowly accumulate in our bodies I added-
- A QUICK Section on Cutting Board Materials to Avoid
If you found value in today’s Simple Self Care Lifestyle Product information, I’d love to know what was most helpful to you. What you share helps my goal of creating Simple Self Care Content that’ll make The Simple Self Care Lifestyle website become the resource you turn to when it comes to creating The Simple Self Care Lifestyle you want. My email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other Simple Swaps to Non-Toxic Products:
Other SIMPLE Self Care Swaps to Non-toxic
are there too, always focused on WHY to swap, HOW the benefits help you move toward the 1 Goal of Optimizing Your Body’s Terrain.
References are listed for you further down.
THe simple self care lifestyle
The Simple Self Care Lifestyle
I hope The Simple Self Care Lifestyle website becomes the spot you confidently turn to, knowing that everything here revolves around helping YOU to simplify the what, why & how to get the wellness you want—feeling, looking & living better than you ever imagined!
I’M GLAD YOU ARE HERE!
References for you:
1. Yueh MF, Tukey RH. Triclosan: A Widespread Environmental Toxicant with Many Biological Effects. Annu Rev Pharmacol Toxicol. 2016;56:251-72. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pharmtox-010715-103417. PMID: 26738475; PMCID: PMC4774862.
2. Kang, D.S., Kim, H.S., Jung, JH. et al. Formaldehyde exposure and leukemia risk: a comprehensive review and network-based toxicogenomic approach. Genes and Environ 43, 13 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41021-021-00183-5
3. Rubin BS. Bisphenol A: an endocrine disruptor with widespread exposure and multiple effects. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2011 Oct;127(1-2):27-34. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2011.05.002. Epub 2011 May 13. PMID: 21605673.
5. Hakeem, Khalid & Ibrahim, Shamsudin & Ibrahim, Faridah & Tombuloglu, Huseyin. (2015). Bamboo Biomass: Various Studies and Potential Applications for Value-Added Products. 10.1007/978-3-319-13847-3_11.
6. Campanale C, Massarelli C, Savino I, Locaputo V, Uricchio VF. A Detailed Review Study on Potential Effects of Microplastics and Additives of Concern on Human Health. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Feb 13;17(4):1212. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17041212. PMID: 32069998; PMCID: PMC7068600.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7068600/
7. Munir MT, Pailhories H, Eveillard M, Irle M, Aviat F, Dubreil L, Federighi M, Belloncle C. Testing the Antimicrobial Characteristics of Wood Materials: A Review of Methods. Antibiotics (Basel). 2020 May 1;9(5):225. doi: 10.3390/antibiotics9050225. PMID: 32370037; PMCID: PMC7277147.
8. Yadav H, Khan MRH, Quadir M, Rusch KA, Mondal PP, Orr M, Xu EG, Iskander SM. Cutting Boards: An Overlooked Source of Microplastics in Human Food? Environ Sci Technol. 2023 Jun 6;57(22):8225-8235. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.3c00924. Epub 2023 May 23. PMID: 37220346.
9. Cutting boards can produce microparticles when chopping veggies, study shows. American Chemical Society. (n.d.). https://www.acs.org/pressroom/presspacs/2023/june/cutting-boards-can-produce-microparticles-when-chopping-veggies.html
10. Chao-Yi Chien, Chia-Fang Wu, Chia-Chu Liu, Bai-Hsiun Chen, Shu-Pin Huang, Yii-Her Chou, Ai-Wen Chang, Hei-Hwa Lee, Chih-Hong Pan, Wen-Jeng Wu, Jung-Tsung Shen, Mei-Yu Chang, Chun-Hsiung Huang, Jentaie Shiea, Tusty-Jiuan Hsieh, Ming-Tsang Wu, High melamine migration in daily-use melamine-made tableware, Journal of Hazardous Materials, Volume 188, Issues 1–3, 2011, Pages 350-356, ISSN 0304-3894
15 Vega Gutierrez, Sarath M., Patricia T. Vega Gutierrez, Joy Waite-Cusic, and Seri C. Robinson. 2023. “Wood Cutting Board Finishes and Their Effect on Bacterial Growth” Coatings 13, no. 4: 752. https://doi.org/10.3390/coatings13040752
19. UD Allen and others, Antimicrobial products in the home: The evolving problem of antibiotic resistance, Paediatrics & Child Health, Volume 11, Issue 3, March 2006, Pages 169–173, https://doi.org/10.1093/pch/11.3.169