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Guide to Safe Cutting Boards

Because I cook a lot and mostly from scratch, one of the kitchen appliances I use every day is a cutting board.  There was a time I did not give much thought to this kitchen accessory.  Now, however, I realize how important it is to have not only a safe non-toxic cutting board but also a steady one that won’t slip off the countertop.  It cost me time, money, and trial and error to find one just like that.  If you consider buying one for yourself or as a gift, this guide to safe cutting boards will save you time, money, and trial and error.  Keep reading to find out which natural cutting boards are absolutely my favorite.              

Guide to Safe Cutting Boards. A photo of a non-toxic cutting board.

Similar to the other guides on my website, this one will also consist of four categories – worst, bad, better, and best.  My goal is to educate you and present you will all the information that will help you make a quality decision about your purchase. 

The worst cutting boards

Without a doubt, plastic boards are worse than any others, in my opinion.  The reasons I consider them the worst are as follows:

  • Plastic is harmful and its particles may penetrate the body with the food.
  • Boards made of plastic may contain an anti-bacterial chemical triclosan.
  • Plastic cutting boards are prone to deep scratches which collect bacteria.

So, let’s talk about each of these reasons briefly.

The harm from plastic

To begin with, plastic is a common term for a broad range of synthetic and semi-synthetic solids.  Further, the most common raw materials used to manufacture plastic are crude oil and natural gas.  I don’t believe that these are materials that belong in a non-toxic cutting board.

Additionally, many chemical additives that help create specific texture, colors, clarity, heat, durability, light resistance, and flexibility are not good for us.

BPA and its replacements

For example, one of these additives is bisphenol A (BPA), works as a plasticizer to make plastic clear and stiff.  One of the reasons to avoid BPA is that it mimics the female hormone estrogen and can act in the body as such.  Moreover, as an endocrine disruptor, it may produce a variety of adverse effects on the developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune systems.  In addition, studies show that it can increase the risk of insulin resistance and heart disease.  Surely, these cannot be the characteristics of safe cutting boards.

Because BPA is notorious, many manufacturers replace it with something else.  However, the problem is that the BPA-replacement may not be any better than BPA itself.  Thus, recent research reveals that common BPA replacements, such as Bisphenol S (BPS) and Bisphenol F (BPF), are just as harmful (source).  

Although some kinds of plastic are safer than others, we do not fully know what is in the plastic we use every day.  That is to say, most chemicals have not been fully studied yet.  For instance, according to the Green Science Policy Institute, 85% of 20,000 chemicals added to the US market since 1976 have no health data.  And 67% of them have no data at all (source).  Therefore, I encourage you to avoid all types of plastic if possible.

The hazards of triclosan

Here are the reasons triclosan does not belong in a non-toxic cutting board.

First, scientists suspect triclosan of endocrine disruption (source).  Second, it may play a role in cancer development, perhaps through its ability to act as estrogen or inhibit fatty acid synthesis (source).  

In fact, the FDA banned the sale of any hand and body soaps containing triclosan and 18 other disinfecting ingredients.  The FDA explained that these products were no more effective at preventing illness than regular soap and water.  By the way, if you are looking for safe hand soap, check out my non-toxic hand soap guide.

Lastly, triclosan is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects and causes serious eye and skin irritation (source).

The danger of bacteria

For sure, safe cutting boards must be able to handle the issue of bacteria.

The thing about bacteria is that because we do not see them, we may wave off their potential danger.  However, for people with a weak or developing immune system, bacteria can be a real threat.  There are multiple studies presenting the evidence of that.  Please, read my overview of scientific research on bacteria in the WaterWipes Baby Wipes post.   

As you know, moisture is an ideal environment for bacteria growth, and the deep knife cuts in plastic boards are a perfect place for them to multiply.  Even though you may use some anti-bacterial substance to clean your plastic board, there is no guarantee that it actually kills them all.  Therefore, when you look for a non-toxic cutting board, keep in mind the issue of bacteria.

The bad cutting boards

I put Epicurean cutting boards in this category.  Although they are better than plastic, we do not know exactly all the properties of the material they are made from.

Thus, the company says that they make their products out of a material called Richlite.  Basically, it is layers of paper saturated with a thermosetting resin and pressed under even heat and pressure, which bonds the layers of paper together and cures the resin.  To laminate the paper, they use phenol-formaldehyde. 

On the one hand, phenol-formaldehyde is not supposed to release free formaldehyde as much as urea-formaldehyde, for example.  So, I am not too concerned about formaldehyde emissions.  On the other hand, the material of the cutting board is resin, which is more like plastic than wood.  So, I am concerned that bacteria can be trapped inside the grooves.  We have an old Epicurean board that we do not use, and it has multiple scratches.

The better safe cutting boards

For those who already own and use bamboo boards there is good news – your boards are in the “better” category.  What keeps them out of the “best” non-toxic cutting board category, though, is glue and mineral oil for the coating.  In fact, 99% of bamboo boards use mineral oil.

Mineral oil as a cutting board coating

For starters, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified untreated and mildly treated mineral oil as “carcinogenic to humans.”

Besides, petroleum is the source for mineral oil derivation.

As a rule, mineral oil used in products is supposed to be highly refined and treated.  Nevertheless, I choose not to use products with mineral oil for the following reasons.  First, it is made of an unsustainable resource.  Second, mineral oil production is toxic to the environment and workers.  Third, there are other choices that are much better for us and for the environment.

At the same time, I want you to know that mineral oil does not stay on your board forever.  After the first couple of times it will be washed off, and you can forget about it.

Bamboo safe cutting boards

If you want a bamboo cutting board, choose organic bamboo without harmful glue and mineral oil.

As an option, consider Bambu cutting boards made in China from organic bamboo.  From my personal correspondence with them I found out the following.

First, Bambu cutting boards are made from laminates that use a water-based glue imported from Finland, free of formaldehyde and heavy metals.  Actually, the presence of glue prevents them from getting an organic certification.

Next, the products are finished with a food safe wood oil whose ingredients are based on naturally produced vegetable oils and waxes (e.g. sunflower oil, soybean oil, thistle oil, and carnauba wax).  

Also, no animal products are used as ingredients or in the manufacturing process.

The best non-toxic cutting board

What are the main characteristics of the best safe cutting boards?

  • Solid hardwood
  • No glue
  • No mineral oil

Undoubtedly, the best natural cutting boards, in my opinion, are Urthware.

We have been using Urthware cutting boards for years now and I can say that nothing happens to them.   They are thick and smooth, look gorgeous and of such great quality!  After we started using one by Urthware, nothing else can compare to it even remotely.  Instead of mineral oil, the maker uses organic coconut oil, beeswax, and carnauba wax to finish his boards. To specify, carnauba wax is a food-grade wax which the USDA National Organic Program allows for use on organic food.

Above all, wood is a good material for cutting boards because it dries and does not leave moisture for the growth of bacteria. 

To learn more about Urthware cutting boards and their maker, please read my post Best Solid Wood Cutting Boards.

Conclusion about safe cutting boards

To sum up, the best non-toxic cutting board is made of solid wood and has no glue or mineral oil.  As a tip for you, look for hardwood as opposed to softwood to avoid deep scratches that can harbor bacteria.

Additionally, buy two boards to use: one for plant food and the other for the other kinds of food.   

As for glass cutting boards, the biggest issue with them is that they dull kitchen knives and are made in China.  Plus, I have not found any glass cutting board made in the USA.

Finally, I would like to encourage you to contact manufacturers and ask them questions.  Your voice matters and can actually affect the market. 

If you seek help with living healthy, feel free to book a consultation with me.  Also, visit my shop to check out various non-toxic products for you and your family.

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56 thoughts on “Guide to Safe Cutting Boards”

  1. If you can find a cutting board or wood that is bare, you could finish it yourself with tung oil, which is food grade and non-toxic. I used this tung oil: http://www.realmilkpaint.com/oil.html on a crib and dresser, but in researching also found it’s great for cutting boards, butcher blocks, etc. If you go this route you can email the company and ask for advice on how to do it or what exactly needs to be done – they also have more information on their website which I found helpful. Basically after sanding what you are doing and wiping it down, you can use an old t-shirt and wipe the tung oil onto it, letting it thoroughly dry inbetween coats.

  2. I too think plastic is toxic and messes up your hormones. What was in your next post to the answer of what cutting boards are safe?

    I do not buy milk in plastic, but a paper container. I use glass for my containers and not plastic.

    1. Hi Julie,

      I know it’s been awhile. I’ve been waiting for a few things to clear and I hope to write the second part of this post soon. Please subscribe to my blog, if you have not yet, to receive my posts by email so you do not miss this post.

    1. Hi Jim,
      thank you for asking the question and reminding me to change the way I end the post. At that time I was writing the post I thought I had found cutting boards that adhered to my requirements. However, when I dug deeper it was not so simple. I want to assure you that I work really hard to bring you non-toxic but also of good quality products. Thank you for your patience!

  3. I too became concerned about chemicals when I had my kids. I started with the things people normally start with when they “detoxify” their homes (organic food, safer soaps, etc) and that progressed into me looking deeper into other things in my home, namely things in my kitchen. I disposed of all my nonstick, and plastic cookware, replaced utensils with Canadian or USA made wooden ones. I replaced cookware with glass, and USA or European manufactured cast iron or carbon steel pots and pans. Then I got rid of my plastic cutting boards. As I looked deeper into cutting boards I found the same as you did, that manufacturers do not disclose the materials used in making their products. I found that I could only find wooden cutting boards using either formaldehyde leaching glues (they are cheap and tough) or coating their cutting boards in “mystery coatings” mainly mineral oil. I found bamboo to be the worst for using a high amount of toxic glues as bamboo is basically made into laminate to make the cutting boards, this is because bamboo is obviously only made of thin strips (so they make “bamboo plywood” basically.) I couldn’t actually find any companies that disclosed (or knew) what glues and coatings their far eastern manufacturing facilities were using.

    This is going to sound like an advertisement now but I might as well tell you that I started make cutting boards from my home shop for myself and family and they told me to start selling them. Many of my one piece face grain cutting boards use no glue, they use natural and /or organic materials, and I use FDA approved for indirect food contact glues for my larger thicker edge grain boards.

    I use non-toxic milk paint on non-food contact areas (actually the paint I use is the first paint to receive the USDA approved bio based paint seal of approval).

    I even use natural gum tree rubber feet which I hand cut from sheets of natural rubber (vs PVC or plastic), and use high grade stainless steel screws to affix them the my cutting boards (no rusting).

    Here is the question of the day. What do I finish coat them with? I make my own Canadian Organic Walnut Oil & Canadian Beeswax blend or alternatively (for those who have an allergy to Walnuts, I make an Organic Fair Trade Coconut Oil & Canadian Beeswax finish. Walnut oil is a “drying oil”, and coconut oil which is not a drying oil but as most health conscious people know has anti fungal and antibacterial properties. Both resist rancidity unlike olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.

    My cutting boards are 100% made in Canada and they are of as high a quality as you will find anywhere from anyone.

    To top it offf, a tree is planted in Canada for every product sold to offset my footprint

    So, there are alternatives out there, and many people just like you who want non-toxic things for their family. I fully disclose every material I use in my cutting boards. I’m currently only on etsy and my shop name is Urthware. I will eventually (hopefully) have a website soon too urthware.com

    Not trying just to hijack your blog for advertising. 🙂

    And by the way, just a side note, cast iron pans by Lodge are manufactured in the USA unlike all the others (with exception of their enamelled line which is sadly not made in the USA) and I love mine.

    1. Hi Mike, thank you for such a great information! I use iron cast pans by Lodge
      and love them! It is funny but before you emailed, I started thinking that the Internet might not be the best place to get a good wooden board but from a local person who makes them in his home shop. Could you tell us more about the glue you use: the brand, ingredients? I am learning that it is the best not to use any glue and strive to make boards out of one piece. How big are your one-piece boards? What is the name of the paint do you use? Thank you!

      1. Lol love lodge stuff. I use paint from The Old Fashioned Milk Paint Co. http://www.milkpaint.com (MSDS readily available on their website). The brand of glue I use (glue is used only on my edge grain boards) is Titebond 3 (The MSDS is freely available on their website also). I do make cutting boards that are GLUE FREE in my Organic line. That being said, there are limits to size with a one piece cutting board. Also, Edge grain boards (my professional series that does use glued strips) are tougher, thicker, and don’t soak up liquids as readily, also I use wide strips of Maple so there are not very many glue lines.

        Ironically even though I have TONS of cutting boards the cutting board sitting on my counter is the smallest one I make lol, I can cut an apple, orange, onion, pepper etc. on it quick and I can carry it one handed to the pot and just dump the onion in.

        1. Sorry missed one answer. My one piece cutting boards range between approx. 6″-9″ deep x 13″-18″ wide x about 1″ thick.

          1. That’s a good size for a one-piece board. What do you have in your oil & beeswax finish? Just those two? Is the beeswax natural? I am learning that there is a lot of petroleum beeswax on the market nowadays and you have to read labels carefully. Thanks!

  4. I have to choose just the right lumber to make the wider cutting boards (not just wide boards), and I have to mill them a certain way. As for the finishing oil, absolutely, I only use just those pure ingredients. And yes, absolutely, the beeswax I use is 100% pure Beeswax, made by bees. Absolutely NO paraffin wax (which is the petroleum based wax you are referring to), or other soy, or vegetable waxes. I have done everything (to the best of my current knowledge and ability) to make the the safest, most non-toxic cutting boards on the market today. Thank you for the questions 🙂 If you have any more don’t ever hesitate to ask.

      1. I can totally do that. I will send you one from my organic line. Email me and we can figure out what colour and finish you want.

      1. I do sell online, currently it’s on my Etsy shop called Urthware. I just opened it
        I will have to sell some more cutting boards before I open my own ecommerce website (they are a bit expensive to run and maintain).

  5. Hi You Guys:

    Last year I bought pieces of a kitchen set composed of cutting board, dish drying rack and utensils from eco Bamboo thinking it was sustainable though unaware of the health concerns of the glues. And they recommended mineral oil which tells me they are not holistic and most importantly, healthy. Is there an oil I can use on them to seal any toxic possibilities. I am a vegan and do everything possible to eliminate all toxicities from my life in every area yet didn’t know about the glues in the bamboo construction so this may have been money I used for the lessons learned. Kindly address my points on saving what I have and I will look up your oil mixture if I am able to seal out any toxic leaching. Thank you, Peter

  6. Hello Peter,

    Let me attempt to answer some of your concerns.

    Bamboo cutting boards contain a significant amount of glue because they are made up of small pieces of grass (bamboo) that need to be affixed together somehow, and being small pieces there are a lot of seams. (Don’t get me started on “natural” Epicurean boards that are basically made of glue) Some manufacturers of hard wood cutting boards (maple, walnut, etc.) use wide pieces of wood reducing glue seams and some use glues that are FDA approved for this use and are not formaldehyde based glues.

    The first thing you need to do is contact the manufacturer and find out what type of glue they use. Most bamboo boards are made in Asia so it is doubtful that they will even know what type of glue was used and most likely it will be a cheap formaldehyde based glue (never mind it being FDA approved), but there is always the possibility it could be approved glue so check it out with the manufacturer. If it is not FDA (or other reputable certification) approved glue you’ll have to make an educated decision on whether or not this bothers you enough to chuck your cutting boards. Personal decision.

    Second. Almost all cutting boards are finished in mineral oil (which is a petroleum product) this is because it is hypoallergenic and fairly low on the toxicity scale, does not go rancid and stays a liquid so it fills in cut marks. I fully understand your concern with this. You pay a premium to buy organic food so that it doesn’t come into contact with pesticides, herbicides or other toxic substances then you have to cut your food on a chemical laden cutting board every day long term.

    I can try and give you some solutions that may work to a certain extent but I am not absolutely sure they will block mineral oil completely so please take that into consideration.

    There are a few different types of finishes but the type we are going to look at here are coatings that polymerize (drying oils). There are a few options for you in this category that you could try. Natural drying oils penetrate the wood then polymerize to produce a semi-hard coating that protects the wood from moisture.
    They are not as hard or durable as a synthetic coatings such as the polyurethane on a kitchen table or chairs, but do create a barrier especially when applied often so they may block some of the mineral oil however, again, I am unsure how permeable they are in regards to mineral oil.

    Here are some “drying” oils:

    Walnut oil: you can buy this as an organic food grade edible product and it absorbs well into a cutting board then polymerizes, but it is not such a hard coating (unlike polyurethane or others) that it chips off into your food when cutting on it (though it wouldn’t matter if it did as it’s edible ).
    It can be cut on even wet as it I an edible oil (used in salads, etc.) so there is no need to wait until it totally cures. This is my suggestion if you and your family do not have a tree nut allergy. Though anything could be an allergen or irritant to certain people. Only you know you.

    Linseed oil: linseed oil (aka flax seed oil) can be used and has many of the properties of walnut oil though make sure you don’t mind the taste or smell of it. It also takes quite a while to fully polymerize and has a short shelf life (the liquid must be refrigerated). DO NOT buy linseed oil at the hardware store it is full of heavy metal dryers to speed curing and is toxic! Which is fine for a chair but not at all for a cutting surface for food in my opinion (and I’m assuming yours).

    There are other natural oils that you know your family is not allergic to any of the natural drying oils you choose.

    If you have any questions you can obviously post them here or get ahold of me directly if you want at urthware.com. And if you do want a cutting board with no glues or FDA approved glues, that are made in Canada, and that use all natural & organic finishes we do manufacture these, they do exist at urthware.com

  7. Hi,
    Just wondering what your final findings are in case of cutting boards. Also, what are your objections to simple wooden cutting boards you buy in the shop? And why not bamboo? It is not entirely clear to me.
    I am currently writing an article for a Dutch magazine about this topic but I cannot seem to find many evidence-based objections to either wooden cutting boards or bamboo chopping boards.
    Thanks heaps!
    Matilde

    1. Hi Matilde,
      Any wooden board is much better than plastic, especially if that plastic treated with triclosan. However, if you want to be picky like me, you might want to stay away from wooden boards treated with mineral oil as it is a petroleum product. Also, most wooden boards are made with strips of wood glued together with questionable glue. Especially bamboo boards are made with a lot of glue involved. And most bamboo comes from China. We do not have sufficient information about whether any chemicals involved in growing and processing that bamboo. But again, there is an upside to bamboo as it is an easily renewable resource.

  8. Did you try Mike’s cutting boards? Have you found any other etsy shops that make a board you are comfortable with?
    Anyone find an option on amazon that they will share?

    Thanks!

    1. I have not heard from them yet. I hope they will respond at some point. Can you email them, too? Ideally, I would like to find US cutting board company. Not sure if we have to ship cutting boards all the way from Italy. ~Irina

  9. I would be happy to e-mail them. What information would like to find out other than what they use to finish their boards with?

    1. They have not replied to me yet. If you email them, ask what the finish is made of, if they use any. And if the board is made of one piece wood or there are multiple pieces glued together. Thanks.

  10. Hi Irina,

    I e-mailed them and inquired about the finish. The board is made out of one piece. I picked one up at Marshall’s 🙂

  11. Hi. I tried the link supplied by Elena but unfortunately a message “this page could not be found” appeared. (I tried a few different times) Amazon.com seems to sell Arte Legno cutting boards made of beechwood. Is that non toxic? Do they use olive oil on these boards for their finish? thank you

    1. Hi Lucky: They replied that almost all Arte Legno cutting boards are formed from one piece of olive wood, without use of glue or paints. And they finish them with sunflower oil. However, just now I know noticed that the product description on Amazon states, “Certified food-safe oil finish with a stain resistant treatment.” That doesn’t seem be consistent with sunflower oil… So not sure. Why do not you try to email them and ask what those finish oil and treatment are? ~Irina

  12. I just located this “Oil finished with plant and wax based certified food safe oil in order to achieve the highest safety and best performances.” Any comments? thank you

    1. We need to know what that oil is. Don’t we? I do not like when they tell that it is safe without telling what it is. Not a good sign. I suspect that it is a mineral oil, which is not deadly but not ideal. ~Irina

  13. It seems to be so hard to get a true picture of most products which is sad and very disappointing. Is it really that much more expensive to produce safe non toxic products?

  14. Hi Irina,

    Did you ever looked into bamboo boards and other stuff from Bambu? (www.bambuhome.com) What do you think about those?
    They are saying somewhere that they use glue from Finland, but I didn’t find much details.

    1. Hi Tatiana: Generally, I am not a big fan of bamboo. It is better than plastic of course but there are too many unanswered questions about bamboo. I would love to sit down with a bamboo maker one day and ask all my questions. ~Irina

  15. Thanks Irina! In the meantime I’ve got the following respond from Bambu: “Our Cutting & Serving products are made from laminates that use a water-based glue imported from Finland, free of formaldehyde and heavy metal. These products are also finished with a food safe wood oil. Oil ingredients are based on naturally produced vegetable oils and waxes (e.g. sunflower oil, soybean oil, thistle oil, carnauba wax, candelilla wax). No animal products are used as ingredients or in the manufacturing process. bambu products are tested by international 3rd party laboratories as food safe or food appropriate. We hope that answers your questions. If you have questions we can help answer, please feel free to email us at [email protected], or call us toll-free at 855.630.3149″
    So indeed not all questions answered but as you’ve mentioned definitely better than plastic.

  16. Hi Irina,

    What’s your take on glass cutting boards? Seems like a good option to me, but I might not be aware of something. Would love to know your opinion. Also, stone cutting boards?

      1. May I know the reason why? I purchased the Urthware based on your recommendation and I’m truly curious abt the Epicurean boards. Are they not non toxic?

        1. Last time I looked into Epicurean boards they were not made of solid wood but rather of wood composite. So the question is what glue they use to make the wood composite. And also what finish do they use? Please contact them and ask. The more of us ask questions, the more attention they will pay to us and ultimately make safer products. Thank you, Fatima! ~Irina

  17. Any thoughts about the “Rachael Ray Pantryware Wood Cutting Board With Handle/ Wood Serving Board With Handle . . . crafted from sustainable acacia wood” available through Amazon? I submitted the following questions:
    1. Question: Has this board been vanished or pre-treated with mineral oil?
    Answer: This item has not been vanished or pre-treated with mineral oil.
    (By Manufacturer Customer Support MANUFACTURER on September 21, 2020)
    2. Question: Is the acacia wood used for this cutting board natural or has it been treated or fumigated with formaldehyde, preservatives, or other fumigants?
    Answer: No it has not.
    (Manufacturer Customer Support Manufacturer · September 21, 2020)

    Nor is it laminated according to the manufacturer:
    Question: Is this one solid piece board or pieces glued together?
    Answer: The Rachael Ray 50796 Pantryware Wood Cutting Board is a single piece of wood.
    (By Manufacturer Customer Support MANUFACTURER on June 23, 2020)

    Thank you for your input! ~Dan

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