Home Eat & Drink How Cutting Board Materials Compare, and Why Wood is Still the Best

How Cutting Board Materials Compare, and Why Wood is Still the Best

by sahodd85
Thin sliced zucchini on a wooden cutting board

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One of the most heavily used items in your kitchen is likely your cutting board. Even though you wash it every day, did you know it can also be one of the dirtiest? Germs can survive, multiply and transfer to (aka cross-contaminate) other surfaces if your cutting board was not cleaned well or stayed wet between cleaning and use. This thriving bacterial community can contaminate your meal and lead to health impacts like diarrhoea and infections like meningitis. Some cutting boards can also introduce particles into your meal, such as small shards of glass or micro plastics. It’s a good idea to pick your cutting board wisely, and clean your kitchen items well and regularly.

So, which material protects you from germs, toxins and other potentially harmful materials, while being sustainable for the planet? Let’s find out!

What to look for in a cutting board

Health & Cleanliness

Cutting board materials can help you keep the kitchen clean and healthy by preventing bacteria from growing in hard to disinfect places. Many food safety resources suggest having multiple cutting boards for different purposes to cut down on the potential for cross-contamination.

Keep several different cutting boards on hand for different purposes, including:

  1. Raw meats, poultry, seafood and dairy that need to be cooked
  2. Vegetables, fruits and grains (bread)
  3. Allergen-free meals

How you clean your kitchen is also important to stop the spread of microbes. Check out our recipes and steps for cleaning, sanitizing and deep cleaning cutting boards.

Durability & Lifespan

Ideally a cutting board has enough integrity to withstand impacts from knives and other utensils, without chipping or flaking. You also want a cutting board that won’t crack, break or split with moisture or the occasional drop in the sink or on the kitchen floor.

Some materials also have the added benefit of being dishwasher safe, which can make cleaning simpler and quicker.


Cutting boards can be made out of compostable materials to help divert waste from our landfills. How a cutting board is made plays a role in sustainability as well. So, look for products that are derived from renewable resources that are managed in a way that reduces their negative impacts on the environment.

A key tenet of sustainability is making sure that we use our resources wisely. If you want to transition to another cutting board material, it’s still a good idea to use your existing boards to the end of their lifespan. Just make sure to clean and sanitize them well!


How common cutting board materials compare

Lots of different materials are commonly used to make cutting boards. So, how do they compare when you look at their safety, health and cleanliness, durability and lifespan, and sustainability.



Health & Cleanliness

As a non-porous material, glass is very hygienic and does not absorb bacteria, stains or odours. Most cutting boards are made of tempered glass, making them thin, light, smooth and easy to clean.

Durability & Lifespan

Glass cutting boards have a long lifespan if they are cared for correctly. They can be washed in the dishwasher, or washed using soap and water. However, they are very hard on knives and so are often not recommended for use. If dropped, they can also shatter and small shards of glass can chip off and cross-contaminate your food.


Glass is made of sand, soda ash, limestone and colour additives, which are natural raw materials. Sourcing these materials can cause land degradation and negative changes to the landscape of important ecosystems.

It is a fully recyclable material than can be reused to make new products. However, not everything gets recycled due to quality requirements during recycling. For instance, glass bottles tend to have a recycling rate of between 50% to 80%. So where does it end up if it’s not recycled? You guessed it, the landfill where it basically lasts forever and gets broken down into smaller and smaller shards that embed themselves in the landscape.



Chopping on a plastic cutting board can leave grooves where bacteria hide out

Health & Cleanliness

Plastic boards are not porous, but are prone to knife cuts, dirt, stains and smells. When knife cuts form, harmful bacteria can gather in cracks and crevices, and it’s next to impossible to clean and sanitize them! Over time, plastic cutting boards may also leach harmful chemicals such as BPA, BPF or BPS into your food, especially if they’re used with heat.

Durability & Lifespan

Plastic tends to have a relatively short lifespan compared to other cutting board materials. Plastic cutting boards can be cleaned and sanitized using a dishwasher; a hot temperature cycle (of at least 82˚C) works best. Throw out your plastic cutting board when you start to see knife cuts and grooves, heavy staining or a fuzzy appearing surface.


Plastic is derived from fossil fuels, which is a non-renewable natural resource. Plastic cutting boards usually end up in landfills where nearly 25% of the waste includes plastics! They can take hundreds to one thousand years to decompose. Research shows that plastic micro particles, such as the fibres released from damaged cutting boards, cause negative environmental and biological effects.



Health & Cleanliness

Studies have shown a reduction in the number of microbes on wood surfaces due to their natural anti-microbial properties. Wood is porous, and so food-borne bacteria can be absorbed into your cutting board. But research shows that wood boards hold bacteria inside where it does not multiply and gradually dies off. Some wood cutting boards are made of multiple pieces of wood glued together. Be sure to buy cutting boards made with verified non-toxic glues to make sure that your cutting board is formaldehyde-free.

Durability & Lifespan

Wood cutting boards are durable and have a long lifespan if you take care of them properly. You should regularly clean and maintain them by doing things like adding mineral oil to ward off splinters and cracks. Many varieties of wood resist knife scars and self-heal when cut. Older boards with knife scars continue to ward off bacteria similarly to new boards without them. But if knife scars start to appear, hardwood cutting boards can be sanded with fine-grained sandpaper to remove them.


Wood is a renewable natural resource that can be sustainable when forests are managed properly. However, when forests are managed incorrectly, the harvest of wood can cause negative environmental impacts including biodiversity loss, soil erosion and water cycle disruption. Look for wood products that are Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified to ensure they’re produced sustainably. When they need to be disposed of, solid wood boards without glues and coatings will decompose in a few years.


Wood Composite

A brown wood composite cutting board with fresh cut asparagus on top

Health & Cleanliness

Wood composite cutting boards, such as Epicurean boards, are made from recycled materials including wood and acrylic resin. Because they are non-porous, bacteria cannot be absorbed when they’re smooth and undamaged.

Durability & Lifespan

Wood composite cutting boards tend to be more durable than plastic, so it takes longer for knife scars to damage their surfaces. They’re also dishwasher safe and can be disinfected in the dishwasher using a hot temperature cycle (of at least 82˚C) or sanitized by hand.


Fossil fuels and petroleum products, which are non-renewable resources, are used to make the acrylic resin in wood composite boards. Despite their wood content, wood composite cutting boards are not easily recycled. And so, they usually end up in landfills.



Health & Cleanliness

Rubber is non-porous, and so it resists bacteria, stains and smells. Rubber cutting boards are common in restaurant kitchens because they combine the positive qualities of wood and plastic.

Durability & Lifespan

These are some of the most durable boards around. Rubber resists moisture, which can make other cutting board materials split, crack or peel. It also absorbs knife strokes and extends the lifespan of your knives. Rubber cutting boards are dishwasher friendly and require minimal maintenance.


Rubber cutting boards are made of polyvinyl acetate (or PVA). It may be possible to recycle them; however, synthetic materials often end up in landfills. Some sources recommend smoothing their surfaces with sandpaper. But, sanding can potentially release micro particles that have a detrimental effect on our environment and drinking water sources.


Conclusion: Choose wood cutting boards for your health and the planet

Wood cutting boards come out on top when compared with other cutting board materials. They’re anti-microbial and their ability to absorb fluids and effectively suffocate bacteria keeps it out of your food. There has been a longstanding believe that plastic is the cleanest cutting board material. However, recent studies show that plastic is not more sanitary than wood.

They‘re more durable than other materials, and can absorb knife cuts and drops on the kitchen floor. You can even prolong their lifespan. Try maintaining wood cutting boards with mineral oil to prevent splitting, or finely sanding them to revive their smooth surface (without releasing micro plastics!).

And, they can decompose, which means they have a lighter environmental impact than other materials like plastics that kick around for centuries.

If you want to make the transition to wood, invest in durable, long-lasting hardwood cutting boards.  Hardwoods like maple, walnut, cherry, teak, ash, birch and beech have fine, tight grains. They can be used to cut anything from meats to fruit. Hardwoods are also so dense that they’re less likely to split apart than other woods. Look for a cutting board with an end-grain or checkerboard pattern; they’re extremely durable and easier on your knives.

Care for your wood products, and they will protect you from harmful microbes and particles for many years to come.

Do you have a favourite type of wood cutting board? Let us know!

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Sandi Rulliere August 20, 2020 - 7:19 pm

Really interesting article. I have always favoured glass chopping boards and a wooden one for bread use only. However, your information has made me think that the wood for veg and fish use is perhaps the one to choose going forward. Thanks

Amy September 1, 2020 - 11:52 pm

Hi Sandi, thanks for the comment! Glad my post could give you some food for thought 🙂


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