The Fresh Loaf

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How to wash/clean a wooden pastery board?

CoveredInFlour's picture

How to wash/clean a wooden pastery board?

Hello! Please forgive me if this topic has been addressed, a search yielded nothing pertinent to my question.

I need to clean my wooden pastry board, the one I use to make bread. It's caked with old dried dough, bits of it will often come off and join the new dough as I'm kneading, which would be great for sourdough if it wasn't dried into hard bits.

I also use this board for cutting cookie dough, and as it's the time of the year for Christmas cookies I want to get it clean for the batches of cookies that my family expect.

I've tried using plain water then oiling it when I'm done, but the water makes a nice "gravy" that just seeps into the wood. I've used a metal bench scraper, but that scored scratches into the wood (which ticked me off no end). I'm at a loss as to how to get it really clean, or clean enough to suit my needs.

Any help is greatly appreciated!


dmsnyder's picture

Unless your board is even worse off than I imagine, this is what I'd do:

Let the board get really dry. Use a bench knife to scrape it well. This should remove all the dried flour. Then wipe it well with a damp (not wet) sponge. Let it dry again. Then oil it.

If you don't have a bench knife, something like a putty knife should work also. 


CoveredInFlour's picture

No, its pretty much standard bread dough mess. :D

I stopped using my metal bench knife as it scraped my board badly. I now use a plastic drywall mud knife, which isn't as good as a metal one, but it doesn't scrape the board.

What I did was essentially what you recommended. I used a damp wet cloth, wiped the board with it, and scraped the "gravy" off the board with the plastic drywall knife, making sure to clean out the measuring grooves burned into the board.

I repeated until it seemed clean, gave it one final wipe with the damp cloth and dried it with another cloth. Then I put about 3 tbs of olive oil on the board and spread it into every crevice, all over the top of the board. I'm letting that air dry and seep into the grain.

That's what I've done in the past, but I wasn't sure if there was a better way to clean it, such as using oil soap or just oil to clean the board.

THANK you so much for your response!

yy's picture

Make sure to let your board dry thoroughly before applying a protective oil finish. Then wipe it down with a food-safe mineral oil, or something labelled "butcher block oil"/"cutting board oil."

It's best not to use olive oil or any kind of cooking oil, because they can go rancid. mineral oil will not have this problem.

CoveredInFlour's picture

I'll look around again for food grade mineral oil, but last time I tried (6 years ago) no one had any. Hopefully the availability will have improved since then.


dmsnyder's picture

Is available in drug stores.


sphealey's picture

While I am uncertain about oiling cutting boards, I did get some food-grade mineral oil a few weeks ago to oil my knife handles.  It took me a few minutes to find it at the drugstore; it turned out to be in the laxative section.  Although it wasn't marked "food grade" specifically, I trust that since it is sold for internal consumption it is indeed food grade.


greydoodles's picture

Yep. That's the one. It is also packaged and sold for use with wooden cutting boards, boards, utensils, etc. I don't know if there is a cost difference, but there probably is with the specialty packaging being more expensive.

Jaydot's picture

Why would you want to oil a board?

I've had my hardwood board for years and I use it for everything. I scrape dough off with a plastic scraper, rinse it well in the hottest water I can handle, perhaps use one of those scrubbing sponges, wipe it down with microfibre cloth and leave it out to dry, parked on a folded piece of paper towel (otherwise the bottom stays wet for far too long). It's really squeaky clean when it's dry, and it looks lovely.

Right now I'm dog/housesitting in a house with the same board I have and this one has been oiled. Much harder to clean than my own board!

Paddlers2's picture

I had the same question a long way back, had already oiled my cutting boards, but the one I had reserved as a pastry board stayed dry until I found that Boos Block had a mineral oil/beeswax concoction (Boos Block Board Cream) that seemed better for a pastry board, so I tried one side of an older pastry board to see how it worked.   While I know that dry untreated wood is the most sanitary surface for cutting boards, I liked the results so much I now use it on both the pastry and cutting boards.   


yy's picture

quoted from

"Before using a new butcher block, season it to prevent staining and absorption of food odors and bacteria. Proper surface treatment is important to guard against germs and/or mold growth on both new and older boards. The wood surface needs an oil that can be repeatedly applied to fill the wood pores and repel food particles, liquids, and oils. Never use any vegetable or cooking oils to treat or finish a cutting surface, as in time the wood will reek of a rancid spoiled oil odor."

an oil finish will also protect the wood from moisture, which can cause warping.

alternatively, I have also used "salad bowl finish," a food-safe oil based finish that you can get from the hardware store, to protect my wood surfaces. If you dilute it with mineral spirits, it soaks into the wood, making it effectively waterproof without building up an unwanted layer of varnish. I do the same thing with my brotforms to protect them from moisture.

greydoodles's picture

The mineral oil also helps prevent cracking and splitting of the wood.

Jaydot's picture

My board is at least ten years old, and it's not warped, cracked or split.

Tight-grained hardwood will deal with bacteria by itself...

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

And an unoiled surface is easier to sand smooth when needed. 

If the wood is coming from a tropical country, like many of the discount boards are, they will indeed crack with winter's drying heat.  Oiling then prevents cracking while softening the surface.  One has to use one's own judgement.

yy's picture

I'm sure there are all kinds of legitimate methods for cutting board care. For me, my $120 hard maple board was a significant investment, so I am more than willing to shell out a few bucks on finishes to protect it. Maybe it doesn't make a difference at all, but it makes me feel good to massage oil into the wood.... it's therapeutic, kind of like kneading dough by hand or caressing a cat :-)

Jaydot's picture

Oh dear... I hope my beloved board doesn't feel neglected because it never gets a massage :-).
As you say: to each his own!

Chuck's picture

First, I'm greatly puzzled by your telling us that you tried to use a bench knife but it scored your work surface. Maybe there's a clue here. When I use my bench knife to clean my board (like in the picture below), it doesn't come anywhere near scoring the board. Can you by chance figure out what it is about your description that I've misinterpreted?

My bench knife is my standard tool of choice for starting cleanup. (A drywall knife seems like it would work too. But I'm really puzzled by why you're so subject to scores and I'm not...) I agree water isn't the place to start; in fact I never let water soak on my board. You shouldn't have to deal with "gravy".

When once in a while a bit of flour is stuck so badly my bench knife won't scrape it off, I resort to my tableware drawer. First I try a fork, with the bottom of the fork flat against the board so the fork can't score anything. I either use the blunt side to scrape smaller areas than my bench knife, or the tines to chip up a larger mass of gunk so most of it comes off. If that doesn't work, next I resort to a table knife, the smooth (not serrated) side of the blade against the board. Then the sharper (but not really sharp:-) edge of the blade will eventually scrape off the hardest spots; sometimes I have to work at really hard spots for several tens of seconds, but this always eventually gets them off. (If you occasionally have to press down really really hard, scrape with [not across] the wood grain.)

When the spots are as small as I can get them, barely perceptible to feeling (there may still be a dusting of flour all over the whole board), only then do I finish off by using a little water. I stand up the board in my sink and rinse it down with just bits of lukewarm (not hot) water in a scrunchee (not a scrubbing pad).

When the board is completely clean, oil it a whole lot. Get some sort of mineral oil suitable for ingestion. (Do not try to use any vegetable oil, including olive oil.) Put so much oil on the board it puddles up on the surface, then leave the board sitting out overnight for the oil to soak in. If it's dry in the morning, do it all over again with another dose of oil. Only when the board is mostly puddles the next morning, and you have to wipe it with a paper towel before picking it up, are you done. It's possible 3T might be enough  ...then again it's also possible 3T is not nearly enough.

Once the board is finally in shape, keep it that way. Clean all the spots off completely every time immediately after you use it, so it never gets anywhere close to being as much of a problem as it is now.

There's a whole thread (or two?) here on TFL about the more general issue of cleaning up flour. Although not specific to wooden work surfaces, you may find some of the suggestions there helpful.

(Contrary to experience with other things, do not use lots of hot soapy water with a scrubbing pad. Not hot water, because it will "cook" the flour and turn what started out as simple fairly soft spots into much harder problems. Not soap, because it may lift the oil out of the board, it may "dry out" the board, and it may impart "off" flavors to your next production. And not a scrubbing pad, because flour will clog it up and you won't be able to get it out no matter what - use something like a net ball or a piece of onion sack or a very coarse plastic cleaning pad.)

pmccool's picture

There are a couple of thoughts that come to mind after reading your description of the scoring you have experienced while using your bench knife.

1. The blade is dull or it isn't sharpened to the correct profile.  Thus it "chatters" across the dried dough on the board, allowing the corners to dig into the would as the blade twists in your hand.

2. An adjustment in your technique is required.

Lets start with the easy one.  A bench knife blade should not be sharpened to a knife edge, even if that sounds counterintuitive.  Instead, the blade should be held perpendicular to the abrasive surface while sharpening, producing a 90-degree edge on each side of the blade.  You can read a bit more about it in this thread.

Technique is a bit more difficult to describe.  When holding the knife at an angle to the work surface, as Chuck has pictured, the baker can use light to moderate pressure to push the blade along the grain of the wood.  The full width of the blade needs to stay in contact with the wood for the full length of the stroke to avoid gouging the surface.  Done properly, this results in a thin film of wood being cut from the surface, carrying with it the encrusted dough.  A 4-inch thick work table will last for years with this kind of treatment.  A 1-inch thick kneading board will obviously wear away faster. 

Using a properly sharpened bench knife with the proper technique, you can probably pick up everything on the surface without actually cutting into the wood if you clean up before the dough dries hard.


rayel's picture

Nice illustration Chuck. Paul hit on something that needs to be done. Sharpening that metal bench scraper is simple. It can be done with a sharpening steel or file. It is probably easier to mount the scraper in a vice, if you have one, between blocks of wood. Then with a metal file or your sharpening steel, stroke  at right angles to the blade. It doesnt take much to make it perfectly flat, and square. Not what you'd do to a knife meant for cutting purposes. When you scrape your board you'll find a side of your scraper that will take more material off, the other side less, so you can vary how much comes up. Try changing direction if your scraper chatters. Some wood eventually will come off with the stuck on dough, or pastry, which tells you your getting it really clean. I never oil my board, and have had it for years. It is made of maple, and I don't wet it. A damp cloth or paper towel followed by a dry towel or paper towel. I would not sandpaper it ever.

There is a neat way to get rid of scoring marks, or dents, and gouges. You can dampen the surface, and place a damp dishtowel or paper towel over it, and run your steam iron over it. It works like a charm, even any stains can be removed that way. The board must be impeccably free of pastry, or dried on dough, or oil. If the dent is now raised higher than the board, simply use your metal bench scraper to level it off.  Hope this helps,  Ray

EvaB's picture

in my high school cafeteria, and the boards there were white pine, and the cook never oiled them, they were scrubbed daily with ajax cleaning powder (bleached actually) and rinsed copiously with clear water, both hot and finally cold, this took quite some time, but they were clean, sanitary and had no problems with illness or smells.

For my own cutting board I scrub it with a white fibre cleaner, and rinse in hot water, it sits in the dish rack until dry. My pasty board which is a cut out of a melamine laminated counter top (3/4 inch plywood with plain old plastic surface counter stuff) is scraped off with the bench knife I finally found, and if it needs washing (very rarely) its washed with the same white scrubbie (of course these are changed out with some regularity) and rinsed with the sprayer in the sink, let to drain well and air dry.

I would never oil a board, even an expensive maple board, as its not as sanitary as the plain board, and why buy the expensive board if you aren't going to use it for whatever you need to use it for. I have a cutting board from WalMart that is around 10 years old, its a laminated butcher block style board with the extenions to put over the sink, and its going just fine, and I use it every day for everything from cutting meat on it, to cutting bread, or cakes or whatever.

I personally don't like the thought of mineral oil, having had to take it far to many times for various tests at hospitals. Just a quirk, I don't want anything that induces the trots on my cutting board.

mrfrost's picture

For care, use, and maintenance of his bench boards:

"NYB American  Alder Bench Boards

Your new NYB bench board is made from American alder, a renewable northern
hardwood related to birch. With the proper care and treatment, it will last
for years.

To use and maintain your NYB bench board in top condition:

1. Unwrap the board and wipe it down with a damp cloth to remove dust and
loose wood particles.

2. Use a soft cloth or paper towel to apply a generous coat of USP mineral
oil (available at your local drug/HBA store), to the top and sides of the
board. Never use vegetable oil or animal fats, as they will oxidize
and turn rancid over time.
Let the oil soak in for 20-30 minutes. Wipe
away any excess with a paper towel and apply a second coat. Repeat for
the other side.

3. Use a bench scraper to remove dried dough, taking care not to damage
the board. For stubborn material that scraping won't fully dislodge, wipe
or scour it gently away using cold water and a clean terry washcloth or
non-metallic scouring pad, such as a Scotch-Brite.

4. After use, air dry your board thoroughly and store it in a cool dry place.

5. To preserve its finish, generously recoat your board from time to time
with USP mineral oil."