Did you know some cutting board materials can harm your liver and kidneys? It’s true. That’s why non-toxic cutting boards are essential.
But here’s the big question…
How do you know which material to trust? With so many seemingly safe cutting boards hiding dirty secrets, it’s tough to find an answer.
For example, most of the “eco-friendly” cutting boards you see contain formaldehyde.
So, that’s why we wrote this guide. You’ll discover which materials to avoid and which keep your food pure.
Some may seem surprising, others counterintuitive.
By the end, you’ll master identifying the safest cutting boards. Use this information as guidance, or pick one of the top five boards at the end.
This way, you keep your family healthier, save time, and save cash on making the wrong choice.
Use the list below to skip around.
Let’s get started.
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6 Cutting Board Substances to Avoid – The Bad or Questionable
What are plastic cutting boards made of?
According to good ol’ Wikipedia, manufacturers shape plastic cutting boards from polyethylene, either standard PE or high-density.
Now, many view PE as a safer plastic (free of BPA). But, studies show polyethylene can leach DEHA – a hormone-disrupting plasticizer linked to liver damage.
Picture this scenario:
You pull a steaming hot, fatty roast from the oven and toss it on your old, scratched plastic cutting board to slice. That’s when it leaches.
Side note on poly granite cutting boards…
While I wouldn’t say poly granite cutting boards are “toxic,” they carry the same risk as plastic. They’re still resin-based but with crushed stone added to the mix.
Now, here’s the most significant health concern with plastic cutting boards…
Are plastic cutting boards safe for raw meat? The bacterial pitfalls
Knives cause the most trouble for plastic – especially with raw meat.
Since plastic doesn’t absorb moisture, it gets caught inside the blade’s cuts.
With the bacteria stuck near the cutting surface, it seeps up into your food…
Hello, cross-contamination. (Wood shines in this area, you’ll see why soon).
The bottom line – plastic cutting boards won’t kill you. Just avoid slicing deep gashes, sanitize the board, and use caution with certain foods. You’ll be fine.
But maybe you don’t want to bother with using caution. Understandable. That’s where our top picks below shine, so hang tight.
The problem with antibacterial cutting boards (SMH)
This whole concept backfires. It’s almost laughable. Almost. Here’s why…
Antibacterial cutting boards contain triclosan – also known as Microban. Of course, this stuff creeps into your food.
From there, animal studies show triclosan can disrupt your endocrine system.
Also, it contributes to cancer production and decreases cardiovascular functions, to name a few.
Now, here’s the real doozy.
Other research shows that triclosan creates superbugs – aka antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Talk about a plan backfiring.
Funeral home-worthy cutting boards (Melamine/ Epicurean)
Two seemingly non-toxic cutting boards contain formaldehyde, you know, the stuff in embalming fluid?
Let’s take a glimpse at each.
– Melamine bamboo cutting boards
As you know, bamboo is thin.
So, most manufacturers use a melamine-formaldehyde resin to bind bamboo cutting boards together.
Here’s the issue. Like plastic, hot and acidic foods on a scratched board can leach melamine.
And too much melamine may induce kidney infection or stones – according to the World Health Organization.
For this reason, you should avoid using any melamine product for eating. This includes melamine dinner plates.
Later you’ll find a safer, melamine-free bamboo option.
– Epicurean wood fiber cutting boards
Like plastic, epicurean cutting boards are lightweight, non-porous, dishwasher safe, and low maintenance.
Plus, epicurean comes from natural wood fiber.
Sounds perfect, right? Here’s the issue:
Manufacturers use phenolic binding resins to glue the thin wood sheets together. Guess what’s in there?
I sound like a broken record by now, I’m sure.
Toxic finishes – What they are and which to avoid
Cutting board finishes help keep wood and bamboo moisturized to prevent cracking over time. Plus, the oil fills in knife grooves, reducing moisture retention and bacteria.
But some finishes are toxic. So keep the following in mind…
Never treat a cutting board with unrefined, petroleum-based mineral oil. Or, chemical-based wood stains with acrylic or urethane binders.
According to the EWG, these finishes can damage your eyes, lungs, liver, and kidneys.
Later in the Care section, you’ll discover safer non-toxic cutting board oils.
2 Better Types of Cutting Boards (Safe, but with One Fatal Flaw)
You can argue that stone and glass make the most hygienic cutting board materials.
For one, they’re non-porous, so no concerns about bacteria absorption or warping.
Plus, they’re effortless to clean and maintain – neither glass nor stone needs oil.
But here’s the BIG problem…
Stone and glass will destroy your blade’s sharpness. Quick. And a dull knife can slip off the food and stab your flesh.
Another point, glass can shatter into hazardous shards under excessive force, like sawing through a tough piece of meat.
And, of course, dropping glass or stone from countertop height proves fatal.
So, although they’re non-toxic cutting boards, steer clear.
Instead, use glass and stone for kneading dough, decorating cookies, or serving snacks.
3 Best and Safest Cutting Board Materials – and what you need to know about each
Natural wood cutting boards and how absorbing bacteria keeps you safe
Thanks to its capillary-like grain structure, wood fights bacteria. Here’s how it works…
When you cut raw meat on wood cutting boards, the grain pulls fluid down and traps bacteria under the cutting surface. Then, it later dies – some studies show in as little as 3-10 minutes.
This benefit lessens the chance of cross-contamination and gives peace of mind.
Also, wood cutting boards are safe for knives and prevent dulling. They’re durable yet “soft” at the same time.
Plus, you can always resurface a mangled board with sandpaper later on.
Wood’s main downfall – it’s higher maintenance than the other types of cutting boards.
But, keep this in mind…
If you don’t choose the right wood type, you won’t reap the above benefits. Pay attention to the following:
– End-grain vs. edge-grain… Which do I Choose? Here’s the difference:
End-grain Cutting Boards
End-grain cutting boards have the best antibacterial properties. Plus, it’s the most knife-friendly cutting board type – thanks to its checkerboard pattern of timber ends.
Since the wood fibers face vertically, blades slip between the grain. Then over time, the grains move back together and self-heal!
This design also sucks down and traps bacteria better than edge-grain boards.
As for downfalls, these cost more than edge-grain. Plus, they soak up moisture easier – needing frequent upkeep to prevent warping.
Edge-grain Cutting Boards
Edge-grain cutting boards have a simpler construction than end-grain – parallel wooden boards fused long ways. As a result, these tend to be the more affordable option.
The hidden grains need less upkeep than the end-grains since the structure repels moisture.
But, the rigid surface will dull blades easier. Also, edge-grain boards won’t self-heal as effectively, which means a shorter lifespan.
– Best types of wood for cutting boards
- Maple: Considered the best hardwood for cutting boards. Maple is resilient, and its tiny pores block moisture, bacteria, and stains. But, you must condition it every month or two.
- Walnut: Its softer texture protects your knife blade even better than maple. Oil walnut boards every month or two.
- Beech: Offers excellent scratch resistance, second to maple. Demands oil each month.
- Teak: A tropical hardwood, it retains oil well, which prevents warping and needs less upkeep. About every 3-6 months. But, its high silica content dulls knives faster than other hardwoods.
Cutting board wood types to avoid…
While hard wood makes the best cutting boards – duck those softwoods like pine, fir, and cedar.
Also, avoid oak and ash. Although hard, their large, open-grain pores soak up moisture like a sponge.
Natural rubber cutting boards (The busy night’s acquaintance)
Rubber makes for a low-maintenance, non-toxic, and non-plastic cutting board material.
Instead of petroleum, natural rubber stems from tree latex.
This material has several unique benefits:
First, its soft texture. Rubber shields your knife blade better than other cutting surfaces.
Second, rubber grips your countertop to prevent hazardous sliding mid-cut.
Third, rubber doesn’t crack, absorb liquids or warp. And the best part – no need for conditioning like wood and bamboo. A quick hand wash does the trick – but avoid the dishwasher.
Last, rubber cutting boards last for years. If the surface becomes riddled with slices, resurface it with sandpaper.
Tradeoffs: Not friendly for latex allergies. Not as stylish as wood.
Formaldehyde-free Bamboo Cutting Boards (Budget-friendly)
Formaldehyde-free bamboo is scarce – but still exists. When comparing bamboo vs. wood cutting boards, the former has a few pros and cons…
First, bamboo surfaces absorb less moisture than hardwood. It’s less likely to warp and hold bacteria. But, it still demands conditioning and hand-washing only. Forget the dishwasher.
Also, bamboo can make some of the best cutting boards for raw meat. Thanks to its hard surface, bamboo resists deep cuts. But there’s a tradeoff here, too.
Last, bamboo can fully mature in 3-6 years. Yet, trees can take 20-30 years. So, it’s a more sustainable cutting board material and costs less than wood.
As for tradeoffs, here are the top two:
Because of its hardness, bamboo cutting boards dull blades faster than wood and rubber. Also, bamboo cutting boards can harbor bacteria in the crevices.
4 Questions to Ask Before Choosing the Best Non-toxic Cutting Board for Your Kitchen
- What’s my budget? Hardwood costs the most.
- How strong am I? Bamboo weighs the least.
- How much time do I have for maintenance? Wood and bamboo need special treatment. Rubber doesn’t.
- How well do I want to protect my knife blade? Wood and rubber protect your knife better than bamboo.
If you ask yourself these questions, you’ll know whether to choose either bamboo or solid wood cutting boards with no toxic glue. Or natural rubber.
So, with that, let’s get into the cutting board reviews!
Top 5 Safest, Eco-friendly Cutting Board Picks Available
Phew, still here? Good! Now let’s dive into our review of the top five non-toxic, eco-friendly cutting boards.
First, you’ll see three all-natural wood cutting boards (two end-grain, one edge). Then, one natural rubber board. And finally, one organic bamboo cutting board (no melamine).
We meticulously researched these boards based on the criteria above – this way, you can have total confidence in your choice.
Known for their unrivaled quality, John Boos crafts this board right in Illinois, USA, (and has since 1887) from sustainably sourced, hard rock maple. Many consider this to be the best antibacterial cutting board wood.
Slice meats on the deep-grooved side without annoying spillovers…
Then, flip the board over to its flat side to slice veggies without cross-contamination.
With this board, you’ll keep your family healthy and support a domestic business – a double win!
And if you have any trouble, John Boo’s full-year warranty has you covered.
- NSF-certified hard rock maple – considered the best non-toxic wood cutting board type. Formaldehyde-free and satisfying to use and look at, as many customers explain.
- Absorbs less moisture than end-grain, so more forgiving and less likely to warp if you forget to oil (because hey, that happens).
- Arrives pre-seasoned with food-grade mineral oil and beeswax – get slicing immediately.
- Built-in, practical hand grips on each side for easy lifting, moving and cleaning. Plus, smooth beveled edges to prevent nicks.
- Handy reversible design – ¼” juice groove on one side for catching meat juice, and convenient flat side for slicing veggies to prevent contamination. You can also use it as a serving tray for guests.
- Measures 20x15x1.5” – weighs 11.9lbs. Enough room to prep/stage food, yet not too bulky for tight kitchen space.
- 1-year warranty and made in the USA.
Drawbacks: Edge-grain cutting boards can split more easily than end-grain if not adequately oiled. You’ll notice some reviewers mention this. So keep in mind this board requires some extra care.
Also, there’s no bottom grip on this board, so a non-slip mat is a good idea. (There’s one below).
Lower-priced alternative: Here’s a comparable edge-grain board with a solid 4.7-star rating from Sonder’s LA. It’s a bit more affordable, without losing much—if any—quality.
John Boos meticulously crafts this next board from the same trusted northern maple. But this time, with a checkerboard end-grain build to protect your blade and reduce bacteria.
Compared to other end-grain boards, John Boo’s has a thicker, more robust construction.
It resists warping, smiles at abuse, and stretches your dollar with a longer lifespan. Plus, this board’s beefy size resists sliding during extra rough use.
Keep in mind, there’s no juice groove. But, each side mirrors the other – simplifying meal prep.
Reserve one side for slicing meat and seafood, then flip the board to chop veggies.
Once again, John Boos covers you with a 1-year warranty.
- Formaldehyde-free, sustainably sourced hard rock maple with a stylish mix of dark and light wood ends. Safe, and a pleasure to look at, use, and serve on.
- Resilient end-grain design protects your knife blade and remains unscathed from heavy use, reducing bacteria.
- Comes pre-seasoned and ready to use with food-grade mineral oil and beeswax.
- Convenient, built-in handles to grab, flip, wash, and serve without dropping.
- Reversible to avoid cross-contamination and cut clutter on wielding separate boards.
- Measures 20x15x2.25” – weighs 19.6lbs. Plenty of prep space and thick/ sturdy enough to stay put and prevent dangerous slips while you slice.
- 1-year warranty and made in the USA.
Drawbacks: There’s no bottom grip, yet the big size helps it stay put. But, that big size (19.6lbs) may be too bulky for some to maneuver.
Also, this board is pricey—$200+—so you may find the board from Sonder’s LA below more manageable.
Lower-priced alternative: Here’s a similar 20″ x 15″ end-grain board that’s comparable and priced much lower.
Want to buy elsewhere? Visit Etsy here for a great selection of maple end-grain boards, most of which are US-made.
Also, a few sellers allow you to customize your board (i.e., add non-slip feet, finger grips, pick the size, engrave someone’s name, etc.).
Sonder LA’s black walnut board with striking chocolate color looks almost too good to use. But you’ll love doing so.
With walnut’s tough yet gentle density, you’ll love how it absorbs the shock from chopping.
The blade bounces right off the surface unharmed with a soft and smooth *clack*. Plus, the checkerboard end-grain design soaks up and kills bacteria.
The best thing about this non-toxic cutting board?
Its unique reversible design!
First, there’s a flat carving side with a deep juice groove to carve meat without mess…
Then, flip the board over to a flat surface and three built-in compartments towards the bottom. Dice up garlic and herbs, then slide the chopped bits into the pockets, helping you stage ingredients.
- Formaldehyde-free, sustainably sourced black walnut with an all-natural, deep brown color. You’ll be proud to show this piece off.
- Softer than maple, plus an end-grain design. Not only long-lasting, but extra gentle on your prized knives.
- Comes pre-seasoned with multiple coats of food-grade mineral oil, so you don’t open the box to a warped board.
- Built-in handles for no-fuss flipping, cleaning, and serving.
- Deep juice grooves on one side – holds 3.5oz of liquid, eliminating shallow cavity spillovers.
- Unique compartment design on the flip side with dozens of uses. Use it for chopping/ holding diced herbs during prep or to entertain. Pack in meats, cheese, nuts, crackers, olives, and more.
- The removable rubber feet grip slick countertops, absorb shock, and protect the counter’s finish.
- Measures 17x13x1.5″ – weighs 8lbs. A universal size, large enough for any prep, yet accommodates small countertops.
- 1-year warranty and made in the USA by a small, family-owned business.
Drawbacks: Some complaints that the surface near the juice groove is rough and could use further sanding. This experience seems to be uncommon, though.
Don’t want to bother with maintaining a wooden cutting board after a busy day at work?
Choose Notrax’s natural rubber board!
Notrax uses only 100% natural, high-density rubber – free from synthetics, dyes, and adhesives. Plus, it’s NSF-certified for safety.
You can use both ends of the reversible board to keep raw meats and produce separated – avoiding contamination.
Plus, this board grips wet countertops like no other and will never scuff the surface.
- All-natural, high-density rubber, free of synthetics and glue. No moisture absorption or chemical leaching, plus it never needs oil!
- Soft enough to protect high-end blades even better than wood, yet sturdy enough to transport food without bending.
- Grips the counter and remains in place while you chop and slice, preventing hazardous slipping.
- Reversible design – use one side for raw meat, poultry, and fish, then flip the board for veggies.
- Measures 12x18x0.5″ – weighs about 5lbs. Lighter weight and easier to maneuver and store than thick wooden boards.
- 30-day warranty and crafted in the USA
Drawbacks: The rubber shows cuts easier than wood or bamboo, so you may need to resurface it more often.
Also, you may notice a rubbery smell at first, which is normal and not a cause for concern. Before first use, I recommend washing the board.
Greener Chef uses 100% organic Moso bamboo to craft its non-toxic cutting board.
Unlike other choices, this board contains formaldehyde-free adhesive.
The best thing about this board – it’s cheaper than wood, yet easier to maintain.
You can slice meat on the groove side without making a mess…
Then, flip the board for a flat surface to dice onions or garlic, then slide the pieces off without getting stuck in the groove.
The best part: Greener Chef hooks you up with a lifetime warranty!
- Made from 100% organic Moso bamboo, free of formaldehyde-based adhesives.
- Less moisture absorption and warping than wood, so bamboo cutting boards are good for busy bees. They’re less maintenance-heavy.
- Reversible design – one side with juice grooves (holds 1oz of liquid). And a flat side for chopping herbs or serving snacks.
- Measures 18×12.5×0.7″ – weighs 3lbs. Lighter and easier to maneuver/ store than the previous cutting boards. But keep in mind, the lighter weight slides easier – so consider the mat below.
- Lifetime warranty and made in China – bamboo’s native region.
Drawbacks: While easier to maintain than wood, the bamboo can still splinter if it’s not oiled every 2-3 months.
Also, the board can sometimes splinter if it’s not oiled enough before the first wash. Again, this experience seems uncommon.
Want to buy elsewhere? Check out this comparable cutting board from Bambu on Earthhero.
It’s made from 100% organic bamboo strands and free from formaldehyde glue. Plus, it ships with 100% offset carbon emissions and recyclable packaging.
And don’t forget this crucial accessory! A non-slip cutting board mat
Most wood and bamboo cutting boards can slide around.
If you’re doing heavy prep and the board slips, you might slice your hand.
So, lock your cutting board into place with San Jamar’s textured, non-slip plastic mat – NSF-certified for safety.
Not just for meal prep, but for bakers too. The mat keeps your board stable as you knead dough.
Plus, this mat protects your countertops, yet it’s more stable than using a wet towel.
It measures 18x13x1/16” and weighs an airy 13.9oz. Easy to store and dishwasher-safe, thanks to the non-porous material.
Here’s How to Clean and Maintain Wood with Non-toxic Cutting Board Oils
How to wash a wooden cutting board
Wooden cutting boards cannot go in the dishwasher.
Instead, wash with soap and water, giving marked-up areas extra attention. Then, dry immediately.
You can also rinse with bleach or vinegar.
The best method – wipe your board clean with lemon juice only. You can also scrub with coarse salt for a deeper clean.
After cleaning and drying, apply one of the following non-toxic cutting board oils:
- *Pure tung oil – pressed seeds from the China tung tree.
- *Raw linseed oil – pressed flax seeds.
- *Walnut oil – walnut tree’s pressed nuts.
- Shellac – Asian lac bug secretions.
- Beeswax – honey bees.
- Carnauba wax – Brazilian palm tree.
- Fractionated coconut oil – refined coconut oil that doesn’t go bad.
- Food-grade mineral oil – highly-refined, petroleum-based oil. Non-toxic, odorless, and flavorless.
*Avoid if you have a nut or seed allergy.
When you first get your wooden cutting board, oil it after each use for the first month or two.
Then, condition your board anywhere from 2x per year to every 3-4 weeks. Frequency depends on the type of hardwood and your habits.
A quick solution is John Boo’s maintenance kit…
In it, you get a bottle of food-grade mineral oil for conditioning the board and a tub of cream to seal the surface after oiling – made from a beeswax/ oil blend.
Side note: Avoid olive, corn, vegetable, and canola oils. Food-based oils will rot fast and make your cutting board stink.
Congrats! Now you’re a cutting board pro.
You saw which materials to avoid and why.
After that, the “safer” cutting boards to avoid for your knife’s sake.
And finally, the best and safest non-toxic cutting boards to boost your health (and fun) in the kitchen.
So grab your new board and get chopping with peace of mind today!
P.S. Safe cutting boards are pointless if you toss your food in the wrong cookware right after…
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