How Often Should You Replace Your Plastic Cutting Boards?

The answer is way more than you think

scraping corn off of a plastic cutting board into a bowl

The Spruce Eats / Donna Currie

Almost everyone has a favorite cutting board—the one that doesn’t slide, is the perfect size, and easy to clean. But like all things, cutting boards don’t last forever. Here’s when you should replace your plastic cutting boards, according to the experts.

The Tell-Tale Sign To Replace Your Plastic Cutting Board

All cutting boards eventually wear out, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The agency says once cutting boards are very worn or have grooves that are difficult to clean, they should no longer be used.

“Plastic cutting boards are perfectly safe as long as they are sanitized properly,” says Zahra Mohammad, Ph.D., a food microbiology and safety expert with the University of Houston and the American Society for Microbiology. Mohammad led several research projects on the possibility of microorganisms being spread from hands, kitchen tools, and foods to cutting boards, and vice versa. In the course of these studies (which are currently under peer review) it was found that the transfer rate of salmonella, E. coli, listeria, and staphylococcus in the kitchen to be a staggering 30% or more.

“Over time [cutting boards] can develop scratches or grooves and they become difficult to clean,” says Mohammad. “At that point, they would harbor bacteria and mold, which then spread to your food. So, you need to replace them when you see they are not easily cleaned.”

Simply put: when those cut marks on your plastic cutting board still appear dark and dirty, despite a good wash, it’s time to invest in a new board.

Choosing and Using Cutting Boards

Although all cutting boards can harbor germs, plastic ones are better than their wooden counterparts because they are nonporous. That makes them especially safer to use with raw meat.

For even better hygiene, you should have separate cutting boards for different foods in your kitchen. The USDA suggests using one for fresh produce and bread and a different one for raw meat, poultry, and seafood. That can help prevent bacteria from raw meat getting spread to a food that doesn’t need to be cooked. Buying different colored boards can help you remember which is which, like using a green one for veggies and a red one for meat.

How to Clean Plastic Cutting Boards

You should wash cutting boards with hot, soapy water after each time you use them. Rinse until water runs clear and then air dry or use paper towels to pat them dry. Plastic cutting boards can also be cleaned in the dishwasher.

If the cutting board was used for uncooked fish, meat, or poultry, the American Cleaning Institute recommends sanitizing it with a bleach solution. Mix 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per 1 gallon of water. Flood the surface of the board, allowing the liquid to sit for several minutes and then rinse and dry.

close up of the corner of a plastic cutting board

The Spruce Eats / Donna Currie

The Bottom Line

Good cleaning can help extend the life of plastic cutting boards, but you still need to replace them regularly. Jessica Ek, spokesperson for the American Cleaning Institute, says plastic cutting boards should last at least a year, and maybe up to five years, depending on how often you use them.