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When it comes to storing kitchen knives, the wooden knife block often reigns supreme. As the preferred safe storage option for chefs ranging from professionals to at-home cooks, the knife block can be found in kitchens around the world.
Despite its versatility, utility and overall ease of use, many chefs often question whether or not wooden knife blocks are sanitary.
As a conscientious chef, you know all too well the potential dangers of inadvertent food poisoning and cross-contamination of bacteria and other pathogens when preparing meals.
In this guide we tackle the question, “Are Wooden Knife Blocks Sanitary”, giving you an inside scoop on this useful knife storage option, and what you can do to keep your own knife block bacteria-free.
Wooden Knife Blocks: The Often-Neglected Kitchen Item that Needs Cleaning ASAP!
Has it been a while since you’ve cleaned your knife block? Your dinner guests might be shocked to learn that for many cooks, the block housing their precious kitchen knives has NEVER been cleaned.
In fact, the kitchen knife block is one of the most forgotten about items to receive any type of maintenance, cleaning or disinfection.
But is the knife block itself sanitary? Well, that depends…
What is Your Kitchen Block Made of (hint, it matters)
The Danger of Wood Kitchen Blocks
Wood kitchen blocks are often a favorite among discerning chefs who want something aesthetic to house their blades. Yet lurking within these sightly pieces of culinary design can be dangerous bacteria waiting to infect you and your next dish.
Hardwoods, such as maple, tend to be fine-grained. This texture allows for bacteria to become trapped in micro crevices where it can propagate and fester. Wood can also be more prone to mold, mildew and even algae growth.
The worst part…you can’t really SEE what is lurking down in the thin dark slats where your knives are housed (yikes).
The Danger of Plastic Kitchen Blocks
Turns out, some studies, such as that from UC Davis researcher Dean Cliver (considered to be the definitive expert on cutting board food safety) found that plastic was not much safer than wood. However, due to the added possibility of foodborne illnesses such as salmonella and e. coli, Cliver recommends using plastic cutting boards and knife blocks for those blades used on meats.
The Solution: Deep Clean Your Knife Block
We all know how dangerous bacteria can be in food, from minor stomach discomfort to full out food-poisoning. Luckily, keeping your knife block free from germs isn’t as challenging as you might have guessed. Sure, it's one more thing on your never-ending ‘to-do’ list, but it's well worth the effort.
How To Deep Clean Your Knife Block
Before We Get Started, Here’s What You’ll Need to Have On Hand:
- Hot water (not boiling)
- Antibacterial soap
- A clean cloth
- Pipe cleaners
- Spray bottle
Step 1 – Empty It
Carefully remove each knife from the block, setting them on a flat surface where they will be safe.
P.S. This is a great time to give each of your knives a good cleaning. After all, what sense does it make to put unclean knives back into a freshly sanitized and cleaned knife block?
Step 2 – Shake it Like a Polaroid Picture
For this step, you’ll need to be by the sink. Flip the block upside down and give it a good shake. Really put some oomph into it. This will remove any loose debris such as dried specs of food and crumbs.
Step 3 – Remember That Time You Went Bleach Blond? This is different
Add about 1 teaspoon of regular strength bleach to 4 cups of warm-hot water. This will make up the base of your cleaning solution and will have enough antibacterial power to kill off any germs without damaging your knife block.
TIP: Use gloves. The bleach (even when diluted) can be irritating to your skin.
Step 4 – Scrub a Dub Dub
Skip the ‘men in a tub’ part of that line and get right down to the dirty work. Use your sponge and bleach water solution to give the exterior of your block a good scrub and wipe down.
Step 5 – Hose it down
For this step, you can use your bleach water solution if necessary, but we prefer a solution of distilled vinegar. For this step, use the spray bottle (if you have one) and coat the inside of each knife slat with distilled vinegar. Vinegar will act as a natural antibacterial, and its food-safe.
Once you’ve sprayed each knife slot and coated it with vinegar, let it sit for between 3-5 minutes. After that, rinse the block and each slot with warm water and place it upside down on a clean dry towel to dry.
IMPORTANT: Never put damp or dirty knives back into the knife block. Similarly, never put knives back into the knife block before it has completely dried. Need to dry it faster? Consider a hairdryer or even a fan. Its unconventional, but it works.
So, Are Wooden Knife Blocks Sanitary?
They can be, with the right maintenance and care. It doesn’t take much, but scheduled cleaning every month can keep your wooden knife blocks sanitary and free from dangerous bacteria. It can also help maintain the edge of your knife blades.