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Cleaning Wooden Utensils

By Cook's Illustrated Published May 2010

Wooden utensils shouldn't go in the dishwasher. Fortunately, they don't need to.

We love wooden spoons, but because of their tendency to retain odors and transfer flavors, a hint of yesterday’s French onion soup can end up in today’s beurre blanc. Since it isn’t advisable to put wooden utensils in the dishwasher, what’s the best way to remove odors?

To find out, we stood six brand-new wooden spoons in a container of freshly chopped raw onions for 30 minutes, rinsed them with water, then cleaned them with the following substances: dish detergent and water, vinegar and water, bleach and water, a lemon dipped in salt, a tablespoon of baking soda mixed with a teaspoon of water, and more plain water as a control.

The only spoon that our panel of sniffers deemed odor-free was the one scrubbed with baking soda. Here’s why: Odors left behind in the porous surface of a wooden spoon are often caused by weak organic acids. Baking soda neutralizes such acids, eliminating their odor. Furthermore, since baking soda is water soluble, it is drawn into the wood along with the moisture in the paste, thus working its magic as far as the water is able to penetrate.