Cutting boards are the workhorses of your kitchen, but they are also a potential breeding ground for bacteria. And while you probably use them every day, you may not think twice about keeping them in top shape and germ free.

One of the first questions you may have is whether plastic is better than wood for resisting contamination by harmful bacteria that can be in raw food.

“Recent research actually suggests that neither one is more likely to harbour dangerous bacteria like salmonella,” said Paul Hope, Consumer Reports home editor.

To avoid contamination, don’t use the same board for cutting bread, fruit and veggies, as you do for cutting up raw meat, fish and poultry.

And after every use, even if it’s just cutting bread, wash the board in hot, soapy water, rinse with clean water and dry.

“Plastic cutting boards are really easy to care for - you can scrub them down in the sink, or pop them right in the dishwasher,” explained Hope.

But wood boards need a bit more attention. Don’t soak them in water or they might warp when they dry. Protect the wood with a food-grade mineral oil and then rub in a beeswax-based cream to reduce the absorption of liquids.

If, despite all your efforts, your wood board still smells of the food you’ve cut on it, eliminate odours by rubbing it with lemon and salt. Then rinse and pat dry.

Every few months, wash all types of cutting boards with a solution of one tablespoon of bleach to a gallon of water to sanitize. Give a final rinse with water and dry thoroughly. Store upright to facilitate airflow, and you’re done.

And if your cutting board is looking beaten up, Consumer Reports says to replace the board.