Butcher block countertops are an economical, attractive, and practical choice for the kitchen. But, as with any material you choose for your counters, wooden butcher blocks need to be specially cared for in order to preserve their quality and beauty. Regular TLC can make all the difference in the look and functionality of a butcher block for years to come. Here, a few of our best tips for caring for these kitchen classics.
Wipe up spills quickly. Butcher block countertops aren’t sealed with the same sorts of water-resistant finishes as stone or laminate countertop materials, and are prone to quick staining from spills. The easiest way to prevent stains from happening? Simply wipe up spills as they occur, and wipe down the countertop with a clean, damp cloth after each use.
Use the proper cleaners. Typical kitchen cleaners aren’t suitable for butcher blocks. Their harsh chemicals can dry out the wood and even penetrate its surface, creating the possibility that whatever you prepare on the counter next might wind up tasting a bit like 409. To keep counters clean and sanitary, try natural cleaners like lemon water or vinegar, or use a wet cloth with mild soap.
Condition regularly. To create a food-safe seal for your countertops and to keep them from drying out and splintering, it’s important to regularly treat them with a wood conditioner or mineral or walnut oil (olive oil and vegetable oils should not be used for this purpose) every 2-3 months, or as needed. For mineral or walnut oils, apply the oil to a clean surface with a rag, let it sit for 15-20 minutes, and wipe off any extra with a clean cloth. Then, repeat the process once more. Wood conditioners require a single application, but certain brans may recommend sanding the surface of the block first.
Refinish every so often. One of the best parts about butcher block countertops is that, even if you let the occasional spill sit for too long, or if your knife marks begin to scar the surface, the wood can easily be refinished to look like new. Simply scrape off any stuck food or residue and sand the entire block down with fine grade sandpaper until nicks are smooth and stains have vanished. Then, apply oil or wood conditioner as you normally would.