There’s no denying it – butcher block counters make a kitchen look rich and warm. They were one of the reasons why we fell in love with the first house that we bought – I mean, what a charming kitchen, am I right?
However, we soon learned that butcher block counter tops require quite a bit of love and attention to keep them looking beautiful and – most importantly – healthy! Without careful attention to what’s sitting on the counter and regular oiling of the wood, you’ll find your wooden counters getting dried, cracked, and mildew spots.
If you’re just installing butcher block counter tops, you might be tempted to you stain and seal the wood to get that rich colour and avoid the work of oiling. However, it may surprise you to know that most butcher block counter tops get that rich look simply by regular oiling, which draws out the deeper colours! Also, it’s not generally recommended to varnish or shellac your wooden counters because it’s easy for the finish to flake off with constant use, and once you have a scratch in the finish, moisture can seep into the wood and turn black with mildew. (Trust me – we’re renting a house right now that has the same counter tops that left behind, but someone had sealed them with varnish and, as careful as we’ve been with them, we have mildew spots all over the counter. What a shame.)
Using oil to seal wood counter tops keeps them from drying out and cracking, and it also works to repel all liquids and oils, minimizing staining & mildew spots.
Anyhow, I’ll admit that when we moved in, we had no idea how to oil butcher block countertops, but it wasn’t a tough process to learn. The most important part is the oil that you purchase. What you want to look for is a “Food-Grade” mineral oil – we used a food-grade linseed oil. You don’t need a giant bottle of it because you typically only use a few tablespoons every time you oil, and after the initial priming of the wood you should only have to oil once ever month or so. You should be able to find some at a drug store, a WalMart, a restaurant supply store, or even some home improvement stores.
What you need to oil your wooden butcher block counter tops:
- food-grade mineral oil
- a scrap rag / part of an old t-shirt / old washcloth
- a zip lock bag for storage
How to oil butcher bock counter tops:
- Drizzle about a teaspoon of oil on one end of the counter and rub it into the wood and repeat in 1-2′ sections of the counter. If it’s been a while since the counter has been oiled, wait for 1-2 hours and repeat the oiling once or twice. (You can tell that the wood needs more oil if it soaks up the oil immediately and looks dry again.)
2. Once the counter top remains looking wet after oil has sat for an hour or so, use a paper towel to soak up the excess oil.
When we were getting ready to sell our house last spring, we realized that we had neglected the oiling of our counters for a while and it took about 6 oilings in 24 hours to get our counters back into shape. However, once we had done that, our counters were water repellent again and back to their bright, rich colour.
If you want to avoid the 24 hour marathon oilings, the best thing to do is feed your butcher block counter tops once a month – it’s easy and quick, and it also gives you an excuse to clear the counter clutter on a ‘regular’ basis, too!
Would you put wooden counter tops in your kitchen even if it meant constant work? Do you have them, and do you put in the time?