Butcher block countertops help create a warm and inviting atmosphere in any kitchen. Butcher block countertops are available in a variety of wood types such maple, oak, walnut, and cherry.
You also have choices as to the construction. You can choose from end grain where small square pieces are lined up with their “ends” exposed, edge gain where the boards are laid parallel to expose their edges, or blended where various lengths are joined together in a random pattern.
An advantage to butcher block countertops is that wood is softer than stone, so if a slippery glass or dish jumps out of your hands it is less likely to break if it lands on a butcher block countertop than a stone countertop. The downside to wood being softer is that it is easier to scratch or nick.
Although they are relatively easy to care for on a daily basis, sealing this type of countertop is important to maintaining its beauty. An unsealed surface will invite stains to set in. An unsealed butcher block countertop is also susceptible to drying out. Popular sealing options include varnish and oil.
Varnished vs. Oiled
Whether to varnish or oil your butcher block countertop can depend on what you’re going to do. In food preparation areas, oiling with a food grade oil is the best option. In dining areas, it’s probably better to apply varnish as oil could transfer to fabrics such as place mats, table linens, and clothes.
Varnished butcher blocks are good at warding off stains but scratch fairly easily so if you have a varnished butcher block countertop, don’t cut directly on the surface. Use a cutting board. You also shouldn’t place hot cookware directly on it because the heat could melt the varnish. Use a trivet or hot pad beneath all heat-generating countertop appliances.
You can cut on an oiled butcher block countertop without dulling your knives like other types of countertop surfaces will. It is recommended, though, that you not cut raw meat or poultry on a butcher block countertop. Instead, use a plastic cutting board to protect the countertop from contamination. Try not to favor one spot to do all your food prep, as the material will wear unevenly.
You’ll also want to be careful about putting hot pots and pans on an oiled butcher block countertop. Even though they are heat-resistant, it’s possible that a hot pot or pan could burn or crack the wood. It’s always best to use a trivet or hot pad to place hot cookware on.
Some common items for cleaning a butcher block countertop include:
- Mild soap and water
- Baking soda
- Mineral oil
- Fine Grit Sandpaper
- Clean rag
Whether your butcher block is varnished or oiled, cleaning is fairly easy.
- If you are short on time simply wipe down the counter with a damp clean rag and then use a dry towel to remove any excess moisture.
- Use dish soap and water for a more thorough cleaning. This will remove larger spills and wipe away stubborn food particles.
- Always be careful to wipe the countertop afterwards with a clean and damp rag to remove any lingering soap. Use a dry rag or paper towel to dry the countertop after cleaning, or you can leave it to dry on its own.
- Be careful with spills or foods that leave behind discoloration or stains. Wipe this up as soon as possible to prevent spills soaking into the wood.
- To sanitize, (this is especially important if you cut up food on an oiled butcher block), use a solution of 1 teaspoon of bleach in 1 quart of water. You could also use a solution of vinegar and water to disinfect the surface.
Wipe away potential stains before they absorb into the wood, especially If your butcher block doesn’t have several layers of oil.
To remove a stain, try scrubbing lemon juice and salt into the countertop. First, sprinkle salt on the area. Cut a lemon in half and squeeze a little bit of the juice on the area before rubbing the salt into the butcher block using the lemon half to remove the stain. Wipe down the area with a damp rag to remove the salt and lemon juice after the stain is gone.
For deeper stains, sprinkle a layer of baking soda. Rub the baking soda into the countertop using a damp rag. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes. Apply another layer of baking soda if needed and repeat. Wipe the baking soda off of the counter using a clean, damp cloth.
You can also sand the butcher block with fine grit sandpaper to get rid of the worst stains and then add a protective layer of oil. Always sand with the wood grain to avoid tearing the wood fibers.
For stains in varnished butcher block, use light sandpaper to buff it out. Depending on how deep the stain is and how far you sand down, you may need to varnish the surface again.
A varnished butcher block countertop doesn’t need to be refinished unless it becomes worn or otherwise damaged. If the varnish finish does become damaged, refinishing generally involves sanding down to bare wood and recoating with multiple coats of polyurethane. There are a number of excellent tutorials on YouTube that give you step-by-step instructions.
To protect an oiled butcher block countertop, re-oil it at least once a month. Never use cooking oil to treat butcher block because it can become rancid and damage the wood.
There are a number of different types of food-grade oil commercially available including mineral oils, walnut oils, coconut-based oils, and others. The type of oil you use is less important than making sure that it’s food grade oil. Apply an even coating of food-grade oil, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Usually, you would let it penetrate overnight, then wipe off any excess. This will help protect it from warping or cracking.
Some of the most important items in your kitchen are your major appliances. For the very best in appliance repair and maintenance, you can count on C&W Appliance Service. Get in touch with us at (855) 358-1496 or submit our online service request form.