Maintaining Butcher Block Countertops

When we renovated the kitchen, we researched many countertop options before we finally agreed that unsealed butcher block counters would infuse some warmth into our modern space.  Even now, aside from our harvest table, it's probably one of the most complimented features of our home. 

Why do we like it so much?  It has a beautiful natural finish and when it's been oiled recently, you see real depth in the grain and it almost glows.  Thea, my real estate photographer captured it beautifully for our listing (below.)

Fabulous, right?  I love that the wood picks up the warm tones in our copper pots displayed above the cupboards on the right.  People often ask about the maintenance required and (after the first month or so) it's much easier than people think.   

In the beginning, we oiled them all the time.  Maybe every other day because they were so dry by the time we installed them.  This was honestly really annoying because it would take a few days for all the oil to soak in (we oiled heavily!)  so we had to keep moving our small appliances into the dining room. 

That lasted about a month and now we probably give them a good oil (including moving everything into the dining room) every few months and a once a week touch-up with just a little oil on a cloth and no appliance moving necessary since I just work around them.  It's really not too bad and they're so pretty that you kind of want to take care of them.  Sure, we could have gone with sealed wood but it just doesn't have the same look and feel.

What type of oil do we use?
  • People swear by Tung Oil although we have never tried it.
  • We used (and loved) Wood and Bamboo Oil for years until we discovered a cheaper and more readily available option...
  • We read that any Mineral Oil will work so we started improvising with Baby Oil.  They say necessity is the mother of all invention and we were rushing around one evening (we had a showing the next day) to find a store still open that carried wood oil.  It was late and most stores were closed but I read that baby oil could serve as a substitute so Corey picked some up at Shopper's Drug Mart.  We like to add a couple of drops of lemon (our lemons are phony-baloney staging props so we use bottled lemon juice instead.) and we use an old cloth to rub it on the counter.  We find that the lemon gives it a fresh scent and it also has antibacterial properties.

Here are some tips:
  • Don't cut directly on the wood.  We don't cut on ours and it has remained beautiful.  Some people like the look of counters that have a little extra "character" but I find there are more people on our side of the fence.  It's also easier to keep the surface clean when it's smooth and free of nicks. 
  • Fine sandpaper will buff out most stains but you will want to catch anything wet before it soaks in past the first layer.
  • It dries out much faster near heat and water.  The counter over the dishwasher always needs a little extra TLC.  The area around the sink dries out too... we must splash a lot of water. :)
  • DO NOT use olive oil or vegetable oil on the counters.  Eventually, it will "go bad" and I would not risk the damage to the wood... or the smell.
  • Wipe the oil on the counter with the grain of the wood. 
  • Don't wash them with cleaner or soap (only mineral oil) and try to wipe up any liquid that spills on them right away.
  • Wash the oil soaked rag thoroughly after use so that it does not pose a fire risk!

Would we choose butcher block counters again?

Honestly, we love them in this home but probably not in the next one.  We feed Barkley raw meat and we cook a lot and I am always really vigilant that no raw meat touches the counters.  I think once we add kids to the mix, I just won't want the extra worry.  If we fed our dog regular kibble, I may not worry as much but I want a surface that I can really scrub!  I love the way they look and they've been easy for us so far but I think I'll probably find other ways to incorporate wood into our next kitchen.  Never say "never" though...

What do you think?
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