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butcher block wood kitchen countertops

Mazama Butcher Block Countertops – Appalachian Collection “European White Oak” from BuildDirect.

Worried about the maintenance for butcher block countertops? It’s much easier than you think! This step-by-step guide can alleviate you fears.

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There are few countertops as dramatic — and as useful — as the butcher block countertop. As an added bonus, butcher block can last forever with the proper care. It takes only a few minutes for a gentle cleaning after you prep a meal, and a few minutes more to oil and condition it from time to time, and that’s it. But that is vitally important, as if you skimp on the maintenance, your butcher block won’t give you the benefits of a full lifespan!

How to Clean Butcher Block Countertops

Just as your pans must be cleaned before you use them again, the same is true with the countertop. Fortunately, this is quite easy to do. A metal pastry scraper held at an angle will become your favorite tool for removing the bits of food that will inevitably wind up on the counter. Press just hard enough to scrape any residue from the countertop.

Then scrub it. Use a strong scrub brush, one that is only used on the countertop and nothing else. You will need to replace this every few weeks, or when it starts to look really messy and gummy — believe me, you will know! Hot water and a very mild dish soap can be used to get rid of the rest of the residue.

10108512-european-white-oak-bc-25x144-sup-room3Get rid of the soap with a dishtowel soaked in very hot water. Simply wipe it away.

Now it’s time to disinfect. This is made very easy with a small spray bottle filled with white vinegar. Spray it on the area you just cleaned, then go about cleaning other parts of the kitchen. After a few minutes, go back to the butcher block and wipe the vinegar away with a damp dishtowel.

Finally, dry the countertop very thoroughly. You can do this with a clean dishtowel. When you’re done, don’t put anything on top of the butcher block, just in case there is still moisture there (and there probably is). This will help ensure that what is left there will air-dry evenly.

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How to Use Butcher Block Oil

This maintenance takes only a few minutes each day; the more you do it, the faster the process will become. What takes a bit longer is oiling the butcher block. This is absolutely necessary to prevent your butcher block from falling victim to the cracking and splintering that happens when wood becomes too dry.

There are many products out there that work just fine; the only point to remember is that the oil must be food-safe. However, this does not mean you can use olive oil or the like, as those can become rancid over time. Go with something that is proven for use on butcher block countertops, such as mineral oil or walnut oil. If you want a sheen on your butcher block, consider using a conditioner as well, especially one that contains beeswax.

Mazama Butcher Block Countertops Appalachian Collection Black Walnut

“European Walnut” Butcher block countertop from BuildDirect.

If using mineral oil, spread it evenly along the butcher block with a clean cloth. Allow it to sit and soak in for thirty minutes, then apply one more coat. After thirty more minutes, wipe away what hasn’t soaked in.

If using a conditioner with beeswax, you might need to very lightly sand down the block the first time you use the conditioner to help it adhere; after that, you will simply apply it according to the directions on the bottle. Each formulation might be a little different than the next, so pay close attention to those printed instructions!

What About Stains?

No matter what you do, no matter how vigilant you are, your butcher block will eventually gather some stains. The good news is that stains can be removed. Start with the easier methods, such as a squeeze of lemon on the stain to bleach it, or full-strength vinegar. You can also grind baking soda into the stain with a cloth, then scrub it away with a sponge and vinegar.

If those things don’t work, bring out the big guns: Refinishing. To do this, use varying degrees of sandpaper and some elbow grease. Sand the stains and other unsightly areas until they look nice, then sand down the surrounding areas to create an even surface. Run your hand over it to make sure it’s smooth. Clean it up very well, then use the mineral oil and conditioner as you normally would.

And there you have it: The maintenance for a butcher block countertop! Now that the mystery (and the fear) has been dispelled, it’s time to go shopping for one to enhance your kitchen.

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.