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How to seal butcher block counter tops

how to seal butcher block countersNow that the wall is gone between the kitchen and the living/dining room, we have an open floor plan, and YC and I have been installing cabinets and counter tops. We went with the Ikea kitchen, and have been really pleased with it so far. There were a lot of different options as far as cabinet depth, width, and doors/drawers. And while the installation hasn’t been a breeze, mainly thanks to the curvature of our walls, we’ve been able to handle it pretty well.

For counter tops, we decided to go with the Ikea butcher blocks. We looked at a couple of different options for butcher block, but when it came to price for look/feel, Ikea stole the show. Even though we were only using them sparingly, we noticed that they started to show a little staining almost immediately. Every time water spilled or we put a wet glass on them, there was ring or water mark. But now that we’ve sealed them, I’m convinced they are perfect – so easy to wipe down and keep clean and probably more sanitary.

To seal them, we used food safe mineral oil, something I had read about online and something that had been used to treat an artisan wooden cutting board we have. The whole process of sealing them with mineral oil was fairly straightforward. Here is what we did.

1. Since we hadn’t really used our counter tops extensively and didn’t yet have a chance to dirty them much past water marks, I lightly sanded them down with a fine-grained sanding block. Then I cleaned them with just a hair of soap and water before letting them dry. If your counters have had a bit more use, then you may want to try a more thorough clean, like a lemon and salt scrub, which is something I’ll probably try out in the future after our counters have seen a bit more action.

2. I used found a butcher block condition with food grade mineral oil and natural waxes on Amazon with great reviews, and decided to give it a shot. The directions on the back of the bottle indicate to heat the oil before applying to help it sink in better, so I zapped it in the microwave in a ramekin for about 30 seconds.

IMG_12783. Now comes the messy part… the mineral oil was easy to use and easy to apply, if not a little messy. I dipped an old rag into the oil and started working it onto the wood (don’t for get about the sides). I the whole counter top, and by the time I finished making my way down the counter, it had fully absorbed where I started. I added another coat and then finally a third.

Apply the food grade mineral oil to the butcher block counter top using an old rag.
Apply the food grade mineral oil to the butcher block counter top using an old rag.

4. By the time I had 3 coats on, the counter tops were oily to the touch. I let them sit for a few more hours to let the oil fully sink in and then wiped the excess oil off with a dry cloth. As I was applying the oil to the counter tops, I noticed how it gave them a rich, honeyed hue. They were pretty to begin with, but now that they have an even deeper tone.

Here's an in-action shot of the counter tops. To the left is the counter top that has already been sealed with mineral oil. To the right is the counter top that hasn't had the mineral oil applied yet.
Here’s an in-action shot of the counter tops. To the left is the counter top that has already been sealed with mineral oil. To the right is the counter top that hasn’t had the mineral oil applied yet.

5. The next day the counter tops were still a bit oily to the touch (the left a very light film on my hands when I touched them). To clean the counter top of the rest of the excess oil, I took a damp cloth and gently massaged it over the counter. No more oily counter tops!

6. Finally, you can sprinkle water to see if the counter tops have been fully sealed. The water should sit on top of the counter tops like in the photo below. To keep them sealed and looking beautiful and sanitary, I am planning on thoroughly cleaning them and adding a coat of mineral oil once or twice a month.

Water droplets should sit above the counter tops after they have been sealed.
Water droplets should sit above the counter tops after they have been sealed.

I hope this helps anyone who is thinking about adding butcher block counter tops or is looking for a solution to sealing them. The mineral oil is all natural, easy to apply, and very affordable – as are the counter tops themselves.

What have been your experiences with cleaning/installing these bad boys?

-K.

3 thoughts on “How to seal butcher block counter tops

  1. Wonderful idea!! I subscribed to your blog and look forward to seeing more you post! 🙂
    Keep up the great work!
    XOXO,
    Isabella

  2. I have butcher block on my kitchen island that has been my primary prep surface every day for nearly 20 years and I haven’t sanded and re-finished it yet. I don’t cut on it, but it does get a lot of other food prep action. I do a wipe-down after every use with a mild cleaner — and occasionally I do need to scrape. 🙂 Every couple of months I smear on a thick coat of food-grade mineral oil with a few drops of pure lemon oil mixed in and let it sit overnight. Any oil that wasn’t absorbed by the wood is wiped up with a dry cloth. The lemon oil makes the kitchen smell really good!

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