The Care and Keeping of your Butcher Block Counter

The gleam of a real wood butcher block countertop adds warmth to your kitchen.

The gleam of a real wood butcher block countertop adds a warmth to your kitchen that no other material can. Wood becomes more beautiful after time and use, but it can also crack, warp and dry out if not cared for properly. Changes in humidity and temperature and every day wear all effect the long-term beauty of a wood surface, but you can protect your butcher block countertop and maintain its natural glow with regular care.

To Chop or not to Chop?

Deciding whether you want to preserve the pristine look of a wood counter or use it for direct food preparation is the first step in caring for a butcher block, different finishes are required for each application. Standing butcher blocks and butcher block counters are made to be utilitarian, many people feel the scars and signs of wear on a working butcher block add to its appeal, but others want to maintain the brand new look forever. People in both camps should remember that no matter how it's finished, wood burns -- hot pots and pans should not be placed directly on a butcher block counter.

Finishing for Food Prep

To use a butcher block for food preparation the bottom side of the counter should be sealed with a polyurethane finish before the counter is installed. Once in place, several layers of food-safe mineral oil need to be applied. Use a clean cloth to wipe on a layer of oil, allow it to absorb for approximately 30 minutes, and wipe off the remaining oil with a clean paper towel. If the grain on the wood rises after the first oiling a light sanding, cleaning and re-oiling is required. After the initial preparation a monthly application of mineral oil should be enough to prevent the butcher block from drying out. If you live in a dry climate more frequent oiling may be needed.

 Clean with soap and water before and after food preparation.

Maintain your natural butcher block with regular cleaning with soap and water before and after food preparation. To remove stains apply a paste of baking soda and water, allow the paste to sit for two to five minutes and wipe it off with a clean cloth. Repeat until the stain is gone. Make lingering odors disappear by sprinkling the area with salt and rubbing it with a cut lemon. Wipe off the salt/lemon mixture with a clean damp cloth.

Finishing for Shine

Butcher block surfaces that won't be used for direct food preparation should be varnished on the top, bottom and all sides with a water-proof, polyurethane-based product.

Care for your varnished counter by wiping up spills and stains as they occur. A light spray with a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water will keep the surface clean and disinfected. For more thorough cleaning apply a product like Murphy's Oil Soap according to the manufacturer's directions. Always use a cutting board for food preparation.

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