How to Care for Butcher Block

Butcher block brings the best of all worlds to your kitchen countertops, islands and tables. Butcher block is durable and affordable, and it has a warm, natural feel. But it does require more maintenance than granite, marble and other hard surfaces, which have minimal porosity and don’t expand or contract. Here are a few tips for caring for butcher block.


Keeping Butcher Block Clean

After each use, remove all food and other debris and scrub the butcher block with mild soap. You don’t want to use unhealthy chemicals, so use undiluted vinegar as a disinfectant.

Staining is bound to happen at some point. If you let food or spills sit on butcher block for any period of time, wood will absorb stains quickly.

Try scraping off the stain first. If that doesn’t work, sprinkle salt over the stain and rub in some lemon. Let it sit overnight and clean it off the next day. You can also try cleaning with baking soda. These methods can also remove odors from your butcher block.

When all else fails, most stains can be sanded out. Sanding with 220-grit sandpaper can also remove knife marks and leave your butcher block looking like new.


Keeping Your Butcher Block Moist

Wood expands as it moistens and contracts as it dries. If you let butcher block dry out, it can crack. The goal is saturate the entire piece of wood, not just the surface.

Basic mineral oil from any grocery store or pharmacy will do the trick. You can also add beeswax, which acts as a conditioner and fills in minor crevices and knife marks. To moisturize, apply mineral oil with a clean dry cloth, let it soak for a half hour, repeat with a second coat, then remove excess oil with a separate cloth.

During the first six months, butcher block should be moisturized once per week. Beyond that, it depends on how you use your butcher block and how often. For example, if you use it for cutting every day, moisturize once per week. If it’s mainly for show, once every couple weeks should be enough.

Just keep an eye on it. During winter when the air is dry, moisture will be drawn out of butcher block more quickly than during more humid summer months. When it starts to look dry, hit it with the mineral oil and adjust your moisturizing schedule accordingly.

How you plan to use butcher block will also help to determine if you should get an end-grain, edge-grain or face-grain butcher block. We’ll discuss the differences between the three in the next blog post.