How our wood butcher block countertops have held up over the years. (And how
to make them look brand new again!)
It’s been nearly four years since we moved in to this house, can you believe
I’ve shared our wood butcher block counters a lot over the years because I
get SO many questions about them! I can’t tell you how often I hear
from readers who are hoping to use wood counters in their kitchen, but a
contractor talks them out of it.
Many will warn that wood counters are too difficult to maintain.
But that’s simply not true. Yes, you CAN have wood counters in your kitchen
and keep them looking great!
I immediately went back to my tried and true wood finish…Tung oil.
This is the thing…no coating will last forever on wood. Even
polyurethane will wear down with a lot of use.
recoated the counters with this oil. I try to do it every six months, at the most once a year. Even after
all this time, 90 percent of our island counter still looked GREAT!
But we did have some stains in wood:
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They were all on the counter closest to the fridge, so I’m guessing the
stains were from oils from food.
I should mention, I don’t expect (or want) our butcher block counter to
be pristine. We don’t cut directly on it, but I welcome the
warmth of a slightly worn and distressed wood countertop.
Slightly is the key word. 😁 I’m fine with dings (we really don’t
have any), scratches (hardly any) and some darker stains. But because the
finish had worn so much, these were extra noticeable.
I didn’t have to sand
— if you don’t have any major issues there’s no need to. Just clean them
well and reapply.
fine grit paper (120 grit)
and most of the marks disappeared immediately. There were a couple (pictured
above) that were a bit more stubborn, but I figured the oil would hide them.
(I was right!)
counters first. A
tack cloth is ideal for this, but if you don’t have one, try to avoid using a
soaking wet rag to wipe off the dust. The moisture will raise the wood and
you’ll lose the smooth finish you just achieved by sanding.
Sometimes water popping is a good thing, but for just sealing counters you
want to avoid it. Instead, use a slightly damp rag to wipe down the
counters. This will keep the wood from raising.
After sanding and wiping the counters, all you need to do is grab a lint
free rag and liberally wipe on your Tung oil. I like to pour it directly on
the counter and then apply:
Unlike stain and spray paint, you can use a heavy hand with Tung oil. Don’t
be afraid to use a lot of it! You’ll wipe it down to remove the extra
Use the light to see where you may need to add more Tung oil — some spots
in the wood will soak it up faster:
they were bought by Minwax. I have used
the Minwax oil
as well and like it. This time I used
the Watco brand
because it’s what I had on hand.
Isn’t it crazy how much the oil warms up the wood?:
After letting it soak in for a bit — anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes —
you’ll want to start removing the excess and buffing the finish with another
I’ve found the super inexpensive kitchen towels from IKEA work GREAT! I use
them in the kitchen and once they are stained they go in the rag pile.
They’re also great for staining:
If you are oiling a bare countertop for the first time, you’ll want to do
numerous coats, at least 12 hours apart.
Once you’ve done it a few times over years, one coat will be sufficient each
And it won’t take nearly as long to fully dry!
I oiled our counters first thing in the morning and by evening I was able to
use the sink no problem:
I cut some of our gorgeous hydrangeas and rinsed them in the sink. 😍
They were dripping everywhere — this is a visual of how well Tung oil
protects against water. It beads up and doesn’t soak in:
I still want to move our faucet handle to the front, over the sink. This is
the only spot that I ever worry about because of the water that drips from
our hands when we turn off the water:
That wood around the sink has also held up beautifully — just make sure to
treat that part as you do the rest of the counters.