How to Clean and Care for Butcher Block Countertops

How to Clean and Care for Butcher Block Countertops | Diary of a DIYer

Having butcher block countertops in your kitchen is a labor of love, and installing them is only the first step. Now you’ve got to make sure to take proper care of them so they don’t deteriorate down the line.

From cleaning to sealing, here’s all you need to know about taking proper care of your butcher block countertops.

Cleaning Methods

Lemon Juice and Salt

Sprinkle salt on your counter and use half a lemon to scrub with the grain of the wood. The coarseness of the salt combined with the acidity from the lemon juice will clear up light stains and disinfect the surface. Need extra cleaning power? Add some baking soda to the mix.

Soapy Water

For light cleaning needs, a mild mixture of soap and warm water will do the trick. Be sure to wipe any excess water off before it dries and leaves marks on your butcher block.

Getting Rid of Stains

Keep fine grit sandpaper on hand. It’ll help remove surface stains and markings (think coffee rings and scratches) and keep your countertop smooth. You can use a palm sander for this or just a sheet of sandpaper…though that method is a bit more time consuming and labor intensive.

If the marks are really bad, you might need to move on to a more heavy duty solution.

Sanding and Sealing

If all else fails, you can bring out the big guns and refinish your butcher block countertops. Grab a power sander, some coarse grit sandpaper and get to sanding!

Once everything is nice and smooth, you’ll need to treat your counters. One popular option is Waterlox – a Tung oil-based finish that creates a strong layer between your counters and the elements. It’s nontoxic when it’s dry, making it a good choice if you use your counters for food prep.

Continued Maintenance

You’ll want to routinely oil your butcher block countertops. Use food grade mineral oil. Even if you don’t plan to directly prepare food on your counters, it’s the safest bet. Plus, mineral oil is widely available and won’t go rancid like other oils.

Howard Butcher Block Conditioner is a mix of mineral oil and natural waxes (including beeswax). The wax creates a barrier that keeps the mineral oil in while protecting against damage from everyday use.  It’s a popular product among butcher block owners because it simply works. Using the conditioner at least once a month will help protect your counters from drying and cracking.

Tip: Store your towel or cloth in a Ziploc bag between uses. It’ll absorb a lot of the conditioner as you massage it in, so don’t let any of it go to waste!

Check the effectiveness of your sealant or conditioner of choice by doing the water test. Sprinkle some water on your counter – if the water beads up, the sealant has done its job.


Butcher block countertops are luckily a somewhat forgiving material. Unless something goes terribly wrong, don’t feel bad about a small scratch or stain – you’ll probably be able to fix it! Needless to say, butcher block isn’t for those in favor or a low-maintenance countertop. But if you don’t mind putting in a little elbow grease, butcher block countertops are the perfect option for a DIYer.

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Header photo courtesy of Old Town Home.