The Complete Guide to Maintaining Butcher Block Counters.

Butcher block countertops are the workhouse in my kitchen. I mix, chop, roll out, knead and spill on them. Over the years I’ve learned a few tricks for maintaining these wood counters but the one I accidentally discovered last week is probably the best.

Maple butcher block counters glow with 2 floating shelves of gleaming copper pots hanging above.
Skip right to the tutorial.

I’m sure you’ve been in this situation before. You randomly discover, invent or figure something out when you weren’t even trying to. Like when you’re trying to get dressed and someone knocks on the door so you quickly throw on a random sweater to answer the door and realize is looks GREAT in that mismatched, you never would have done it intentionally kind of way. 

Maybe you don’t have a certain ingredient to make a recipe and improvise with another substitution and it turns out better than ever.  You get what I mean, right?

Sometimes … every once in a while … you are an accidental genius.  Last week, I was an accidental genius.  I’ll get to that revelation in a minute.

Butcher block countertops – they might not be in the homes of everyone, but chances are everyone has a wood cutting board and if you do then this tutorial is for you too.  The way you take care of wood cutting boards is the same as how you take care of butcher block counters.

If you have a completely disastrous and disgusting cutting board you should take a look at this post which describes how to get rid of the gross.

“Not very many people have those” was my mother’s reaction when I told her I was writing a post on maintaining butcher block countertops.  She said this while watching one of her many reality tv obsessions which includes The Bachelor (a show where people who don’t know each other pretend they’re going to get married one day), Say Yes to the Dress and Breaking Bad.  She’s kind of suspicious about the authenticity of Breaking Bad as a reality show but she likes it so she doesn’t question it too much.

When I told her there are more people who have butcher block countertops than people who have successfully used a television producer as a matchmaker she just scoffed and proceeded to tell me about Tristan and Ryan for the billionth time, a lovely couple produced entirely by television who got married and are now presumably spinning off the next generation of reality show stars.

In a bold move, ignoring  my mother’s advice, I bring you today …

How to Maintain Butcher Block Countertops.

Maple butcher block countertops after 7 years of use developing a patina.

When I redid my kitchen a few years ago the one and only decision that was easy was my countertop choice. I knew I was going to have butcher block counters.  Genuine, 100% maple, hard as a rock, countertops.

I also knew I wasn’t going to baby them and I didn’t expect them to look brand new their whole life. Unlike my copper pots which I had just cleaned before this post. I actually never clean my copper pots so this is unusual. The odd time I’ll clean the inside of them if I accidentally leave something that badly stains the tin lining.

For me, butcher block countertops are a tool in my kitchen.  I slop, cut, roll, mash and create on them.  Wood is naturally antibacterial, self healing and NOTHING makes a better sound while chopping on it than wood. I want my counters to look used and develop a patina, but they still have to be maintained and kept in good condition.

I personally don’t try to get rid of the stains on my countertops unless they’re so prominent they’re distracting.  But for the purpose of this post, I’ll show you how to get rid of butcher block stains in case you prefer your counters to have no stains. 


There are only 2 ways wood can go bad.  Moisture getting in or moisture getting out. Maintaining any wood surface in the kitchen means you have to a) stop moisture from getting into the wood and b) stop moisture from getting out of the wood.  This according to Jason Stafford of Talbot Wood, where I got my countertops made.  Oiling your butcher block creates a barrier that stops both of these things.  It stops moisture from seeping into the wood and stops moisture from escaping.

To stop both of those things you need to use a water barrier – oil.  Mineral oil to be precise.

What is Mineral Oil?

Mineral oil is a petroleum (paraffin) product with no colour, odour or flavour.   It stops water from absorbing or releasing. For treating counters you specifically need food-grade mineral  oil.  The easiest place to find it is in your local drugstore. Hardware stores sometimes carry it as well, but  if you’re buying your mineral oil at a hardware store make sure what you’re getting is food-grade mineral oil.

Getting ready to treat butcher block counters in a modern country kitchen with white brick walls and shaker cabinets.


  1. Remove everything from your countertops.
  2. Wipe them with a damp cloth.
  3. Scrape the surface with a dough scraper to remove anything stuck on the surface.
  4. Scrape light surface stains away with a razor blade.
  5. Sand deeper stains with 180 then 220 grit sandpaper.  (note your sanded area will lighten)
  6. Wipe counter clean with a cloth.
  7. Run your hand over the counter to make sure it’s completely free of grit or guck.
  8. Pour mineral oil directly onto the counter and rub it around the entire surface with a lint free cloth.
  9. Allow the mineral oil to absorb.  This could take as little as an hour or as much as overnight.
  10. Wipe the counters again to remove any residual oil.

Woman's hands with red nailpolish run a dough scraper across a wood counter to remove guck.

The dough scraper will get off old stuck on flour etc. that you didn’t even know was on your counter.

Running a paint scraper across a wood countertop to remove stuck flour.

A razor blade can help remove very light surface stains with a few passes.  It’s scraping off the very top surface of the wood.

Using a window scraper to remove surface stains from butcher block.

For deeper stains you’ll have to use sandpaper.   But know that when you sand your countertop stain away you’ll also be sanding away any patina the wood has achieved.  So the spot you sand will be lighter than the rest of the counter.

Sanding away water marks on a butcher block counter.

You have to decide whether you’d rather have a stain or a slightly lighter section in your counter.

Side by side of wood counter that's been sanded and oiled.

Once you oil the area the lightened wood will become much less noticeable.

You can also sand your entire countertops using coarse, medium and then fine sandpaper to make it look brand new again if that’s what you want.


I can’t even remember how it happened but I used a magic eraser to erase a stain on my counter. It was something I did subconsciously for some reason but I’ve never done it before.

Using a magic eraser on a butcher block stain.

The Magic Eraser will remove surface stains. (It won’t remove dark water stains that have been there forever, but things like food stains will disappear almost immediately without lightening the colour of the wood.

NO idea why I never thought to use a magic eraser on my counter before, but there you have it. There’s no explaining the phenomenon of the accidental genius.


Running a hand along a wood counter to make sure it's perfectly clean.

Make sure the final wipe of your counter before conditioning it with oil is with your hand.  Your hand can feel any bits that a cloth leaves behind.


Drizzling mineral oil out of a bottle onto a wood countertop for maintenance.

I use mineral oil to help condition the wood but you can also use board butter. A mixture of mineral oil (or hemp oil in some cases) and beeswax.  You can read my post on how to easily make your own Board Butter here. 


Wiping mineral oil into a wood counter to condition it.

Don’t be skimpy with the mineral oil.  You want it to pool on the surface.

When you condition your butcher block countertops for the first time the oil will penetrate into the wood immediately because it’s so dry.  Just keep conditioning it for the first month until you get to the point where the mineral oil doesn’t soak in anymore.

A newly oiled butcher block counter.

Why do you need to condition your wood countertops?  Because conditioning the wood keeps it from drying out and prevents stains.  Water and moisture will bead up on top of the counter instead of soaking in and staining it or even worse, warping it.


Modern country kitchen with black and white check floors, white shaker cabinets and a ruffled curtain under counter.

Once you’ve finished conditioning the counters with oil or board butter you can put everything back where it came from.  Unless you’re me.  If you’re me you’ll see how great your kitchen looked with nothing on the counters and you’ll only put back half of what you had out originally.

Then day by day you’ll allow everything to creep back until it’s just as full as it was originally with the addition of a few new things.



Prep Time: 15 minutes
Active Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 8 hours
Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

How to maintain your butcher block countertop or cutting board with mineral oil, some sandpaper for stains and a dough scraper.


  • Mineral oil (food grade)
  • Sandpaper


  • Orbital palm sander (optional)


  1. Remove everything from your countertops.
  2. Wipe them with a damp cloth.
  3. Scrape the surface with a dough scraper to remove anything stuck on the surface.
  4. Scrape light surface stains away with a razor blade.
  5. Sand deeper stains with 180 then 220 grit sandpaper.  (note your sanded area will lighten)
  6. Wipe counter clean with a cloth.
  7. Run your hand over the counter to make sure it's completely free of grit or guck.
  8. Pour mineral oil directly onto the counter and rub it around the entire surface with a lint free cloth.
  9. Allow the mineral oil to absorb.  This could take as little as an hour or as much as overnight.
  10. Wipe the counters again to remove any residual oil.
Newly oiled butcher block countertop with vintage cutting boards leaning against backsplash.


How often should I oil my butcher block countertops?

That kind of depends. The age of your counter, how dried out it is, if it’s winter or summer and myriad of other things dictate how often it should be oiled.  BUT I would say a good general rule would be  to oil your butcher block countertops once every month or two.

They will need more oiling in the winter when the air is drier and less in the summer when the air is more humid.

Can you sand your entire countertop?

Sure! If you’d like to start from scratch so to speak, you can sand the entire countertop to take off all of the top  layer stains. Very deep black stains won’t come out but all of them will be made less noticeable. To rejuvenate your entire butcher block countertop sand with coarse, medium and then fine grit sandpaper using an orbital sander.

I don’t use paraffin products. What other kind of oil can I use to maintain my counters?

You can try a refined coconut oil (not the regular stuff you grab in the grocery store) which has been distilled and won’t go rancid.  You can also use Tung oil, but it could bring out a gold colour in your wood and because it’s made from nuts shouldn’t be used where anyone with nut allergies come into contact with it.

Do I need to do this more than once?

Yep. You’ll need to maintain the counter regularly.  ALSO you’ll need to give several coats of mineral oil the first time you do this or when the counter is realllyyyyy dry. If it soaks up all the oil almost immediately you know you’ll need another coat of oil. Just let it soak in for a few hours and then do it again.  When it finally seems to stop soaking into the wood quickly, you can stop.

Black and white checked VCT tile in a modern country kitchen with Blue Star range.

Which is about how often I hear about those lovebirds Tristan and Ryan by the way.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←


The Complete Guide to Maintaining Butcher Block Counters.


  1. Kelly Mahan says:

    Thank you so much for the tips! It’s true that not many people have these, and that also makes it a bit harder to find quality post about how to care for this type of countertop..once again: thank you!

  2. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I don’t cut or chop on my butcher block counters…I am not that brave I use a cutting board…but yes they certainly do need oiled…and you are right…sometimes it is hard to tell what is stuck on them…love your new kitchen Karen…

  3. Jody says:

    I covet your kitchen. “Nuf said.

  4. Michelle says:

    Knowing how to clean (and the benifits), gives me the confidence to put a butcherblock top island in our new home. I’ve always Loved ! the look but was falsely concerned with the “unsanitary myth”. Thanks Karen. A timely article for me. I appreciate.

  5. Erica says:

    So Karen, can you stain butcher block counter tops? I have one over my washer and dryer. I think it would look great darker, but is that a bad idea?

    • Anne says:

      We stained our countertops with a non-toxic stain (Sorry can’t remember the brand as it was a few years ago) and used a food grade tung oil to finish them off. They have stood up very well and I love them.

  6. Peggy says:

    Thanks! Karen! Your tutorials are great!

  7. LoriD says:

    Thanks for the reminder to do this. I follow this method exactly, except I don’t use a soft cloth, as it drives me nuts how much oil gets absorbed into the cloth and I don’t know what to do with the cloth afterwards (wash it? toss it? bag it for next time?) I just spread around the oil with my bare hands now.

    • Karen says:

      Hi LoriD! That’s exactly what I do, I stick the cloth into a baggie and save it for the next time! I’ll go back and add that to the post so people know it’s the best option. You’re right, it gets SO filled with oil I’d never put it in the washing machine and throwing it out would be such a waste. ~ karen!

      • ecoteri says:

        KAREN!! and everyone else!!!!
        In Shop Teacher Training Class, we were taught to put ANY oily rag into an AIRTIGHT METAL CAN. They can spontaneously combust.
        All properly equipped shops that apply oily finishes should have a special ‘oily rag can.’
        I discovered how very possible it could be to burn a building down 2 years ago, when my Son and Daughter-in-law were using linseed oil on their teepee poles (true story). When done, they just tossed the oily rags into the open garbage bin in the barn/shop (which happens to have a loft above where real people live).
        For whatever reason, I went into the shop later that day and smelled something hot. I hunted down the smell of smoke and discovered the rags – which were beginning to blacken and smolder. Another hour and we likely would have had a fire.
        So please please please please put a warning about oily rags on your original post, and please don’t just put your oily rag into a plastic bag. Get an airtight container (coffee tin with lid or even a mason jar with lid, although I think metal is considered better than glass in this situation)
        Sorry for yelling. Both my training and personal experience have made me very very cautious about oily rags.

      • Karen says:

        Hi Ecoteri. Linseed oil is combustible. Mineral oil isn’t. Not to worry. ~ karen!

    • Alena says:

      Hi Lorid,

      I apply the oil with my bare hands. It’s actually quite, it’s like having sex with your butcher block (LOL). I find that I can feel better where there is too much oil and where there is not enough. And, the bonus is that my hands absorb some of that oil as well.

  8. Peggy says:

    I just love this article and you have convinced me to trade my butcher block-patern laminate for the real thing when I have saved enough to do my countertops. But can we please digress for a minute?
    I’m curious about those other two cutting board on your counter top that are dark and kind of well-use looking. They actually look like solid slabs of wood cutting boards, versus joined pieces in a butcher block. I have a couple of solid cutting boards like that. Would you ever do your cleaning process on them, or do cutting boards like that call for a different approach? And do you use the mineral oil on them, too?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Peggy. Those are serving boards I made myself. They’ve very easy, you can see the tutorial here. And yes, you can use mineral oil on any wood chopping block or cutting board. I also have a more in depth tutorial on cleaning reallyyyyy disgusting cutting boards here. ~ karen!

      • Fred says:

        I know it’s called BUTCHER block but cutting meat and especially poultry on it is a bad idea unless you clean it with a bleach solution and hose it down like in a butcher shop.

  9. Mary W says:

    I love how your counter tops look – but what I love more is how you REALLY love cooking. You have to be totally immersed to enjoying listening to the sound a knife makes on butcher block. WOW you really do enjoy the whole experience. Which explains why you made your own pizza oven and actually regularly maintain your counter tops. I don’t know how you do all this but I’m glad you post about it – nice to know someone that does do all this stuff. Explains how you named your blog, also. You really are something! I really mean that – so glad I found you. I can believe you and your cooking when I know you enjoy the sound of cooking as well. A true cook.

  10. Sherri Crosby says:

    How often I oil my counters depends on the part of the kitchen it is. To the right of my sink gets wet from people stacking dishes and glasses there. So this gets done once or twice a week, it’s just a small area. Nine people in this house kitchen gets a lot of abuse.

  11. Carol says:

    Love the information on this.. I have had mine for a year and just love them. I have two kinds of oil for them one with wax in it,, came from where I bought the countertop. Mine are a dark walnut and there is NOT that much maintenance to them no more then any other ones… the good thing is if wood gets a stain you can sand it out or a scratch also … regular counter tops you are stuck with the stain and scratch .. I would never go back to any other product them wood for my counter tops.. Thank you again for the GREAT information.

  12. Cheryl says:

    I cannot wait to get maple countertops. I’m moving into a house with ’90s tile (tile!) counters and they will be gone as quickly as I can manage. I’ve been longing for wood ever since I bought my current house with its ugly, temperamental granite.

  13. Heather says:

    Love it! Will be putting in butcher block in my new house, should I ever decide to move. I have granite now and I regret it. Very pretty but way too precious! I always have to be careful not to chip it or let citrus juice or oil get on it, because it dissolves the rock. A ridiculous constitution for one who is meant for work!

  14. Sabina says:

    Hey Karen, I just bought a bag of bees wax beads that I used to make bees wax wraps with. I imagine I could use that to make board butter with instead of buying a chunk of bees wax and shaving off small quantities. Do you agree?

  15. Elaine says:

    Thank you for this timely post, Karen! Gee, I love your kitchen … the windows, the brick wall, the lovely copper on the shelves, your figurine (cage doll or Santos.), the “skirt”, etc, etc!).

    I’ve bought quite a number of cutting boards from a vendor at our Thursday farmers’ market (for gifts and myself) and want to prevent them from cracking. I’ve forgotten what oil he said he put on them but I’d read that food-grade mineral oil was best due to rancidity. I just hope his oil doesn’t conflict with the mineral oil when I apply it next month. Right now, they feel quite oily to touch. Do you think I should lightly sand down the boards a little when I apply that first coat of mineral oil?

  16. Sabina says:

    My home sweet home came with “fake” butcher block counters, aka laminate, and I would love to replace them. In my remodeling dreams I will admit to being on the granite or quartz bandwagon. I say dreams because I don’t have a remodeling-worthy pocketbook. And, lets be real, if I’m going to replace the counters then I’m going to replace the cabinets and floor. And if I’m going to replace the counters, cabinets and floor, then I”m going to knock down the wall between the kitchen and living room and open that sucker right up…I digress…as a vintage Pyrex collector I’ve learned from others that placing a Pyrex dish hot out of the oven directly onto a granite or quartz counter will cause it to shatter. I covet my vintage Pyrex and therefore when I grow up I want butcher block counters too :)

    • Elaine says:

      Three years ago, I moved into a condo that has granite counters. Your mentioning of Pyrex shattering really surprised me as I thought granite could pretty much “take anything”. Did it shatter because of the difference between hot (the Pyrex) and the cold (the granite)? If I had my “druthers”, I’d choose butcherblock counters too. My condo is about 9 years old and the previous owner must have danced in stilletos on this granite as it’s badly pitted, scratched and dull beyond belief! The dullness drives me crazy!

      • Sabina says:

        All of the Pyrex “experts” have stated yes, it’s the difference between the cold counter and the hot Pyrex. The granite can take the hot but the hot Pyrex can’t withstand the cold granite. Fortunately I haven’t had any pieces shatter because I have crappy laminate counter tops and I would crumble into a ball and cry, not really, but I’d be really disappointed. I don’t collect vintage Pyrex to look at, I collect it to be used as intended AND to look at, because it’s cool. People like granite/quartz because it’s durable and you don’t necessarily need hotplates…but if you like to use Pyrex then you need hotplates. Disclaimer: I put hot out of the oven or off the stove stuff on my crappy laminated counters without hotplates all the time because I’ve forgotten to grab one and then my hands are full with hot pans, and I’ve yet to A. shatter the hot glass or B. melt the laminate.

  17. Alena says:

    I use pure tung oil on my butcher block counters. And your post reminds me that a new coat of the oil is overdue.

    Well, my personal impression is that maple is not as hard as rock, actually far from it. That was a bit of disappointment to me. I don’t chop directly on the countertop, I use chopping boards (very religiously, for everything). Yet my countertop sports various nicks and dimples, mostly on the edge but it is a total mystery to me how those occurred because at best I could accidentally bang it with a pot or plate or something when taking something from the sink to dry it off.
    Otherwise, I love them and the visual warmth they add to the kitchen. Because there is nothing nicer than natural wood.

    And speaking of reality TV shows, I love Say Yes To The Dress (only the Kleinfeld edition) even though I don’t watch it very often. I love Randy and my only regret is that I am not a psychologist. You could do your PhD on those conflicts between the bride to be and her mother or the freaking entourage. (Why anybody would schlepp 5+ people to the appointment is beyond me – that’s only asking for trouble; but that’s just me).

  18. Meredith says:

    I love my wood countertops. I oil mine every couple months in the summer and try to do it once a month in the winter because it is so dry. It is a really satisfying task. A quick coat of oil overnight on a weekend and a wipe down in the morning to get off any extra…..makes the countertops look brand new every time. The beeswax mix smells good too.

    We have the same style sink. Any tips on keeping that narrow area behind the sink free from water? I slather on oil back there and try to keep it dry, but its hard to do it all the time.

    • Karen says:

      For some reason I don’t get a lot of water back there but I do make sure to wipe around the sink ALL the time to make sure there isn’t moisture build up. ~ karen!

  19. ShawShawna says:

    Her name is Trista not Tristan. Come in Karen, check your facts. Lol!!

  20. Jacquie says:

    Thank the Lord for wood. I watch those house hunting shows and if one more person says “Oh but it doesn’t have granite counters” like it’s the end of the world, I’ll smack someone. I bet if you asked them, the majority wouldn’t know why they want granite and what its properties are. Not as bad as people who say they don’t like the paint colours though and would actually turn a house down because of it. I don’t even see paint colours when I’m looking at propery because I know they won’t be there past the first couple of weeks anyway. People are lazy followers. I hate people.

    I’ve got myself all wound up now. Need chocolate to soothe my soul.

    • dana says:

      I stopped watching those house hunting shows bc of the granite comments. So annoying! I would take butcher block over granite any day. I have an old free standing butcher block but my countertops are granite – looking textured formica. They don’t bother me one iota and I’m fine with them.

  21. MiriamMc Nally says:

    Reminding me that I need to do this job!

    What type of vegetable oil do you use? Sunflower oil?
    I’ve been buying ‘wood oil’ for years, but now think ordinary cooking oil would prob do the job.

    • Ina says:

      Mineral oil, not vegetable oil.

    • Karen says:

      No, no. Use Mineral oil. It’s the only thing that should be used on butcher block. Mineral oil mixed with beeswax would work as well but I’d go pure mineral oil because it can penetrate better. ~ karen!

  22. Kennedy says:

    Funny I hate reality tv but I love my butcher block countertops and people always seem really surprised that they are wood and I chose them over quartz or marble.

    They add so much warmth to a kitchen and if you do stain them you can bring them back to new again, much like hardwood floors.

    I love your kitchen Karen, it’s the kind that makes someone want to dance around with flour all over them.

  23. Kris says:

    Good tutorial! Hope to have butcher block too one day.

  24. Paula Beattie says:

    Excellent info and particularly timely given that I found a tomato under a pile of stuff… Long story.

  25. Leslie says:

    While I love the look of butcher block counter tops … now I know why I will never have them. Way too much maintenance for me :-)

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