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Butcher Block Countertop Care

Lumber Liquidators Edge grain butcher block counter tops - Pictures are for comparison only

Our countertops are made of edge grain construction available in Multiple different wood species and add an elegant and refined touch to any kitchen. In this style, cut lumber planks are laid more conventionally with the thick dimension of the planks running up and down and the thin dimensions sideways, the planks are then glued together under heavy pressure. Edge grain butcher block can be as thin as about 1.5 inches or up to about 4 inches. Ours are un-finished 1 1/2" thick, 25" wide and either 8 or 12' long, and can be refinished numerous times.  We also carry an island side in some wood species that is 1 1/2" thick, 36" wide and 6' long.       

Edge Grain Butcher Blocks generally feature full length wood rails that span the length of the piece, but they can sometimes be laid in a jointed construction, which resemble a hard wood floor. Both styles are equally durable and will need to be sealed or re-oiled to preserve the life of the wood. Both styles can be cut on directly.

End grain most suited for commercial style butcher blocks

In this style, many relatively short as little as 4 inches pieces of wood are stacked and glued so that the cut ends of the pieces the end grain face upwards. This produces an extremely tough, durable surface. In professional applications, the pieces may be substantially longer and the assembled butcher block may be very large and, therefore, massive. In this way, it is able to withstand repeated blows from heavy meat cleavers. Its thickness also allows it to be resurfaced many times without wearing away an appreciable percentage of the total thickness.

End Grain Butcher Blocks are generally most preferred by professional chefs because the end grain wood fibers absorb the impact of the knife blade, which keeps knives sharper longer. Also, for this reason, end grain butcher blocks tend to be more resistant to nicks and gouges and maintain their condition longer.

Hardwood Countertop Care

Many homeowners find themselves looking for an alternative to the high costs of stone countertops. Butcher block counters are an excellent choice. They aren't as expensive as stone and still provide a beautiful countertop solution. The trick with butcher block counters is maintaining them. Once you've made your selection you'll need to settle on a proper finish that fits your life style.

Interestingly, products used to seal and protect Butcher's block counter tops are divided into two simple categories. Top coatings or penetrating sealers. Ultimately, the choice of which products to use depends greatly on the intended use of your counter top. Top coatings such as urethanes or varnishes are more for decorative table top aesthetics. Penetrating sealers such as Tung nut oil, linseed or mineral oils actually seep into wood cells preserving and condition it. Penetrating sealers offer more versatile usage of Butcher's block counter tops allowing for safe food FDA type preparation, easy repairs and can be buffed to a gloss with a build up of 5 or more layers. Do not use vegetable oils as they break down becoming rancid.

How to Care for your Butcher Block Countertops

These are general care instructions for oiled wood counter tops. While the butcher block design is ideal for food preparation, its naturally porous wood tends to absorb juices and liquids from foods. Immediate and thorough cleaning, especially after cutting raw meat, is important for maintaining the life of the countertop and the health of your family.

Things You'll Need:

  • Dish washing liquid
  • Clean sponges and towels
  • Non-toxic wood oil or cream
  • Bleach (optional)
  • Lemon juice (optional)

Step l

Wash the countertop with mild soap and water. Regular liquid dish washing detergent works well. Use a clean sponge or dish towel. Dry the wood well with a soft cloth.

Step 2

Kill bacteria, often left behind by raw meat, with bleach. Add one tablespoon of bleach into one gallon of warm water.

Step 3

Remove tough stains from butcher block countertops by pouring lemon juice on the surface and letting it soak for several seconds.

Step 4

Maintain unvarnished kitchen countertops with non-toxic oil treatments on a weekly basis or whenever you notice the wood drying or color fading. Coat the counter with oil, let sit for five minutes then wipe away the remainder with a paper towel or cotton cloth. Wait 12 hours before using the counter.

Step 5

Clean varnished or urethane sealed butcher block countertops, on which food is not usually prepared, with water and gentle soap. Wipe dry with a soft towel. These type countertops do not need oil treatments.

Technical and Installation 4/19         

Finishes for Butcher Blocks, Countertops, and Wooden Utensils

The durability and beauty of wood make it an attractive material for butcher blocks, countertops, and other items used to serve or prepare food. Wood also tends to be less prone to harbor bacteria than are some other materials such as plastic.

Finishes enhance the beauty and extend the useful life of wood. Water-repellent finishes will reduce the effects of moisture.

When wood soaks up water, it swells; when it dries out, it shrinks. If the wood dries out rapidly, its surface dries faster than the inside, resulting in cracks and checks.

Finishes that repel water will reduce the effects of brief periods of moisture (washing) and repel liquids, making the wood easier to clean. Wooden salad bowls, spoons, forks, and other utensils need a finish that also resists abrasion, acids, and stains. Finished wood countertops are less likely to show stains, such as those from grape juice.

There are two types of finishes, film forming and penetrating. Finishes that form a film on wood, such as varnish, lacquer, and shellac, are also called coating finishes. Although the film protects the wood, it eventually chips, peels, or cracks. Penetrating finishes come in two types, drying oils and nondrying oils.

Drying Oils

Drying oils penetrate the wood and harden the material. They include linseed, tung, and diluted varnish. Also called wood sealers, drying oils are one of the most satisfactory finishes for wood surfaces. They reduce water absorption and make the surface easy to clean and resistant to scratches. Wood sealers are easy to apply, requiring less skill than other finishes. Worn places in the finish may be patched without showing lapmarks around the edges, which ordinarily cannot be done with other types of finishes.

Nondrying Oils

Nondrying oils simply penetrate the wood. They include vegetable and mineral oils. Vegetable oils (e.g., olive, corn, peanut, safflower) are edible and are sometimes used to finish wood utensils. Walnut oil is particularly suitable. The natural nondrying oils are applied heavily in several coats and can be refurbished easily. Vegetable oils eventually become rancid. Although this condition is not hazardous, it may impart an undesirable odor or flavor. Treated wood utensils should be allowed to dry thoroughly for several weeks before use.

Mineral (or paraffin) oil is a nondrying oil from petroleum that has been used as a penetrating finish for wood utensils. Baby oil should not be used because it contains some ingredients that should not come in contact with food.

Paraffin Wax

One of the simplest ways to finish wood utensils, especially countertops, butcher blocks, and cutting boards, is to apply melted paraffin wax (the type used for home canning). Melt the wax in a doubleboiler over hot water and liberally brush on the wood surface. Excess wax may be left on or scraped off as desired. Heating the excess wax on the surface with an old iron (similar to waxing skis) helps improve absorption of the wax.


Whatever finish you choose , be sure that the finish is safe and nontoxic. Also be sure the finish you select is recommended for use with food or described as food grade.

For information on the safety and toxicity of any finish, check the label, contact the manufacturer,

May 2000