How to Clean & Oil Butcher Block

Wood butcher block counter tops are a great way to add natural warmth, color and beauty to your kitchen. Not only do wood counter tops add character and timeless elegance to your home, they are also durable and easy to maintain. With the correct care, a wood butcher block counter could become a precious heirloom you could pass down for generations.

Oiling wood butcher block counter tops with WOCA.

Always make sure you’ve read the label on the product.

Avoid vegetable cooking oils (such as olive or sunflower) for oiling butcher blocks, they will turn rancid and emit a foul odor. Steer clear of varnishes and polyurethane as these harden into a solid film which will eventually chip, flake and peel. The substances in the varnish can be toxic to humans, and bits of varnish may contaminate food.

Luckily, the process of oiling butcher blocks doesn’t involve extensive sanding and refinishing. To rejuvenate and revitalize your wood counter, follow these steps.

Design tip

For Walnut and Oak butcher block counter tops, use WOCA Worktop Oil in Natural. For Maple butcher block counter tops, use WOCA Worktop Oil in White

Materials needed to oil a wood counter top
  • Sandpaper 180 grit
  • WOCA Intensive Wood Cleaner Spray
  • WOCA Worktop Oil, Natural or White
  • Paint brush
  • Sandpaper 280-400 grit
  • Red or White Pad for Polishing
  • Cotton terry cloths

Step 1 – Sand the wood if necessary

If you are starting with a brand-new wood butcher block counter and it’s very smooth, sand the surface with 180 grit sandpaper.

If you have an existing butcher block counter, (like an IKEA butcher block counter) and want to refinish it with WOCA Worktop Oil, you have sand off any previous polyurethane or varnish finish and remove any stains or marks. Cautiously sand the butcher block surface (in the direction of the wood grain) until all the old finish and stains have disappeared and you have achieved the texture you desire. The final sanding should be 180 grit.

After you have finished sanding, remove the residual dust with a clean cloth.

Step 2 – Clean and prep the wood counter

Clean the wood surface with a clean cloth and the WOCA Intensive Wood Cleaner Spray. Let dry at least 6-8 hours. WOCA Intensive Wood Cleaner benefits:

  1. Removes any surface dirt or residue.
  2. Opens the wood pores to accept more oil, which gives you a more durable, longer lasting finish.
  3. Neutralizes and blocks surface tannins to prevent future water stains. Various wood species, particularly Oak, contain natural tannins which can cause discoloration when wet. Water drops and water spills can make the tannin move and draw it to the surface, creating a stain.

Step 3 – Oil the Counter top

  • Stir product well. Apply an even coat of WOCA Worktop Oil with a paint brush over the wood surface (do not forget the vertical edges which are especially susceptible to moisture).
  • Allow the oil to soak into the butcher block for 20-30 minutes.
  • Sand wet with wood grain with sandpaper grit 320-400.
  • Next, polish the wood surface well using a red or white polishing pad.
  • Then take a cotton cloth and wipe down the wood, removing any excess oil from the surface. No oil or visible shiny spots should be left on the wood surface.
  • If the wood is very porous, keep applying additional coats of oil until the wood stops “drinking” the oil applied. Again, remove the last of the excess oil using a cotton cloth and let the wood dry.
  • The surface is fully cured after 24 hours. The overall look is a low sheen, matte finish.

    Butcher Block Cleaning

  • For regular cleaning and dusting, use WOCA Natural Soap Spray. WOCA Natural Soap Spray is a pre-mixed soap cleaner that protects against dirt and spills and nourishes the oil finish.
  • Using WOCA Natural Soap Spray will lengthen time between re-oiling the wood surface.

  • Butcher Block Maintenance

    • The most common cause of most problems with wood counter tops are when homeowners let them dry out. Regularly oiling the wood surface will not only protect, but also help it develop a rich patina over time. Keep in mind that winter time, proximity to air conditioners or stoves, can cause the wood to dry up faster and will require frequent re-oiling. If the wood appears dry or like it is “parched”, it is time to re-oil. Re-oil with WOCA Worktop Oil or WOCA Maintenance Gel.
    • During everyday use, remember to keep the counter top dry and away from direct heat.
    • Butcher blocks will collect blemishes from food or liquid spills. This can stain the surface of the wood. The simplest way to combat this is to not let spills sit on the wood surface and remove it as quickly as it occurs. This will go a long way in prolonging the durability of your butcher block.


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