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Care and Cleaning for your Butcher Block Countertop

Butcher block countertops are not only gorgeous additions to any kitchen - rustic or elegant - but also very functional. To preserve their beauty along with their durability, specific care methods are recommended. Read on for some simple - and highly effective - ways to provide the best care for your butcher block countertop.

Care for Butcher Block Countertops with Non-Food-Grade Finishes

Butcher block countertops finished with conversion varnish, or another long-lasting finish such as polyurethane, are cared for differently than those finished with food-grade oils. Your varnished butcher block can be cleaned with a simple solution of mild soap and water, or a vinegar-and-water mix (about a half cup of vinegar per gallon water.) Be sure to wipe up spills (particularly food spills) immediately, and to rub the countertop dry with a towel after a spill or clean up. Use coasters and trivets to prevent moisture rings and burns on the surface.

Care for Butcher Block Countertops with Food-Grade Mineral Oil Finishes

Often butcher block countertops are finished with food-grade mineral oils, so that food prep can be safely carried out on their surfaces. This finish requires a particular type of care in order to preserve its food-safe status.

***Please note that the following cleaning and care methods should not be used on a conversion varnish or polyurethane (or other long-lasting) finish.***

Oiled butcher block countertops can be cleaned with mild soap and rinsed with water - be sure to towel dry any excess moisture away to prevent water stains. The countertop can be disinfected with white vinegar (undiluted) - simply spray and wipe the surface down after every use. White vinegar is an excellent food-safe disinfectant, important since wood is porous and will absorb any harsh chemicals sprayed on it.

Simply practicing regular, timely upkeep on your butcher block surface can go a long ways toward prolonging the life and beauty of your countertop. Traditional surfaces, such as laminate and granite, may be able to withstand spills and moisture for extended periods of time, but wood cannot. Be sure to wipe up any liquids that make their way on to your countertop as soon as possible, and follow with a dry towel to keep the wood dry.

Removing Stains and Discolorations

On any food preparation and service surface, spills and stains are bound to happen. There are a few safe and effective ways to erase stains from oiled butcher block:

Salt and Lemon: Sprinkle the affected area with table salt, then use a freshly sliced lemon half to rub the salt into the stain. Let this salt-and-lemon paste sit for about 15 minutes (longer if necessary), then rinse clean with a damp cloth. Blot up any excess moisture immediately.

Baking soda: Cover the stain with baking soda and scrub firmly. Let sit for a few minutes (longer if necessary), then rinse clean with a damp cloth. Blot up any excess moisture immediately. Baking soda offers the added benefit of absorbing odors along with discolorations!

Scraping: Using a thinly edged steel scraper or spatula to scrape the surface of a stain can remove the discoloration before it goes too deep - and it will also squeeze out any excess moisture beginning to soak into the porous wood.

Sanding: As a last resort, or occasional "reset" button, you can lightly sand off stubborn stains and cuts. Use a medium coarse sandpaper (80 or 100), be sure to keep your sanding shallow, and finish the job with a fine sandpaper (180 or 220) to even out the surface.

Reapplying Food-Grade Oil Finishes

Oil finishes do require an occasional refreshing, but fortunately, it's a very simple and quick process. To reapply a food-safe oil finish, such as mineral oil, simply clean the butcher block surface thoroughly, then apply a generous coat of the oil over the entire countertop. (Do not use a vegetable or olive oil as it will eventually spoil and turn rancid in the wood.) Once the oil is applied, let it soak in for a half hour, then wipe up the excess with a clean, dry cloth. If you don't see any excess, or you see dry areas where the oil has soaked in completely, apply more to achieve an even finish. This simple process will prolong the life and beauty of your kitchen centerpiece.