Wooden butcher blocks are a wonderful way to add both warmth and functionality to your kitchen, but these stellar surfaces require a little extra attention. Whether you’ve got a full integrated butcher block-style countertop, a collection of cutting boards, or an island that’s as utilitarian as it is aesthetically pleasing, here’s what you need to know—and do—to keep your butcher block in tip-top shape.

To Seal and Protect

The first step in properly caring for your butcher block is to seal it. Wood is a porous material, and it’s crucial that you keep germs and moisture at bay to preserve your family’s health and safety. Food-grade oils cure wood without adding dangerous chemicals that could leach into ingredients while you chop vegetables or knead dough.

Use all-natural Pure Tung Oil to give your butcher block a lustrous finish. This product is FDA-approved for food contact, meaning you can utilize it in your kitchen without worry, and its natural honey color is ideal for integration in all kinds of color schemes. Hemp Oil, which is food safe and dries to a matte finish, is another option. It’s a wonderful choice for sealing newly made blocks or for reviving vintage pieces and the oil’s lightly nutty aroma gives your workspace a pleasant smell.

Both oils work as sealants, but tung oil has a slight edge in terms of durability and water resistance. Choose whichever option works best for you—however we always recommend avoiding cooking oils, oil-based stains, and polyurethane on your butcher blocks as they can go rancid or secrete dangerous chemicals.

On the other hand, we do not recommend using Mineral Oil on butcher block. While Mineral Oil is food safe, it does have a few downsides. For example, mineral oil is a non-drying oil, so some residue can get into your food, be ingested, or spread around the house.

Similarly Mineral Oil does not leave a waterproof finish (since it’s a non-drying oil), it allows water and other liquids to reach the cutting board, countertop, or other butcher block surface below.

We highly recommend using Tung Oil to properly care for your butcher block surfaces because it’s a food safe, drying oil.

Cleaning Your Butcher Block

While sealing your wooden surfaces is important, it doesn’t eliminate the need for regular cleaning. To prevent staining and maintain food safety, use a sponge and mild soap to remove food debris and other potential contaminants. Rinse off any residual cleanser, then wipe up excess moisture.

Surprisingly, soap may help with general cleaning, but it won’t necessarily aid in sanitation. Bacteria is almost as common in the kitchen as salt and pepper; stock a spray bottle of white vinegar near your other kitchen essentials and give your wood a spritz before flipping off the lights for the night. The acid creates an inhospitable environment for pathogens, giving you a safe surface to use the next time you exercise your culinary talents.

Ensuring Longevity

Using and reapplying finishing oils whenever necessary will make your butcher block more durable, but there are other steps you can take to increase protection:

  • Avoid sitting wet dishes or towels on the wood
  • Try to keep harsh undiluted chemicals away from wood tops. Also work to keep food products known to stain off the surface
  • Use a plastic cutting board for raw meat, fish, or any other wet or dark-hued ingredients (beets, for instance)

With a modicum of foresight and a touch of elbow grease, your gorgeous butcher block countertops and cutting boards will stand up to round after round of holiday bakes, chili cook-offs, and family brunches.

Shop for butcher block oil here!