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How I tackle tough water spots on my butcher block counters and rust spots on the undermount stainless sink.
I’ve been asked a number of times recently what my favorite project is to date, and hands down, it’s still the kitchen (so far). I especially love the area around the kitchen window: the striped window treatment, the sill for my succulents (one of the few spots in the house that gets a good amount of morning sun), the new faucet, and my ultra-deep undermount stainless sink. I am shamelessly proud of its transformation.
Especially since it used to look like this:
I already covered all the details about the faucet in a previous post here, but I also promised at the time to eventually share the details about the sink and answer some FAQs that come my way. So, I’m back today to give you a little more detail and how I maintain the surrounding countertops. Now that I’ve been using this sink for a few years, I’ve gone through a little trial and error and found what works.
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Common undermount sink/butcher block counter problems
The sink: it’s awesome. But in the below picture, it’s also dirty (I did that on purpose, just hold on a sec).
I had a beat up old double sink before, but one of the things I loved about this one was that it was a single basin and deep. It was given to me several years ago by a local company called National Builders Supply, now more simply known as Supply.com (they are based in Austell, GA, which is where I grew up).
This exact model is made by Houzer (similar smaller version here), and my favorite part has to be the drain grooves at the bottom (for whatever reason, they just look more upscale me). I also like the curved corners, though I’ll admit that I was in quite a panic when cutting the hole into the countertop didn’t work out quite as perfectly as I expected:
The sink under-mounts to the butcher block counters, which can pose two main issues: water splashing up and leaving spots on the surrounding lip of the counters, and rust stains in the sink (you can see one in the basin below on the right side). But hey, this blog is all about lessons learned in DIY; I wanted to share all about how I’ve gotten around these two problems and keep the sink area looking pristine.
As you can see from the close-up photo below, these are those water spots I was talking about. Usually, I’m pretty good about wiping the sink down if anything splashes out, but I’m also not the most diligent about oiling down the counter on a regular basis (I do it only every few months, tbh). As a result, stray water spots form on the counter around the lip of the sink pretty easily. From day to day, this isn’t really all that bothersome, because you can’t really see it unless you get closer.
Whenever I have wet hands or water plants along the window, I get little water spots like you see below. It’s normal for butcher block to show “character” over a few years of use, but this isn’t what I want! Luckily, there are two products that solve these issues for me every time.
How to clean an undermount stainless sink
It probably goes without saying that when it comes to cleaning, I would rather literally haul rocks first. So I make every effort to find a product that does the work for as little effort as possible.
The solution that eventually worked for me is Bar Keepers Friend, which now comes in a convenient spray bottle.
I just spray the foam on and let it sit for a few minutes, then use a little elbow grease. It removes rust marks, residues, water marks, old veggie grime, and anything else that falls into the sink. In no time, I have it polished to a nice shine. Then I can move on… to not cleaning the sink! End of story.
How I clean the countertop
I like to keep it non-toxic whenever I’m around things that might come into contact with food, so I prefer using Seventh Generation products to clean the counters. I use both their disinfecting all-purpose spray (and wipes) and wood cleaner (which I also use to clean the dining room table and other areas).
My secret weapon for tough water spots on butcher block counters
For water spots, I use the same exact oil and wax treatment that I’ve been using since I first installed the counters: Howard Butcher Block Conditioner.
I’ll usually throw it in the microwave to nuke it for a few seconds to get the wax to flow out of the tube easier, but I apply it with either a little paper toweling or old t-shirt fabric (since it’s well-washed, it doesn’t produce lint).
I slather the mixture on and let it soak into the wood, usually overnight. Anything else that doesn’t soak in by the morning, I wipe back off (to keep the surface from feeling gummy). Sometimes, it takes a couple of applications for spots to totally disappear, but they almost always do.
For anything stubborn, I run a little bit of super fine sandpaper over it, clean off debris, and then oil. Works like a charm.
Thanks to the deeper sink, I’m a lot better about keeping the kitchen looking more cleaned up. I know that there are plenty of folks who are Team “Beside The Sink”; the deeper basin is great for folks like me on Team “In The Sink”! For you Team “Immediately In The Dishwasher” people, well… being perfect must be nice. ;)
The messed-up (but thankfully hidden) inside corner
As I mentioned, there was a mistake made when the hole for the sink was cut during its install; the blade bent out around the curve, cutting the underside of the corners a little too much. My uncle and I did our best to help hide it as much as possible (once I stopped freaking out, that is) by cutting a small sliver by hand, re-attaching with wood glue, and filling with a little walnut putty.
Unfortunately, the color of the putty doesn’t really match the rest of the wood. Eventually, I might go back in and darken it a little. I really don’t notice it anymore. When you’re looking around the room, it’s pretty much invisible because it faces away from you. Plus, imperfections in butcher block are commonly filled with wood putty; this will only add to the character of the wood over time.
I love that one small piece of the puzzle has been figured out!
What’s your favorite feature in your kitchen?
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Butcher block is a beautiful way to add warmth to a kitchen. See how we installed my butcher block counters during the kitchen remodel and more info about how to care for them!