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As I mentioned on Facebook and in a previous post (inquisitive readers keep me on my busy toes), I have a specific method for treating my new walnut countertops. So, after a second coat of the stuff and answering a few more questions, I thought a post dedicated exclusively to the the topic would be helpful in case you’re considering butcher block countertops of your own. For the record, this is NOT stained Ikea butcher block — they are walnut counters that I purchased from Lumber Liquidators (now called LL flooring) and cut them down… and they turned out even better!

butcher block

Why I didn’t go with Ikea butcher block

Originally, I was planning on going with Ikea butcher block for my counters and staining them to a darker color to fit my design plan (Ikea counters came in beech and birch, which if I left them in their natural color, would be too light for my liking). Regular wood stain by itself is not food safe, so after researching my options, it appeared that the only way to both fit my design concept and protect my food from possible contamination would be to use a protective coating over the stain color like Waterlox. As a second precaution, I don’t want to actually prepare food on the surface itself, but would use a cutting board or something similar. This second step wasn’t really an inconvenience; I have always used cutting boards and hadn’t really considered using the counter surface itself for cutting (I like character in wood as much as the next gal, but I can imagine the cuts and gouges would be too much for me over time). I read tons of reviews on Waterlox, and was fairly confident that things would work out as long as I kept re-treating the counter every year (I’d also heard that this product lightens the stain color by about a shade and has some slight “ambering” aka yellowing, just in case you were thinking of trying this yourself).

Choosing walnut butcher block

That whole plan changed when I had to find a last-minute alternative to the Ikea butcher block. But in my panicked sourcing challenge, I wound up with a blessing in disguise:  instead of beech or birch, my new countertops would be made of walnut. In its natural state, this particular species of wood was already a friend of Darth Vader (on the dark side). I wouldn’t have to stain it to make it darker – I could keep it au naturele and get the color I wanted. That meant that instead of having a limited list of products to then make the counter food-safe, I could use a product as simple as mineral oil — which would protect my counters from water and normal use, but still keep the counters safe around food prep. Again, I wouldn’t be actually cutting things directly onto the counter (I still use a cutting board), but I wouldn’t have to concern myself with the possible contamination issue either. Right on.

butcher block
Tip: you can see how the wood grain looks with oil by doing a test spot with water… the color will darken, which is how it looks when an oil or sealer is applied.

How to Treat Butcher Block Counters

The mineral oil secret

There are a number of “butcher block” oil products out there (with varying price tags), so I did a little bit of online research again to see if I really needed these versus a regular bottle of food-safe mineral oil from the grocery store, which is so cheap you can easily buy it by the gallon without breaking the bank. What I found was this: if the ingredients in the bottle consist ONLY of mineral oil, it’s a complete waste of money to buy the stuff exclusively labeled for butcher block, whether it’s called “salad bowl finish” or “cutting board oil” or any other labeling. All of it is perfectly acceptable as long as it says it’s food-grade or specified for human consumption (sometimes it’s labeled to treat constipation). You can find it in the laxative aisle in the grocery/drug store, making it more convenient to find and cheaper because it’s not packaged and targeted for treating butcher block (these kind of specialized packaging tricks happen all the time; it’s just smart marketing, really). Winner, winner.

Mineral Oil + Beeswax

There is another product that combines both oil and beeswax made for butcher block. This product not only conditions the wood & protects it from water (the oil), but also fills in any small scratches and dings in the surface of the wood to gradually build up and protect it even more (the wax). Even though the costs are considerably different for these two products ($9 bucks versus around $2 for a coat of mineral oil alone), I decided to give it a try. A $7 experiment isn’t too bad overall.


After sanding the wood down with higher and higher grits (the wood was in good condition to begin with, so I started with 180 fine-grit sandpaper and then moved up to 220 and 320) and wiping down with a tack cloth, I was ready for the first glimpse at (part of) my new kitchen. Two coats of the beeswax/mineral oil mixture later, here are the results:

butcher block

You know I’m a fan of re-using old t-shirts in various applications, and my countertops were no different.

Butcher Block Countertop Treatment

Butcher block before and after

A simple application of wipe on, let soak (overnight), wipe off with another (dry) cloth. And repeat. Before:

butcher block

And after!

Butcher Block Countertop Treatment

I absolutely LOVE the variation in the wood.

Butcher Block Countertop Treatment

Just a few more treatments before I’ll feel comfortable with normal use. Then, I’ll retreat every few months or so whenever the wood starts to lose its color and feels drier, or if I notice water soaking in. The walnut feels rich and not at all thirsty (which is a tremendous relief). I’ll test it out after one more treatment to see how water is beading up around the sink, and I’ll be good to go. I know it’s going to require a little more care than, say, a laminate countertop, but for this kitchen, I think it’s a perfect fit.

Cleaning butcher block counter tops

As for cleaning, there are a number of products recommended as possible options and a pretty standard method:

How to clean butcher block

  1. Sweep up food residue and scrape crumbs into the sink with a clean dish towel
  2. Spray down the counter with a mixture of hot water and mild dish soap, or the tried-and-true DIY cleanser mix of diluting white vinegar in water and essential oil (for fragrance, such as lavender or tea tree oil or lemon)

To remove darker wood stains

One thing to note about wood counters that’s worth repeating: it does not stay pristine, and you kind of have to accept that as part of the “thing” about wood countertops. Over time, some parts of the wood may naturally darken, or a water spot might form that is harder to get out than others. There are methods to treating this, such as a sprinkle of coarse salt on half of a lemon and scrubbing to help lighten the area. The lemon juice will help to kill germs and prevent bacteria as well as treating the visual imperfections.

I’m also planning on testing some non-toxic products like this disinfectant spray and this wood cleaner to get rid of food residue and keep the surface as food safe as possible. I’ve read that any type of cleaning method is generally expected to strip the wood of the oils and wax that I’ve applied, so after cleaning, I will reapply a coat of oil/wax afterward.

Butcher Block Countertop Treatment

And oh, yeah — ignore the nasty walls. I’ll get to the details on that disgusting mess later (surprise, surprise – it has to do with living in a house that had these kinds of builders and this kind of a previous homeowner). We’re just talking about good wood here.

And of course, my inability not to giggle at that comment.

how to treat butcher block counters

UPDATE: See how the kitchen looks now! And decorated for Christmas!

new appliances for the kitchen

UDPATE #2: I’ve gotten a lot of questions about how moisture interacts with the oil/wax mixture and how the counter is holding up. It’s been a few years, and they still look gorgeous! Since it’s wood, you should expect that butcher block will change a little over time, have a few color differences (such as some spots getting darker), etc. But for me, that’s just the charm and character of having a wood counter. I’m still using the Howard butcher block conditioner, and you can see the color change and see how I take care of water spots in this post update about the sink.

How to tackle water spots on butcher block

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    1. Hey Sarah,
      I recently put in butcher block counter tops too. You think Mrs. meyer’s cleaning products are ok?

      1. Maybe? You may want to ask their customer service. Most spray cleaners will just be drying to the wood, so you’ll want to oil it after cleaning.

        1. Sarah, I used 220 grit sandpaper to remove some scratches on my butcher block island. Once complete, I treated those spots with Fusion Beeswax (my whole island is treated with this product). Those sanded areas even with the Beeswax treatment look to be a different color. They are certainly smoother as well. Is this just a product of the rest of the butcher block being more coarse due to the wear overtime? Wonder if I should sand the entire butcher block. Thanks for your guidance.

          1. Yes, it could be. It depends on wear and tear and even sometimes the way you clean it — if you didn’t originally “water pop” the wood when you installed it, for example, water within cleaners can raise the grain and make the surface more rough again (which you can knock down again with sanding). The area next to my sink gets wiped down with a towel constantly, so it is by FAR the smoothest surface because of all that constant touching and wear (kind of like if you have ever touched the top of an old wooden banister where lots of hands have rubbed it smooth). Regarding the color: wood will always show character and change over time, especially if you expose new wood or use one spot more frequently. If you’re exposing new wood and the wood surrounding it has aged (walnut gets darker over time), it could need some time to catch up. It’s just part of having wood counters that it will never really stay perfect and is part of why it can look so charming. If it bothers you that the rest of the wood isn’t as smooth, I would sand the rest of the island down and treat it all at once. Hope that helps and I’m sure that island is gorgeous!

          2. Thanks so much! I couldn’t reply to your comment so responding to my own thread. I have one more additional question. The sanding didn’t harm the butcher block, did it? I have sanded scratches before without an issue but these were deeper. I have utilized your advice about keeping the beeswax on overnight. It is almost as if the wood keeps sucking in the wax as I leave on a thick layer that is gone in the morning. Appreciate your advice again.

          3. If your wood is very thirsty (or if it’s been a while between treatments), it does make sense that it would soak in more as it sat there! Deep scratches (for me) haven’t really harmed anything as far as I’ve seen, but just keep in mind that if you’re ever trying to get out a scratch and use a coarser grit sandpaper to get them out, you will want to gradually increase that to higher and higher grits until the countertop is all sanded the same smoothness. If you leave deep scratches in the wood, it’s a haven for bacteria to get in there because you can’t get it scrubbed as easily as a smooth surface. Just my two cents!

  1. Ohhhhhhhh, so pretty!! I love the way the product brought out all the variation in the wood! I bet this was a very satisfying project- wipe it on and watch it become gorgeous!! Do you have to apply the product monthly forever, or just for a certain period of time? I am loving your kitchen!!

    1. The purpose of oiling the counter is two-fold: one, to protect the surface from water and stains; and two, to protect the wood from drying out and possibly cracking. The benefit of the two-pronged beeswax and oil mix is that the beeswax is extra-nourishing for both purposes (water & drying) than just the oil alone, or so I’ve been reading.

      So I think that while the monthly application is recommended with normal oil applications, I’ll probably have to maintain it less often thanks to the beeswax. I figure it will depend on how the wood feels (also considering that I live in a naturally humid climate, I’m not sure how that impacts me versus someone who lives in a more arid region). Lots of factors I guess to consider, and in hindsight, I probably should have put all of this reasoning in the post! If enough questions come in about it, I’ll update the post with the same info.

        1. It’s not really a darkening action (in that there is no tint change); it just brings out the natural wood tones in the same way it would appear if the wood were wet.

  2. Giggle inducing comment placed here: That is some Sexy Wood! LOL. I love how it got darker and all the variation. Before you oiled it up I was thinking it was so light that it needed to be stained. But the oil did an amazing job.

  3. LOVE these. They’re so pretty. I’m curious as to what your total cost was for the counter tops after all the set backs and plan changes. Overall, it looks like it worked out for the best.

  4. Holy moly! That is gorgeous. I think it’s one of those moments that define you as an adult when countertops can be just that exciting.

  5. That Howard’s is great stuff. It definitely breathed some new life into some crappy old cutting boards we have that I (gasp) have neglected for, oh, the last ten years or so.

  6. Love this! We actually just purchased butcher block countertops but they look nothing like this! What brand name of stain did you use & where can I purchase it? Also, did you use cloth or brush to put stain on? Details please :)

  7. Love, love, love your countertops. Think I would love those even better than granite. Could probably even talk my wood lovin’ hubby into these.

  8. So. PRETTY! I love how rich the walnut looks with just the oil/wax on it. Stain definitely has it’s place, but mostly naked wood is pretty gorgeous too.

  9. Oh baby–love that wood. And hard (again) not to giggle after you end your post with that statement. (I mentioned I am married to a boy in a man’s body, right? UGH!) Seriously….”oh, baby, love.that.wood.” Yes, I would be petting. The cluster that ended up a blessing–those are good times :) I am SO glad you paid for the $9 product–no biggie there in cost! It is beautiful!!!

  10. It looks great! We’re still trying to decide what surface to use when we do our big kitchen remodel, but wood is really looking up.

    Since you are sealing against the wood drying out, do you need to treat the underside of the counter? It seem’s silly, since it’s not going to get wear and tear from use, but if it’s just bare under there wouldn’t it dry out as well?

    1. I wondered that too, but I read up a few reviews of other people using the oil method and a few of them disclosed that they didn’t bother to seal the underside. So I didn’t either. I think as long as I regularly take care of the top, I’ll be doing what’s necessary to protect the wood from drying out (I’m spending several weeks just letting things soak overnight with each application, which will then get to the point of treatment every 1-3 months or so). The air in Georgia is also naturally humid, so I may have that on my side, too.

  11. Wow your countertops look awesome. On a separate, but related note, can you tell me what size your base cabinets are to the right of your sink and left of your oven? I have a simialar corner and have been debating a corner cabinet or just leaving it “dead” and trying to figure out how much room I’d need to scooch my oven over a little from it’s current placement. Thanks Sarah!

    1. The base cabinets are standard sizes, so they are 24″ deep, and the length will depend on your layout. The corner is dead and I am planning to keep it that way (future post, but it was really gross back there after leaving it dead for 30 years and there is NO WAY I’m turning that into functional utensil-touching space now that I have those images in my head!). There’s also a small cookie sheet narrow cabinet to the left of the oven (which I assume is a standard size as well, since nothing in this house was custom). Hope that helps!

  12. Cool! I like how the beeswax & mineral oil mix brings out the grain of the wood and the color. Does the counter top require any extra care with hot dishes because of the beeswax?

  13. Looks SOOOOOO good!

    This is the same stuff we’ve been using for the last year and it’s been working great. We usually apply once per month to keep it looking nice and saturated. But it sure makes a mess of your hands (though my skin is so smooth after applying it).

  14. Hi I am also installing maple butcher block counter tops and using mineral oil to treat them. I was curious if you put anything on the bottom of your counters to protect from your dishwasher and the sink area? I have read a few websites suggesting to line the underside of your counter with heavy duty aluminum foil above dishwasher and seal with polyurethane around and under sink area. Did you do either of these or something else to protect from water damage? Thanks :)

    1. No, I didn’t do anything like that (I’ve had no problems, but I haven’t used the kitchen much since starting the renovation, so the worry might get to me & I may do something about it). The sink was sealed between the wood and basin with clear silicone caulk, but no poly. I haven’t really run the dishwasher much since installing the counters and will possibly take the dishwasher back out to add something between the counter and top of the dishwasher (just because of steam). My advice is to do whatever sounds reasonable to protect your counters. I’m hyper vigilant about wiping down the sink so that no water is ever left standing (not a drop!) on the counter to soak into the wood.

  15. I love your walnut counters. We are considering this in our kitchen remodel. Can you tell me where you sourced the counters? The only ones I know of are John Boos and it is a little pricier than I wanted.

  16. Watch the sink cut-out, that’s end grain and is “designed” to wick water. Remember that every time you wipe up water with your dish towel you remove a tiny amount of finish so that area may need to have more frequent applications.

    When I was planning my counter top the sales lady told me they will factory install an under mount sink on a laminate but it voids any warranty. Hmmm. I love the look of UM sinks but I’d only do it with stone.

    Yours looks great though.

    1. Thanks! There’s no finish/stain on the sink, so I just wipe it down with the same cloth I’m using to wipe on the oil/beeswax. So far, it’s holding up nicely (but I’m very careful to watch for any beading water so I can wipe it up asap). Great tip.

  17. Hi Sarah!

    Counters look great! I realize this question/post is not very recent to your post on the topic, but I happened to come across this while ‘googling’ :). My wife and I just installed our butcher block counters. The question I have… Did you sand in-between coats at all? Did you sand after your final coat? I’m finding that the oil sealant we are using (watco butcher block oil and finish) is working very well, but the finish itself isn’t very smooth to the touch – perhaps it’s not supposed to be?

    Would it make more sense to put 3, 4 or 5 sealant coats on before sanding? I’d love to hear your application and sanding process!! Thank you.

    1. Frank, the product you’re talking about is a completely different type of treatment for butcher block than the mineral oil/wax mixture I’m using, so unfortunately, I don’t have much advice since I haven’t used it for mine. Your product is more of a varnish, so I would imagine it would be more like finishing a piece of furniture (best I could tell you is to look at the manufacturer’s instructions). But to answer your question about my sanding process, I have experienced a little roughness on the surface here and there after some cleaning over the last few months, but all I needed to do is just sand them a little more and apply the oil again as I do on a regular basis (every couple of months). Good luck on your counters!

      1. what is the product you are using? i am trying to seal an oak countertop that i have sanded and stained.

        1. There is a link to the product in the post above; it’s a mineral oil/beeswax mixture that’s meant to treat unstained wood. If you’ve stained the countertop, it isn’t food safe, so you will probably need to use a tung oil sealer or poly.

    2. Lary Fish nailed it in saying:
      “After you sand down to a 320 grit take a sponge and wipe the table or counter top down with water and the grain will Bristle after it dries for about 24 hrs. (Then sand) So when you put on your finish it will not Bristle the grain and you won’t have any rough spots.
      It’s an old trick my dad taught me.”

      but you can also use a sanding sponge in between coats.

  18. Did you cut the whole for the sink or did you buy the countertop pre cut? And what type of sink did you buy and where from? Thanks!

  19. what is the name of the beeswax/oil product you used? I am getting read to make my countertops this winter from old barn wood. And I love the color of your counters.

  20. These countertops are gorgeous!!! We bought some butcher block countertops to use as a desk. If I use the mineral oil/beeswax mixture to seal them will it leave an oily residue? I want my kids to be able to work on homework there without worrying about their papers/clothes (should they lean against it) getting messed up. Clearly I am very new to this!

    1. Yes, it is an oil mixture, so it will soak into anything on top if you don’t wipe it off well enough. When it comes to my kitchen, my biggest concern was choosing a foodsafe product that I don’t have to worry about and won’t yellow on me. So you might be better off using a more traditional poly if you’re looking for durability against kids.

  21. After you sand down to a 320 grit take a sponge and wipe the table or counter top down with water and the grain will Bristle after it dries for about 24 hrs. So when you put on your finish it will not Bristle the grain and you won’t have any rough spots after you lastly do a final sanding with the 320 grit before you put on your finish.
    It’s an old trick my dad taught me.

  22. How many coats of butcher block oil/beeswax did you have to apply to get the darker warm look?

    1. The color looked like that on the very first application. The oil/beeswax mixture does not add color—it just brings out the existing color in the wood (similar to how the wood looks when wet). So, the color you see here is because the butcher block was a walnut butcher block. A lighter wood species (like birch or beech) will produce a lighter color.

      1. Thank you, my butcher block is maple. I used the same method as you, it did not darken. I do not want to stain it and after more research last night, I found that if I use dark tung oil first then the mineral oil beeswax, I will get the results I am looking for. Thank you again for replying back.

  23. I am curious, I just purchase IKEA butcher block in walnut. The product says it is sealed with wax. Do I need to sand surface in order for the mineral oil/beeswax to work. Please tell me your regiment from the beginning. ie; like one coat a day for a week, once a month…etc. thanks,

    1. My countertops are solid walnut butcher block from a different vendor, not veneer like Ikea’s. The Ikea butcher block is totally different. For mine, I sanded the bare wood surface gradually to finer and finer grit to make it smooth, then applied the first coat and let it soak in overnight. I wiped the excess off the next day if there was any with a soft cloth (the first few coats really soaked in since the wood had no other treatments on it). Then added another and another until I could see water droplets beading up on the surface when I tested it. After that, I’ve been treating it whenever the wood feels dry to the touch. No more than once a month.

      1. I bought a walnut Butcher Block counter like yours and intend to use the same stuff—-do you do anything after wiping down the first coat and applying the 2nd and 3rd? sanding? 0000 steel wool? or just apply again on top of the first and second dried and t-shirted coat?

        1. Regardless of sand or use steel wool, I would do all of that before oiling. It’s not like applying poly. The oil is supposed to soak into the grain. You might also want to raise the grain using some spritzes of water before your last or second-to-last sanding job. From time to time (like a year later or as you get more wear & tear on the butcher block from use & cleaning), you might experience some raised grain if you use water-based cleaners; you can always sand these spots smooth again and treat once more with the oil mix. This isn’t a one-and-done kind of finish; you’re going to treat it and care for it many times over its lifespan. Hope that helps!

  24. I love love love your counters! So is it really that simple? Sand, tack, and oil? No sealer? It can’t be that easy, can it?!

        1. I doubt the type of butcher block makes a difference for a treatment like this, but I’m sure the back of the container would say if there’s an issue, so just glance at it before you buy. If you’re staining the birch though, I would treat it with something else, like a poly or Waterlox. The reason I chose the oil/wax mix was for food safety, and staining is not going to be food safe.

  25. Man, you’ve had such a different experience with your Lumber Liquidators countertops. I am so jealous. I got maple butcherblock instead of walnut, and despite sanding and treating with both mineral oil and beeswax (and it was SO thirsty…I used seriously 11 bottles of mineral oil on it and it was still soaking it up), it never felt smooth or clean and the grain would always raise the minute water hit it. We ended up getting a sheet of tempered glass to put over the top. Have you had any issues with the grain raising on yours? I need to replace the rest of my countertops and am thinking of trying a different kind of butcherblock just because I like the wood look, and the price is right.

    1. Awesome question! Actually, yes, the grain has raised after cleaning, but it was my mistake initially for not thinking to “pop” the grain in the first place. By watering it down a little and THEN sanding it, it knocks out that raised grain that always happens when getting wood wet (conversely, using the same technique opens the grain for more even staining when staining floors, etc., which you would then sand and poly over). I always expected a little maintenance, so I’ll be doing a sanding job once more in the next few months, and then putting the usual mineral oil and wax mixture on top. I’ll have some updates on that when it happens!

      1. Oh, that’s interesting. I didn’t “pop” the grain before I oiled either, but I did end up sanding down raised areas a few times and re-oiling before we gave up and put down the glass, but I can’t remember whether any of those areas ever came back up. I’ll be interested to hear how your counters wear after you do that!

        1. FWIW, I’m also planning to test out a (more permanent) sealer for around the sink. I haven’t been super pleased with the way the moisture still leaves spots when things get splashed (since it’s undermount and stainless sinks seem to not help matters when it comes to splatter from the water hitting it). Of course, the mineral oil soaks right back in and makes these spots less noticeable, but since there’s little need for a food-safe lip around the sink, I figure this could help. I’ll be sure to include the results.

          1. I did, but I haven’t written about it yet. I tested the beeswax/mineral oil mixture for a long time, which works well on most of the rest of the sink, but on the lip, I’ll be adding a water-based sealer (chosen so that it doesn’t yellow, like other polys do). I’ll be posting about it soon… probably just next week.

          2. Hey Sarah! It’s been so wonderful and helpful reading through all your comments! I saw this one and got real excited seeing that you would write about the added sealer around the sink. But alas, I have not been able to find any posts about it after searching through your site! Did I miss it somewhere? Or could you give an update (especially now that it’s 2 years later..) about how the Howard’s–or whatever else you applied in that area–has held up around the sink? Thank you!

          3. Sorry to disappoint, but it takes me FOREVER to do some of these follow up projects. I tested it out on the underside of a new counter I put in the breakfast nook area, and it just didn’t have the same coloring (it was way too light, where the oil soaked in and added a nice, rich color). As such, I’ve just chickened out on retreating it with anything other than the oil and beeswax mixture that I originally used. I covered some details about the counter and how it’s been holding up in a 2016 sink update, which you can read about here.

          4. Thanks for getting back so quickly! We are following your lead and just using the oil/beeswax. Thanks for all your info! We so appreciate it!

    2. 11 bottles?! I thought two was a lot. I only have a 18 sq ft. island Though. I used granite (Bianco Antico) for the rest of the counter tops which looks awesome but the island alone was $1200 in granite so I decided to try a butcher block for $130. It looks great but I’m sure a granite island would look even better. I figured I could always upgrade the island later if I didn’t like the BB. I can even repurpose the island top into a workbench or something.

  26. I dumped (2) 16 oz bottles of intestinal lubricant on the top of my 3’x6′ birch BB, it soaked them up like a sponge. I wonder if there’s any risk of it working its way through and dripping out the bottom.

  27. Thank you for your post,it comes at a good time since I am in the middle of installing Maple tops from LL. I oiled mine twice on the underside with mineral oil before I did the topside and started cutting. I bought two twelve footers + backsplash.The first problem I had was my straight slipped and I don’t have to tell how disgusting that was. Another mistake was trying to cut too much depth at a time and the blade warped but it was on an end that goes against the wall so I dodged a bullet on that one. I made a template to cut the draw bolt slots. The sink hole is next but I am using a drop in.Did you have any warping? I do and I hope I can work it out. Thanks again.

    1. I was worried about warping, so I pretty much tried to get the wood installed day of/next day after picking it up from LL. Now that it’s installed, it’s bolted in several areas so that it can stay nice and level.

  28. I am so glad I found this post! My wife and I were planning to do Ikea counters, but the Ikea is an hour away! Not only that, but the LL store is in our town! Now I just need to talk her into spending double what we would have at Ikea…

  29. I’ve pretty much followed what you have said to a “T.” The only thing I can’t find is how to clean the counter. In the past, I would just spray a cleaner on and use a paper towel to clean. Not sure I can do that with the butcher block. Suggestions?

    1. You would clean it like you would a butcher block cutting board, pretty much. Plain ol’ dish soap and a scrubber gets off any gunk, but undiluted vinegar sanitizes. Try to thoroughly dry the surface as much as possible after, or else you’ll get the grain to raise a little (in which case, you can just sand that down and re-oil). It’s old school, but so is this type of counter.

    1. It’s a simple process where you apply water to the surface of the wood, which raises the grain. Doing so and then sanding, by the way I understand it, makes the finish job a little smoother. I’ve noticed after cleaning the counters a few times, the surface is no longer as smooth as when I first sanded. So, I think I’ll have to re-sand since the water has “popped” the grain as a consequence of cleaning.

  30. I LOVE your countertop! I could not find in your posts where you DID end up buying the countertop ?? I love the rich tones.

  31. Hello, stumbled upon your post while researching butcher block. Your kitchen revamp is LOVELY! As a soon to be walnut countertop owner…inquiring mind (s) would love to know, how are the counters holding up? What is the upkeep? Is it the once a month treatment you originally thought? Going to peep out all the projects in the not so ugly duckling house! :)

    1. Hey Stephine! The upkeep has been relatively good… I would recommend checking out my post about the sink area (here), which is a more recent update and addresses a lot of questions since it’s usually the spot that needs the most care (water + wood being such enemies and all). I’m planning to experiment soon with a new product and will share those details when I do, but I still use the same Howard oil mixture I’ve been using since the beginning, and a few blog friends who installed butcher block are also using the same product. The counter won’t be perfect or waterproof like using granite or a manufactured top, but that’s kind of its charm, so you have to be in the right mindset to tolerate that character will show over time: dark spots, scratches, etc.

  32. With the Howard product have you had any problems with water rings from sitting wet glasses on the countertops?

    1. I have, but it usually goes away when you put oil on the mark. I covered the difference of applying oil over water spots and the difference it makes around my sink here. Hope that helps!

  33. Hello Sarah,
    Just wanted to get some clarification. we also just purchased a walnut butcher block that is unfinished. Right now it looks like it has been sanded because it’s really smooth. Do you think I can just apply the oil/wax directly or should I use some water to first raise the grain, then sand again and then the oil. Also I could open the link tot he product you use. Can you please give it to me again. Is it two different products oil +wax or one that has both in. I am looking for a food safe option since we want to make pastries and dough on it. Thank you and I’m looking forward to your response.

    1. I’ll update the link in the post, and here it is again! It IS marked as food safe for direct contact, so you should be able to make stuff on it. I would honestly go ahead and raise the grain, then sand smooth with finer and finer grits of sandpaper (because even though it probably has been sanded, it’s likely not in its final sanding stage, and I had to sand once it was installed anyway). Good luck on your project!

      1. Thank you so much for the info that you provided. I was wondering if you get a redish staining on your wash cloths when you wipe your butcher block. I have applied miner oil to it a few times now, but every time I use a damp wash cloth to wipe down the butcher block surface my white dish cloth stains redish. I’m just wondering if that is normal from natural wood or did I do something wrong. The reason I’m wondering because I’m hoping to use my butcher block surface for making pastries and baked goods on it, but I don’t want the dough to get stained. Please let me know if you have any input on this, I really appreciate your response.

      2. Nice effort. Thanks
        I’ve seen furniture makers use a scraper.
        If memory serves the scraper is a flat hardened piece of steel with the corner intersecting with the sides very sharp. It is used to remove the fuzz that comes up after wetting but doesn’t make more fuzz like sandpaper does.
        Do you have any experience using a scraper on butcher block?

  34. Did you seal the bottom of the tops [against humidity/moisture] prior to installation?
    Wondering if you have any warping of the wood over time?

  35. Just order my walnut counter tops from lumber Liquidators thanks to your post! It looks great! Did you only use the conditioner on your counters?

    1. I sanded them really well first (and still do when there’s a rough spot… sometimes the cleaning products will work up the grain from the liquid in the cleaner) and then the oil/wax mixture. That’s it! Simple… just be sure to treat it regularly for best water protection.

      1. I wish I could Post a photo of my butcher block counter. They look amazing! Thanks for spending the time to share your story! Everything was very helpful! Backsplash next on list!

  36. Good day,
    I just got my countertops today, have not even cut and installed them yet. I am looking at the various options and the Howard Conditioner is looking like a great option. My concern is this, and since you are 5 years into this, I am sure you can answer my biggest concern. I hear that Mineral Oil remains slightly wet and can transfer to clothing and such, is that the case with Howard’s Conditioner?
    Thank you!

    1. You’re supposed to put it on, let it soak, and wipe up any excess that’s still there after it has time to soak in. I usually treat them at night, allow to soak overnight, then wipe off in the morning. I’ve never had a problem with oil transfers unless I hadn’t wiped off excess properly. Never had it transfer to clothing.

      1. Thank you so much, we started the process today, doing the bottoms first so that we can see how it looks and understand it better. We are totally delighted with the way they are turning out and can’t wait to finish all 3 countertops. This article, and your response, was the most helpful that we found, and was the one that made us decide for sure to go with Howard’s.

        1. So glad you found it helpful, Timothy! Thanks for your feedback, too — it always brightens my day to hear that someone found these posts helpful for their own home improvements.

  37. You can make your own by melting Beeswax in mineral oil over a double boiler or in a crock pot. 4 to 1 for a paste. If you want it thinner add more mineral oil!

    1. For me, this is one of those times where DIYing my own version is just not worth the effort, but I am sure others will be happy to know the ratio if they want to make it, so thank you very much for commenting and providing the details!

  38. Hi Sarah, I read through all the comments and I hope I didn’t miss the answer making this a duplicate question but now that you have had the countertops in for awhile what are you finding your schedule of reapplying the conditioner to be? I am only doing my island so it will not have constant water to deal with. I know before you started you said it would be every 1-3 months but after having used that particular product (which is what I got) how often have you had to re-apply? Thanks!

    1. I honestly should reapply more, but I’ve been VERY lazy about it. I would say I have reapplied only every 6 months or so. It’s due for a good re-sanding and reapplication (I’m thinking of even switching to a hardening oil that is still considered food safe once cured, though I need to do some testing to see how much it might yellow the color of the wood… if it yellows, I’ll continue with the mineral oil/beeswax instead). It’s on my to-do list but I hope that answers it! I can go for long periods of time but I also am VERY careful to clean up water spills.

  39. Hi… getting ready to tackle my laundry room sink with butcher block. I’m wondering if, since it is not being used for food products, would it be better to use a traditional varnish type of product? I love the idea of natural oil and beeswax, but wondering if it would be less maintenance since I’m not concerned about food? I wouldn’t want it to yellow though, so maybe stick with Howard’s? What do you think?

    Thank you! Lori

    1. If you’re not using it around food, I’d definitely go with something that is more durable and less maintenance. You DO run the risk of poly yellowing over time (oil-based polyurethane tends to yellow or “amber” more immediately than water-based, UV exposure can make it worse, etc.). There are lots of finishing products on the market and lots will promise not to yellow, but from my experience, it’s mostly only a matter of time before many will yellow (some sooner than others). There are other products you could also look into such as danish oil, teak oil, linseed oil, etc. A product such as General Finishes High Performance might be up your alley. Good luck on your project! Do all the prep work and the sanding steps recommended on the can of whatever you buy; it truly makes a huge difference in quality and wear over time!

  40. Thank you for sharing your experience with walnut counter tops! I’m in the market for the same thing. They came out beautiful and I am going to use the oil/ wax product.
    I’m curious about the sink – under mounted like you have. -vs- drop in. I keep reading conflicting arguments for both ? Why did you go with undermount?

    1. Simply a style preference. I don’t like the look of the lip of a drop-in sink! I’ve loved this countertop for over a decade now. It takes some maintenance every now and then but I love all the character it has!