How do I Care for Wood Countertops?

C. Ausbrooks

Wood countertops, sometimes referred to as butcher block countertops, require more maintenance than other types of counters. This is due to the porous nature of the wood, and its ability to absorb bacteria. To keep wood countertops in the best shape, they should be regularly oiled with mineral oil, and cleaned after each use.

Butcher block countertops can be sanitized with a bleach and water solution.
Butcher block countertops can be sanitized with a bleach and water solution.

Mineral oil is a transparent, colorless substance created as a by-product of petroleum distillation. It is used on wood countertops because it can penetrate the wood grains to keep the surface resistant to stains, and maintain the finish. Vegetable and olive oils should not be used for this purpose, as they will turn rancid.

Iodized salt can be used to remove stains from wood countertops.
Iodized salt can be used to remove stains from wood countertops.

Mineral oil should be applied topically once every two to three months to preserve the life of wood countertops. Warm the mineral oil slightly on the stove top prior to application. Dip a soft cloth into the warmed oil, and apply to the wood, wiping in the same direction as the wood grain. Allow the mineral oil to soak in for up to eight hours before wiping off any excess oil that has not been absorbed.

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For everyday cleaning of wood countertops, a solution made of liquid dish soap and warm water is appropriate. A mixture made of one tablespoon (15 ml) bleach with one gallon (4 quarts) warm water should be applied to kill bacteria. This solution should be used any time raw meat or poultry has been placed upon the countertop. Scouring cleaner or scouring pads should never be used to clean wood countertops, as they can damage the finish. Use only a soft cloth or sponge with gentle cleansers.

Wooden countertops also have a tendency to absorb odors, particularly from aromatic foods such as onion and garlic. To remove these odors, sprinkle baking soda over the surface of the counter immediately after use. Use a sponge moistened with warm water to wipe down the counter, and rinse away any excess baking soda.

To remove stains from wood countertops, sprinkle iodized salt over the affected area. Cut a fresh lemon in half, and scrub the salted portion of the counter with the cut side of the lemon. Allow the lemon and salt to remain on the countertop overnight, and rinse thoroughly the next day.

For deep, dark stains on wood countertops, combine one part hydrogen peroxide with three parts warm water. Use a soft cloth or sponge to apply the mixture to the surface of the wood. Allow the solution to remain for several minutes before rinsing thoroughly with warm water. If stains are not removed using this method, refinishing and resealing of the counters may be necessary.

Remember to wipe up spills immediately to prevent stains. Also, never allow water to remain standing on the surface of wood countertops. Soaking up too much moisture can cause the counters to crack and warp. Always dry them thoroughly with a clean kitchen towel to prevent damage.

Cleaning supplies for wood countertops.
Cleaning supplies for wood countertops.

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Discussion Comments


Great article. Thanks for the tips.

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