Caring for a Butcher Block Countertop
We chose to not only install a wood countertop, but we also made it ourselves! It was a laborious project, but I'm really happy with how it turned out. Now that we are living in the tiny house, we have switched into maintaining mode. A wood countertop can last for years and years, if it's properly cared for. The first thing to decide is if you want to cut and chop food directly on the countertop. It's basically a countertop sized cutting board, after all! We decided not to cut directly on ours, at least at first, because the knife marks will damage the surface. So that is one less thing we have to worry about with keeping our countertop looking nice.
Step one is to clear the countertop of stuff and give it a good scrub with a slightly damp towel. You don't want to soak the countertop, so just a little bit of water will do. Harsh cleaning chemicals are also a no-no, because they will strip off the layer of wax that protects the countertop and makes it water resistant.
We are currently using Howard's Butcher Block Conditioner, but we have also used Boos Block Board Cream in the past for cutting boards. The key is to find one with both mineral oil and wax. The mineral oil will moisturize the wood, which keeps the wood more flexible and helps it not dry out and split. The wax will provide a water-resistant coating, further protecting the countertop and making cleanup of any spills super duper easy!
Step two is to squeeze out a generous amount of the conditioner on the countertop. We've used this particular bottle of Howard's two or three times and it is halfway empty already. Similar to staining wood, you'll put a lot on and then wipe off the excess.
Step three is giving your countertop a nice massage! Haha, yes, go ahead and use your hands (wedding rings off!) to rub the conditioner into the wood. The heat from your hands will help soften up the wax so it is absorbed better into the grain of the wood.
At this point, the countertop should have a skim of conditioner all over it. In the picture above, you can see there are ridges and prints from Dan's fingers still visible. It's best to let the skim of conditioner sit for a bit. A half an hour is fine, if the countertop is already well seasoned. If this is the first time waxing or if it has been a really long time since the last coat, leaving it overnight would be ideal.
After letting it soak in, the next step is to wipe the conditioner off with paper towel or a paper napkin. You're taking off the excess conditioner that didn't soak in and starting to get that sheen finish. You can see in the picture above that the countertop is still shiny but doesn't have the gloppy extra from the picture before. At this point you can use the countertop, but if you have the time, let it sit some more and do a final wipe down with more paper towel.
This process should be done about once a month, or if you notice that the wood isn't repelling liquid anymore. Liquid on the countertop should bead up, and if it doesn't then it's time to bust out the conditioner! We also do this same process with our wooden cutting boards. It helps keep them more sanitary and live longer. We have a cutting board from our wedding 8 years ago that's still going strong, and we hope to keep it for many years to come! This whole process takes only a couple minutes (excluding the soaking time) and costs very little. A bottle of Howard's should last through 6-10 uses, depending on the size of your countertop, and it can be purchased on Amazon for less than $10. Love your countertop and it will reward you with many years of usefulness, and stay looking beautiful!
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