How To Finish A Butcher Block Countertop

Butcher block countertops are a timeless choice for any kitchen, offering both functionality and a touch of rustic charm. Their natural warmth and character can make any space feel more welcoming. However, finishing them properly is crucial to maintain their beauty and ensure their longevity.

A butcher block countertop can be finished with various products, including mineral oil and beeswax for natural finishes, and Waterlox and Polyurethane as more durable synthetic options. The countertop must be properly prepared before the finish is applied to ensure a durable and appealing finish.

We will walk you through the process of finishing a butcher block countertop, including exploring different finishing materials and their pros and cons, and provide step-by-step instructions to help you achieve the perfect finish.

Importance Of The Finish On A Butcher Block Countertop

A butcher block countertop is not only functional but also adds character to your kitchen, whether in a homestead or a suburban home. It is a beautiful and practical addition that will last for years.

However, it requires regular maintenance, particularly the finish. The finish is essential to protect the countertop from scratches, cuts, contamination, and water damage.

Many homesteaders opt for butcher block countertops because it is a natural, robust alternative that can be easier to maintain than many other alternatives.

Correctly finishing a butcher block countertop enhances its appearance and protects it from damage, extending its lifespan.

It involves sealing the wood to prevent moisture, bacteria, and stains from penetrating its surface. But with many finishing options available, from mineral oil and polyurethane to tung oil and beyond, it can be challenging to know which method is best for your countertop.

There are various finishing options available for butcher block countertops. You can choose from oil-based polyurethane, tung oil, waterlox, mineral oil, or natural color stains.

Before selecting the finishing option that best suits your needs, consider its durability and safety factors. Butcher block countertops are generally food-preparation areas; thus, you need a food-safe sealer that does not contain harmful chemicals.

Choosing The Finish For A Butcher Block Countertop

Many options are available when choosing the right finish for your butcher block countertop. The most important factor in selecting a finish is ensuring it is food-safe and will not affect the food’s taste and quality.

Some popular choices for food-safe sealers include mineral oil, beeswax, and polyurethane. Mineral oil is a popular choice for DIY butcher block finishing as it is affordable and easy to apply.

  • Mineral oil. Mineral oil is an excellent food-safe sealer for butcher blocks as it is non-toxic and does not alter food flavor. This clear oil penetrates the wood and enhances its natural color without leaving a glossy finish. However, mineral oil must be reapplied frequently to maintain its protective properties.
  • Beeswax. Beeswax is another popular option for those looking to finish their butcher block with natural ingredients. When mixed with mineral oil, beeswax creates a durable protective layer that adds subtle shine to the wood. However, it may require more frequent reapplication than other finishes.
  • Polyurethane provides an extremely durable surface that can withstand heavy use in areas such as kitchens. Polyurethane is safe to use on a butcher block countertop after fully cured; however, avoid using it on cutting boards as it will dull knives over time.

Polyurethane is a synthetic sealer that forms a clear protective layer over the wood, resisting stains and water damage.

Choosing the right finish for your butcher block countertop will depend on your preferences regarding appearance and maintenance needs. Consider factors such as frequency of use, desired level of glossiness or shine, and whether you want a natural or synthetic sealer when making your selection.

Food-Safe Finishes For Butcher Block Countertops

When it comes to finishing your butcher block countertop, choosing a food-safe finish is crucial. There are several options available, but not all of them meet the safety standards required for a food preparation surface in the kitchen.

The best food-safe finishes include natural oils like mineral oil and tung oil, and beeswax. These finishes are non-toxic, odorless, and easy to apply.

Mineral oil is one of the most common finishes and my favorite to use on butcher block countertops due to its affordability and ease of application. It penetrates the wood fibers and helps preserve the natural look of the wood while also providing a protective layer against water and stains.

Beeswax is another great natural, food-safe option for finishing butcher block countertops, as it creates a durable natural seal that repels water while allowing moisture to escape from the wood fibers.

Beeswax also helps prevent scratches and stains on your butcher block countertop’s surface while giving it an attractive sheen.

Waterlox is another popular food-safe finish that provides excellent protection against water damage while enhancing the natural beauty of your butcher block countertop’s grain pattern. It contains tung oil-based resin and can be applied using a brush or roller with multiple coats over time.

Waterlox offers superior durability when compared to mineral oil or wax finishes but requires more effort during application and curing time.

Depending on your specific needs and preferences, mineral oil, beeswax, and waterlox are all great options.

While polyurethane is not considered food safe until fully cured, once cured, it will provide long-lasting protection without requiring frequent reapplication.

It’s also important to note that whichever finish you choose, regular maintenance is required to keep your countertop looking its best.

Preparing The Butcher Block Countertop For Finishing

Before applying any finish to the butcher block countertop, it is essential to prepare it thoroughly. Before applying any finish or sealer, it must be free from bacteria or other contaminants.

You can do this by cleaning it with warm soapy water and allowing the countertop to dry completely before commencing finishing.

First and foremost, you should sand the countertop’s surface with fine-grit sandpaper to remove any imperfections or rough spots. Sanding will also help rough up the wood’s surface, allowing for better finish adhesion.

Once you are finished sanding, use a damp cloth to wipe down the countertop’s entire surface. This step is critical because it removes any dust or debris left on the surface and prepares it for finishing.

Allow ample time for the butcher block countertop to dry completely before moving on to applying your chosen finish.

Step By Step Guide: Appling Finish To the Butcher Block Countertop

Step By Step Guide: Applying Finish To The Butcher Block Countertop Once you have chosen the finish that best suits your needs, it’s time to apply it to the butcher block countertop.

We have created an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide on finishing your butcher block countertop.

1. Sand The Butcher Block Countertop

Before applying the finish, you must ensure the butcher block’s surface is smooth and free of scratches or imperfections.

Start by sanding the countertop with 120-grit sandpaper, followed by 220-grit sandpaper until you achieve a smooth and even surface. After sanding, wipe off any dust using a damp cloth.

2. Finish Application Process

When applying the finish, make sure that you carefully follow the instructions provided by the finish manufacturer.

If you are using mineral oil for butcher block countertops, simply apply a generous amount to the countertop surface using a clean cloth or brush.

To apply mineral oil to your butcher block countertop, sand it down with fine-grit sandpaper until smooth, then rub the oil onto the surface using a clean cloth or brush. Allow it to soak in for 20-30 minutes before wiping away any excess.

To apply beeswax to your countertop, heat up the wax in a microwave or double boiler until melted, then use a clean cloth or brush to spread it evenly over the surface.

3. Apply Multiple Coats

Most finish choices require applying multiple coats to achieve the desired finish and protection of the wood.

If you prefer polyurethane or tung oil for butcher block countertops, you must apply multiple coats of these finishes with sufficient drying time in between each coat. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how many coats are needed and whether sanding between coats is required.

If you choose mineral oil, it is recommended that you reapply it every month for at least six months after installation and then every three months after that or as needed.

How Often Should The Finish Be Applied?

Once you have invested your time, effort, and money into a beautiful butcher block countertop, it is natural to want to keep it looking great for years to come.

The good news is that with proper maintenance and care, you can extend your butcher block countertop’s life and maintain its pristine appearance.

One essential aspect of this maintenance is to periodically reapply a finish to the surface. The frequency of applying a finish to your butcher block countertop will depend on various factors such as usage patterns, environmental conditions, and the type of sealer or finish used initially.

As a general rule of thumb, you can apply mineral oil every month or any time when the wood appears dry or dull.

If you opt for an oil-based polyurethane or Waterlox finish, reapplication may only be necessary once every year or two.

Don’t overdo it with the application process because too much product can damage the surface rather than protect it.

Before reapplying any finishing products like mineral oil or polyurethane on your butcher block countertop, make sure you sand down any scratches and stains on the surface first.

Sanding helps remove any food residue that may have penetrated the wood pores while ensuring better adhesion between layers of finishes.

The frequency of reapplication depends on various factors such as usage patterns, environmental conditions, and the initial finishing type applied.


Finishing a butcher block countertop is an important step in maintaining the durability and aesthetic appeal of the surface. Polyurethane on butcher block is a popular option for sealing due to its durability and resistance to moisture and scratches. However, food-safe finishes such as mineral oil or beeswax are also excellent choices for those who prioritize safety over longevity.

The frequency of sealing butcher block countertops will depend on the level of use they receive, but generally speaking, it should be done at least once every six months or as needed to keep the surface protected. Sanding butcher block countertops may also be necessary before reapplying the finish.

There are many options for finishing a butcher block countertop that can suit various preferences and needs. By following the proper techniques and using high-quality products, you can ensure that your countertop remains safe, durable, and beautiful for years to come.



Alice is a writer who grew up on a beautiful homestead in rural Old England. She now lives in New England with her fur babies and is on a mission to return to the land for a simpler, greener, and all-round kinder existence.

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