How to keep butcher block counters looking great

March 20, 2020

One of the top five questions I get about our house (and our old one!) is about our wood countertops. We've had butcher block counters on our islands for ten years now. Thanks to my Dad I know the best way to treat them and keep them beautiful for years!

I shared how to protect bare wood counters a couple years ago, so check out that post to see more detail. I also share how I stained the butcher block in that post.

This time I wanted to show you how well they have held up over nearly two and half years:
How to keep butcher block looking like new

It's really best to reapply this every six months or so...but as you'll see, it's not absolutely necessary. Ours have held up beautifully all this time. 

Overall, the whole island counter has lightened from use, and it was uniform. The only part that was slightly darker was under the tray that I use for hand and dish soap:
How to treat and care for wood counters

This post may contain affiliate links for your convenience. 
See my policies and disclosure page for more information. 

Nearly EVERYTHING is easily cleaned off of the wood counters. We've had water condensation sit for hours, water spills, wine, cat vomit 😖 -- all of it. If you treat them well like I'll show you, you won't have any issues keeping them clean. 

The only thing that I haven't been able to remove is permanent marker: 

How to treat wood countertops

The great thing is, you can sand that down and get rid of it. I choose to leave it because it's so small and it adds character. ;)

Because I've already protected the counters, the reapplication process is super easy and quick. Not sure why I've waited so long to do this! 

You'll just want to wipe them down well -- I used water: 
How to treat wood countertops

Let it dry thoroughly and then you can start adding the Tung oil. Tung oil has been used for centuries and is by far my favorite way to protect wood. Polyurethane works too, but I find this is MUCH easier to work with and hides wear much better. It's also more difficult to take off and refinish.

This is the brand I've used for years:
Tung oil to protect wood counters

I've also used the Minwax brand and that works well. (It looks like Minwax now owns Formby's.)

To apply you'll want a glove to protect your hands and a low lint rag. I just pour the oil out and start spreading:
How to waterproof wood counters

It instantly warms up the wood! If anything, this is why I will start reapplying more often -- it brings back that deeper, beautiful wood tone: 
The best and easiest way to protect wood counters

Rub it in well, then go over it again with a new or clean side of the rag. I use the sheen of the lights to look for spots that I may not have covered well. 

Continue to rub it in until you get a uniform finish: 
How to protect butcher block countertops

For first application I would do this at night, so you can let it fully dry without touching. This coat was dry in a few hours. 

Be sure to check out this post for more information on the process from bare wood. You can also see there how liquids bead up on the surface once dry. 

Tung oil is truly the easiest and best way to protect wood countertops: 
How to keep wood counters looking beautiful for years

I've been planning to move our faucet handle to the front, because water drips onto the counter when we turn it off. We're pretty good about wiping it up, but not all the time. Even so, that area still looks as good as new! 

LOVE this stuff and LOVE the warmth and character of wood counters! I've heard from many readers over the years who have been warned off of them by contractors. Are they completely maintenance free? Nope. But if you protect them well they will hold up beautifully with minimal effort. 

If you have any questions about wood counters please let me know! :) 

See more of our home here. To shop items in our home, click here! Never miss a post by signing up to get posts via email
Email subscription form header
Your email:*
Please enter all required fields Click to hide
Correct invalid entries Click to hide


  1. Love the wood counter top, especially on an island with a primarily white kitchen. Keep your posts coming! They are a good distraction at this CWAZY time.

  2. We have an old and poorly maintained butcher block countertop in the house my husband bought before we married. We are replacing it. Yours is beautiful. What type of wood is yours? Was it treated when you had it installed, or is this all Tung oil? We want our new one to last and look like yours!!

    1. Ours is Walnut. :) I stained ours and then added the Tung oil over the top.

  3. I have a mesquite counter for my island (as a Texan I love my mesquite :-) ). I use pure tung oil on mine - when dry it's food safe, and I think it smells better than products with mineral spirits in them (like Formby's). I love the character that wood counters get with use - I don't mind any marks or dings either. And since they're solid wood, they can always be sanded down and made pristine again.

  4. We just had a butcher block counter installed on our island. Our contractor applied 1 coat of Watco oil & finish. It’s caused the wood grain to be more pronounced and feels rough. Do I just sand and apply more coats? The contractor told me “it’s wood. It’s supposed to feel rough.” He won’t do anything else to it. :(

    1. No, your wood shouldn't be rough! It should be super smooth. I would use steel wool to knock down the texture and then try the Tung oil. You may have to sand it down again if a lot of the oil was used.

  5. Gorgeous! We had wood counters at our last house. I loved them! Your whole kitchen is so beautiful. I admire all the finish choices so much.
    (pinned) ;)


If you have a specific question I will do my best to answer you back here!

You can find our paint colors and links to items at the "Our Home" tab at the top of my site.

THANKS so much for reading!