How Our Wood Counters Have Held Up Years Later

September 03, 2021

How our wood butcher block countertops have held up over the years. (And how to make them look brand new again!) 

It's been nearly four years since we moved in to this house, can you believe it? 

I've shared our wood butcher block counters a lot over the years because I get SO many questions about them! I can't tell you how often I hear from readers who are hoping to use wood counters in their kitchen, but a contractor talks them out of it. 

Many will warn that wood counters are too difficult to maintain.

But that's simply not true. Yes, you CAN have wood counters in your kitchen and keep them looking great!

Our walnut island countertop came unfinished, and when our builder installed it they asked if I wanted mineral oil applied to protect them. I shared why the mineral oil didn't work on our wood counters here

I immediately went back to my tried and true wood finish...Tung oil.

This is the coating will last forever on wood. Even polyurethane will wear down with a lot of use.

Ours were finally showing some wear. It's been a year and a half since I had recoated the counters with this oil. I try to do it every six months, at the most once a year. Even after all this time, 90 percent of our island counter still looked GREAT!

But we did have some stains in wood: 
stains in wood countertops

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They were all on the counter closest to the fridge, so I'm guessing the stains were from oils from food.

I should mention, I don't expect (or want) our butcher block counter to be pristine. We don't cut directly on it, but I welcome the warmth of a slightly worn and distressed wood countertop. 

Slightly is the key word. 😁 I'm fine with dings (we really don't have any), scratches (hardly any) and some darker stains. But because the finish had worn so much, these were extra noticeable. 

Last time I reoiled the countertops I didn't have to sand -- if you don't have any major issues there's no need to. Just clean them well and reapply. 

This time I need to do a light sanding first. I love my Bosch sander
sanding stains off wood counters

I used a fine grit paper (120 grit) and most of the marks disappeared immediately. There were a couple (pictured above) that were a bit more stubborn, but I figured the oil would hide them. (I was right!)

Since I had to sand, I needed to get the fine layer of dust off of the counters first. A tack cloth is ideal for this, but if you don't have one, try to avoid using a soaking wet rag to wipe off the dust. The moisture will raise the wood and you'll lose the smooth finish you just achieved by sanding. 

Sometimes water popping is a good thing, but for just sealing counters you want to avoid it. Instead, use a slightly damp rag to wipe down the counters. This will keep the wood from raising. 

After sanding and wiping the counters, all you need to do is grab a lint free rag and liberally wipe on your Tung oil. I like to pour it directly on the counter and then apply: 
how to apply Tung oil to counters

Unlike stain and spray paint, you can use a heavy hand with Tung oil. Don't be afraid to use a lot of it! You'll wipe it down to remove the extra anyway. 

Use the light to see where you may need to add more Tung oil -- some spots in the wood will soak it up faster: 
Tung oil on wood countertops

I've used all kinds of Tung oil over the years. My favorite was Formby's but they were bought by Minwax. I have used the Minwax oil as well and like it. This time I used the Watco brand because it's what I had on hand. 

Isn't it crazy how much the oil warms up the wood?: 
how to seal wood counters

After letting it soak in for a bit -- anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes -- you'll want to start removing the excess and buffing the finish with another clean cloth. 

I've found the super inexpensive kitchen towels from IKEA work GREAT! I use them in the kitchen and once they are stained they go in the rag pile. 

They're also great for staining: 
ikea kitchen towels

If you are oiling a bare countertop for the first time, you'll want to do numerous coats, at least 12 hours apart. 

Once you've done it a few times over years, one coat will be sufficient each time: 
Tung oil finish on wood countertops

And it won't take nearly as long to fully dry!

I oiled our counters first thing in the morning and by evening I was able to use the sink no problem: 

pink green fall hydrangeas in sink

I cut some of our gorgeous hydrangeas and rinsed them in the sink. 😍

They were dripping everywhere -- this is a visual of how well Tung oil protects against water. It beads up and doesn't soak in: 
how to seal wood counters

I still want to move our faucet handle to the front, over the sink. This is the only spot that I ever worry about because of the water that drips from our hands when we turn off the water: 
sealing wood counters around faucet

But as you can see, it's in fantastic shape, even after four years!

We try to wipe up excess water throughout the day, but don't always keep up with it. 

The warmth of wood countertops is hard to beat!: 
undermount sink in wood counters

walnut stained wood counters

I LOVE it! 

Oh, and as you can see, yes you can have an undermount sink in wood counters. 

That wood around the sink has also held up beautifully -- just make sure to treat that part as you do the rest of the counters. 

Here are some helpful wood butcher block countertop posts and tips: 

Oh, and how beautiful are my hydrangeas?? Wow!: 
huge green and pink hydrangea blooms

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  1. Thank you for the post AND the suggestion of having the sink handle face towards the sink to minimize drips! Such a small thing but great idea. It’s those small details that make a difference!

  2. Any ideas on how to make those hydrangeas last more than a day or two? Mine look like yours and have I have them all over my yard, but they droop so fast.

  3. Thank you so much for this post! We are in the middle of a pretty big renovation and are putting butcher block in the laundry room. I love the warmth of the wood but wasn’t sure how to finish it off. This is the so timely:) Thanks!

  4. I have same issue with water dripping into puddle directly under kitchen sink faucet. Some homes it has been really bad because the island had a slight unlevel area and then that puddle would run. So I know use a color coordinated(with granite)microfiber cloth folded up several times under the faucet handle to catch the drips. It looks decent and avoids the puddles. Currently have a light grey microfiber cloth to match granite colors so it doesn't look so obvious. Also you can buy a small narrow silicone tray for sponges that you can also use in place of microfiber.

  5. I had to laugh when I saw that you used the IKEA dish towels for this. I had done the same. My countertop is Bamboo and we used the IKEA STOCKARYD wood treatment oil (a mixture of tung and other oils) and it has worked beautifully. I regularly wipe the drips from under the faucet handle with the dish cloth, but so far no stains or warping there. Thanks for your great ideas.

  6. Looks beautiful!
    We also had to fight with our contractor and they even refused to router a hole for our undermount sink.. ugh (thank goodness for my brother, he was able to borrow a router and saved the day!)
    We use a different finish, but similar long lasting results. Honestly if we ever move, I'll want butcher block again.
    You hit the nail on the head with how it warms up a room. Thanks for sharing your story!


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