Finished butcher block after cleaning and oiling
Avoid using these products on butcher block that is used for food preparation:
- Culinary Oils: Olive, vegetable, and flax oils will soon oxidize and go rancid.
- Danish Oil: Can contain mineral spirits, petroleum distillates, and other chemicals.
- Stains: Oil based stains contain mineral spirits and other harmful chemicals.
- Polyurethane: Varnishes and other oil based finishes can contain mineral spirits and other harmful chemicals.
What about beeswax?
Some butcher block sealants also include beeswax or paraffin. There are woodworkers who swear by beeswax for its shine and protection, and some butcher block recipes involve melting a little wax into the sealing oil. However, the wax will form a shiny, buffed coating that’s really better for less used surfaces (like decorative wooden bowls). For butcher blocks that are used regularly, beeswax is an unnecessary step.
Cleaning and Sealing: Step-By-Step
How to Restore Old Butcher Blocks
If you’ve found a wonderful old butcher block at a yard sale, or if yours has suffered a lot of wear and tear, you may want to restore the surface before sealing. Start with 80 to 100 grit sandpaper, and work your way up to 220 grit, wiping gently with a slightly damp cloth between sandings. Try not to remove too much of the wood, just sand enough to remove stains and restore the surface.
After sanding, follow the steps above for cleaning and sealing. Be sure to use plenty of oil, as the newly sanded wood needs to be well sealed to prevent stains.
- Food-Safe Finishes (Fine Woodworking)
- Clean and Care for a Butcher Block (video, about.com)
- Cutting Boards, Chopping Blocks, Butcher Blocks (What’s Cooking)