Wood butcher blocks are beautiful additions to your kitchen, providing a sturdy work surface with the warmth and beauty of wood.

However, keeping your butcher blocks sanitized and sealed is important to protect the wood and your health.

If you take the time to clean and oil your butcher block about once a month, it will last a lifetime. Here’s what you need to know to properly maintain your butcher block.

Materials Needed

Start by gathering all the materials needed for a wood butcher block at your local hardware store or major retailer. 

This project takes about half an hour, broken up by drying time. Consider using your wooden cutting boards and utensils to seal them while you have the supplies.

To complete this project, you will need:

  • Clean cloths or paper towels
  • Lemon juice
  • Natural soap or dish soap
  • Mineral oil or other sealing oil
  • Scrubbing sponge
  • Scrub brush
  • Table or kosher salt
  • White vinegar

Butcher Block Oils

“Food-safe” oils are important for surfaces that contact food directly to avoid contamination. There are several safe, effective options for sealing butcher blocks.

Food-grade mineral oil is the top choice for butcher blocks and the main ingredient in commercial products. Find food-grade mineral oil at your pharmacy’s laxative section – it’s much cheaper than at a hardware store. Mineral oil also gives the wood a light honey color.

Pure tung oil is made from tung tree nuts. It is expensive but cures to a durable, darker amber finish. It’s a greener choice than the petroleum-based mineral oil. I recommend using only pure tung oil, not products with added chemicals.

Raw linseed oil is a type of flaxseed oil. Use raw rather than boiled linseed oil, which contains metallic dryers unsafe for food.

Walnut and almond oil* can be found at most gourmet grocery stores. Coconut oil is another option that is solid at room temperature and needs warming to penetrate the wood. It leaves a waxy coating if residue remains.

*May cause allergic reactions for those with nut allergies.

almond oil
Image Credit: Canva

How to Clean Your Butcher Block

Plan to clean your butcher block every four to six weeks by following these steps: 

  1. Before cleaning, remove everything from the butcher block. 
  2. Then, make a cleaning solution of two cups of warm water, a few drops of dish soap, three tablespoons of vinegar, and two tablespoons of lemon juice. The acidity helps remove stuck-on gunk and oil buildup.
  3. Use a scrub brush and cleaning solution to scour the entire surface, focusing on grooves and stains. Let the solution sit for five minutes so it penetrates deeper.
  4. Then, make a sanitizing paste of kosher salt and lemon juice. 
  5. Scrub the whole surface with the paste using a sponge or brush and rinse thoroughly, then pat fully dry with towels or air dry before oiling.

Thorough cleaning and sanitizing removes debris, stains, and bacteria. Complete drying ensures the oil finish sticks properly.

How to Oil Your Butcher Block

Oiling your butcher block after cleaning helps seal and protect the wood. Be sure to use food-safe oils to avoid contaminating food prep surfaces.

Like cleaning, you will want to oil your butcher block every four to six weeks. First, ensure the butcher block is completely dry post-cleaning. Moisture prevents oil absorption.

Generously apply food-safe oil to all surfaces with a cloth. Rub the oil into the wood grain with circular hand motions. Let the oil soak in for 30 to 60 minutes. Carefully wipe away excess oil with paper towels to avoid a gummy or sticky surface. Allow 24 hours of curing before use so oil fully saturates the wood. 

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You should repeat this process more often for heavy-use areas. Proper oiling seals the grain to repel stains, resist moisture damage, and prevent bacteria in grooves and cuts.

Maintaining Your Butcher Block Between Cleanings

Using boards and pads protects your butcher block’s finish when chopping or placing hot pots. Wipe up spills and debris promptly, especially overnight, to avoid staining.

Consider applying light weekly oil coats to high-use areas to maintain the finish. Avoid harsh cleaners, bleach, ammonia, or abrasive pads that degrade the oil finish and damage the wood.

With routine care, a wood butcher block can last for decades as a beautiful, functional kitchen addition.

So, Is Cleaning and Oiling Your Butcher Block Worth It?

Taking time monthly to deep clean and oil your butcher block is absolutely worthwhile. Proper sanitizing prevents harmful bacteria accumulation in grooves and cuts over time. Maintaining the protective oil finish also resists staining, cracking, and moisture damage. With routine care, your butcher block stays beautiful and lasts a lifetime — well worth the small time investment compared to replacement costs.

FAQs About Cleaning Butcher Blocks

How do I remove dried glue from my butcher block?

Scrape off dried glue with a plastic scraper, then scrub the residue away with a baking soda and water paste. Avoid harsh chemicals.

What if my butcher block has mold?

Scrub away mold with a bleach solution (1/4 cup bleach per gallon of water). Rinse thoroughly and let it dry completely before oiling.

What's the best way to clean cuts and grooves?

Use a toothbrush and toothpicks to scrub out debris. Then, spray with hydrogen peroxide to sanitize.

Can I use wax instead of oil on my butcher block?

Wax resists water but doesn’t penetrate and condition like oil. For best protection, use food-grade oils.

How do I remove water marks?

Gently rub marks with super fine 0000 steel wool and apply fresh oil to blend the finish.

How often should I oil my butcher block?

Oil your butcher block monthly or more if used daily. I recommend oiling high-use chopping surfaces weekly.

Editorial Contributors
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Elise LaChapelle


Elise LaChapelle is a copywriter with over a decade's experience in the digital space. She specializes in blogging, website content, social media, and e-mail marketing across a diverse array of clients, helping them to connect with their target audience through concise, compelling messaging. When she's not crafting copy, Elise enjoys working out, cooking, and spending time with her husband and two daughters.

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Amy DeYoung


Amy DeYoung has a passion for educating and motivating homeowners to improve their lives through home improvement projects and preventative measures. She is a content writer and editor specializing in pest control, moving, window, and lawn/gardening content for Today’s Homeowner. Amy utilizes her own experience within the pest control and real estate industry to educate readers. She studied business, communications, and writing at Arizona State University.

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