How to Stain a Butcher-Block Countertop

Josh Arnold

How to treat a butcher-block countertop using a food-grade stain such as tung, linseed or mineral oils.

Stain a new or refinished butcher-block countertop to make it look more attractive in your kitchen and help protect it during everyday use as well. You'll use the countertop to prepare and chop food, so it's vital to use only a nontoxic, FDA-approved food-safe oil stain on it. Regular wood stain contains chemicals that are harmful when ingested, so don't use them.

    Choose a Nontoxic, Food-Safe Stain

  1. When it comes to nontoxic, FDA-approved stains for butcher-block countertops, your choices are mineral, linseed or tung oil. Stay away from vegetable oils, which will turn rancid over time. Although tung is the most expensive of the three oils, it's the most durable and creates a tough, waterproof surface.

  2. Mineral oil, a petroleum-based product, is the most affordable but least durable option -- it always remains in a tacky liquid state. You can follow the mineral oil with an application of pure beeswax to give the butcher block a softer wax coating.

  3. Prepare the Countertop for the Stain

  4. If you're staining an older butcher-block countertop, prepare the surface by deep-cleaning it, removing any stains and sanding out any imperfections, if necessary. To clean the countertop is by scraping it with a wide, sharp paint scraper -- simply drag it over the wood to remove any impurities. Run the scraper backward and toward you to avoid damaging the wood.

  5. Remove any food and liquid stains from the butcher-block countertop by creating a mixture of 1 teaspoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 1/4 cup of water. Dip a soft cloth into the solution and sponge it onto the stain to work it out of the wood. Repeat the process as often as necessary until the spot is gone.

  6. If you need to remove any small nicks, cuts or scrapes from the wood, use 50- or 100-grit sandpaper to smooth them out before you apply the stain.

  7. Apply the Stain

  8. To apply the stain, pour a generous amount of the oil of your choice onto the butcher-block countertop, and begin spreading it evenly around the wood with a clean, soft cloth. Keep adding the oil to the countertop and working it into the wood with the cloth until the entire surface is evenly coated.

  9. Allow the wood to absorb the oil for at least eight to 10 hours, and then wipe it down with another clean, dry cloth. Apply the oil to the wood once a day for the first week, once per week for the first month and once per month for as long as you have countertops.