How to Clean Butcher Block Countertops – Methods to Prevent, and Remove, Hard-Set Stains


Butcher block countertops are a popular choice for many kitchens due to their natural beauty, durability, and warmth. However, like any countertop material, butcher block requires regular cleaning and maintenance to keep it looking its best. Over time, daily use can lead to stains, discoloration, and dirt buildup that can be difficult to remove if left unchecked.

The good news is, with the proper cleaning methods and by taking some preventative steps, you can keep your butcher block counters clean, conditioned, and stain-free for years of beauty and enjoyment. In this comprehensive guide, we will cover everything you need to know about caring for and maintaining butcher block, including:

  • The best practices for preventing stains and damage
  • Effective cleaning solutions and techniques for removing common stains
  • Daily and weekly maintenance routines
  • Reconditioning and refinishing methods for revitalizing worn or damaged butcher block

Follow these butcher block cleaning and care tips, and you’ll be able to enjoy the rich, warm beauty of your wood counters for life. Let’s get started!

Preventing Stains and Damage on Butcher Block

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure when it comes to keeping butcher block stain-free. By following some simple habits and using butcher block best practices, you can prevent many types of stubborn stains from occurring in the first place:

Use Cutting Boards and Hot Pads

Never cut directly on your butcher block countertop. Always use a cutting board for food prep, even for small tasks like slicing a lemon. The acids and juices from fruits, vegetables, and meats can cause discoloration, stains, and permanent damage when they come into direct contact with the wood.

Use hot pads or trivets when placing hot pans, dishes, or appliances on the counter. The moisture and heat can lead to warping, cracking, and staining over time.

Clean Up Spills Quickly

Don’t let spills of any kind sit on the butcher block. Immediately wipe up spills of liquids, oils, grease, food debris, etc. The longer a spill sits, the more likely it will penetrate and stain the wood fibers. Keeping a rag nearby makes it easy to promptly clean up messes.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals and Cleaners

Do not use harsh cleaners like bleach, ammonia, or acidic cleaners on your butcher block. Even daily use of harsh detergents can break down the finish and dry out the wood over time. When possible, use mild, wood-friendly cleaners and always rinse the surface thoroughly after cleaning.

Reseal and Recondition Frequently

Butcher block needs periodic resealing and reconditioning to protect the finish and wood from stains, scratches, and excess moisture. Every 3-6 months, follow the full reconditioning process outlined later in this guide to maintain its protective barrier.

By being mindful during daily use and resealing the surface regularly, you’ll help prevent the types of deep, stubborn stains that can be difficult to remove from untreated wood.

Effective Cleaning Solutions for Butcher Block

To safely and effectively clean your butcher block countertops, steer clear of harsh chemicals and stick to these gentle, wood-friendly cleaning solutions:

Dish Soap and Warm Water

For regular daily cleaning, use a mild dish detergent mixed with warm water. The small amount of grease-cutting power in dish soap helps remove oils, dirt, dust and debris without damaging the wood over time.

Dilute a small amount (a teaspoon or so) of eco-friendly dish soap like Seventh Generation or Mrs. Myers in warm water. Use a soft sponge or cloth to wipe down the entire surface, then rinse well and dry.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer and gentle abrasive that can be used to clean butcher block. Make a paste with baking soda and water and use a soft-bristle brush to work it into stained or soiled areas. Let it sit briefly before rinsing. Baking soda helps remove dirt, stains, and odors without damaging the finish.

White Vinegar

White vinegar is another natural cleaning option that helps cut grease, remove some stains, and sanitize the surface. Mix equal parts warm water and white vinegar, and wipe down the entire surface with a cloth. For stubborn spots, let it sit for 5-10 minutes before rinsing. Use vinegar sparingly, as the acidity can damage the finish over time.

Food-Grade Mineral Oil

Once or twice a month, treat your butcher block with a layer of food-grade mineral oil, a gentle and effective conditioner. Allow the oil to soak in for at least an hour, then thoroughly wipe away any excess. Mineral oil hydrates the wood to prevent drying and cracking, and creates an added layer of protection from stains.

By using these safe, non-toxic cleaners, you can keep your butcher block looking its best while avoiding damage caused by harsh chemicals over time.

Effective Techniques for Removing Stains from Butcher Block

Even with diligent cleaning and preventive care, stains from daily kitchen use will inevitably occur on your butcher block counters. Here are the most effective methods and techniques for removing some of the most common types of stubborn stains:

Oil and Grease Stains

Oils, grease, and food residue left over time can penetrate and discolor the wood. To remove:

  • Sprinkle baking soda over the greasy area and let sit for 10-15 minutes
  • Scrub gently with a damp cloth or soft-bristle brush
  • For tough stains, make a baking soda paste and let sit overnight before scrubbing
  • Rinse clean and dry thoroughly

Water Marks and Rings

Excess moisture from spills or hot pans can leave unsightly white rings and water stains on the surface. To remove:

  • Gently rub the mark with superfine (0000 grade) steel wool
  • Wipe clean and immediately apply mineral oil to recondition the area
  • Buff dry with a soft cloth

Fruit and Berry Stains

Acidic juices from berries, tomatoes, lemons, etc. can discolor the butcher block. To remove:

  • Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the stain and let sit for 10 minutes
  • Sprinkle baking soda over the lemon juice and scrub with a brush
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry

Red Wine Stains

Red wine’s deep pigment can quickly stain butcher block if not cleaned promptly. To remove:

  • Immediately pour salt liberally over the stain
  • Let sit for 30 minutes to absorb as much wine as possible
  • Scrub away residue with steel wool or abrasive sponge
  • Rinse and dry

Ink, Marker, and Paint Stains

Indelible stains require a bit more elbow grease. To remove:

  • Gently scrape excess stain residue with a plastic putty knife
  • Apply a mix of baking soda and water and scrub vigorously with steel wool
  • Spray vinegar over the stain, let sit briefly, then scrub again
  • Repeat process until the stain lightens, then rinse and dry

With the right techniques and a little persistence, even the most stubborn stains can be removed from properly maintained and sealed butcher block. Be sure to recondition with mineral oil after removing stains to revitalize the wood.

Daily and Weekly Cleaning Routines for Butcher Block

To keep your butcher block counters looking fresh and prevent buildup of dirt and grime, follow these simple daily and weekly cleaning routines:

Daily Cleaning

  • Clear all items from the countertop after each use
  • Wash cutting boards, dishes, appliances, etc. that had contact with the surface
  • Use a dishcloth to wipe away any crumbs or spills
  • Spray vinegar-water mix and wipe down entire surface
  • Use baking soda paste to spot clean any problem areas
  • Rinse with clean damp cloth and dry thoroughly

Weekly Deep Cleaning

  • Remove everything from counters and clear any clutter from the surface
  • Mix dish soap and warm water in a bucket
  • Dip scrub sponge in the soap mixture and scrub entire countertop surface
  • Use a soft-bristle brush for heavy soiled areas
  • Rinse clean with a vinegar-water solution to sanitize
  • Dry thoroughly with towel
  • Apply mineral oil and let soak in for an hour before removing any excess
  • Buff to shine

Staying on top of daily messes and doing a weekly deep clean will prevent lasting stains and keep your butcher block counters gorgeous.

Maintaining and Refinishing Butcher Block

With heavy prep work and daily wear and tear, butcher block countertops need periodic maintenance and refinishing to keep them protected and looking their best. Here are some tips:

Seasonal Resealing

Every 3-6 months, thoroughly reseal your butcher block with a fresh coat of finish. This fills in cracks, restores shine, and prevents stains:

  • Lightly sand the surface with 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wipe away any dust
  • Apply 2-3 thin, even coats of food-grade finish like Howard Butcher Block Conditioner, allowing each coat to fully dry
  • Buff with superfine steel wool between coats for an ultra-smooth finish
  • Let cure for at least 72 hours before use

Sanding and Refinishing

Over time, the finish can wear unevenly across the surface. To revitalize and restore an even, smooth finish:

  • Sand the entire surface with 120, 150, and finally 220-grit sandpaper
  • Vacuum away all dust
  • Apply Howard Butcher Block Conditioner with ultra fine (0000) steel wool
  • Rub in thin coats across the grain until an even tone is achieved
  • Allow to cure fully before use

Repairing Damage

For deep scratches, gouges, and other damage:

  • Fill any holes or gaps with wood filler tinted to match the butcher block
  • Let dry fully and sand smooth
  • Spot refinish damaged areas before applying a fresh coat to the full surface

With regular resealing and refinishing when needed, you can keep your butcher block counters in tip-top shape for decades.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Butcher Block

Still have some questions about keeping your butcher block counters spotless? Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:

How often should I clean and reseal my butcher block?

A quick clean with soap and water should be done daily. Reseal the surface every 3-6 months with food-grade mineral oil and wax to maintain its protective barrier.

Can I use bleach or harsh chemicals to clean my butcher block?

No, avoid using bleach, ammonia, citrus-based cleaners, or abrasive chemicals, which can damage the finish and dry out the wood over time. Stick to mild, wood-friendly cleaners like vinegar, soap and water.

What’s the best way to sanitize my butcher block?

Use a mix of 10% white vinegar and 90% water to safely sanitize without chemicals. The vinegar solution kills 99% of bacteria and then evaporates quickly. Rinse thoroughly after sanitizing.

My butcher block feels dry and rough. How can I restore it?

Recondition dried-out butcher block by sanding lightly and applying multiple thin coats of food-grade mineral oil. Let each coat soak in fully before wiping away any excess oil with a soft cloth.

There are gray spots and discoloration on my butcher block. What causes this?

This is likely caused by moisture damage. Gently sand the gray areas and apply a fresh coat of butcher block conditioner. Maintain with regular oiling to prevent future discoloration.

What’s the best way to remove deep scratches and gouges?

Use wood filler that matches your butcher block color to fill in any deep gouges or holes. Once dry, sand smooth. Spot refinish if needed to match the rest of the surface.


Butcher block countertops bring a warm, natural look to any kitchen when properly cared for. By sealing, cleaning, and refinishing your butcher block regularly using these wood-safe methods, you can keep it looking stunning while avoiding permanent stains and damage.

Be sure to always use cutting boards during food prep, wipe spills quickly, and recondition the surface frequently. Avoid harsh cleaners and chemicals. With the right preventive care and cleaning techniques, your butcher block counters will stay beautiful for years to come.

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