How to clean butcher-block countertops – maintain your wooden worktops easily

Solid wood worktops need careful cleaning and maintenance to keep them looking as good as new. Here's how to clean butcher-block countertops properly to remove stains and all

shaker style kitchen with grey walls, a wooden dining table, wooden worktops and industrial pendant lights
(Image credit: Jeremy Philips)

Wooden butcher-block countertops are perfect for adding warmth to a kitchen and are very robust, making them one of the loveliest kitchen worktops around. However, because they are made of a natural material, it is important to know exactly how to clean them properly to ensure they remain in good condition. You can clean wooden worktops easily using dish soap, plus a couple of natural ingredients like white vinegar and lemon to lift stains. Then it's all about good and conscious maintenance. 

From daily to deep cleaning and removing stains from your wooden surfaces, follow our advice and keep your kitchen's best feature looking good as new for years to come. 

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How to clean butcher-block countertops

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The recipe for easy cleaning, is simply to tend to your wooden butcher-block countertops every day using dish soap and water. For a deep clean, you want to:

  1. Remove food debris: Scrape off any stuck on food and wipe off crumbs.
  2. Scrub at stains: Next, you want to mix some hot water and dish soap, then use the rough side of a sponge to start working on any stains. Wipe off residue.
  3. Sanitize: If the area is now visibly clean and (almost) free from stains, you can sanitize the space by spraying white vinegar liberally. Leave this more a few minutes and then scrub off again. This will also help with sticky areas and tough on stains.
  4. Dry thoroughly: This is key to not only finish off the cleaning process, but also to protect your wooden surface from warping or cracking.

extended kitchen with bi-fold doors and a vintage kitchen island

(Image credit: Katie Lee)

How to remove stains from butcher-block countertops

If vinegar didn't quite lift the stained area on your countertop, using lemon is a great and natural way to remove and lighten dark stains on your butcher-block countertops. You simply want to either rub half a lemon directly onto the surface stain, or drench steel wool in lemon juice and scrub until it's gone. 

For more potency you can make a solution with lemon juice, 1 cup warm water and a tsp hydrogen peroxide. Dab the stain with the solution using a cotton swap and wipe clean. 

How do you take care of wood countertops?

  • Location, location, location: If a wooden worktop is going to be fitted over a dishwasher, washing machine or any other appliances that radiate excess heat or moisture, be sure to protect the natural material by applying a moisture barrier to the underside of the surface. 
  • Smart storage :And, if your butchers blocks are not being fitted immediately after installation, always ensure that they are stored horizontally, with batons separating each worktop to allow air to circulate around the surfaces and help prevent warping, splitting or bowing.
  • Heat protection: If your worktop is near to a freestanding oven allow a 30mm gap between the surface and the appliance and apply an endcap to the end of the worktop closes to the oven, in order to protect the end grain from the excess heat.
  • Oil after installation: Once the countertops are installed, you will need to apply another coat of oil to seal the surface, which should be repeated regularly over the next six to eight weeks to ensure that the wood remains in perfect condition. You can test whether your worktop is oiled sufficiently by spraying a small amount of water onto the surface. If it pools rather than forming beads or droplets then it is likely you will need to apply another coat of oil.

Copper pots and pans in a dark blue kitchen

(Image credit: John Lewis)

How to maintain wooden worktops

To keep your wooden worktops looking their best:

  1. Catch spills, especially water, quickly: Mop up any spillages immediately to prevent water marks and other stains forming on the wood. If water marks do occur, lightly sand the area and apply a fresh coat of oil.
  2. Go (partly) au natural: Do not use traditional kitchen cleaning products on your work surfaces as this can stain the wood. Simply use soap and water and wipe off any remaining liquid with a dry cloth once clean. For stubborn stains, add a little vinegar or lemon to your cleaning solution as above.
  3. Re-apply oil regularly: This will ensure your wooden worktop remains in good condition.
  4. Careful with heat: Do not place hot pans or trays directly on to the worktop as this can burn or stain the surface. Include a set of hotrods on your wooden worktop, which avoids contact between hot cookware and solid wood surface.
  5. Careful food prep: If yours isn't a butchers-block you should avoid chopping food directly on the surface as this can create marks. Instead, use a wooden chopping board that can be easily sanded and re-oiled as needed.

Let's get cooking!

Emily Shaw

Emily first (temporarily) joined the Real Homes team while interning on her summer break from university. After graduating, she worked on several publications before joining Real Homes as Staff Writer full time in mid-2018. She left the brand in 2020 to pursue another career, but still loves a second-hand bargain and sourcing unique finds to make her rented flat reflect her personality.