Today, just for fun, I’d like to show you how I clean and maintain my butcher block kitchen island. I purchased this food-prep station from an unfinished furniture store several years ago, and although it has seen its share of grease spatters and oil spills, it still looks handsome and new. And here, for the curious, is my regular butcher block care-routine:
How to Seal New Butcher Block
Butcher block is a porous material. Consequently it must be sealed against the ravages of moisture. I sealed my work station with food-grade mineral oil. This same oil can be found, for a song, in the “laxative” aisle of any two-bit drug store. Allow the oil to penetrate for 6 hours (or overnight) the first go-round. Then re-apply and let soak for just 30 minutes. Afterwards, wipe off any oil that has not been absorbed.
If you cook as enthusiastically as I do, your butcher block will take quite a beating. I use separate cutting boards — not my work surface! — to chop meats and vegetables. Still, I routinely litter the block with red wine, molasses, cooking oil, and you-name-it. Liquids do no penetrate the sealed wood. They just leave a sticky mess. I clean the surface this way:
First, grab a kitchen towel — terry cloth works best here — and dampen it with plain water.
Heat the towel in the microwave for 90 seconds.
Also, grab some heavy-duty gloves (“Blu-ettes” for me), because the aforementioned towel is gonna be hotter than a two dollar pistol.
As you wipe down the butcher block, the hot towel will quickly dissolve and dislodge any food particles that have stuck to the surface. (I use this same hot-towel trick to dissolve grease that clings to my kitchen cabinets.)
To remove superficial grease stains, dampen a non-scratch Scotch Brite pad with water and a little dish washing detergent.
Heat the pad in the microwave for just 30 seconds. As the pad spins round and round, hot bubbles will emerge.
Locate the grease stains…
And go to town with the hot, soapy pad.
Promptly rinse the soap with a clean, damp terry cloth towel that has been heated for 90 seconds in the microwave oven.
Note: I have two reasons for microwaving my cleaning towels and pads. First, the heated gadgets clean extra-efficiently, and with only minimal scrubbing. And next; hot water rapidly evaporates from wood surfaces. It’s never a good idea to let water stand on wood for any length of time.
Another note: I’ve read that deep stains can be removed from butcher block with a brisk rub of lemon juice and coarse salt. Since I’ve not tried this trick myself, I can not vouch for its effectiveness.
My work surface receives a fresh seal of food-grade mineral oil once a month or so. Oiling is easy to do:
First, clean the wood as described above, and let it dry completely. Then squirt a generous amount of food grade mineral oil onto the wood.
Use a clean terry cloth or rag to spread the oil all over the surface of the block…
And let it stand for 30 minutes. Then wipe off excess oil, and let permit the butcher block to dry for several hours or overnight.
How much do I love my butcher block work station? Well, when my kitchen received a make-over in 2018, in which new cabinets and counter tops were installed…
I refused to give up the butcher block island! You see, butcher block is very forgiving. Should a glass spice jar to fall on my new Stilestone counter, I’d have to clean up a million shards of glass. The same jar when banged against butcher block? No problem. Butcher block is a very gentle surface for the accident-prone.
Well. Thank you for spending time with me today. If you have any butcher block cleaning tips of your own, please shout ’em out in the comments field below! xKevin