Butcher block wood countertops have become popular due to their flexibility of use. The problem is that they tend to stain easily. Maintaining them with the proper look and feel requires homeowners to clean regularly as a matter of habit. If stains do appear, there are various DIY methods available – but more than that, the goal should be to tackle stains early.
In this article, we outline some of the regular wood countertop cleaning steps, as well as how to tackle stains quickly and efficiently.
Certain types of wood stain less than others, among them White Oak, Red Oak, Ash, and certain types of Mahogany.
You can order tabletops that are stain-resistant as well. But on average, wooden countertops stain easier than stone and other surfaces.
The finish on the countertop matters for two reasons, First, certain finishes are better at resisting stain, but more importantly, knowing the finish is important when deciding on the types of cleaners to use.
In general, most wood surfaces are vulnerable to stains, swelling, or degradation unless treated properly.
We will be discussing three modes of cleaning:
A combination of the following materials/methods are frequently recommended to clean wood:
Depending on the type of wood, and the finish, you may need to be careful.
However, you need to find out more about the specific wood type and finishes before using cleaners. Wood countertops can have many finishes:
For example, a common wood countertop finish involves tung oil, but there are variations. A tung oil and citrus finish can take more wear and tear (including cutting) and can withstand acidic or alkaline cleaners.
A tung oil-based finish like Waterlox®, on the other hand, does not lend itself to cutting and will also get damaged by ammonia-based cleaners such as bleach and 409.
Wood has pores and seams which chemicals can seep deep into. Due to wood’s porous nature, certain commonly used methods may need to be avoided. Examples include:
If you must use an acidic solution like vinegar while compensating for wood’s propensity to be marred through non pH balanced cleaners, use a gentler medium – such as olive oil – to temper the cleaning mix.
Bottom line – you have to clean wood regularly and be gentle with the countertop surface.
To maintain wood surfaces, they must be cleaned on a daily basis. Otherwise, dust, scum, and other buildups can accumulate in a way that ultimately creates a bigger problem.
Here are some general, daily cleaning methods that can be followed:
Step 1 – Daily Dusting
Dusting with a dry microfiber cloth – this should be done regularly, regardless of whether you spot residues or not.
Step 2 – Scraping off Gunk
If you spot any spills, they can be tackled separately. For example, any food residue should be scraped off. You may also notice a buildup of gunk, this is fairly common on wooden surfaces. Such gunk should also be scraped off.
Step 3 – Cleaning (Alternative A – Sponging)
You can sponge off the wood surface with soapy, warm water. While this will clean the surface, the use of water is not always recommended, as mentioned.
Step 3 - Cleaning (Alternative B – Using Vinegar Based Cleaning Solutions)
If you spot persistent stains (e.g., from red wines), you may need a stronger fix.
Mix vinegar, which is a strong cleaner but can damage wood. with olive oil.
Step 3 - Cleaning (Alternative C – Using Commercial Solutions)
There are certain commercial cleaners that are generally deemed safe for use on wood, but they should be screened carefully.
Some all-purpose cleaners are available, including Method Daily Cleaner Spray:
Step 4 – Drying Off
Any time you use liquid or oily substances on wood, be sure to dry off with a microfiber towel. Leaving a wood surface wet or oily on a consistent basis is asking for trouble.
How hard you go at stains often depends on the stage at which you discover the problem. We mention some solutions for early vs. deep-seated stains below.
If you discover a stain early, the options available include the following:
Step 1 – Choose the Right Cleaning Solution
If you spot a stain early, you have the option to experiment with a choice of cleaning media. The choice may depend on the specific type of wood and finish you are dealing with. The options include:
Step 2 – Spread on the Table Surface
Step 3 – Wipe off Thoroughly, then Dry Off
In each of the above cases, care must be taken to wipe off oil or water residues.
Reoiling the surface using mineral oil and sanding at least once a year (then reoiling) is also recommended.
If the stains get deep seated, there are a number of solutions that you could try:
Option A – Salt and Lime
This method works well for really deep-seated stains.
Step 1 – Salt
Spread salt over every bit of the surface.
Step 2 – Lemon Juice
Liberally spread lemon juice on top of the salt to make a paste.
Step 3 – Scrub with Half Lemon
Take a half lemon and go over each and every area on the tabletop where you have seen spots, rubbing the paste below the surface.
Step 4 – Let it Sit
After the scrubbing, leave the paste sitting overnight and let it work.
Step 5 – Wash Off
The next day, wash the surface off with warm water, using a soft towel or washcloth.
Step 1 – Dry Off Thoroughly
As with everything to do with wood, make sure that you wipe off thoroughly.
Option B - Sanding
Step 1 – Sanding Off the Surface
If stains persist or you feel the surface needs a full replenishment, use a sandpaper to sand off the surface.
Step 2 – Reoil
Once the surface is adequately sanded to your satisfaction, you must reoil the surface – using mineral oil – to refinish the surface.
Step 3 – Keep the Surface Dry
Wipe off the surface to get rid of any oil or water residues.
Step 4 – Repeat Annually
With wood surfaces, sanding and reoiling on an annual basis may be a good idea.
The following videos provide tips on how to clean and/or remove stains from wood countertops: