Wood bathroom countertop with a white porcelain vessel sink in a bathroom.

How To Clean And Finish A Butcher Block Countertop

Originally contributed by Hila Shai • last updated 3/31/2021

2 hoursActive Time
24-48 hoursDrying Time
IntermediateDifficulty
2 hoursActive Time
24-48 hoursDrying Time
IntermediateDifficulty

Wood butcher block is an excellent option for bathroom and kitchen countertops.

They’re relatively inexpensive compared to other countertop options, and wood butcher block provides a sense of warmth that can really create a spa-like oasis in the bathroom or a culinary comfort zone in the kitchen.

However, if the butcher block hasn’t been properly protected, it can be damaged, which means it might be time for some TLC.

Giving a wood butcher block countertop a makeover is surprisingly easy, and if the refinishing and resurfacing is done correctly, it will hold up beautifully through everyday use.

In this lesson, learn how to clean, finish, stain, and seal a wood butcher block countertop and help make it a show-stopping focal point in your space!

Let's Make It

Equipment

  • Utility knife
  • Electric sander
  • Gloves
  • Lint-free cloth
  • Stain Brush
  • Caulking gun

Materials

  • 80-grit sandpaper
  • 120-grit sandpaper
  • 220-grit sandpaper
  • Wood stain
  • Wood sealer
  • Silicone

How To Clean Wood Butcher Block Countertop

01/9

Remove Silicone

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Start by removing any silicone that may be attached to the butcher block countertop.

This can be accomplished by using a utility knife to detach the silicone from the countertop and then peeling it away by hand. Pay close attention not to cut into the countertop.

Silicone is most commonly located around the edges of the butcher block countertop at the seams between the countertop and the wall and surrounding the sink, both above and below.

Tip: Protect the countertop by holding the utility knife almost perpendicular to the butcherblock when cutting the silicone. 

02/9

Remove Sink

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With the silicone surrounding the sink cleared away, disconnect the sink from the plumbing below.

Once the sink is disconnected, it should pull away freely from the butcher block countertop. If not, there may still be some residual silicone that needs to be removed.

Tip: If you’re not sure about which color or type of stain to use, purchase tester sizes. With the sink removed, you can apply the different stains underneath the butcher block countertop to decide which will look best for your project.

03/9

Sand Countertop

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Using an electric sander with 80 to 120-grit sandpaper, sand the countertop to remove the finish, existing stain, and top layer of wood.

Also sand around the hole in the butcher block countertop that holds the sink, as this area can get quite dirty.

Focus on any areas that have water damage, and remove the rotten wood by sanding it away.

Not getting too close to the wall with an electric sander prevents causing damage to the wall.

Tip: Attach cardboard to the wall to protect the wall from damage when using an electric sander.

04/9

Sand Edges

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Once the bulk of the sanding has been completed with an electric sander, hand sand the butcher block countertop areas near the wall.

Also, sand the inside edges of the hole for the sink, the sides near the cabinets, and any other edges difficult to reach with the electric sander.

Take time and work slowly and precisely until all areas of the countertop are completely free of old stain, water damage, grime, or dirt.

The butcher block countertop should look like fresh, clean wood after sanding, and it’s important that the counter is as uniform as possible before the stain is applied.

How To Stain Wood Butcher Block Countertop

05/9

Apply Stain

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Apply your wood stain of choice to the butcher block countertop following the specific manufacturer's instructions.

Applying the stain with a lint-free cloth helps the wood absorb the right amount of stain, as brushes and rollers can often saturate the wood too much, which can cause bubbling.

We recommend wearing gloves to prevent staining your hands, because it can be a pain to get off!

Let the stain on the wood butcher block countertop dry thoroughly, and apply further coats until the desired look is achieved.

How To Seal Wood Butcher Block Countertop

06/9

Prepare For Sealer

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With the butcher block stain dry, it’s time to prepare the wood kitchen or bathroom countertop for sealer.

Lightly sand the countertop with fine, high-grit sandpaper (220 grit), as doing this will create a smoother finish and help the sealant absorb into the wood.

The better the absorption, the more protected the wood bathroom or kitchen countertop will be.

Since we’re currently resurfacing and refinishing the countertop, we don’t want to have to do it again anytime soon!

Don't forget to clean away any dust from sanding before the next step.

07/9

Apply Sealant

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Using a brush, apply a sealer to the butcher block countertop, ensuring to cover every section of the wood.

Two coats of butcher block sealant will ensure the wood countertop, and the stain, has complete protection and coverage, and applying multiple coats achieves a superior finish.

Tip: When using a water-based stain or varnish, it’s preferable to also use a water-based sealant, as well, for the best results and protection.

Tip: A polyurethane-based sealer is ideal for a wood butcher block countertop redo/makeover project. This type of butcher block countertop sealer comes in matte, semi-gloss, and gloss finishes, so there are options to achieve your desired effect.

How To Finish Wood Butcher Block Countertop

08/9

Silicone Sink And Joints

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Once the butcher block sealer is dry, it’s time to apply the silicone.

Clear silicone produces the best finish on wood bathroom and kitchen countertops.

First, create a silicone bead around the edges of the butcher block countertop near the wall, and smooth out with your finger to establish a more finished look.

Be careful not to remove too much of the silicone when smoothing out with your finger, as it provides protection from water damage in the joints.

Then spread a generous bead of silicone underneath where the sink will go, around the edge of the hole in the wood butcher block countertop.

09/9

Install Sink

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We’ve almost concluded our bathroom or kitchen countertop resurfacing and refinishing project. The redo/makeover should have you questioning whether it’s still the same countertop right about now!

Place the sink back into the countertop on top of the bead of silicone applied in the previous step.

Then apply another bead of silicone on the countertop, around the edges of the installed sink.

Again, smooth out the bead of silicone with your finger without removing too much.

Lastly, to make sure the wood bathroom or kitchen butcher block countertop is fully protected around the sink, apply silicone underneath the sink as well.

Voilà

And with that, the wood butcher block countertop resurfacing and refinishing project is complete!

Here are some before and after photos of this particular bathroom butcher block countertop redo/makeover project to show you just how much of a difference this process can have!

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