Sealing Butcher Block Countertops with Dark Tung Oil, A Food Safe Stain for Butcher Block


sealing butcher block with dark tung oil.When we decided on wood countertops for our diy kitchen remodel two years ago, I did so much research on sealing butcher block. I was concerned wood counters would be high maintenance and get stained easily. I wanted to naturally darken the Ikea butcher block we purchased to look more farmhouse rustic, and wanted to use a finish that was completely food safe. The finish that met all our needs was dark tung oil.

It has been nearly two years since sealing butcher block counter tops with dark tung oil, and they still look amazing. Since it’s been awhile since we applied the finish, I wanted to share what we did to seal the counters, and how well they have held up to the abuse! Post may contain affiliate links.

Butcher block treated with Tung oil close up

What drew me in to using raw tung oil is that it is completely non toxic and food safe when applied with citrus solvent. The dark tung oil I used from Real Milk Paint beautifully darkened the IKEA butcher block. It really provided that rustic farmhouse charm I wanted for our kitchen.

Tung oil dries nicely to a matt finish. After the tung oil finished curing, there was no dealing with oily counter tops. Once the initial several coats are applied, the finish lasts and lasts. I have done very little maintenance to keep the counter tops in top shape!

Materials used:

Sealing Butcher Block with Tung Oil

On one side of the kitchen, I lightly sanded the entire surface before applying the tung oil. On the other side, it was one simple slab and I oiled it just how it came out of the box.  I definitely felt that the oil soaked up faster on the side we sanded and still has a bit more color variation. This is the unsanded side for comparison.

The tough finish from the real milk paint Tung oil makes butcher block care easy.

To apply the oil, mix the tung oil 50/50 with citrus solvent. A solvent is necessary to help the oil penetrate the butcher block. Mineral spirits is another solvent option that is locally available, but it is not food safe while it is evaporating. Plus, citrus solvent has a way better aroma than mineral spirits! I applied one coat to the underside of the butcher block before installing, because I read that sealing both sides helps to prevent warping.

Apply a coat of oil to the underside of the butcher block

With gloves, I applied the mixture to the counters with a rag, then let it sit on the counters about an hour before wiping off the excess with a clean rag.

Note: Don’t leave visible excess oil for days at a time, because it cures hard and you might have streaks. If this happens though, you can always sand a bit and reapply. (Lesson learned!… I oiled another coat on ours right before a week vacation and I had a little spot to fix when we came home.)

I waited a day or two in between coats to let the oil start to sink in. Once the butcher block is completely saturated, water will bead up on the surface. The oil dries to the touch in about a week, and fully cures in about two. Tung oil cures to a smooth hard finish. The counter is safe to use right away, just don’t leave papers on it that first week until it dries or they may absorb some of the oil. It was a really simple application, which was a mercy for me after the exhausting job of painting the kitchen cabinets! This is a photo of the countertops after one heavy coat.

Apply the oil to the butcher block and wipe the excess

The initial coats of dark tung oil gave the rustic finish I love. Now, I use clear tung oil for the rare maintenance coats I apply to keep the color consistent. I have done just one “maintenance coat” in the last two years.

kitchen with butcher block countertops

At first I wanted to be extra careful, but now I don’t baby the counters at all. I have left coffee drips and food splashes galore and it always cleans right off. And if something ever happens to hurt the finish, it can be fixed by sanding and apply more dark tung oil. I am glad that we went with tung oil over other options we considered like waterlox or mineral oil. It feels like we are getting the best of both worlds. I have really enjoyed having butcher block in the kitchen so far. Hopefully it will last us a long time. If you have butcher block in your kitchen, I’d love to hear how it’s working for you!

Click here to read more about our kitchen remodel!


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19 thoughts on “Sealing Butcher Block Countertops with Dark Tung Oil, A Food Safe Stain for Butcher Block

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Thanks Kim! 🙂 To clean our counters, I use plain dish soap and water, Clorox wipes, or an essential oil vinegar cleaning spray. Thankfully tung oil finish is pretty tough, so I haven’t had any problems with cleaning.

  • Kayla

    These are beautiful and we are also considering the Ikea butcher block for our DIY kitchen remodel! Can you share any insight on how you installed your counters? It looks like our kitchen layout is similar to yours. Specifically, how did you handle the seams between slabs?

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Hi Kayla! Thank you so much! We used the Ikea hardware to attach the butcher block to the cabinets. We had help with the cutting that wasn’t in a straight line. I was so afraid to mess that part up! I tried both wood glue and sawdust, and wood filler and sawdust. I preferred the look of the wood filler mixed with sawdust to fill the cracks. It blended more seamlessly. Both worked great as far as sealing though! We sanded lightly until smooth after the joints dried. I hope that helps. 🙂

  • Molly

    I love your countertops! I have always loved butcher block counters. We plan to install them in our new house once we move in, and are installing pine floors as well. We plan to use tung oil on the counters as well as the floor. Will let you know how it turns out. I love tung oil, and used it on a butcher block table I sanded and refinished – looks so beautiful 🙂 We also plan to use it to seal our cedar deck once it is built.
    Great job on your kitchen! Thanks for sharing.

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Hello Molly!

      Thank you so much. I never knew tung oil was great for floors and decking! I would love to hear how they turn out! 🙂

  • Connie Powell

    Lovely job! Am curious; is your Ikea butcher block solid or is it the quarter inch laminate? We installed the walnut laminate in our pool house kitchenette and love it, but it doesn’t get daily use by any means. After our first guests were there, we did find water ring marks, but I used mayonaise and the white spots came right out. Have been trying to decide if I should go ahead and treat with the tung oil. Thanks!

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      It is the old solid wood kind, but I believe the new laminate type is still real wood exterior for that 1/4″. If so, it can be treated just like regular butcher block! You don’t have to sand first, and it protects the wood so it will be easier to clean. 🙂

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      If the countertop has a real wood exterior, it can! For example, the Ikea butcher block that has a lightweight core, with 1/4″ real wood exterior.

  • Christine Dodson

    That looks beautiful in your kitchen. How old is your house? I live in a farmhouse that was built in 1901.We have remodeled some areas of the house, but have a lot more to go. My husband put granite in our kitchen, but it just doesn’t look right for that period of house. I love the butcher block look. Thank you for sharing.

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Thank you , Christine! Our home was built in 1962. I agree, butcher block is perfect for an old farmhouse! I love old homes too. We looked at several old farmhouses on our house search, but to fit in our budget they all sadly needed more work then we could manage. This home was all original, but mostly cosmetic changes. 🙂

  • Kelly

    Your countertops are beautiful! How many coats did you apply total? Did you sand in between coats? Also how much drying time in between coats?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Hi Kelly! I believe I initially applied 4 coats total, until I didn’t see any dry spots left in the wood. I only waited a day or two in between the first few coats when the wood was absorbing the oil easily. Then I applied another coat after the oil was nearly dry, about 10 days later I believe. I hope this helps! 🙂

  • Vanessa Rising

    You have the exact countertop color I’ve been trying to achieve! I have a birch BB countertop and used Milk Paint dark Tung Oil mixture (6 coats) but mine are super orangey and not smooth. Is your countertop birch? When you originally used dark Tung Oil, were they orangey?

    • Joyeliz57 Post author

      Yes, we also have the Ikea Numerar birch! They were definitely more orangey on the side we didn’t sand. The color deepened more over time. We did about 4-5 coats initially.
      Doing a thorough sanding with a palm sander first really seemed to help the stain absorb further to get a deeper color.
      I remember if I left any oil sitting on the surface, it would dry hard and not be smooth. Very light coats worked best. Any rough spots can always be sanded out though, that’s what I love about butcher block! 🙂