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.
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!
- Dark Tung Oil (I used 32 oz
- Citrus Solvent
- Rags and rubber gloves
- Sander (optional)
- Disposable container
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!