Butcher block countertops are a beautiful and functional addition to any kitchen, but they require proper care and maintenance to stay in top condition. One important step in protecting your countertops is choosing the right sealer. This guide will help you understand the different types of sealers available and choose the best one for your specific needs.

Understand the different types of sealers

Before choosing a sealer for your butcher block countertops, it’s important to understand the different types available. There are three main types of sealers: conditioning oil, penetrating, and topical. Conditioning oil is something like mineral oil which soaks into the wood preventing it from drying out, while penetrating sealers soak into the wood to provide protection from within, and topical sealers create a protective layer on top of the wood. Each type of sealer has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider your specific needs and preferences before making a decision.

Butcher Block Conditioning Oil

Butcher block surface

This is a butcher block surface which will be installed as part of an overall island top design.

If you want to chop on the surface we recommend Howard Brand Butchers Wax. It’s a mixture of food grade mineral sprits and waxes. Word of warning, this is not a sealer, it’s a wood conditioner. Don’t use this or any food safe finish like mineral oil with the idea that it will provide a sealed and protected wood surface. You‘ll be sadly be disappointed and worse yet you’ll be stuck with it. No other finish can go on top once applied. For this same reason this is not the finish to choose when a sink will be in the countertop.

Pros:

  • Is 100% food safe. 
  • Easy to care for.
  • Will patina with age and use.

Cons:

  • Needs re-oiled periodically. 
  • Not a sealer so not stain or water resistant. 
  • Should not be used on wood tops with a sink. 

Penetrating Butcher Block Sealer

Distressed walnut kitchen island top sealed with an oil wood sealer.

Distressed walnut butcher block island top with Rubio Monocoat sealer.

If you like the natural look and feel of a butcher block surface but want it protected against water and other liquids we the European brand of wood sealer Rubio Monocoat. It’s what’s referred to as a penetrating oil sealer. As the oil soaks into the wood it carries resins with it deep into the wood fibers. These resins then harden providing a water and stain resistant seal. Rubio Monocoat is perfectly safe for food contact after full cure so it can even be used as a light food prep surface. 

Pros:

  • Looks and feels natural because it is. You’re touching the actual wood. 
  • Is a living finish that will patina with age. 
  • Easy to fix scratch and other damage.
  • Protect the wood very well against water and other liquids. 
  • Has all the looks of a butcher block surface but can be use with a sink. 

Cons:

  • Needs re-oiled once a year or every other year depending on use and cleaning practices. 
  • Though very stain resistant it’s not 100% stain proof. 

Topical Butcher Block Sealer

Walnut countertop with sink and faucet

Walnut kitchen island with a conversion varnish finish.

For those wanting the look and feel of finished furniture we use an extremely durable conversion varnish. This is what’s called a topical sealer. It does exactly what the name implies in that it sits on top of the wood essentially wrapping it in a protective coating. Our finish is not heavy and doesn’t smother the wood's natural grain like a thick epoxy coating you may have seen at a restaurant or bar. It’s available in sheens from matte to high gloss with the satin sheen being by far the most popular. 

Pros:

  • Is very durable against most anything found in the home or commercial environment. 
  • Looks like a dining room table. 
  • Perfect for tabletops and bar tops.
  • Has a sheen. 
  • Zero maintenance requirements. 
  • Can be stained to an exact color match.
  • Can be used with a sink.

Cons:

  • Though hard to damage when it does happen it’s more complicated to repair. At J. Aaron we consider this a living finish as well and unless it’s a major issue recommend that it be left alone or just touched up with a furniture pen. Much like a antique piece of furniture the damage will add to the character of the piece. 

Conclusion

All of these sealers are great for what they are designed to do. At J. Aaron we always take the time to talk with you about your project so we know what to recommend. We want you extremally happy with the end product so you can’t stop referring us to all your friends and family. For a quote please visit our Get A Quote page.

Sealer Comparison Chart

Sealer Options Stain/Water Resistance Scratch Resistance Certified Food Safe Maintenance Look Ease Of Repair Can Be Cut On "GREEN"
Monocoat (penetrating) Very Good As tough as the wood No, but fine for food contact Once a year Natural look and feel Easy Light cutting is OK Yes
Conversion Varnish (topical) Excellent Good No, but fine for food contact None Has the look and feel of furniture Advanced No No
Mineral Oil (conditioning) Poor As tough as the wood Yes 2-3 times a year Natural look and feel Easy Yes Yes