Many people ask how do I choose a butcher block countertop sealer? What’s a good food safe sealer for wood countertops?
This decision has a few major considerations:
How much time you’ve got on your hands?
What is the finish of your countertops?
How non-toxic do you want the finish to be?
How often do you plan to cut on the butcher block surface?
Here is a roundup of some of the best finishes for butcher block.
Have you installed your butcher block yet?
If you are remodeling and have the option to seal your countertop before it comes to you, you could look into Durakryl UV coating. It goes on before the countertop comes to you and creates a matte finish, requiring little to no maintenance if you don’t use it as your primary cutting surface. There is no downtime waiting for a finish to cure after installation.
If you are refinishing or sealing a countertop that is currently installed.
Consider a sealer like Good Stuff or Waterlox. These are maintenance free finishes, when dried and cured. It takes a full 24 hours between coats to dry and can require up to four or more coats to get the finish you want. Waterlox doesn’t recommend their product to you if you plan to cut on your countertops regularly, because you could cut through the finish and have microbial issues. Waterlox has an attractive orange, dark amber color, but it alters the color of your wood. Good Stuff sealer doesn’t add color to your wood surface as it goes on.Photo courtesy of Tracy Morris Design
If you’re planning on using your butcher block countertops as a cutting surface regularly.
Consider looking for a finish that is oil based, instead of forming a ‘cured finish’ on the surface. Food grade mineral oil is a commonly used material for a food safe cutting board or countertop sealer, and can be combined with paraffin wax for a resilient finish. It requires regular sealing, but seems to be the best choice for cutting on your countertops regularly, and does not interfere with the anti-microbial properties of wood.
Tung oil is used by many for a water resistant, pale finish. 100% pure Tung oil doesn’t offgass, and has less odor in the house. It can take up to two weeks of curing time, requiring several coats with more than a day of drying time in between. Some people use non-petroleum based Citrus Natural Solvent on their naked wood boards first to open up the pores of the wood for a great seal.Photo courtesy of The Grothouse Lumber Company
The FDA says pure Tung Oil is okay for consumption. It’s worth noting that if you use Tung Oil or cold pressed Walnut Oil and cut on the surface, you could potentially transfer enough of the nut product into your food to cause an allergic reaction.
When I install butcher block countertops for clients, I like to seal the leftover pieces of wood with Mineral Oil and leave them as a gift. It can certainly take a little bit of the stress out of the decision to cut on the countertop or not.
There are no perfect finishes – each one has differences in color, chemical makeup, drying time, odor, and ease of application. Starting by considering how much time you’ve got on your hands, and what type of finish you want will help you choose the best food safe sealer for you.
Do you cut on your wood countertops or a wood cutting board at home?