Non-Toxic Butcher Block Sealer

Photo courtesy of Kristi Nelson

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.

butcher-block 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?

Comments (7)

  1. John says:

    I would add that, since you have two photos that show undermount sinks with the butcherblock counter exposed, that the surfaces immediately above the sink (the vertical sides of the sink cut-out) be sealed with a penetrating epoxy finish, followed by several coats of varnish. This is particularly important for the end grain, as this is what will soak up water very quickly if not sealed 100% against such a thing, which will cause the boards at that point to swell – no stopping it if wood gets wet! If you use an oil-based varnish (such as Waterlox) on these surfaces, you can easily "blend" it with the top finish by sanding the cured finish where it meets the top to match the level of sheen you have. Color will be different if you use varnish to seal and either Tung oil or mineral oil, which as Laurie pointed out add little to no color of their own, but it's a very good bit of insurance against the sink seal failing, or having cracked wood facing your sink after soaking/drying/repeat…

  2. Laurel Taylor says:

    I need advise. I have a contractor who said he sealed my butcher block with orange oil which i know is not food safe. I was told I was to seal the butcher block and had bought the correct supplies. He is now trying to charge me for sealing the butcher block incorrectly even though i had said not to and i would do it.

    Do you know if it is possible to fix my butcher block? He used pledge. When I called him on it he is now trying to tell me he used howard feed n wax from home depot but due to the what he had said before I even had a picture of the pledge and a butcher block that smells like orange furniture polish.

    Signed Worried

  3. I have a contractor who said he sealed my butcher block with orange oil which i know is not food safe.

  4. I was told I was to seal the butcher block and had bought the correct supplies. He is now trying to charge me for sealing the butcher block incorrectly even though i had said not to and i would do it.

  5. Gene says:

    What can I use to seal my butcher block that is food safe

  6. Keith Baker says:

    I used hot mineral oil and paraffin to seal a clients butcher block counters and she doesn't like it, wants to go with tung oil instead. How do I prep for tung oil after putting on mineral oil and paraffin?

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