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Butcher Block Kitchen Islands: How to Keep That Workhorse Healthy

by Susanne Clemenz

Most butcher block kitchen islands are made from laminated maple or other hardwoods that can take the slings and arrows of outrageous cooking (to misquote Shakespeare). But wood is far from impermeable. Bits of meat and produce cling to the wood with each cut. Without proper care, your butcher block becomes a breeding ground for bacteria.

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Proper Care of Butcher Block Kitchen Islands

  • Periodic seasoning: Frequent use and cleaning wears away the original seasoning of butcher block kitchen islands. After cleaning thoroughly (see below) apply a generous coat of warmed food-grade mineral oil. Never use vegetable oils to season your butcher block, as they turn rancid quickly. Food-grade coconut oil or coconut butter, warmed, is also stable and acceptable.
  • Beeswax: Add 1/2 teaspoon of shaved beeswax to one cup mineral oil before applying the warmed oil, if desired. Or use a beeswax paste to make the surface more waterproof and bacteria-resistant after the mineral oil sinks in. Let the beeswax dry, then buff off excess.
  • Soap and vinegar: After every use, scrub your butcher block with soap and water, then rinse and dry it. Spray it with full-strength vinegar or hydrogen peroxide to eliminate bacteria. Keep the surface dry.
  • Bleach: Weekly, or after heavy use, clean the butcher block kitchen island, then flood it with a solution of one teaspoon bleach per quart of water. Let it stand a few minutes. Rinse thoroughly, pat dry, and reapply mineral oil.

When the butcher block gets worn, sand the whole surface evenly and re-season. With care your butcher block kitchen island can last for decades.

About the Author

Suzanne Clemenz designed her passive solar home and interacted with the contractors every day of the 6-month project. She started drawing floor plans and making models in the early '70s after purchasing several building lots. Recently she expanded and

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