Best Butcher Block Stain Options

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It’s not uncommon to buy a butcher block that comes untreated or to have a butcher block for years that just starts to lose a bit of its life. A stain can be a great way to amplify the look of a butcher block new or old.

However, there are some important considerations when buying a stain for your butcher block, and we’ve covered everything you need to know when looking for the best butcher block stain, so read on to learn more.

butcher block oil

Top 3 Picks

Looking for a quick overview of some of our top picks? Here are the top three best butch block stain options based on their overall performance, ease of use, and price.

Is Butcher Block Stain Different from a Regular Stain?

Yes, butcher block stain is different from a regular stain in one important way – butcher block stain must be food-grade in order to be safe for you to use it for food prep and cooking. These types of stains also come in oil-based or water-based, as many regular stains do. But they are formulated using ingredients that are typically all-natural and with proper application and curing, will not leach into food or have any harmful effects.

Do You Need to Stain Your Butcher Block?

No, you do not need to stain your butcher block. Staining a butcher block is more of a personal aesthetic preference. However, you do need to regularly condition your butcher block, and using products such as food-safe waxes and oils can revitalize and deepen the color of your butcher block without stain. So, many choose to opt for bringing out the natural colors of the wood using their regular board conditioning products rather than a stain.

Stains are great when you have a fully untreated piece of wood or would like to change or deepen the color of your butcher block beyond its natural tone. This is mostly for aesthetic purposes but can also breathe new life into a well-loved board.

Staining VS Sealing

Staining and sealing are two different treatments for your wood products, and which one you choose to use depends on the outcome you’re looking for.

The main purpose of staining is to change the color of the wood surface. In addition to providing a natural-looking change of color, stain penetrates the wood and can help preserve it and, in some cases, even provide a layer of moisture protection.

Sealing is to help improve the longevity of your butcher block products – it conditions the wood to help prevent cracking, can naturally deepen or revitalize the color of the wood, and provides moisture-resistant or waterproofing to the surface.

When it comes to butcher block, “sealing” is usually done using a natural oil or wax product such as beeswax, mineral oil, or blended products like John Boos Mystery Oil (linked below).

Whereas staining is typically done once or once every few years to maintain the desired color and appearance, sealing or conditioning is performed quite frequently to help keep the wood in good condition.

What Does it Mean to “Cure” Stain?

You may have seen us mention a few times so far in the article that in order for your board to be food-safe, many stains require a long “curing” time. So, what exactly do we mean by that?

For stains and similar products, curing comes after you’ve applied the stain and followed all the directions to get the finished product that you want. This time can vary from 3 days to 30 days depending on the product, and it refers to the time needed for the stain or product to fully penetrate, dry and set.

During this curing time, the color of your stain deepens or lightens depending on your choice of stain, so the true color of your wood won’t be seen until the stain is fully cured. Additionally, this curing process needs to be completed in order for your block to be considered food-safe (make sure you’re using a food-safe stain or product!).

Stain does not, and in most cases, especially when it comes to butcher blocks, should not be dried or cured in the sun to “speed up” the process. Drying in direct sunlight can cause warping, an uneven finish, and more.

Curing stain takes time; if you do not have the time to commit to allowing your stain to fully cure, you should consider using a conditioning product like mineral oil or board oil and wax sets to bring out the natural tones of the wood.

Tips for Staining Your Butcher Block

Staining requires much more time and consideration than sealing or conditioning your butcher block. Here are some tips for getting the best results when staining your butcher block:

  1. Sand your butcher block, especially if there’s stubborn staining or damage.
  2. Condition your butcher block before staining using a conditioner that’s compatible with the type of stain you’ll be using; this will help your results look more even and make the application smoother. Let the conditioner “dry” completely.
  3. Test your chosen stain on the underside of the butcher block or a small patch before committing to staining the whole board to ensure you like the finish.
  4. Stain the entire butcher block according to the directions on the stain chosen, wiping away excess with a rag. Let it dry completely and apply additional layers until the desired finish is achieved.
  5. Allow your butcher block to cure for the full amount of time recommended on your stain to ensure proper food safety.

Tips for Conditioning Your Butcher Block

If you’re not quite ready to commit to stain or are just looking to achieve a slightly deeper wood color – consider using butcher block conditioners, oils and creams instead. They are easier to apply and require no curing time or prep. For best results:

  1. Ensure your butcher block is properly cleaned and dry.
  2. Use a butcher block oil such as mineral oil, linseed oil, or oil blend first.
  3. Never use perishable oils such as olive or canola as they can go rancid.
  4. Once you’ve used your butcher block oil and it has dried, follow up with a conditioner or cream such as the ones in the John Boos Mystery Oil Kit or Howard Products Butcher Block Conditioner (both linked below). Allow your conditioner to completely dry.
  5. Both oil and conditioner can be worked into your board using a soft cloth or application brush.
  6. Regularly condition your board to maintain the integrity of the board and restore the wood’s natural color and appearance. Around once a week to once a month, depending on how often you use your board and the conditioning products that you choose.

The Best Butcher Block Stain Options

If you’re looking to breathe new life into an old butcher block or want to amplify the color of the wood, these are the best butcher block stain options out there right now.

Watco 359024 Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain

Watco 359024 Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain

Best All-in-one Stain & Conditioner

The Watco 359024 Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain is a super easy-to-use two in one stain and conditioning product. It allows you to stain or maintain the color of your wood items such as cutting boards and butcher blocks, countertops, and bowls while also keeping them conditioned.

Price Range: $15 – 60 (can be purchased in singles or 4-packs)

Pros

  • Food-grade oil & stain for butcher blocks, wood salad bowls, countertops, etc.
  • Only requires one application to see full effects
  • Dries in 2 hours, cures in 72 hours
  • Long-lasting
  • Odorless

Cons

  • Limited color options.
  • Color can be diluted and may appear smeary

Tired & True Stain

Tried & True - Stain - Java - Pint

Best Bargain Pick

Tried & True Stain is a great environmentally friendly stain option that’s food-grade and made from renewable ingredients. Great for butcher blocks, cutting boards, countertops, and more.

Price Range: $10 – 40

Pros

  • Food-grade
  • Environmentally friendly, renewable ingredients
  • Variety of color options

Cons

  • Can have an oily odor
  • Need to thoroughly rub off/dry stained wood to avoid it rubbing off

John Boos Mystery Oil, Cream & Applicator Set

John Boos Mystery Oil

Best Overall

John Boos Mystery Oil, much like their butcher blocks, are an industry staple. This set features their deep penetrating mystery oil that helps protect and revitalize wood and their board cream that creates a long-lasting moisture barrier. This two-step system is the key to longevity when it comes to your butcher blocks.

Price Range: $50 – 65

Pros

  • Protection, conditioning, and moisture resistance
  • Applicator for smooth application
  • All-natural ingredients
  • Easy to use
  • Helps wood last longer

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No color – not a stain
  • Needs to be applied regularly

Howard Products Butcher Block Conditioner

Howard Products BBC0, Butcher Block Conditioner

Best For Easy Application

The Howard Butcher Block Conditioner penetrates deep into the wood to draw out the rich, natural colors of the grains, revitalizing any of your wood kitchen surfaces. The blend of natural oils and wax protects against moisture and cracking, keeping it in perfect condition for years to come.

Price Range: $15-40 (depending on size)

Pros

  • Natural ingredients
  • Easy to use
  • Brings out the natural color of the wood
  • Protects against moisture and cracking
  • Helps wood last longer

Cons

  • No color
  • Needs to be applied regularly

Waterlox TB5284 Stain

Waterlox 5284qt TB5284 Stain

Best Stain

Waterlox TB5284 Stain is a high-quality, tried, and true stain for various wood projects and flooring. It’s a great, waterproof stain that’s long-lasting and flexible. The matte finish means it won’t take away from the natural look of your wood.

Price Range: $10 – 65 (depending on size)

Pros

  • Waterproofs
  • Long-lasting, stands up to spills, moisture & more
  • Matte Finish
  • Renewable materials

Cons

  • Follow directions on curing times to ensure food safety

Alternatives to Butcher Block Stain

Staining can be a time-consuming and messy project. When you’re dealing with staining something that will come into contact with food, you need to ensure you’re using the right products and following directions to a tee for proper safety.

For this reason, many people choose not to stain their butcher block and instead opt for some of these more natural, food-safe, and easy-to-use products.

Bayes High-Performance Mineral Conditioner

Bayes High-Performance Food Grade Mineral Oil Wood & Bamboo Conditioner and Protectant

High-quality mineral oil like Bayes High-Performance Mineral Conditioner is a popular choice for treating your butcher block and cutting boards. It’s an environmentally friendly product that works to prevent drying and cracking due to regular use and washing and revive dull-looking wood, restoring it to its rich natural wood tones.

Price Range: $5-20 (depending on size)

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Helps improve longevity of the butcher block
  • Brings out the deep, natural wood tones of dulled, well-loved blocks
  • Easy to use
  • Safe to use immediately after conditioning
  • Helps protect the board from drying and cracks
  • Cruelty-free and environmentally friendly

Cons

  • Unlike stain, does not change or dramatically deepen the color of the board

Clark’s Bamboo Board Oil & Wax

Bamboo Board Oil & Wax (2 Bottle Set) by CLARK'S

Clark’s Bamboo Board Oil & Wax is specially formulated to treat bamboo and other types of wood. The oil penetrates deep into the wood grains to condition and restore dull, dry wood. The wax protects the board with a moisture-resistant barrier to help improve longevity and reduce the risk of drying and cracking. When both are used regularly your board will maintain it’s deep, natural wood look and have a slight, like-new sheen.

Price Range: $20 – 30

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Helps improve longevity of the butcher block
  • Brings out the deep, natural wood tones of dulled, well-loved blocks
  • Easy to use
  • Helps protect the board from drying and cracks
  • Two step system conditions and protects

Cons

  • Unlike stain, does not change or dramatically deepen the color of the board
  • Two-step system is slightly more time consuming than using just oil

Real Milk Paint Dark Tung Oil

Dark Tung Oil

Real Milk Paint Dark Tung Oil has a mixed in resin to help deepen the color of your wood grain. It’s the perfect combination of a conditioning oil and a slight stain without the mess. While it won’t produce the same results as stain, the added resin adds a layer of depth that most oils do not.

Price Range: $20 – 50 (depending on size)

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Adds more depth of color than just a conditioning oil
  • Easy to use
  • Waterproof finish
  • Natural wood finish – no gloss
  • Helps protect and condition the board to avoid cracks and drying

Cons

  • Lengthy wait time, 7-10 days for partial cure and 15-30 days for a full cure

FAQ

Question: What kind of stain do you use on butcher block?

Answer: There are typically two types of stain used on butcher blocks – oil-based and water-based. An oil-based stain will penetrate the wood creating a protective barrier while offering a subtle hint of color while water-based stains provide rich color payoff with less protective qualities.
Additionally, you can use butcher block oils, waxes, or conditioners to treat your butcher block will also revitalize and revive the natural colors of the wood without stain.

Question: Is there a food-safe stain for Butcher block countertops?

Answer: Yes. An oil and stain combination such as Watco Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain is a great example of an oil-based stain product intended for use on butcher block countertops and other wood surfaces requiring food-grade stains such as cutting boards or salad bowls.
Be sure to follow the directions of your food-grade stain product as often there will be a required “curing” period before your stain is considered food-safe – this can be anywhere from 3 days to 30 days, depending on the product.

Question: Do you need a wood conditioner before staining the butcher block?

Answer: Yes. Conditioning your wood before staining will allow for a smoother application and a more even result. If you are intending to use a water-based stain, ensure the conditioner you use is compatible with water-based products as many conditioners are made from oils and waxes that may result in a water-based stain not absorbing or coming out blotchy.

In Conclusion

If you’re looking to really make a difference in the appearance of your butcher block a stain is a great option but finding the perfect stain option can be difficult. If you’re looking for a great no-fuss, all-in-one product, the Watco 359024 Butcher Block Oil Plus Stain is a great choice.

If you liked this article, be sure to let us know in the comments below. And if you’re looking for more great butcher block tips, check out our guide to the best butcher block cutting boards.

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