How to Stain Butcher Block in 8 Simple Steps

Last Updated on November 14, 2022 by Ernest Godia

A butcher block is a sturdy wooden board used as a platform for chopping food. It consists of wood strips glued together and can be used as a freestanding board or to make kitchen countertops or tables. 

Since these wooden boards typically come unfinished, staining a butcher block can go a long way in deepening the color and enhancing its appearance. Staining will also seal and protect your butcher block from damage, making it last longer.

Read along to learn how to stain butcher block with less hassle.

Can you stain butcher block?

Yes. You can stain a butcher block to protect it from water damage, scratches, and wear and tear. Staining also gives the wood a polished look and makes it last longer. 

Start by sanding the surface to rough it up and remove any existing sealant. Wipe the wood and apply a coat of wood conditioner, then let it dry before applying a thin, even stain coat. Let the stain dry before sealing it with a protective finish.

How to stain butcher block

Staining butcher block involves a few simple steps that are easy to follow. With the correct tools and the right type of stain, you can give your wood a more elegant and finished look before you start using it.

What you need to stain butcher block

Here are the tools and materials you’ll need to stain the butcher block.

  • Wood stain
  • Wood conditioner
  • 120 and 220-grit sandpaper
  • Foam brushes
  • Cotton rag
  • Paintbrush

How to stain butcher block step-by-step

  1. Sand the butcher block with a medium-grit sandpaper

Once you have your tools and materials ready, it’s time to prepare your butcher block for staining.

Start by sanding the wood with a medium-grit (120 grit) sandpaper to create a smooth surface for the stain to adhere to. Sand in the direction of the grain until the surface is smooth. Don’t be too aggressive, as this may cause unwanted scratches on the wood surface.

  1. Wipe and sand with fine-grit sandpaper

After sanding, wipe away the sawdust with a damp cloth, then use fine-grit (220 grit) sandpaper to sand the surface lightly. This will make the wood smoother and remove any debris blocking the pores.

Remember to keep working in the direction of the wood grain for the best results.

  1. Wipe and apply wood conditioner

Once you’ve fine-sanded, wipe off the dust again using a cotton rag or paper towel and apply a thin coat of pre-stain wood conditioner. This will help the stain to penetrate the wood evenly.

  1. Let it dry, and sand it again.

After conditioning, leave the butcher block to dry for 2 hours before proceeding. Once the conditioner is dry, use fine-grit sandpaper to lightly sand the surface and wipe away any dust with a clean cloth. 

Fine-sanding will remove any splotches caused by the conditioner and produce an even smoother surface for the stain to adhere to.

  1. Wipe and apply the stain using a foam brush

Now that the surface is ready, it’s time to apply your stain. Choose the type of stain you prefer for staining your butcher block— oil-based stains are the best since they penetrate well and are more durable.

Dip your paintbrush or foam brush into the stain and apply it on your butcher block in long, even strokes.

Work in small sections, and immediately wipe away any excess stains. Also, remember to work in the grain direction to highlight the natural wood patterns. Ensure the entire surface of the wood is covered in the stain.

  1. Let the stain dry for 8 hours.

After staining, let the stain sit for 8 hours to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. Avoid touching or placing objects on it during this period.

  1. Apply a second coat and let it dry

Once the first coat dries completely, apply a second stain coat using long, even strokes to darken the stain a little. Wipe any excess and let the second coat dry overnight.

If you’re unsatisfied with the color, you can apply a third coat to make the stain even darker. Just remember to give the wood enough drying time between coats of stain.

  1. Finish with polyurethane

Once the stain is dry, it’s time to seal the stained wood to protect your butcher block from water damage, stains, or wear and tear. Apply a thin layer of polyurethane evenly over the surface with a clean cloth or brush.

Allow the sealer to dry completely before using your kitchen countertops.

Stained butcher block; how to stain butcher block hassle-free

More tips on how to stain butcher block

Here are more tips on how to stain butcher block more effectively:

  1. If you’re using an oil-based stain on your wood, use an oil-based wood conditioner. Similarly, if you’re going to use a water-based stain, condition the wood using a water-based conditioner.
  2. Test your stain color on an inconspicuous part of the wood block to ensure it comes out the way you want before staining the entire surface.
  3. For kitchen counters, choose a stain color that complements other wooden items or cabinets in your kitchen.
  4. If you want the stain to look darker, apply 1-2 more stain coats until you get the shade you want.
  5. Always wipe off excess stains when working to avoid a splotchy, messy finish.


Should you stain a butcher block?

Yes. You should stain your butcher block. A good stain will help protect the wood from moisture damage and wear and tear. It will also give your butcher block a nice, even color that will make it more aesthetically pleasing.

What can I use to stain a butcher block?

You can use any type of wood stain as long as it’s non-toxic and food-safe. However, oil-based stains are the best since they seep into the wood pores and provide better protection. Other lternative finishes include linseed oil, mineral oil, beeswax, and tung oil.  

What is the best stain for a butcher block?

The best type of stain for a butcher block is an oil-based stain, which penetrates deeply into the wood, providing better protection against moisture and wear and tear. Water-based stains will not penetrate as deeply and will not provide as much protection.

How do you change the color of a butcher block?

To change the color of a butcher block, you need to sand it, then apply a new color of the stain. You can use a whitewash or pickling technique to lighten the color. You can use a dark walnut or mahogany stain to darken the color or create custom colors by mixing different stains.

Final thoughts on staining butcher block

Staining butcher block is a great way to protect it from water damage, scratches, and fading. Though you can use any wood stain on a butcher block, oil-based stains will produce the best results and make your surfaces more durable.

With this step-by-step guide, you can easily stain your butcher block kitchen counters and give them a newer and classier look.

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Let’s know what you think in the comments. Also, feel free to share this article with your fellow woodworkers to let them know how to stain butcher block effectively.

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