My Ikea Numerar Butcherblock Countertop Saga Continues

It’s true.  I’ve refinished my Ikea Numerar oak butcherblock countertops…again.  If you’re keeping count, this would be the fourth time, and the last time was less than four months ago.

This has been quite an adventure trying to find the perfect finish…one that will hold up to water, resist stains, and be durable enough that I don’t feel like I have to add felt pads to the bottom of all of my pots, pans, glasses, coffee cups, etc.

And I really do believe I’ve finally found the perfect finish.  The best thing about it?  I can find it at the neighborhood grocery store one block away for less than two dollars a bottle in the laxative aisle.  Yep, it’s  mineral oil.  And the finish is absolutely beautiful.

I was really shocked at how it turned the wood a really beautiful medium brown with a hint of red.  Yay!  No yellow!  I was very afraid that I would have a repeat of the orangish yellow disaster that I had with the Waterlox last time.  But there’s no yellow here, and it also didn’t turn the grain in the wood the dark almost-black color that the stains did.  The grain stayed subtle and pretty, just like I wanted it.

I decided to give the mineral oil a shot after reading this post on House Tweaking.  Dana made it sound so easy.  Just wipe down with oil every now and then?  Simply sand out stains and re-oil?  Could it really be that simple?

It is.  In fact, just last night I was doing some paint touch up on my upper cabinets, and I dripped a bit of oil-based paint onto my countertop.  If it had been one of the other finishes, I would have been in serious trouble.  But not with the mineral oil!  I just wiped off the excess paint, let the rest of the paint dry, and then got a piece of sandpaper and sanded the rest of the paint right off.  I wiped it down with mineral oil, and it looked as good as new.

I keep wondering why the heck I didn’t do this from the very beginning!!!  The reason is because I was convinced that I wanted really dark countertops.  Sure, that would be nice.  Yes, I like dark wood.  But the ease of maintenance with countertops that are just oiled far outweighs the beauty of dark stained countertops.  With stained countertops, there’s simply no way that I could ever sand out a stubborn spot, re-stain that spot, and have it blend in with the rest of the countertop.  Believe me…I’ve tried.  It doesn’t work.

So this solution is perfect.  And I absolutely love the fact that mineral oil is perfectly clear, so if I happen to get any of it on  my grout or caulk, it won’t discolor it at all.

I really haven’t found any downside to using the mineral oil-only method.  Since I’ve only just begun using the oil, and I put it on bare, newly-sanded wood, I’ve been slathering on the oil every night before I go to bed, and when I wake up in the morning, I just wipe off the excess with a dry cloth, and go on about my business.  The first time I did that, there wasn’t any excess oil in the morning.  The wood soaked in every last drop.

I’ll continue to do this until the wood stops soaking up the oil, and stops feeling dry.  (I actually think I may have reached that point this morning, after oiling it for four nights straight.)  From that point on, I’ll simply oil it as it needs it.  And while it may seem like a hassle to oil the countertops, it’s really not.  It takes me less than five minutes to grab a cloth, pour some oil on, and spread it around.  After it soaks in overnight, and after I wipe off any excess the next morning, it’s doesn’t feel oily.

The only drawback…if I had to name one…is that my cat loves it.  A little too much, in fact.  I caught her up on the countertop, just minutes after I had oiled it, and she was licking the mineral oil!!!  And of course, instead of making her get down immediately, I reached for my iPhone.  :-D  Ha!

But I don’t want to leave you with that horrible, discolored, poor quality iPhone picture.  I’ll leave you with this one…

I could seriously kick myself in the hind end for not doing this from the beginning.  I had started to hate my butcherblock countertops, and regretted ever selecting butcherblock for my kitchen.  Now that I’ve found this mineral oil method that leave such a beautiful finish, I’m starting to love them again.

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Comments

  1. terrillr says

    It looks like you found a winner! Please update us in a few months, I’d love some wood countertops, and this may be my solution.

    Thanks for all you do.

  2. Stacie says

    What a great idea! Now it makes me reconsider getting wood countertops! I just have one question that I was hoping you could elaborate on. Due to the constant exposure to water around the sink/faucet area, how well do the countertops hold up? Do you have to constantly wipe that area down? Does the wood warp/mold/etc? How do you protect and maintain that area? Any advice would be great. Thank you!

    • Ange says

      I have the same countertops as she has posted here throughout my entire kitchen. Both around the sink and around my cooktop. I have done nothing but mineral oil and I’ve had them for nearly a year and they still look great. I don’t have an undermounted sink (I felt it would be harder to clean around that crack under the edge). What I have is a bar mop that I constantly drape over the faucet. I do whatever I need done in the sink, and when I’m done I immediately run the dry towel around the sink and pick up any water I splashed out. The key is not to leave it sit. It does not take more than a few seconds, and it has become second nature to me now. I do various things to protect it otherwise, such as not put any hot pans directly on them and I have a stainless steel mat (also from IKEA) under my coffee machine.
      I’ve only had a few stains actually soak in enough that I had to sand that spot and reoil – I haven’t noticed any more hassle in that department than other countertops I’ve owned – and most others aren’t so forgiving that you can just sand out the stain/scratch!

  3. Sue says

    Great job Kristi! Mineral oil is the base of many stains so I guess it makes sense that it would be a great finish all by itself. Your countertop certainly looks pretty – another great selling point. (Just remember what aisle you bought it in and check your kitty’s litter box often. LOL) I have an old butcher block cabinet (meant to be an island in a non-galley kitchen) that needs something done to it so this is an inexpensive and relatively easy thing for me to try. Thanks.

  4. says

    My husband and I put that Ikea oak counter down in our first kitchen and always used mineral oil, the look was beautiful. Now we have soapstone in our new house and its the same, we periodically wipe it down with mineral oil, super easy and looks great!

  5. says

    Yuk on the cat!! I learn so much from this blog. I did the mineral oil only once, and it seems dry to me. well…..there is reason for that, it needs more! I will do the same and hopefully get the same gorgeous results. It didn’t even occur to me my butcher block is thirsty! Hopefully my dog will not be licking the countertops. Although it would probably be better than getting into the garbage!

  6. says

    I think you found a winner! I used to season my wood counters with olive oil. Food safe, fed the wood. It was perfect.
    We had Myrtle Wood (native to Oregon).

    You’ll love this ;)

  7. Mary says

    Great results, I wonder if your ‘Mineral Oil’ is what we call here (UK) as Parafin oil which is also from the laxative isles.?

  8. says

    I’ve owned a nice heavy butcher block cutting board for a few years and nothing quite beats a rub-on food-grade finish. An alternative to mineral oil, if you ever want to try something different for another project, is a mineral oil and beeswax blend (there are several on the market, usually called things like “Bee’s Oil” …try Amazon). I like it because it tends to dry faster so you can use it right away and you can sort of rub/burnish it in. Think of it like shoe-shine polish. I also find that it seems to last longer and require fewer initial coats. I imagine for a whole countertop, it might not be as easy since it tends to be a bit tacky till it really rubs in and gets dry. The oil might work better in that specific case.

    PS – For the commenter that recommended olive oil, it’s not a great idea for one reason. Food oils (olive, vegetable, etc.) go rancid easily under heat and light. If you’ve ever opened an old container of Crisco shortening and gotten a waxy stale, almost fish-like smell, that’s oil rancidity (happens to whole grains and potato chips too). Rub olive oil on your cutting board and countertop and it’ll eventually do the same thing and there’s no easy way to remove it. I don’t think it’s particularly unsafe…just sort of smelly and undesireable.

  9. Lisa T says

    This is just gorgeous! Today I’m refinishing (again!) some oak cabinets for our lower level (otherwise known as a basement) kitchen. So, I totally get the trial and error thing! Your countertops now have just the right amount of warmth.

  10. Danielle says

    Whew – thanks for the reply – you saved me some trouble it seems. I am wondering if I can still stain these tops and then use oil??? GAH – I need the tops to be DARK!

  11. Megan says

    Your countertops look amazing! I’m putting in a kitchen island & want to have a butcher block countertop, but I’m nervous about cleaning it. I would Never cut on it, I will mainly use it for baking. If I roll out say, cookie dough (which has eggs in it) will I be able to safely clean the countertop if it only has mineral oil on it? I worry about germs getting into the wood, since its not sealed.

  12. says

    I had one of those Ikea butcher block counters as the breakfast bar in my kitchen at my last house. I was unsure of doing all the counters in wood, but yours look awesome – a good bit darker than mine. I guess I should have used far more mineral oil or maybe they were darker to begin with. I don’t recall which type of counter they were and Ikea did have more than one style/brand. Anyway, had I seen yours first, I would have been sorely tempted to go the whole way – nice!

  13. says

    This looks amazing! We’re planning out our kitchen painting/counter re-do and want to use the LAGAN from IKEA and this is a great tip. But first we have to get the cabinets started. Oy!

  14. Ron Harris says

    Your countertop looks perfect! I’ve been considering using butcherblock when I add an island to my kitchen. And, BTW, mineral oil helps cats pass those nasty furballs!

  15. Cynthia Sommer says

    They look beautiful and I can’t wait to do the same to replace my horrid tile (shudder!) countertops. The one question I would *love* to know the answer to is this…. (all the other times you sealed/stained your countertop), how, how, how did you get your cat/cat hair to stay off of it until the finish was dried! We are redoing a table in varnish and that is the one thing I am worried about from our two cats. Any tips on what you did other than lock up the kitties for a day or two? :)

    • says

      Unfortunately, that’s exactly what I had to do, Cynthia I put them in the back room with their food, water, and litter box, and kept them there until the countertops were dry. If I’m working on something that can be moved, I always take it outside so that I don’t have to lock them up.

      That’s what I LOVED about doing my countertops like this, with just the oil. There’s no way that they…or their fur…can mess it up! One of my cats jumped up on the countertops just as soon as I oiled it for the first time (she likes the sleep on the laptop computer that we have on the countertop to the right of the banquette in the dining area, so there’s no way to keep her off of it). But she didn’t mess up the finish at all. Her paws got a little oily, but that’s it. The countertop still looked perfect!

  16. says

    Kristi
    Looks great, sorry it took you so long to come to an oil finish. I like walnut oil a lot too, its not a petroleum product and it does not go rancid like other oils. With that undermount sink, you are going to have to be very diligent about the end grain around the sink cut out. I would oil that weekly, and keep the area tidy wiping up any water immediately or you’ll be in trouble.

  17. says

    I am in the process of installing the same countertops. I love how they look in your kitchen. I’ve had the same experience with my cat and the mineral oil. I oiled my countertops before bed and when i woke up the next morning there were tons of little kitty footprints all over them.

  18. karen shaw says

    Can you stain the butcher block a color and then oil it or varnish it. I have all wood cabinets and thought wood colored counters would be too much wood. But if I could make them gray I think it would look better. Just wondering.

    Karen

    • says

      I’ve actually wondered about that too, Karen. I’m not sure if that would work. But if you try it, I’d love to hear about the results! I think I’m personally done with trying to stain butcherblock. I’ve been absolutely thrilled with how they look with only mineral oil. But I completely understand wanting them to contrast with your cabinets. Would you ever consider painting your cabinets? Or is that a no-go for you?

    • says

      On mine, there was a definite top and bottom. It’s been so long since I installed them that I can’t remember exactly what was on the bottom to indicate that it was, in fact, the bottom. But there was something, and it was very clear. Now I’m not sure if the new ones are like that. Mine are a few years old now.

      • says

        Thanks! There is a small “stamp” on one side but it looks easy enough to sand off. One side seems to have a lot more character, and the other seems I little plain.

  19. says

    Hey Kristi~
    I was curious about the IKEA counters… did you buy the really long one and were you able to cut use a table saw/ circular saw on them to have them fit the cabinets next to your stove or did IKEA or a contractor do that for you?
    My kitchen is a U shape so I wouldnt be able to use them without seams is what Im thinking

    • says

      Yep, I bought two of the long ones, and then cut them myself with a circular saw…with a brand new blade on it. :) They’re really easy to cut. Nothing tricky about it. I DID pay someone to cut out the hole for the sink since I have an undermount sink and was unsure that I could do it myself. But after watching the man do it, I feel confident I could do it myself. He used a circular saw on the straight sides, and a jigsaw in the curved corners, then did a lot of sanding.

    • Bob J says

      I bought 2 of the oak BB counter tops today at IKEA. I will be joining them with a miter joint cut at a 45 degree angle instead of butting them together for a corner. To make the cut I will place one on top of the other and place a block under the free end of the one on top to hold it level while it is on top of the other one. I will adjust then to make sure they are square to each other and the marks for my cuts are lined up. I will clamp a straight edge on top of the top one to act a saw guide for for my circular saw and make the miter cur through both tops at the same time. This will make for a perfect seam when I put them together and I don’t have to worry about measuring angles.

  20. Kate says

    Okay, now I’m confused – I read this post after a previous post where you had stained your counters dark. I’m now re-thinking my plan to stain & seal my Ikea counters… I’ve read that mineral oil will not protect the wood from water – are you concerned about this? I have 3 teenagers! I don’t know what to do at this point – there’s too many choices: tung oil, mineral oil, linseed oil, then there’s all the stains & coatings. I’m getting a headache now.

    • says

      I know, it’s so confusing!!! After living with mine for a few years (and planning on putting them in our future home as well), here’s what I know for sure…

      I will NEVER again use a finish that’s supposed to be “permanent”, like Waterlox, polyurethane, etc. Nor will I ever use a stain on them again. The color they turn when they’re oiled is just perfect, in my opinion. (And I like medium to dark wood, and was very concerned that they would be too light.) But from now on, I will forever and always use just some kind of oil to protect them. That way, if they get a stain on them (and I do use mine as a cutting board), then they can be easily and quickly sanded and re-oiled. No panicking about the finish. Seriously…since I’ve had only the oiled countertops, I’ve felt so much more freedom to actually USE my countertops, rather than feeling like I have to baby them. And the last thing you want in a kitchen is to feel like you have to treat your countertops gently.

      Now with that said, I would like to shop around more and try out different oils to see which one works the best, especially around the sink area. Water damage hasn’t been a problem at all. I get water on them all the time around the sink, and the wood is perfectly fine. However, I do notice that the water tends to have some sort of reaction with the oil, and the wood gets lighter. It’s not permanent, and once I oil it again, it’s back to normal. But I’d like to find an oil that won’t do that when water gets on it. And it doesn’t happen if water drips and I wipe it up immediately. But I’m not that neat and tidy. :)

      Hope that helps!!

  21. says

    Hi Kristi, I am happy you came to the mineral oil conclusion in combination with the natural color of the wood. I think it looks very good that way. Many of the customers for our natural wood slab counter tops at Stone and Cottonwood opt for a finish made from straight walnut oil (which is both edible, and hardening so that it does not go rancid in the wood), or a formula of 2/3 walnut oil, 1/3 beeswax for added moisture protection. This goes on as a paste, and can be buffed out with OOOO steel wool.

  22. donna says

    If you want darker countertops go to realmilkpaint.com they have a DARK RAW TUNG OIL that I have used that is just beautiful. The tung oil works just as good a mineral oil just a little more expensive.

    • Ayu says

      Does the dark raw tung oil work the same as how Kristi describes the mineral oil on the wood, i.e. if it gets stained, you can just sand it out and reapply the oil and everything will look fine again?

  23. Allie says

    My husband and I just installed our ikea numerar oak countertops and came across your blog while researching how to best treat the wood. We were opting for Varathane Polyurethane Floor Finish until we saw that you redid yours 4 months after applying polyurethane. What was it about the polyurethane that you disliked?

  24. Rosa says

    Wow! Your countertop looks great. I am thinking of putting in Ikea wood countertops but my installer has advised against using an undermount sink, because of the water/warping issue and also because it takes crazy expensive tools to sand out the cutout..?? I’m set on undermount and I’m glad to see you have that too! You mentioned the guy who cut out your sink did a lot of sanding — do you think this is something that could actually be done by say, me? or your average person with a layman’s sanding tool (I’m thinking something like “the mouse”).

    Also, how exactly should one clean/disinfect wood countertops? My laminate ones I have now I juse spray Clorox all over.. I imagine that’s not good for wood??

    Thanks!

  25. Thomas says

    Kristi,

    I’m installing BB countertops later this month, and am convinced after A LOT of reading that mineral oil is the way to go. Did you finish the bottom? I have three boys that drink and fling a lot of Kool Aid. Is this something I should be concerned about? Have them mix it and pour it on the living room rug instead?

    Thanks.

    Thomas

  26. steph anderson says

    Fabulous! I have been wanting to replace my countertops. We moved in to no dishwasher. So we added one, and just pushed the base cabinet over. Now I have no countertop on the last 3 feet. I also want to change colors of my oak cabinets. Maybe I will sample the color of countertop with mineral oil first. Then decide on cabinet color to coordinate.

    Anyone else taken the plunge and painted oak cabinets? I am worried that I will regret it.

    Steph

    • Natalie Zierenberg says

      I just recently finished painting my 30 year old oak cabinets. They look amazing. It’s like I have a brand new kitchen.

  27. Mina says

    Hi- we just installed our butcher block counter top same color from ikea but I used the ikea oil to seal it. The problem I have is that the grains start to standing out and up. What do you think I should do? I don’t get the smooth surface at all( I have sand it then oiled it)
    Any suggestions?
    Thanks

    • Elevenarrows says

      Hello, Mina. We just installed our Ikea oak counter tops a few weeks ago. We opted to only use mineral oil after reading this blog about it. My concern now is that after sanding and oiling over 8 coats (yes, you read that correctly), I am still dealing with a raised grain which leaves a rough texture to the counter top. My husband revisited Ikea and the man in the kitchen department said that is a common problem with their oak counter tops. He said you have to keep sanding and oiling until the grain doesn’t do that. He also said to rub it vigorously with cardboard after the last treatment. We’ve done all that and still have the raised grain.

      My concern now is that I feel like I could sand until there is nothing left of my counter top and still have the same problem! We live on top of a mountain and have low humidity. I don’t know if that affects the wood much or not. My husband is FED UP with my choice of counter top since we are having to be super careful to protect them until we can achieve a “protected” finish like everyone else seems to have.

      I should add that we chose to use mineral oil since someone online had mentioned that Ikea’s product remained somewhat sticky on the counter tops. I would love to know why my oil/sand application is requiring so many more coats than others who have done the same thing. My husband builds houses so I seriously doubt if our method has been incorrect. I’m desperate for solutions!!!

      Any suggestions from anyone else?

  28. johanna says

    I was wondering how your counters are doing. I installed Ikea oak countertops and mineral oiled them and also a mix of mineral oil and beeswax – any water drip – even if for a second leaves a raised area – easy to quickly sand and re oil but I was wondering if it does this forever!! I still love them though!!

  29. says

    Hi. Your countertop looks fantastic! How is it holding up as a cutting board/work surface? I want to install these countertops but am afraid that IKEA’s quality won’t hold up to heavy use. I will be rolling lots of dough, chopping directly on it, and slinging hot pans all over the place. (I’m not very gentle with my kitchen). I’ve been considering going with a lumber company that specializes in butcher block countertops, but if IKEA does the job, I’d rather go with that. Please let me know how you like using them. Thanks!

    • johanna says

      I still have the raised grain issue when water gets on them- i just bought 600 grit sandpaper to burnish the spots – works great. I would go with anything but oak to prevent that – oak is open grained and does that – but I LOVE how it looks so I deal! As far as hot pans – ANY wood surface will burn from hot pans – they can get black marks – i bought big metal trivets from ikea to use for that reason. So even if you get high end counters do not place hot pans n them! Rolling dough is fine – I do not chop on my counters I use extra lengths of board from the counter as chopping blocks.

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  32. says

    Hi, enjoyed your post. Just wondering if “Mineral Oil” would have a different name in Europe (Ireland) than in America. Also can you give us a lead on what type of oil it is? You say you found it close to the laxative shelf in your local store! Would not like to get mixed up with anything else while out shopping. If it is just called mineral Oil I will try that myself.

    • HeatherL says

      Mineral oil is called paraffin oil in Europe.
      I am in the process of installing the Lagan Ikea counter tops. What I am doing to help with moisture around the sink, is installing a sink with a built in drain board – the Boholmen sink by Ikea.
      All of my research suggests that mineral oil, Tung oil or Walnut oil are the best choices for durability, safety, and appearance.
      Did any of you who have the Ikea butcher block counters, oil the underside? (This is recommended in the instructions)Did you do it before or after installation?
      Also, Kristi, what color is the paint you used on your cabinets in the picture? (We’ve chosen the same bin pulls, great minds think alike!)

      • Simon says

        Hi Heather

        I just installed the Lagan worktop too :)

        How are you getting on with yours? Have you decided on what type of oil to use?

        I bought the stuff Ikea recommends and gave it a coat before cutting out the shape I need.
        It’s got a little wet though and raised the wood already? That was with two coats of the Belhanda (SP) oil they suggest.

        I oiled all sides btw, but that was when it was a whole complete slab of wood, I don’t think I’ll be doing that now it’s in :)

        Cheers

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  34. Meggan says

    I am wondering if I can stain the countertops and then use mineral oil? Mine are maple, and are quite light. I’d like them darker. I have read that the stain itself is not food safe, but maybe that isn’t a problem, since I don’t plan to put food on the counters, as you mentioned in a past post.

    • Ari says

      The short answer is ‘kind of, but not really.”

      The problem is that the stain kind of, sort of, seals the wood and prevents the wood from absorbing the oil like it should to provide protection. If you stain, it would be better to use an oil-based polyurethane (like 5-6 thin coats) or an epoxy (like a bar top).

      Perhaps what she could have mentioned in this post is that the her 3rd attempt is absolutely a legitimate means of making a butcher block ctop darker and sealed (but not food safe). You can follow her advice in that third attempt without worry. Just know you will eventually have to give a light sanding and a new coat of polyurethane eventually. “Permanent” doesn’t actually mean permanent.

  35. says

    Wow! That really looks great. I had no idea that you could use mineral oil. With all the expensive products that are pushed at us to take care of our butcher blocks these old school solutions get lost in the mix. Thanks for sharing it.

  36. Darryl Smith says

    I am wanting to oil my birch benchtops with mineral oil seeing as many of you seem to recommend it. I would like mine to finish a little darker than the bare birch. Does mineral oil darken the timber at all.
    Also I live in Australia and no-one here seems to know what mineral oil is. Can anybody give me a bit more info on what exactly mineral oil is and is it a clear product.

    Many thanks Darryl

  37. Megan says

    So you used only mineral oil to get this color!? Its just what I was looking for! Please let me know…. deciding what to do to my butcher block has been a long process!

    Thanks,
    Megan

  38. Smed says

    This looks great. Unfortunately, IKEA delivered the birch (lighter color) instead of beech (darker). I just tried Mineral Oil on a scrap piece (both sanded and unsanded portions) and it looks pretty much exactly the same color. Just more shiny. :)

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