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Best Finish for Wooden Kitchen Countertop: Take Your Kitchen To The Next Level

best stain for wood countertops

If you think that by installing and staining your wooden kitchen countertop your work is finished, think again. You don’t finish until you “finish”. That’s the golden rule of installing wooden furniture. But what does that second “finish” mean anyway?

In short, this is the protective layer your wood wouldn’t want to miss on. It’s essential for wood maintenance, as it guards against cracking. A finish can also keep the wood from drying up, swelling, and getting stained.

There are even types of finishes that are designed to prevent any scratching, in case you decide to do some cutting on that wood. As the cherry on top, finishing upgrades the look of your wood big time!

So, how can you choose the best finish for wooden kitchen countertop? Let’s see!

Related: How To Finish A Solid Wood Countertop

(Quick List) Products Mentioned In This Post

How to Decide What Finish Is Best for Your Wooden Kitchen Countertop?

It’s your specific needs and preferences that will determine your choice. Are you concerned more about the aesthetics, or is it the durability that you prioritize? Will you be using the countertop for chopping, or there won’t be any blade work involved?

Finally, will there be a sink on your countertop, or not? Your answer to each of those questions will largely determine which of the following types is the best match.

Finish Types That Are Optimal for Chopping Block Countertops

If your countertop will be your cutting board, then you need to get yourself a 100% food-safe finish. This kind of finish is made from oils and waxes, such as:

  • Mineral oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Butcher block wax

Also, if you’re planning on installing a sink on your countertop, then food-safe finishes are the way to go. Butcher block wax will serve you especially well in that regard. 

A big part of the reason why is its paraffin wax component. This wax is a hydrophobe. Meaning, it repels water. So, the water from your sink won’t constitute a problem for your wooden countertop.

However, you’ll still have to clean any water that comes into contact with the wood promptly. Also, if you have a sink on your countertop, it’ll need re-oiling once a month. In contrast, if there’s no sink, you’ll re-oil the countertop once every other month.

Okay, what if I’m not planning on using my countertop as a chopping board, what are my options?

Surface Finishes vs Penetrating Ones

These two differ in the mechanism by which they work. The surface finish dries up superficially, serving as a protective coat covering the wood. The penetrating finish, on the other hand, gets absorbed deeply and reinforces the wood from within.

With a penetrating finish, you get a more natural-looking wood. That’s due to the fact that the finish soaks in. In comparison, a surface finish forms a relatively thick layer on the surface of the wood. So, it makes up in durability what it lacks in appearance.

An example of a penetrating finish is tung oil. While surface finishes include polyurethane varnish

Best 5 Finishes for Your Wooden Kitchen Countertop

With diverse needs, available options to meet those needs vary. Among the score of options out there for finishing your wooden countertop, we bring you the best.

1. 100% Pure Tung Oil Finish Wood Stain & Natural Sealer

Being a penetrating finish, this tung oil not only gives a natural look but also a hand-rubbed one. This means that your wood won’t appear as if it was sprayed with something. This freshness will make it look like it’s almost wet.

Don’t let that wet look fool you though; this tung oil is fast-drying. It dries faster than other oils, such as soy, walnut, and linseed. Another great feature of this oil is that it’s 100% pure. There are no solvents or additives whatsoever in the mix.

This finish is also moisture-resistant. It can be used for many surfaces other than wood, like stone, concrete, and brick. The only downside is it may need an extended amount of time for the oil to penetrate the wood sufficiently.

2. Howard Products BBB012 Cutting Board Oil

As mentioned earlier, if you want to chop on your countertop, then food-safe oils and waxes are best. On top of that list comes this butcher block wax. It has the potential to breathe new life into any dried-up wood. This oil is food-safe as it meets the requirement of the FDA for contact with food

Whether it’s a countertop, a cutting board, or even a wooden bowl—as long as it’s wooden this wax has got your back. It’s also perfect for preserving the natural look of the wood. That can be attributed to the mineral oil it’s made from. 

Its constituent mineral oil has no color, taste, or odor; it does the job silently but efficiently. This finish is also deeply-penetrating, which makes it guard effectively against cracking. The drawback it has is that it can be a little pricey.

3. Minwax 630500444 Water Based Helmsman Spar Urethane

We’ve mentioned that surface finishes include polyurethane-based oil. Although this product fits into that category, it went a step further and upped its game. It doesn’t feature polyurethane, it features spar urethane. The latter is a material with more oil in it, which makes it more flexible.

This flexibility becomes especially pronounced with the wood’s seasonal shifting. That being the case as it contracts and expands following the wood’s reaction to seasons and temperatures. This finish is also non-fading, thanks to the UV blockers it features.

The UV blockers also make it perfect for wood that may be exposed to sunlight. Alongside kitchen countertops, it can also be used for bathroom cabinets, windows, doors, and outdoor furniture.

Minwax spar urethane finish shields effectively from moisture. However, You may need to apply many layers before getting a satisfying result.

4. Sunnyside Corporation 872G1S Boiled Linseed Oil

This is an easy-to-use finish that comes in a gallon. It can be used for all wooden furniture, not just countertops. Being a penetrating finish, it keeps the wood natural-looking and improves its tone. It’s made from linseed oil, which is in turn extracted from the flax plant.

This product doesn’t only support the wood; it also reinforces any oil-based coatings or paints you might have on it. Also, Sunnyside linseed oil gets the best out of both worlds: toughness and elasticity.

Sunnyside linseed oil dries fast; it takes from 12 to 18 hours to do so. Along with being tough and elastic, it’s also scratch-resistant. The only drawback is that it has a slight, undesirable smell to it.

5. Watco 242219 Danish Oil Wood Finish

This is an oil-based preparation that’s deeply-penetrating: it doesn’t leave even the tiniest wood pore without soaking in it. This adds tremendously to the protection it offers. It’s also one of the fastest-drying finishing oils out there, with only 6 hours required for that.

It can be easily applied in one step, and the whole process will mostly take less than an hour. In addition to improving the look of the wood, it also enhances its feel. 

Besides countertops, this finish can be used for any indoor wooden furniture. Also, it guards against peeling, spills, and chipping. This Danish oil finish is abrasion-resistant as well. Moreover, it can be used for wide surfaces, as it can stretch over as wide as 85 sq ft.

It gives the wood a natural, hand-rubbed appearance. Its only con is that The container can be a bit hard to open.

Quick Safety Tips for Applying a Finish to Your Wood

Wood finishes may contain dangerous materials that warrant caution. So, always read the instructions on the can. Also, make sure to wear gloves to guard your hands, and glasses to shield your eyes.

Never work in a place that’s poorly ventilated; you can use a fan to optimize air circulation. Also, never work near flame sources, like gas furnaces.

Last but not least, you should dispose of any rags you’ve used in the process safely. That can be done by putting them in a can, or any other container that can be sealed. Afterward, fill that container with water. This protects against any possible fire hazard.

Final Words

Finishing your wood is essential for its longevity. When it comes to wooden kitchen countertops, finishing becomes especially needed. Kitchen countertops are liable to spilling and scratching more than any other wooden surface.

You can finish your wooden countertop using food-safe finishes if you’re to use the countertop as a cutting board. If you’re into keeping the natural look of the wood intact, then penetrating oils are the way to go.

Finally, if your countertop is subjected to the sun constantly through the kitchen window, it’s best to use a finish with UV blockers. Now, go put the final touch on your countertop, and “finish” your work!

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