Caring for Wooden Worktops

We’ve recently installed a beautiful hardwood island for a client. Woods in kitchens look stunning and are lovely to work on, but do require quite a bit of maintenance. This client was hesitant about having such a volatile material in the kitchen, which is why we’ve limited it to a small wooden island, which stands out as a feature and softens and contrasts with all the high gloss surfaces. It’s not difficult to maintain, but does involve frequent oilings in the first year.

wooden worktop

Our client’s walnut island

Hardwood worktops must be thoroughly treated with at least three coats of protective wood oil, to all sides (including the underside), prior to installation. Most reputable companies do this, but it’s always worth checking. It is also beneficial to apply as many coats as possible to the end-grain of the worktops as this is the area which will absorb the most moisture. An extra three to four coats should also be applied around tapholes, sink cutouts and areas of heavy use or exposure.

After installation you’ll need to continue applying the oil yourself. It is best to apply several thin coats rather than one thick application. Always work the oil into the worktop in the direction of the wood grain for best results. Use lint free cloth spread the oil in thin coats. Lint free means anything that doesn’t shed fibres, old T-shirts would be our recommendation.

After applying the first coat, you will probably notice that some areas are wet and others dry. This is because the wood will absorb the oil at different degrees in different areas. Wait for half an hour and then run the cloth over the entire surface again to ensure an even spread. Do not allow large pools of oil to dry on the surface, or sit too long.

Apply the second and third coats in the same manner, allowing longer drying time in between coats (up to 2 hours). If the surface feels slightly rough in certain areas, or if you wish to develop a smoother surface, then we recommend that you apply a further coat of oil using a green nylon scouring sponge.

Ongoing care and oiling of the timber brings out and enhances its appearance as well as protecting the wood surfaces from wear and tear. Your new worktop should be treated with oil every week for the first six weeks, and at least once every three months thereafter. If you think your worktop needs oiling more regularly then feel free to apply as often as you like – you cannot overdo it. This simple procedure will maintain the colour and lustre of your hardwood worktop and keep it looking as good as new.

Generally water spills and other liquids should always be mopped up immediately to prevent stains to the surface – especially during the first few weeks of installation. We advise keeping a tea towel handy solely for this purpose. Worktops should be cleaned regularly using washing-up liquid and warm (not hot) water. Apply the water sparingly and wipe dry afterwards – water should never be left to stand on wooden surfaces for long periods.

Types of wood oil:

Danish Oil: a blend of several different trees. It’s the easiest to apply and the gives the most protection. The smell is quite strong.

Tung Oil: Gives excellent protection but takes a long time to dry and can be hard to spread.

Linseed Oil: The easiest and quickest to absorb, but requires more coats as it is quite thin and offers less protection.

Teak Oil: traditionally used for outdoor furniture, as it is hard wearing, but also hard to spread.

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One comment

  • John Strauss June 3, 2016  

    Good post. I would add when making recommendations regarding oil a section on rag safety. Spontaneous combustion is a real danger. Rags must be left out on concrete or a line to dry, never placed in a garbage bag, or can.