Treating Wooden Worktops - How to Oil Worktops and Treat Wooden Worktops

Summary: For this DIY guide we look into the treatment, oiling, care and maintenance of hardwood kitchen worktops. We run you through the steps of treating wooden worktops and how to oil worktops correctly to ensure that they last. Also included are tips repairing, resanding and restoring wooden worktops.

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Oiling Treatment, Care and Maintenance of Hardwood Worktops

At Diydoctor we have received many questions asking which varnish should be used to re-vamp or repair a wooden kitchen worktop…The answer is NONE!

Timber worktops should be prepared without any application that is likely to chip or crack as if damaged they will harbour germs and become extremely unhygienic in no time and to these ends, in this project we will deal with how to oil worktops and kitchen work surfaces.

Oiling a Hardwood Kitchen Worktop

Hardwood worktops must be thoroughly treated with at least three coats of protective wood oil, to all sides (including the underside), prior to installation. 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.

Oils are best applied by using a lint-free cloth rather than a brush. A lint-free cloth is any form of material that will not deposit any particles on the wood - an old T-shirt is usually ideal.

Treated hardwood kitchen worktop

Treated hardwood kitchen worktop

When 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.
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 15minutes 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.

Apply the second and third coats in the same manner, allowing ½ hour - 1hour for drying time in between coats. 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 either a green nylon scouring sponge or wire wool.

Worktops can be finely sanded between coats (120grit - 180grit). However, work surfaces should never be sanded finer than 180grit. To do so will prevent any future applications of oil from penetrating the surface.

Aftercare and Maintenance of an Oiled Worktop

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. Just remember to always apply thin layers using a lint-free cloth and remove any excess oil after 10-15mins.

If a worktop is fitted over a Belfast type sink, oil should be applied monthly or whenever beading of water no longer occurs on the worktop surface.

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.

Some Do's and Don'ts

  • Never use multi-purpose cleaning products that contain chemical cleaning agents and especially avoid scouring powders. A green nylon scouring sponge can be used for cleaning purposes but the area may require re-oiling afterwards
  • Always use a chopping board for food preparation - cutting directly onto the worktop will damage the surface
  • Hot pans, rough-bottomed objects and wet items should not be placed directly onto a wooden work surface - always use granite inserts, hot-rods, trivets, pan stands or heat-resistant mats to protect the worktop from scorch marks. Direct contact from iron, steel or copper vessels can also stain the timber surfaces and should therefore be avoided

Renovating or Repairing Damaged Wooden Worktops

If your worktop is damaged, or very badly in need of renovation, it can be sanded down with some fine sandpaper. For best results, slightly dampen the surface before sanding. For larger, more extensive damage/dents etc, coarser paper can be used but then graded down to fine for the final sanding. The oil is then applied as above.

Worktop oil is generally a natural product made from various vegetable oils, which, mostly, are solvent, free.

Oils Used for Worktop Treatment

The oils that can be used to treat wooden worktops include:

  • Danish Oil: Mixture of various oils such as Tung and Linseed. Danish oil provides great protection is by far the easiest oil to apply
  • Tung Oil: Tung is a tree, found in China, parts of Africa and in some South American Countries. Tung Oil provides excellent protection but is more difficult to apply and requires a much greater drying time
  • Linseed Oil: Extracted from the seeds of the flax plant by steaming and crushing them. Raw linseed oil can be boiled to make the drying process faster. Linseed oil usually requires more applications than other oils as it dries out far quicker
  • Teak Oil: Mixture of natural oils from vegetable products

Remember never apply varnish or paint to a surface that may be used to prepare food and always use a chopping board on wooden worktops. Food poisoning is not nice!

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