Waterlox on butcher block: 4 years later

We weren’t sure what to do with our beater kitchen when we got to have a turn at upgrading it. We’d spent a lot of time getting the other two rental units in our three-flat apartment building rentable and rented, and getting our building in general up and running. Now, finally, we could turn attention to our space.

We lived with the porcelain sink and counter on the left for about a year before swapping it out for butcher block and Waterlox. No complaints!

(This post may contain affiliate links. Check out our affiliate disclosure for more info.)

I’d already Waterloxed a bunch of butcher block countertops for our rental units. The jury was out on how the counters would hold up over time. Regardless, I really liked how all of the butcher block I had already Waterloxed turned out. And since butcher block is pretty economical we decided to try out butcher block and see how it goes.

We’ve now had Waterloxed counters in our unit for about four years. They have held up really nicely. We bought ours from Ikea (purchased before they stopped selling 1.5″ high butcher block) and Menards. We did four coats of Waterlox Original Sealer and then a final coat of Waterlox Satin Finish. While there are signs of wear, mostly just small/light scratches here and there, the counters are in good enough shape that we are not worrying about recoating any time soon.

Some light scratching on one of the countertops that is in constant use. To my mind, not so bad given that this reflects use morning, noon and night, 7 days a week for 4 years.

We’ve also been really happy with how Waterlox has held up around the sink. Here’s a closeup of the kitchen sink right where it meets the tile backsplash. As you can see, there’s no water damage at all. Again — we aren’t overly vigilant about this. We just wipe as we go.

I worried about butcher block around the sink for obvious reasons. So far, so good.

Our secret to Waterlox longevity

Our secret to keeping our counters looking good is simply being a little careful — but not overly vigilant. We took up the habit of following the care suggestions provided by Waterlox (scroll waaaay down) from the outset and have had good results:

  • no ammonia- or bleach-based cleaning products like Fantastik or Formula 409;
  • no abrasive cleansers like Softscrub;
  • natural cleaners such as vinegar + water, Meyers and other over-the-counter cleaners are a-okay but not ones that include lemon, orange or grapefruit or the like;
  • no scrubbing with the scrubby side of a sponge, scrubber pad, or SOS/brillo pad.

This all may sound fussy but, really, we wipe the counters down with a sponge or with a spritz of natural cleaner and a paper towel — pretty much the same way you’d clean linoleum or granite. We don’t let water or any liquid sit on the counter but we wouldn’t do that anyway.

My one issue with Waterlox

The only thing that does bother me a little about Waterlox is “ambering”. Over time, the color of the countertops has changed. In this photo, a piece of the original butcher block is laid on top of our Waterloxed countertop. There’s a screaming difference here and I’m not nuts about it.

Before you say “Ugh, it’s a no!” note that Waterlox has a new product on offer that they say will not amber. It’s called Waterlox Urethane Formula. It’s not clear to me if this can be used for countertops – on the homepage they say yes but the product page doesn’t mention counters. Worth an email to Waterlox if you are interested. I’ve found the folks there to be incredibly responsive and helpful when I’ve reached out with questions/concerns.

After four years in use there is light scratching on our counter tops. But overall, the Waterlox treatment has held up and we’ll use it again.

Then again, we have a blue and white kitchen. We chose those colors when the butcher block was more of a golden blonde. Lucky for us the blue we chose works fine with a more orange butcher block. So, yeah, paint color is something to keep in mind if you really want to use Waterlox.

So: would I use Waterlox on butcher block again?

Yes, I would. I imagine if you are maintaining a stone countertop like granite correctly you are about as fussy as we are about our counters. And the maintenance is probably about the same.

I do love the warmth that butcher block adds to our space. And the Waterlox Satin Finish not only has held up, continuing to look great after four years, it also still feels great. We have no plans to move away from butcher block or Waterlox — though we will investigate the new non-ambering polyurethane at some point.

Have you used Waterlox on butcher block? Love it? Hate it? Please share your experience and questions in the comments!

4 thoughts on “Waterlox on butcher block: 4 years later”

  1. How long did it take to amber? I don’t like blonde wood and I don’t want to stain my butcher block countertop.

    • Hi Cassie – Sorry for taking this long to respond to your question. Unfortunately I don’t have a good answer for you. The amber coloring happened gradually. The colors in our butcherblock were pretty varied, with some pieces of the wood darkening and leaning orange pretty quick with the first application of Waterlox. The ambering wasn’t shocking or a complete turn-off to me — and prefer blonde wood. I would say the overall color darkened slowly over the first year and has remained pretty much the color you see in the photos captured in this post. Hope that helps.

  2. What type of wood are your countertops? I love the amber color. I have the blue cabinets and it looks so good together. Mine are a hardwood and I’m not so sure it will absorb and darken with time.

    • Hi Reenee – Thanks for commenting! The countertops in the post photos were from Ikea and they were made out of birch, so they are hardwood. The ambering didn’t take long. Hard to pin down an exact amount of time because we lived with the counters and the process is gradual. But I’d say they deepened to that amber color in a matter of month. Noting that ours are located in a very bright, sunny kitchen which I imagine is a factor in how fast ambering happens.

    • Hi Nina – thanks for your question! I’ve answered a similar question before in my “10 tips for perfect Waterlox” post. Here’s what I wrote:

      “I used mineral oil on one butcherblock countertop years ago before I knew about Waterlox. Moving over to Waterlox, what worked for me was to completely sand that butcherblock down until I felt like I had a good clean dry base to apply the Waterlox to. I then went through the steps of applying Waterlox and all was well. I think this might be because Waterlox is oil-based. If you were doing something like a water-based polyurethane on a countertop that was previously covered in mineral oil you might run into issues. All to say, if your conditions are like mine were, you should be fine. But you might check with Waterlox customer support about this as I did my particular countertop years ago and their formulas have changed since then.”

      Also, you might check out this information on the Waterlox site: “Application over previously finished surfaces.” Scroll down to the section titled “Other oil coatings” for more info about putting Waterlox Original Formula over mineral oil. Check out my new Waterlox FAQ for even more insights! I hope all of this helps. Good luck!


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.