Things You'll Need
Stiff bristle brush
To clean and sterilize an antique butcher block start with basic cleaning and move on to sanding or the plane only if necessary. A worn cutting surface is a sign of use and part of the charm of old chopping blocks. Don't level the top unless it's necessary because you lessen the antique value of piece.
Do not saturate the butcher block with water. Do not seal the cutting surface with polyurethane.
Butcher block tables can last for years in an active butcher shop or restaurant. Antique butcher block tables have a rich patina and wear marks that makes them attractive for your kitchen. If you acquire an antique butcher block clean, refurbish and sterilize it for use in your kitchen or as a decorative side table.
Clean a butcher block that just came from a restaurant or butcher shop with soap and water. Avoid using excess water and wipe soap off with a damp cloth. Wipe again with a clean damp cloth. To sterilize the block, spray with solution of 1 tablespoon of bleach in a quart of water. Seal the cutting surface with linseed oil. After using it, wipe it clean with a little bleach water for disinfecting and odor control.
Look for discoloration, rot and check for a rancid smell if you acquire a dirty old butcher block. Scrub with hot soapy water and a stiff bristle brush to loosen old grease and fat in the wood. Do not soak the wood. Wipe dry and clean with a brush and the solution of bleach and water. Any cracks or nicks in an old butcher block should be filled with wood filler and sanded smooth, starting with 50-grit sandpaper and finishing with 100-grit sandpaper. Finish by rubbing in a coat of linseed oil.
Scrub the butcher block if it is severely stained and damaged. Let it dry for 24 hours. Take the top 1 inch of wood from the top of the block with a plane if the butcher block is side grain wood. Use an orbital sander if it is made from end grain wood. Clean with a tack cloth, spray and wipe with the bleach solution. Reseal with linseed oil.
Wipe the restored and sterilized butcher block clean with a soapy cleaning rag or sponge, or a rag dipped in weak bleach solution after each use. Reseal the block with linseed oil when the wood loses its patina.