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Oiling a worktop is essential for preserving the natural beauty and extending the lifespan of wooden kitchen surfaces. Wood responds dynamically to its environment. Over time, exposure to light, air and moisture can alter its appearance and structural integrity. Knowing how to oil a worktop properly means being able to form a barrier which will protect the surface from these elements while – just as importantly – accentuating its inherent charm. In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about how to oil a worktop made from wood.

Step-by-Step Guide to Oiling a Worktop

1. Preparation: The initial step in oiling a worktop is preparation. Begin by thoroughly cleaning the surface to remove any dirt, grime or other residue. Use a soft, damp cloth and a mild detergent, avoiding harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that could damage the wood​​. Once cleaned, ensure the worktop is completely dry. Any moisture on the surface can hinder the oil’s absorption, leading to an uneven finish.

2. Choosing the Right Oil: Selecting the appropriate oil is crucial. Different oils offer varying degrees of protection and aesthetic effects. Linseed oil is a popular choice but you need to consider the specific type of wood of your worktop. For instance, denser woods like oak or walnut sometimes benefit from thicker oils while lighter woods like maple may require a lighter oil that won’t overly darken the wood​. That’s why we recommend Danish oil, a specific blend of Tung oil which is adapted to all types of wooden worktops, drying hard to form a durable and water-resistant seal.

3. Applying the Oil: Once you have selected a suitable oil, apply it evenly across the worktop using a clean, lint-free cloth or a soft brush. Add the oil to the cloth and work it in the direction of the wood grain, ensuring the oil is spread uniformly. Don’t pour some oil onto the worktop and hope to spread it in. Bear in mind that oiling a worktop often requires multiple thin coats rather than a single thick coat. Allow the oil to penetrate the wood for the recommended time, usually 10 to 20 minutes, before wiping off any excess with a clean cloth. This step is essential as it prevents the formation of a sticky, uneven surface.

4. Drying and Curing: After application, the oil requires adequate time to dry and cure. This period will vary depending on the type of oil used and the ambient conditions, such as temperature and humidity. Typically, it can take anywhere from a few hours to overnight for the oil to dry to the touch. However, the full curing process, where the oil hardens and forms a protective layer, can take several days. During this time, avoid placing heavy items on the worktop or subjecting it to heavy use.

5. Additional Coats: For optimal protection and aesthetic appeal, it may be necessary to apply multiple coats of oil, especially for new or heavily used worktops. Wait for the first coat to dry and cure completely before oiling a worktop again. Each additional coat should be thinner than the previous one. Although the number of coats required will vary, two to four coats tend to provide sufficient protection for most wooden worktops.

6. Final Touches: After the final coat of oil has dried and cured, you can enhance the worktop’s lustre by buffing it with a soft, dry cloth. This step helps to even out the finish and brings out the natural beauty of the wood. Pay special attention to areas that receive more wear – such as around the sink or stove, for example – to ensure they have adequate protection.

How to Oil a Worktop as it Ages

As a wooden worktop ages, regular maintenance oiling will become more and more crucial to preserve its appearance and durability. Over time, daily use and cleaning with something as simple as soap and water can wear away the protective oil layer. To maintain the worktop, reapply a thin coat of oil every six to twelve months or even more frequently if needed. This regular upkeep helps to replenish the wood’s natural oils, keeping it resistant to stains so you can consider it to be a preventative maintenance measure. Don’t wait until oiling a worktop in your kitchen has become too late because something staining, such as red wine or coffee, has been spilt on it.

When oiling worktops, you may encounter specific issues such as oiling over stains or dealing with heavily worn areas. For stained worktops, it’s important to treat the stain first, either by sanding down the affected area or using a wood-specific stain remover, before applying oil. In the case of worn worktops, a thorough sanding may be necessary to remove the worn finish before re-oiling. Always follow the grain of the wood when sanding and start with a coarse grit sandpaper before gradually moving to finer grits so that you achieve a smooth finish that’s ready for oiling.

FAQs About Oiling a Worktop Made From Wood

1. How do I know when it's time to re-oil my worktop?

Signs that your worktop needs re-oiling include a dull or dry appearance or when water no longer beads on the surface. Regularly inspect your worktop, and if it shows any of these signs, it’s time to apply a fresh coat of oil to maintain its protection and appearance.

2. Can I use olive oil to treat my wooden kitchen worktop?

It is not advisable to use olive oil – or any cooking oil, for that matter – to treat wooden kitchen worktops. While olive oil might temporarily enhance the wood’s appearance, it does not dry or harden like oils specifically designed for wood treatment. Over time, olive oil can become rancid, attract pests and potentially lead to bacterial growth. 

3. Why is my wooden worktop sticky after oiling?

Your wooden worktop may be sticky after oiling due to excess oil not being wiped off or the oil not being properly absorbed into the wood. To resolve this, wipe off any excess oil with a clean, dry cloth and allow adequate time for the oil to dry and cure. If stickiness persists, a light sanding and reapplication of a thinner layer of oil may be necessary.

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