Moving into a new house has had a lot of lessons for me and a lot of things to fix!
I realized very quickly that the previous owner made a lot of improvements to the house, but she didn't complete them all the way. She covered up the finishing touches that needed to be taken care of.
Yesterday, I started to take care of one of them. In our new kitchen, there is a kitchen island. It isn't a butcher block. Butcher Blocks are made out of hardwood. I don't believe this is hardwood. But, whether it is an island with a butcher block or wood counter top, it needs to be taken care of.
There are 2 options for cooking surfaces. One is to apply mineral oil to it. You can get mineral oil at any pharmacy, Target, or Walmart. You would sand down the surface lightly with 220 grit and then apply a coat of mineral oil with a rag by rubbing it in.
The other option is raw Linseed oil or Tung Oil. You can purchase Butcher Block oil at Home Depot, for about $10-$15 for a quart can. IKEA has their own product called Behandla which is made of "Tung oil, linseed oil, methylcellulose, lead free drying agent, plant-based emulsifier, water". It is only $5/can. I've used it for the past 3 years with our wooden countertops and feel comfortable with it.
For the kitchen island in our new kitchen, I sanded it down lightly with 220 grit sand paper and then applied Behandla finish from IKEA to it. I used a disposable 1" brush and then wiped down the excess with a paper towel when I was done. The liquid is flammable, so I don't use cloth rags with it. When you use Behandla, you have to put several coats on it to begin with, but then afterwards apply a coat about every 6 months (or at least that's what I do).
If you don't put some kind of finish on your wooden chopping blocks or butcher block, they will split.
As for disinfecting wooden surfaces, they have natural germ repelling properties, but I spread a little plain white vinegar on the surface and wipe it all over with a rag to disinfect. This also works for plastic cutting boards. I don't like bleach and having it around kids, so white vinegar is a much safer option.
At camp, we labeled our vegetable and meat cutting boards so that they wouldn't get mixed up. It's good to be careful. I don't worry about this at home, but I am careful to never use a plastic cutting board that I've cut meat on until it's gone through the dishwasher.
About 8 years ago, I had a friend who's baby got sick with salmonella when she was 3 weeks old. The family never figured out how she got it. When I mentioned it to friends, everyone would automatically assume that they weren't very clean. That wasn't the case at all! The mom's kitchen was very clean and well taken care of. Watching their daughter get so sick made a big impression on me. Now, I'm very careful to wash my hands frequently while cooking when handling meat or eggs. I don't want to accidentally get my family or friends sick. So, I'm careful to clean my hands and with cooking surfaces.
Wooden countertops and cutting boards are beautiful and I love them. But, I try to take good care of them!