How to clean a knife?

By Abby

Your knives work day in and day out! Keeping them clean ensures that they remain sharp, rust-free, and bacteria-free.

You’ll be amazed how often chefs clean their knives. It’s after every use!

Although most knives do not need deep cleaning every day, unless you’re doing messy jobs like skinning an animal, it’s in your best interest to keep it clean and sharp. The very best way to clean a high-quality knife is to wash it by hand with mild soap and hot water, but not every residue comes out so quickly.

Why clean your knives?

Simple: To prevent contamination, it is essential to clean your knife as soon as you’re done using it.

  • Leaving a knife on a chopping board or in a sink full of water will only lead to contamination and rust.
  • A clean knife is easier to handle because the food residue and oil can make a knife handle slippery.
  • To ensure that your expensive knife stays like new forever, you’d need to clean them regularly.

Cleaning a knife alone isn’t enough when you work in a cluttered kitchen. Most householders put their knives and other utensils in a dishwasher or store them incorrectly, and many can’t differentiate between a chef knife and a carving knife. This makes the entire cleaning affair even more bothersome.

How to identify your knife?

Knowing how to identify knives and clean them will only ensure their durability.

For starters, the most used knife is a Chef knife or an all-rounder knife used for different purposes like slicing, dicing, chopping, etc.

Utility knives and paring knives are used for slicing fruits and vegetables. A bread knife is used for carving bread items. A carving knife helps to carve meats items in oppose to Cleaver or butcher knife that chops up raw meat and bones. Then, there is the boning knife used for cutting meat bones and trimming cartilage. A filleting knife looks similar to a boning knife, but it’s used for filleting meat from bones.

Some of the other less or more frequently used knives are salmon, santoku, nakiri, tomato, and peeling.

While identifying each knife helps determine its purpose and cleanliness, cleaning it becomes slightly challenging with the shape! Moreover, the material that your kitchen knives are made from greatly determines their usability, durability, and cleanliness.

Here’s a basic idea about common kitchen knife materials!

  • Stainless steel knife is commonly found in many households. Most people use them because they’re cheaper and easier to clean.
  • The carbon steel blade is a popular choice for chefs because it can retain a sharper edge; however, this type of knife is less used because it lacks chromium (found in stainless steel) that repels dirt and residue. It requires frequent cleaning.
  • Chefs often use ceramic blades for their lightweight and hygienic properties, but they are fragile when handled with strength. You’d need to be extra careful while cleaning this kind of knife.
  • Titanium knife is an expensive blade that is highly resistant to rust and easier to clean.

Now that you know about different kitchen knives and knife materials let’s talk about cleaning them.

To ensure sanitation and maintain your knife’s durability, ensure that you are washing your knife correctly.

Things needed to clean a knife

Cleaning most kitchen knives can be done with a simple detergent and warm water. However, you’d need more than these items if your knife has accumulated tar or rust.

Items needed

  • Detergent (Dishwasher)
  • Warm water
  • Toothbrush
  • WD-40 (degreaser)
  • Turpentine
  • Towel

How to clean a kitchen knife with safety

Here is how you can clean a sharp knife without hurting your knife or yourself!

  • Step 1 -Start with making a mild solution of a dishwasher and warm water. Keep it aside.
  • Step 2 -Run your knife under the tap or rinse it properly. For knives stuck with hard debris, consider dipping in the sink for a minute or two.
  • Step 3 -Place the knife blade against the edge of the sink so you don’t accidentally cut yourself. Alternatively, you can lay the knife flat on the countertop and wipe individual sides.
  • Step 4 -Dip a scrubber in the soapy solution and wipe away from the blade, spine to the edge. Turn the blade over and wipe again from the spine to the edge.
  • Step 5 -Do not scrub violently because the knife could slip from your palm.
  • Step 6 -Now, give a nice scrub to the handle and run the knife under the tap.
  • Step 7 -Lastly, dry the knife with a clean towel before tucking it away. Remember that knives shouldn’t air dry as this can cause rust.

How to clean a rusted knife

If your old knife has accumulated rust, here are few practical solutions to cleaning rusted knives at home.

Step 1 -Remove rust with white vinegar.

White vinegar is effective in removing all types of rust from sharper tools.

  • Submerge your rusty knife in a bowl of white vinegar and let them sit overnight.
  • Remove it from vinegar and give it a nice scrub with steel wool or wire brush. Then rinse it with clean water.
  • Repeat the process if some rust spots are remaining on the knife.

Step 2 -Remove rust with baking soda.

Using baking soda is another effective home-based solution for cleaning rusty knives.

  • Mix water and baking soda into a thick paste and spread it all over the blade.
  • Let it sit for an hour before scrubbing it with steel wool or a wire brush.
  • Finally, rinse it with clean water.

Step 3 -Remove rust with lemon and salt.

The acidic nature of lemon and salt helps to rinse off metal rust.

  • Start with covering the blade with salt and then squeeze lemon over it. Let the solution sit for about two hours before scrubbing it.
  • Rinse off the residue with clean water.

Step 4 -Remove rust with citric acid.

Citric acid is effective in removing rust, including paint and coatings.

  • Add citric acid (3tb) to a bowl of hot water and submerge the blade overnight.
  • Scrub the blade thoroughly before rinsing it with water.

Step 5 -Remove rust with Metal Glo.

Metal Glo is a commercial agent used for removing rust from metal utensils.

  • Start with rubbing Metal Glo on your blade and give it a nice scrub before rinsing it with water.

What happens if you don’t clean your kitchen knife regularly?

Here are some of the drawbacks of not cleaning your kitchen knife regularly.

  • The dirty kitchen utensils often attract bacteria and deadly pathogens such as salmonella and Toxoplasma Gondi, mostly from raw meat.
  • An uncleaned knife, especially the knife parts like a bolster, handle, heel, and tang, will attract these foreign pathogens and start growing, causing a bacterial infection.
  • Bacterial infection is one of the leading causes of food poisoning that can cause vomiting and sickness.
  • A dull blade is more likely to cause accidents than the sharp one because a dull blade requires more pressure to cut, increasing the chance of slippage. This is one more reason to keep your knives clean and sharp at all times.
  • An uncleaned knife means the smell of meat and vegetable could pass to other food.
  • An unattended dirty kitchen knife easily attracts moisture that can cause blade rusting.

How to clean a pocketknife

A pocketknife easily attracts allergens, pocket lint, and moisture when not cleaned and kept dry! A well-looked after pocketknife can last very long.

Here are few ways to properly clean your pocketknife.

Materials needed

  • Detergent
  • Warm water
  • Toothbrush
  • WD-40
  • Turpentine (For removing tar)
  • Baking Soda, White Vinegar, or Lemon (For removing rust)

Step by step instructions to clean pocket knife

  • Step 1 – Start with making a mild solution of detergent and warm water.
  • Step 2 – Scrub the blades of your pocket knife with the solution continuously to remove debris. Now, rinse it under the tap and dry it thoroughly using a clean towel.
  • Step 3 -Apply WD-40 to the blades and hinges.

In case your pocketknife has accumulated tar.

  • Step 1 -Dip the toothbrush in turpentine and start scrubbing the blades carefully until the tar is removed.
  • Step 2 – Dry the blades thoroughly using a clean towel.
  • Step 3 -Apply WD-40 to the blades and hinges.

In case your pocketknife has accumulated rust.

Step 1 -Make a thick baking soda paste mixed with water. You can apply white vinegar or lemon directly onto the rust.

Step 2 -Apply the paste over the rust and give it a thorough scrub.

Step 3 -Now, clean the knife with water and dry it using a towel.

How to clean pocket knife sheath

Cleaning the knife sheath is as important as cleaning the knife because an unkempt knife sheath can attract pocket lint, moisture, and bacteria, especially if it is made from leather.

Here are few ways you can keep your knife sheath cleaner.

  • For a dirty knife sheath, consider soaking in linseed oil and then run it through the water. Let it dry before reapplying another coat of linseed oil to prevent losing its hardness.
  • Use Lexol, a reliable leather cleaner and conditioner, to clean the leather sheath. Use a small dry cloth and dip it in Lexol, then apply it thoroughly over the sheath.
  • Use Kydex material instead of leather to avoid the drawbacks of leather sheath.

How to clean steak knife

A steak knife is a sharp table knife featured with serrated blades to cut open a piece of meat.

Although a steak knife doesn’t require frequent polishing and sharpening like other kitchen knives, it can easily get stained with meat fats and juices that quickly rust the blades.

clean steak knife

Here is a proven solution to clean your steak knife to keep it as new.

  • Step 1 -Mix detergent with warm water.
  • Step 2 -Use a scrubber to scrub the soapy solution onto the knife.
  • Step 3 -Give it a rinse through the water and wipe the excess liquid with a clean towel.

If you see still see some stains or rust on your steak knife, this is what you can do.

  • Step 1 – Pour vinegar into a cup the size of your steak knife.
  • Step 2 -Place your knife into the vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  • Step 3 -Remove the knife and give it a quick scrub.
  • Step 4- Wipe the excess with a clean towel and let it dry. The smell of vinegar will soon disappear.

What things should be avoided while cleaning steak knife

Never place your steak knife in the dishwasher. The abrasive cleaning agent can do more damage to the serrated blades.

Always wash your steak knife immediately after use by hand using a warm soapy solution.

Never leave them in the kitchen sink. The chemical from the meat juices and fat can cause corrosion and create brown spots on the blade.

Don’t store them in the utensil drawer. Better keep them wrapped in a soft cloth, place in-drawer knife block, or hang them individually on a magnetic strip.

The steak knife needs to be kept sharp to be able to cut through all the meat.

What chemicals must be used to clean knives

Here is the list of five effective and less harmful chemicals used for cleaning most knives. However, you must remember that a stainless steel knife shouldn’t be cleaned the same way as a carbon steel or ceramic knife.


Kitchen detergent or dish soap, made from salt and limestone, is the most common cleaning agent used for cleaning kitchen knives. A regular detergent will easily remove most knife stains. Mix it with warm water before applying it to the knife. A nice scrub and rinse under the tap will do the needful.

Alternatively, you can use oil stain removing detergent, especially for cleaning kitchen knives with oil stains.

White vinegar

White vinegar is the most effective cleaning chemical. An excellent cleansing agent, it can effectively remove hard stains and rust from all kitchen utensils.

You can either place your kitchen knife into vinegar solution before scrubbing or spread vinegar onto the knife blade and scrub it. Using white vinegar doesn’t require any protection because it’s a human-safe kitchen chemical.


Turpentine is a tricky agent used for removing solid stains from metal, including rust and white spots. You can soak a soft sponge on turpentine and scrub your knife. Don’t forget to cleanse the chemical off the knife after.

Be careful not to ingest the chemical as it can cause serious side effects. It’s better to use it only in a small amount.


Although lemon is not a chemical agent, lemon juice contains rich citric acid that cleanses off most stains and rust. Squeeze lemon on your knife blade, let it sit for a while, and then give it a quick scrub to remove all the light rust stains effectively.  You can use it like you use any detergent.


Wed-40 is an industrial foaming cleaner and disinfectant used for cleaning utensils. Spray the kitchen blade with WD-40 generously. Be sure to spray all the rusty areas and let it sit for at least one minute before scrubbing the blade with a nylon scrub pad. Then, rinse it with water.

You can use it to clean and sanitize your kitchen knives; however, be careful about using it in excess.

What types of clothes are best for cleaning knives?

When cleaning high-quality objects like knives, you’d need a non-abrasive cleaning cloth. These cleaning cloths are excellent for cleaning items like metal utensils, knives, and jewelry.

Microfiber cleaning cloth

One example of such cleaning clothes is a microfiber cloth. All microfiber is made from super-fine synthetic fiber. Because of its microscopic nooks and crannies, microfiber is perfect for absorbing liquid. The friction between the individual fibers created by microfiber generates static electricity, acting like a magnet and picking tiny dirt and dust particles.

Unlike paper towels, a microfiber cloth can be washed and reused, saving much cost in the end.

100% Cotton Cloth

Alternatively, you can cotton cloth to wipe down your kitchen knives. Both microfiber and cotton are commonly used at home to absorb liquid and tiny dust or dirt particles.

One significant disadvantage of using cotton is that it can start fraying and shredding lint after repeated use.

FAQs about cleaning Knives

Here are some frequently asked questions about cleaning and maintaining kitchen knives.

Can you clean a knife with rubbing alcohol?

Using rubbing alcohol or isopropyl on clinical utensils is common because it removes bacteria, but it is not advised for kitchen utensils, including knives.

Although rubbing alcohol will not necessarily damage your stainless steel knife, it isn’t recommended to clean kitchen knives.

Alcohol of any kind is terrible for cleaning kitchen knives because it makes the knife sticky and won’t necessarily clean it thoroughly except for killing germs.

Choose standard detergent and warm water any day.

What does soaking a knife in vinegar do?

If your kitchen knife has started to gather or solid debris, give it a soak in vinegar before scrubbing off the dirt altogether.

White vinegar contains 4-7% acetic acid and 93-96% water. The acetic acid quickly reacts with the rust and helps dissolve it.

Soak the rusted knife blade on vinegar for 10-15 minutes before giving it a thorough scrub.

How do you get water stains off knives?

White hard-water deposits often leave marks on steel, which is harder to remove with a simple detergent.

To remove water stains, you can pour a small amount of white vinegar onto a microfiber cloth and continuously wipe the stained metal surfaces before rinsing and drying it off. This should rid your knife of the water stain.

Should you soak knives in hot soapy water?

Certainly, soaking stainless steel knives in hot soapy water will help remove stains, food residue, and oil. Be careful not to soak it for hours because the detergent and warm water can damage the steel and quickly dry after rinsing it with water.

How to Prevent Pocket Knife from Rusting

Always clean your kitchen knife after use. Please give it a thorough clean with warm soapy water.

To prevent future rust, you can apply mineral oil to your knife after washing it. Oiling the blades leaves a protective layer on carbon steels such as pocketknives.

How to prevent kitchen Knife from Rusting

To prevent kitchen knives from rusting, you should always clean them properly after every use. A soapy water solution will do the needful.

Do not leave water on the knife blade for longer than necessary as it can start to erode. Wipe off all the water with a microfiber cloth afterward.

To prevent future rust, apply mineral oil occasionally on the blade. Food-grade mineral oil is probably the best oil for keeping blades alive.

How often should I clean my knife?

You should clean your knife after every use. Every time you cut vegetables or meat, give it a thorough cleaning to remove any debris, oil, and pathogen from accumulating on it.

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