How to Clean a Knife

Three Methods:Cleaning a Kitchen KnifeCleaning a Pocket KnifeKnowing Basic Knife Maintenance

Knives of all types need to be regularly cleaned to keep them sharp, rust-free, and free of bacteria. They require special handling and care, depending on the type of knife and their various uses.

Method 1
Cleaning a Kitchen Knife

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    Wipe the knife clean right after each use. Kitchen knives will be harder to clean if you allow debris to get stuck on. After using a knife, quickly run the knife under water. Allow any food or debris to brush off and drain down the sink. If there's anything stuck on the knife, quickly wipe it down with a sponge or dish towel. Set the knife aside until you're ready to do dishes.[1]
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    Clean with the blade pointed away from you. Once you're ready to clean the knife, use a mild dish soap. Be careful to clean the knife with the blade pointing away from you to avoid injury.
    • Lather a sponge in warm, soapy water. With the blade pointing away from you, gently clean the knife until you remove all food and stains.[2]
    • Be careful not to scrub too fast. If you scrub vigorously or quickly, the knife could slip and you could end up getting cut. Some people feel more comfortable lying the knife on a flat counter top and scrubbing the sides one at a time. This can make injury less likely.[3]
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    Soak the knife for a minute or two if food is stuck on. Sometimes, food will end up stuck on a kitchen knife despite your best efforts. In this case, soak the blade in shallow water for a minute or two. After this, you should be able to scrub away the food. Do not soak a knife longer than one or two minutes as this can cause rust.[4]
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    Dry the knife. Always dry your knife with a dry, clean towel immediately after cleaning. Knives should not air dry as this can cause rust. Dry the knife with the blade facing away from you, just as you did when washing the knife.[5]

Method 2
Cleaning a Pocket Knife

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    Wear rubber gloves. When cleaning a pocket knife, you should always wear rubber gloves. They protect your hands from getting cut by the blade. You'll also be using certain oils or cleaners that can cause skin irritation. You can buy rubber gloves at most supermarkets.[6]
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    Gather necessary materials. You'll need certain supplies to clean a pocket knife. Get the materials ready before you begin the cleaning process.
    • For the initial washing, use mild dish detergent. The soap you use for day-to-day dish washing is probably fine. Just do not use dish soap intended to be used in a dishwasher as it's too harsh for knives and can cause rust and other damage.[7]
    • You'll need some kind of household lubricant to remove rust. WD-40 tends to work well on pocket knives. You'll also need household oil to lubricate the knife after washing. You should be able to find household lubricant and oil at a hardware store.[8]
    • You will need a soft sponge or a toothbrush for the initial washing. To deal with rust, a nylon pad is necessary. You'll also need a soft, clean cloth to dry the knife when you finish cleaning.[9]
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    Open the knife completely. When you're ready to clean a pocket knife, open the knife completely. Some pocket knives, like Swiss Army knives, might have multiple utensils attached. Make sure the knife is completely open so all portions are cleaned.
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    Scrub the knife with dish detergent. First, spot clean the knife with regular dish detergent and a sponge. Lather the sponge in warm, soapy water and clean off the blades of the knife. If you notice anything stuck on the knife, squirt dish detergent directly on the spot, let it sit for a few minutes, and then resume scrubbing.[10]
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    Remove rust. If you have rust that needs removing, use the household lubricant. Spray all rusty areas and let the lubricant sit on for one minute. Then, take your nylon pad and scrub the blade until the rust disappears. You may need to add additional household lubricant on stubborn spots. Once you are done, rinse the knife off with clean running water.[11]
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    Dry the knife and apply lubricant. Dry your knife off with a clean cloth. Then, add a few drops of the household lubricant to the knife. Rub in with another dry cloth until the knife is shiny and clean in appearance.[12]

Method 3
Knowing Basic Knife Maintenance

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    Do not leave knives in the kitchen sink. You should never leave a knife in the kitchen sink. It's a safety issue as you could get cut reaching into the dish water. Knives are also susceptible to damage and rust if immersed in water for too long. Place dirty knives beside the kitchen sink.[13]
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    Dry knives immediately after washing. As stated, leaving knives wet can increase their likelihood of rusting. Always dry your knives immediately after cleaning them.[14]
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    Avoid the dishwasher, especially on expensive knives. Knives do not do well in the dishwasher. The blade can get dinged and damaged during the washing cycle. Dishwasher detergent is also highly acidic and can cause premature rusting.[15]
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    Store quality knives in their own space separate from the utensil drawer. Quality kitchen knives should not be stored in the utensil drawer. They can bump against other silverware, causing scratches and other damage. Invest in a kitchen board to store your knives or keep them in a separate drawer. If you do store your knives in the utensil drawer, cover them in leather sheaths.[16]


  • A pocket knife is difficult to keep clean since it is used at odd times, and then closed quickly, without ever taking the time to clean it. Make time to clean your pocket knife regularly.
  • Chef's knives and other utility cutting knives need to remain sharp and smooth. Regularly sharpen your knives.
  • For antique knives, it might be best to have them cleaned professionally as they are often made from older materials that require special care. Unless you have very specific knowledge of antique knives, and understand how to properly clean them, take antiques in for professional cleaning.

Article Info

Categories: Cooking Knives and Blades