Essential Knife Care and Maintenance Tips
Caring for your knife is easy to do and very worth your while. It’s extremely low effort, but will extend the use and life of your knife considerably. These tips can be applied to most knives, though they may vary a bit with climate and type of blade, so feel free to modify.
Aside from obvious wear and tear (don’t use your knife on rocks, glass, metal, ceramic, etc…), the main enemy we’re working against is rust. It’ll happen to all knives eventually—yes, even stainless steel—without proper care. To keep rust from developing, we need to be vigilant about a few things: keeping your knife clean, dry, sharp, and lightly oiled.
You’ll recognize the beginnings of rust as a discolouration on your blade—a sign of oxidation. Regular cleaning and drying will prevent this. Early-stage rust will be light red/brown in colour and can be removed with some light oil, but more developed rust will need to be physically removed with an abrasive.
Rust develops through the oxidization process; simply, the reaction between oxygen and the iron in your knife, in the presence or moisture or water. Any steel will corrode and disintegrate given enough time. Fortunately, preventing it is simple. If your knife (any part, not just the blade) comes in contact with water, dry it off. Clean off any residues or substances that accumulate with use, then rinse and dry. Don’t store your knives in their sheaths for long periods, as moisture can and will develop. Using a light oil, like 3-in-1, as a thin coating will work wonders to protect your blade from the elements. After the knife is cleaned and dried off, applying a light coat with a rag will form a protective barrier. You will have to do this more often in humid and warm climates. Additionally, you can apply a light coating of oil to the wooden handle to protect the wood and tang. Tung oil is often used for this purpose. Some people prefer mineral oil for these applications because it’s easy to get, food-safe, and doesn’t smell, but the important takeaway is to use any kind of oil as protection.
NOTE: knives should not be put in the dishwasher. Between the abrasive particles in the soap, the clattering with other utensils, and being submerged in water, knives and dishwashers don’t have a great relationship. Instead, simply use a rag or sponge and either soapy water or acetone/rubbing alcohol/paint thinner to clean your blade after use. Again, don’t forget to dry that sucker!
It goes without saying, avoid using your knife for anything other than it’s intended use. It’s great that you want to try out your newest purchase by slicing through a can of Coke or prying open a some Spaghetti-O’s, but your knife will feel the effects. A sharp knife that’s not abused will last longer, perform better, and be much safer.