How to Clean a Knife

How to Clean a Knife

We all want to keep our high-quality chef’s and hunting knives clean and working well — a desire that’s typically amplified for owners of highly cherished, heirloom-quality knives. Further, keeping a knife sharpened and cleaned is essential to both its safety and its functionality. 

The best way to clean a knife is to wet it, hand wash it with detergent and a dishcloth, rinse it clean, and then let it fully dry. The process is actually pretty quick and simple, but there are a few important pointers that can help you get the job done more effectively and more safely — and one big pitfall to avoid. If you’ve been wondering how to clean a chef’s knife or high-quality hunting knife, including removing stains from the blade, , read on to learn how to do it the right way …

How To Clean Your Knife Properly and Safely

  • Get your knife wet — First, run your knife under warm water from the faucet to get it wet. It’s typically a good idea to, at the very least, rinse your knife’s blade after getting it dirty by cutting food or cleaning game. (You’ll be glad you did, as food scraps and other gunk become immensely harder to clean off once they have dried on.)

  • If needed, give the knife a short soak — For stubborn, dried-on food and/or gunk on the blade, it can be helpful to let the knife soak in shallow water for a minute or two to help loosen the undesirable substance. Don’t leave the knife submerged for longer periods of time, though, as this can lead to rusting on the blade and/or warping on the handle.

  • Slowly and carefully hand-wash your knife — Next, put a drop of mild dish soap on the blade, and use a wet sponge or dishcloth to lather up and scrub the entire knife thoroughly — but carefully. Take your time and work slowly, as washing a knife too quickly puts you at a much greater risk of cutting yourself. Further, be careful to always keep the blade pointed away from your fingers and to wipe away from the sharp edge of the blade in an effort to prevent any cuts. To further lower the risk of cutting yourself, you can also lay the knife flat in the bottom of the sink or on the countertop, and clean each side of the blade individually.

  • Rinse the knife clean — Once all debris has been completely scrubbed from the knife, rinse it clean under running water. Be sure to rinse it thoroughly enough to ensure that all soap suds are removed from the handle and blade.

  • Fully dry the knife — Once the knife has been thoroughly rinsed clean, wipe it completely dry with a clean and dry dish towel. Be careful to ensure that no standing water is left on the blade or handle, as this could lead to the blade rusting and/or the handle warping. Before putting the knife away in a drawer or sheath, it’s also a good idea to let it sit for a while and fully air dry, thereby helping to make sure that it’s not put away wet or damp, which could lead to damage.

  • A common mistake to avoid

    While it may seem like a real time- and effort-saver to simply put your knife in the dishwasher for cleaning, this should NEVER be done with a high-quality knife. Putting a knife in the dishwasher can lead to premature blade dulling as a result of exposure to the high heat and abrasive detergent that dishwashers commonly employ to clean dishes, glasses and silverware. Plus, the jostling around with other items in the dishwasher can cause nicks in the blade and/or handle, negatively impacting the knife’s performance and longevity. Placing high-quality knives with wooden handles in the dishwasher can also cause their handles to loosen and/or crack over time.

    How To Clean a Folding Pocket Knife

    Just like a fixed blade knife, you should wet a folding pocket knife, clean it with dish soap and a dishcloth, rinse under clean water and let it fully dry. There are a few extra steps, however, including: 

    • Before getting a folding knife wet, open it up and use a toothpick to remove any gunk or lint that may be stuck in the handle. (This is best done when the knife is dry, as moisture can make any debris that may be in there harder to remove. And for folding knives with a locking mechanism that’s not performing properly, this step could alleviate the issue.)

    • Rather than a wet sponge or dishcloth, a wet toothbrush or other small brush can be a more effective tool for scrubbing and cleaning a folding knife.

    • When cleaning a multi-tool, focus on one tool at a time by opening and scrubbing each blade and tool individually, then scrubbing the inside of the multi-tool’s body.

    • Using a cotton swap may be helpful for getting into the interior nooks and crevices of a folding knife or multi-tool.

    • Do not take a folding knife or multi-tool apart for cleaning, as this can often void the warranty.

    • Allowing a folding knife or multi-tool to thoroughly air dry before putting its blade(s) and tool(s) back in place and stowing it away is especially important, as it can be especially challenging to dry the body’s interior with a towel.

    • Once a folding knife or multi-tool is clean and dry, it’s a good idea to lubricate its blade, pivot and any other moving parts. Petroleum-based lubricants are often used to do this, and mineral oil or vegetable oil will also work — but be sure to use a food-safe lubricant for any utensil that is used for cutting and eating food. (And keep in mind that a small amount of lubricant will go a long way, so use it sparingly.) Further, be sure to wipe the folding knife or multi-tool down thoroughly once lubrication is complete.


    About Williams Knife Co.

    Williams Knife Co. is the project and passion of avid outdoorsman and longtime knife-maker Chris Williams. Each handmade from blade to sheath using steel and natural materials, the custom hunting and fishing knives in the Williams Knife Co. lineup blend functionality and beauty to create useful works of art that can also serve as long-treasured heirlooms. To explore the full collection, visit

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