How To Maintain A Knife

Utensils take care of themselves, right? Wrong! Today, we cover how to maintain a knife so you can get the best, and the most, use out of it. Unfortunately, a knife won’t keep itself in prime condition. The good news is, knife maintenance is relatively easy and painless, if you do it right.

Maintaining your knife is important because you want to prolong its life and make sure you take advantage of its best performance. Below, we cover best practices, mistakes to avoid and helpful tips and tricks.

Best Practices For Maintaining A Knife

If you commit to best practices in knife maintenance, you’ll reap the benefits. Your knife will give you maximum performance every time and it’ll last a lot longer. Below, we cover the basics in how to maintain a knife.

Cutting

This probably seems like a no-brainer. But using the right knife for the job is a good place to start in terms of knife maintenance. You would never use a steak knife to debone a fish or a bread knife to cut steak. At least, we hope not!

Here are a few more things to keep in mind about cutting:

  • Frozen meat and bones can harm knives not suited to the task
  • Do not use sideways movements
  • Don’t place excessive pressure on the knife
  • Use a wooden or plastic cutting board

Investing in a good cutting board can make all the difference. While a good cutting board can sometimes cost a pretty penny, they’re invaluable kitchen tools that keep your knives in their best condition and can add some nice craftsmanship to your kitchen.

Cleaning

With knives, cleaning is an area where some people go wrong. After all, the information around cleaning knives can be somewhat confusing. While plenty of knives companies pride themselves on their “dishwasher safe” knives, knife experts say dishwashers are mostly a no-no. The harsh water jets and abrasive detergents can dull your knife, even if it says it’s dishwasher friendly.

To properly clean your knife, wash it by hand using warm water and gentle detergent. If you need to get into nooks and crannies, use a soft old toothbrush. Avoid abrasive sponges. Cloths work as well. Always dry your knife thoroughly as soon as you’re done.

Read all about how to clean your knife in our guide!

Sharpening

Sharpening is another confusing aspect of knives. Sometimes, there are mixed messages, especially with some manufacturers claiming their knives never need sharpening. However, a knife that never needs to be sharpened is a myth. Steel becomes dull if you use it, so unless you plan on keeping your knife in a glass display case, it’s going to get dull!

This aspect of knife maintenance is relatively easy and even a little bit of fun. A sharpening rod and whetstone are two very small investments that will keep your knife going strong. In just a few seconds, you can help your knife blade keep its edge.

Generally, you want to stick to these rules:

  • Use a honing steel between uses or once a week
  • Use a whetstone whenever you notice your blade is dull
  • Practice on less valuable knives to perfect your technique
  • Remember: Washing by hand and storing properly will help keep your knives sharp

Click here to discover our guide on the best way to sharpen your knife!

Storing

You might be tempted to just toss your knife in the drawer when you’re done. But proper storage of a knife can go a long way in making it last. Having your knives jostling around in a drawer with a bunch of other utensils is a recipe for dullness-disaster. 

Knife blocks, knife magnets, and knife guards are all good options for storing your knife. Not only do they keep your knife safe, they keep you safe as well. Digging in a drawer with exposed sharp edges is a scenario you want to avoid at all costs. 

Some Common Mistakes

To keep your knife in tip-top shape, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Don’t let your knife air-dry
  • Don’t leave your knife soaking in water
  • Don’t put your knife in the dishwasher
  • Avoid abrasive sponges

Avoiding these actions will help ensure the longevity and pristine condition of your knife.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How to maintain a pocket knife?

Pocket knives often endure a lot more rough and heavy-duty use than a kitchen knife. The good news is, the cleanup is relatively the same. If your pocket knife is particularly rusty, consider adding some WD-40 into your routine after washing with soap and water.

How to maintain a kitchen knife?

Even though many kitchen knife manufacturers will boast that their knife is dishwasher-friendly, the best way to maintain your kitchen knife is to wash and dry it by hand, sharpen it regularly, and store it in a block.

How do you keep your knife sharp?

There are a few ways to keep your knife sharp. It is recommended to use a sharpening steel between uses. Additionally, you will want to use a whetstone periodically when you notice your knife losing its edge.

Do Carbon steel knives need extra care?

Yes. Carbon steel knives require a little bit of extra care. Carbon steel is more reactive to high acid products than other steel. So if you’ve been dicing up some tomatoes or limes, you want to immediately clean and dry your knife. Otherwise, the acid will corrode your blade.

Additionally, many people oil their carbon steel knives with a food-safe oil like camellia. This one extra step can be especially helpful in protecting carbon steel blades.

Final Thoughts

Once you get the hang of it, maintaining your knife can actually be a lot of fun. Not only does it give you a sense of pride of ownership, it helps protect your investment. Depending on how serious you are in the kitchen, your knives just might be the most important utensil you own. 

Once you’re a pro at how to maintain a knife, you’ll notice a big difference in the way your knives perform and how well they stand the test of time.