Sharp tips for cleaning and caring for knives

Stainless steel knives stay bright and shiny all the time. The downside is that when stainless steel loses its edge, it doesn't take well to sharpening. If you prefer a really sharp knife, look for carbon steel. The downside there is that it's difficult to keep shiny. However, both are easy to keep clean.

Sharp tips for cleaning and caring for knives

1. To clean stainless steel or carbon steel knives

  • Wash immediately after use in a little dishwashing liquid and hot water with a cloth or sponge.
  • Rinse with hot water and wipe with a dry cloth.

2. To remove stains from a carbon steel blade

  • Try a paste made of salt and vinegar. Rub it on the blade with a cloth.
  • Or, dip a slice of lemon into salt and rub that on the blade.
  • Some stains will respond to a nylon scrubber or steel wool.

3. To shine the blade

  • Use silver polish, or even better, an all metal polish available from some automotive shops.
  • To protect the edges of knives, store them in a rack or, if in a drawer, cover the blades with cardboard sleeves.
  • You can make a sleeve by cutting a piece of cardboard (from a cereal box, for example) the length of the blade and twice as wide. Fold the cardboard in half lengthwise. Use tape to seal the side and one end. Insert the knife in the open end.

4. To clean a pocketknife

  • Open all the blades — and in a Swiss Army-type knife, all those other bits and pieces, too.
  • Wash them in hot, soapy water.
  • Remove dirt from the little slots with an old toothbrush.
  • Rinse in hot water, dry with a clean cloth and leave the knife open for a while to allow the slots to dry thoroughly.
  • Lubricate the hinges periodically with a drop of sewing machine oil, available from fabric shops.

5. To clean a hunting knife

  • Use the same method as for a pocketknife.
  • After using your knife in the field, rinse it off in a creek, if possible, or wipe it clean with leaves or grass.

6. How to straighten a carbon steel knife

A sharp carbon steel knifeedge has lots of virtually invisible teeth, which get bent out of line during use. Keep them as straight as possible by using a honing steel before each use.

  • Hold the steel in your left hand (if you're right-handed).
  • Place the knife against the steel at a 20 to 25-degree angle.
  • Draw the knife across, heel to tip, so that the entire blade passes over the top of the steel.
  • Repeat with the other side of the knife on the bottom of the steel so that you are honing both edges of the knife blade. Continue for about a dozen or so strokes.
  • After a while, the knife blade will get so dull that honing will no longer be effective. Then it's time for sharpening, a process that removes some metal and leaves a new edge. Some hardware shops and department stores offer a knife-sharpening service.
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