How many of us treat our knives the same as we do the rest of our cutlery (spoons, forks etc.)? Be honest, and don’t be ashamed to admit it! Don’t worry because I too am guilty of doing this. See the thing is, we either don’t know any better, or we couldn’t be bothered to put in the extra effort by doing things the proper way. The purpose of this post is to provide 6 solid tips which if you follow, will save you from buying replacement knives. Yes, some of these tips require an effort on your part, but I promise you they will be pay off in the long run. Treating your knives with the care they deserve will only serve to reward you when you actually put them to use. Another thing I’d like to mention before we start: aim to treat all your knives the same, regardless of price. Doing it this way will make applying these tips more of a habit, and you’ll get better much faster.
TIP#1: NEVER PUT YOUR KNIVES IN A DISHWASHER!
I know it can sometimes be a pain to wash up after you’re done prepping a meal, but this is a tip you absolutely need to follow. There are no cutting corners around this one, unfortunately. Putting your knives in a dishwasher is bad for several reasons:
- It can damage your handle – Depending on what material your knife handle is, it may or may not react well when being placed in hot water for extended periods.
- Increased potential to rust – How long does your dishwasher cycle run for, typically? Mine usually goes for about 45 minutes to 1 hour (drying included). There is a long period of time that it runs with water before it starts to dry. Try to imagine what happens to your blades during that time. It’s in contact with water and air for quite some time, right? What do you get when you mix water and air (oxygen)? Aha rust!
- Heat can damage the cutting edge – The cutting edge of your blade is a delicate thing, and it really doesn’t take much to damage. If your dishwasher runs using hot water, you risk causing some damage to your cutting edge.
Okay, so now that we know to avoid putting our knives in the dishwasher, what’s the best way to clean them? The best way to clean them is the old school way. Rinse under the tap with lukewarm water for only a couple minutes at most, and then dry with a microfiber towel. It is very important that you dry your knife thoroughly, as any moisture or water droplets that remain could lead to formation of rust.
Always hand dry with a soft towel.
TIP#2: REMOVE RUST BEFORE IT SPREADS! AND THIS THING CALLED PATINA
Rust is to knives, as cancer is to humans. That’s the way I think about it. Here’s the thing, if you treat the rust when it’s localized and hasn’t spread, it’s fairly easy to get rid of (sorry for sounding a little too medical!). Before I go any further, I will stop to say this: there is no single steel knife that is 100% rust resistant, no matter what the manufacturers tell you. Yes, there are some that are more resistant to rust than others, but ultimately every knife will degrade under the right conditions. So what can you do to minimize the potential of rust formation? Here are a couple of things:
- Keep your knives dry – As I mention above, you need to make sure your knives are dry at all times! No ifs, ands or buts!
- Force a patina – What the heck is a patina? Patina is basically a layer of forced rust. Wait a minute….but aren’t we trying to avoid rust!? Yes, we are and patina does exactly that…kinda. The layer of patina basically prevents the more aggressive and harmful rust from forming, so in a way it actually protects your steel. You can achieve a patina in a number of different ways. One of the most common is to apply mustard using a cotton swab, and letting your knife sit for a couple of hours. There are lots of videos demonstrating how this is done. Below is a video from Coyotemtnoutdoors:
Okay, what if you already have rust, then what? There are tons of different ways you can remove rust, but for the purpose of this article, I’ll only talk about my favorite method:
- Baking soda – Prepare a paste of baking soda and water. Be generous and use a good portion of baking soda! Apply the paste onto the affected area, and scrub gently using a toothbrush. The rust will start to slowly disappear.
Rust is a separate topic in and of itself, so that’s all I am going to talk about. If you’re interested in reading more, here’s a complete blog post dedicated to the topic: https://myelectricknifesharpener.com/general/3-surefire-ways-remedy-corroded-blades.html
TIP#3: TAKE STORAGE SERIOUSLY!
This is probably the easiest tip to implement from all 6. Many people underestimate the importance of storing knives properly, and while some people make an effort to at least use blocks, others will simply chuck them in a drawer stacked with other utensils. To make it easier, below is a list of do’s and don’ts concerning knife storage.
- Have your knives all stacked on top or over each other in a cramped drawer. Remember when I said the cutting edge is a delicate thing? That applies here as well. It doesn’t take much to damage or roll an edge.
This is what you don’t want to do!
- Leave your blades to dry on a kitchen dish rack. Knives that are wet for prolonged periods are more susceptible to rust.
- Avoid storing your blades in sheaths as these tend to trap and retain moisture.
- Dry your knives first before storing them in blocks. As far as blocks are concerned, there are quite a few options to choose from. Do a search on Amazon and you’ll find plenty of good quality, inexpensive choices.
Store your knives in a block set
- If you’re storing your blades in a drawer, then you will want to ensure that they are not hitting one another. Another cool trick you could do is to add a couple little packets of silica gel (this is the stuff you find in shoe boxes). Silica will absorb moisture from the air and minimize the chances of rust.
Silica will absorb any excess moisture
TIP#4: USE A SOFT CUTTING BOARD
If you have a glass cutting board, I’d like you to do one thing for me right now: dispose of it in the garbage, please and thanks! Glass cutting boards, because of how hard they are will dull your knives without much effort. Avoid them at all costs. The same goes for porcelain, and granite. The only two cutting boards you should work with are plastic and wood. For plastic boards, you’ll want to look for a softer plastic and one that can be scored by your knife fairly easily. Yes it may look like a complete piece of crap with all the score marks, but it will take the brunt rather than your blade. Which would you rather have? For wooden boards, I usually go for ones made from maple.
TIP#5: DON’T BE OVERLY AGGRESSIVE WITH YOUR TECHNIQUE
Have you seen a couple of the Gordon Ramsay videos where he’s trying to impress a lady with his knife skills? He goes all bonkers and starts slicing with intensity and aggression, not even looking at what he’s slicing. Yea…….please don’t do this! If you’re armed with sharp knives (and you should be!), then slicing, chopping, and dicing should be easy. Avoid adding any extra force or resistance and let the knife do the work for you. Doing it this way will keep your knives sharper for longer! And…..you’ll have all 5 of your fingers too!
TIP#6: GET YOUR HONE ON!
If you’re not in the habit of honing, you should definitely start. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, honing your knife is to simply realign your cutting edge. All that food prep and slicing of vegetables causes your edge to misalign over time. Honing serves to correct this. Here’s a post that explains knife honing in greater detail: https://myelectricknifesharpener.com/knife-sharpening/what-is-knife-honing-and-should-you-bother-doing-it.html. How much should I hone? That depends on how much you use your blade. I’d suggest once or twice a week for a frequently used knife. Important: Honing and sharpening are not the same. Honing does not strip off any steel, where as sharpening does.
If you follow these 6 tips, you’ll not only have knives that are in better condition, but you’ll find your work in the kitchen (or wherever else) more easier and enjoyable! Everyone says a dull blade is not a safe one, which is true, but I find it’s annoying more than anything! Leave me your questions and comments below. Thanks for reading!
Currently living in Alberta, Canada, Irvan is a blogger with a growing interest in knife sharpening. Intrigued by the different choices and methods, he writes reviews and blog posts aiming to explain sharpening concepts in a simple, and easy to understand manner. His other passions include soccer, dance, and travel. Check out his site myelectricknifesharpener!