How to Properly Clean & Maintain a Chefs Knife

Dirty Chefs Knife

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A trusty chefs knife is designed to be the most commonly used blade in the kitchen. As a versatile, every day knife, it’s important to protect against any wear and tear. These knives can be expensive, but a worthy investment. A well taken care of chefs knife can last a life time. On the other hand, a poorly maintained knife can lead to problems (not to mention, can be dangerous to use!) Dulling of the blade, chips, nicks, and general imbalance are all issues to keep an eye on when it comes to your chefs knife.

But fear not – it’s pretty easy to properly clean and maintain a chefs knife. And while this guide is specific to chefs knives, everything can be applied to pretty much any kitchen blade. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your knife in tip top shape.

Clean it Properly

wet Chefs Knife

While it probably goes without saying, it’s crucial to thoroughly clean a chefs knife after each and every time that it’s used. It’s not nearly as tedious as it sounds – the metal blade and sealed handle make this pretty simple.

  • To clean the knife, all you need is some warm water, soap, and a soft towel. Don’t want to use soap? No problem. Hot water is usually enough to properly clean any blade.
  • After washing, immediately and thoroughly dry the towel with a soft cloth or kitchen towel. If kept wet for too long, the metal blades can begin to rust. Rust, besides being unsanitary, can make the blade more ineffective and unstable, and increase the chances of slicing a finger (and getting a nasty infection like tetanus).
  • Once wiped down, feel free to let air dry on the counter before storing it away.

FYI: Knives that have blades made with carbon tend to rust more easily.

Ditch the Dishwasher

Even if a knife comes labeled as dishwasher safe, we beg you to avoid at all costs. A dishwasher can be an unpredictable environment, and knives run the risk of getting dents and scratches. Trust us: the fastest way to dull a blade is in the dishwasher.

Not only do you have to worry about dishes and utensils slamming into the knife, but the detergent can contain chemicals that are actually super harmful to steel (or other metals). The detergent can also strip the steal

Always use with a Cutting Board

Chefs Knife on Cutting Board

Knives and cutting boards go together in perfect union. While it can be tempting to use whatever surface is available for a quick chop, resist the urge. Cutting boards are literally designed to be used as the designated knife surface, it’s important to use them each and every time you plan on using the chefs knife.

  • Using hard surfaces like granite or marble can not only damage the surface, but chip, dent or dull the blade. They can also be unstable, and it’s easy to slip and hurt yourself on slick surfaces.
  • The best way to keep a knife sharp is by using a cutting board! Cutting boards provide a soft and forgiving surface ideal for cutting, chopping and dicing. Whether it’s wood or plastic, these surfaces will never damage or degrade the quality of your knifes blade.

Store Properly

After the chefs knife is used and cleaned, it’s important to store the blade in a secure environment. Proper storage of the chefs knife can help keep a knife sharp, rust free, and also from poking or cutting any unsuspecting fingers. Here are a few do’s and don’ts for the proper way to store a chefs knife.

  • Don’t leave your chefs knife in the sink. The sink is a crowded and wet place, that risks the blade of your knife being dinged by other utensils, and exposed to water and rust. The sink is great to wash a knife, and terrible to leave a knife, even for a few seconds.
  • Don’t store your knife in drawer.  No excuses. Chefs knives are big, and surprisingly delicate. They need proper care and space to keep them in top shape. Drawers, like the sink and dishwasher, are crowded environments that increase the chance of dings, dents, and bloody hands.
  • Do store in a sheath, knife block, magnetic mount, or specialized bag. You should have a knife rack or sheath that appropriately houses your individual blades once cleaned. While there’s some concerns about long term cleanliness of wooden knife holders and of the damaging capability of magnetic mounts, these are easy, safe and effective ways to store your knives.

Sharpen & Hone Often

Chefs knife with honing steel

With every day use, you’ll find that the razor sharp blades of your chefs knife begin to dull over time. Dull blades, like rusty ones, can be unstable. At best ineffective and at worst a true safety hazard. And unfortunately they won’t sharpen themselves. The same goes for honing (or balancing), and oiling a knife.

  • Sharpen your blade every few months. While once a month is ideal for frequent cooks, don’t let your knife go +6 months without a good sharpening. Knife sharpening kits can be easily and affordably purchased for home use. However, if you don’t feel comfortable sharpening on your own, many local retail and grocery stores offer in house sharpening at least a few times per year.
  • The honing rod featured above won’t sharpen a knife, but it will help straighten it out. Over time, and with repeated pressure, knives can tilt a certain way or angle. A honing rod helps rebalance your knife. It’s a quick process that takes about 10 seconds, but should be done every few months.


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