Clean Your Kitchen Knives to Prevent Damage and Dulling

Cleaning Kitchen Knives

Kitchen knives are the tool we use most in the kitchen – if you’re making two meals a day, you’re probably pulling your knives out at least twice a day if not more. However, most people don’t really have any idea how to clean their knives properly. When it comes to knives, especially expensive knives, the dishwasher is actually quite a bad idea.

If you’re not sure which knives need to be handled carefully and which are OK to treat a little more roughly, make sure you check out this thorough overview of the types of knives and how they’re used.

Dishwasher detergent is more abrasive than your typical kitchen detergent – that’s because it needs to be able to get rid of leftover bits of food without any form of rubbing or scraping, etc. The abrasive detergent can dull your knives very prematurely. The high heat doesn’t help either, and putting your knife in the dishwasher can cause it to get damaged if it hits other utensils and pans (not to mention your other stuff can be damaged too getting hit by a sharp knife). The sharp knife can also damage the inside of your dishwasher.

Keep in mind we’re talking about more expensive knives here that are used in the preparation of food. Typical table knives generally aren’t quite sharp enough to do damage or be damaged in the dishwasher. So, if not the dishwasher then how? Well, the best way to clean your knives is to wash them by hand, with good old soap and water.

Ideally, you should be washing them immediately after use. You do this to avoid any food drying out on the blade, making it harder to clean. Dried out food on a knife blade means you might need to scrub to clean it, which can lead to dulling. At minimum, you should be rinsing your knives after use, even if you’re not cleaning them properly.

cleaning a knife

When cleaning your knives, make sure you go at a slow and steady pace, and always be careful. Good knives are usually extremely sharp, and it can be very easy to cut yourself. You want to keep all your fingers, don’t you? Always keep the blade facing away from your fingers. That means that the point end of the knife should always be facing away from you. Use a sponge or clean cloth to gently wipe both sides of the blade, ensuring that there is no leftover bits that could dry up and cause issues later.

Don’t rub, scrub, or wipe too quickly or vigorously, even if a particular bit of food isn’t coming off. Being too fast or too forceful when cleaning your knife can lead you to your fingers slipping and you cutting yourself – particularly if there’s already slippery soap involved. Some people feel safer putting their knife on a countertop and cleaning one side at a time. If you’re a clumsy kind of person and you’ve cut yourself in the past with your knife, cleaning one side at a time on a flat surface is a safer approach.

If there is already some leftover bits that have dried out on the blade and are harder to get rid of, let the whole knife soak in shallow water for a couple of minutes – this is preferable to scrubbing, as it will have less of a dulling effect. It’s also much safer – vigorous scrubbing of a very sharp knife is a disaster waiting to happen. You definitely don’t want to soak too long though – never soak your knife for more than two or three minutes at most. Soaking should loosen up any dried bits of food on the knife, allowing you to wipe it away.

After washing your knife, always always always dry your knife immediately with a cloth or kitchen towel. If you don’t dry your knife after washing, you’re risking rust or other kinds of damage to your knife. Keep in mind that the best chef’s knives are carbon steel, not stainless steel (because carbon steel stays sharper for longer). So don’t assume your knife is stainless steel and let it sit with water on it for extended periods of time. Dry your knife with the pointy end facing away from you to be safe.

Once again, high quality knives should never ever go in the dishwasher. Putting your expensive, best kitchen knives in the dishwasher is an express lane to dulling them out and damaging your most important and vital kitchen tools.

In addition to the cleaning tips above, there are also a few other tips and tricks we’d like to share with you so you can keep your knives in the best possible condition.

  • If you’re worried about using soap on your knife, you can consider using white vinegar instead. White vinegar has pretty good cleansing properties, and is particularly effective when heated up a bit.
  • Cutting potatoes (surprisingly) help keep your knives in top condition. The starch in potatoes helps prevent rust. If you rub your knives with the inside of a potato, you’re doing it a favor!
  • If your knife is losing its shine and you find that it’s taking on a blue, yellow, or greyish hue, don’t fret. This isn’t necessarily bad for the knife. That being said, if you want to get that new-knife sheen back, get a burnisher and use it on your knife, and it’ll look like you just picked it up new from the store again in no time.
  • If your knife is getting darkened spots on it, simple soak it in a mixture of lemon juice and water (with a 1 part lemon to 5 parts water ratio). Do this for a few seconds, then dry off your knife with a cloth. This will help get rid of any darkened or black spots on your blade.

If you don’t own any good kitchen knives – well, you really should if you fancy yourself any kind of home cook. Knives are the most important tool in the kitchen, and it’s important to have at least one or two decent quality all purpose chef’s knives on hand.

About Kate Steven

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