Kitchen knives are precision tools that are prone to damage if mistreated. Some obvious things to avoid are mistreating knives by using them on metal, or bending them out of shape, but some regular, everyday things we never consider can wreak havoc on fine cutlery, like cleaning. From loose handles and dull blades to the hidden dangers of corrosion or simply cutting yourself, here are a few simple tips for cleaning your knives without harming them…or you.
It’s best to wash knives in an empty sink, using hot water and mild detergent. A kitchen knife submerged in dirty dishwater is an accident waiting to happen, plus soaking a knife can lead to water damage to wooden handles, so always make sure you have room to work, and can see what you’re doing. A soft, non-abrasive sponge or a kitchen brush will do the trick nicely, but be careful of the knife edge if using a sponge, as any kitchen knife will make quick work of these (and the palm of your hand if you’re not careful).
If you’re working with raw meat products, it’s especially important to clean your knife immediately, as cross contamination while preparing foods is a common cause of foodborne illnesses. Many people use different cutting boards for different types of foods, and separate knives isn’t a bad idea either.
As you’re cleaning, do a quick visual check to make sure you have removed all food particles, as some foods left on the blade for extended periods can corrode the blade surface, leading to discoloration or rust.
What Not To Do
First of all, never — I repeat, never — ever wash your knives in the dishwasher. The extreme heat can warp or loosen wooden handles, while metal on metal contact and intense detergents can damage the blade. Even knives constructed from tip to heel in stainless steel are not safe for dishwashers. Additionally, sharp blades in darkened, confined spaces are never recommended; it’s just too easy to stab or slice oneself while emptying the dishwasher.
Never put a wet knife back in a knife block. The water can lead to mold inside the block (ewww), as well as warping or rotting the block over time. When the knife is clean, either rest it on a flat surface like an empty drying rack to air dry or wipe the blade down with a soft, clean kitchen towel. Always use caution when drying knives by hand, as it is dangerous to handle the blade and there’s the potential to damage the edge if there’s any grit or hard material on your dishtowels.
Well-made kitchen knives are designed to last if they are properly treated and maintained, so be sure to follow these simple rules for a lifetime of kitchen use.