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Knife Care and Maintenance: How to Properly Care for Knives

LifeLong Cutlery is crafted from high-quality steel and is guaranteed to last a lifetime. However, even the best kitchen knives require regular care and maintenance to stay in top condition. To ensure the quality of your knives remains the best it can be, we're sharing our knife care tips for cleaning, sharpening and honing your blades for lasting performance.

How to Take Care of a Knife

The quality collections of kitchen knives from LifeLong Gifts™ are carefully crafted from high-carbon German steel to last a lifetime. Superior to stainless steel in that they hold a sharper edge and resist deformation, the blades of carbon steel knives do require regular care and maintenance for the best performance.

Learn how to care for a knife the right way with these kitchen knife care tips. Plus, discover how to sharpen and hone your kitchen cutlery to keep the blades sharp and in premium condition.

Kitchen Knife Care Tips

Regardless of what type of kitchen knives you own, basic knife care and maintenance is paramount to extending their life and keeping the blades sharper longer.

Following are our top knife care tips to keep your blades in optimal shape. Whether you own Damascus kitchen knives, Chef’s knives, Santoku knives, an Ulu knife, or simply an everyday set of kitchen knives, these valuable pointers will ensure you always make the perfect cut!

  • Wash your blades by hand with gentle dish soap and a cloth or sponge immediately after use. Never put your fine cutlery in the dishwasher to clean. Between the harsh detergents and extreme temperatures, the steel and handle may be damaged in the dishwasher.
  • Always remember to keep your knives clean. Rinse and dry between tasks - especially when working with acidic foods - and wash with warm soapy water when use is complete. Pat dry with a soft cloth immediately instead of air drying to prevent rust.
  • Store cutlery properly in the original box, a knife block, magnetic knife block, roll bag or sheath. This prevents them from rubbing against other materials and dulling the blades. Proper storage also prevents accidents and ensures kitchen safety.
  • Use wooden cutting boards, rather than glass or ceramic, to maintain the blade edge longer. If a wood cutting board isn’t available to you, then a plastic cutting board is the next best thing.
  • Oil the blades regularly as carbon steel rusts easily if left in water.
  • Regularly sharpen your knives. We recommend a good ceramic electric knife sharpener for effortless results.
  • Hone your blades with a honing steel to keep the edge straight.
  • Use your kitchen cutlery correctly. Take care not to scrape the edge across your workspace.

How to Keep Knives Sharp

A sharp knife is a safe knife. In addition to the knife care tips previously mentioned, you can also keep your knives in tip-top shape with regular honing and sharpening.

How to Hone a Kitchen Knife

You may recall having seen professional chefs using a honing steel. This rod is made of either steel, diamond-coated steel or ceramic. Unlike a knife sharpener, a honing steel won’t sharpen the knife blade. As no steel is removed from the edge when it is used. Despite this, honing does play an important role in regular knife maintenance and care.

So, what does honing do? And why is it associated with knife sharpening?

With regular use, the edge of your knife blade will start to bend. A honing steel straightens the edge back to the correct angle for proper alignment.

To hone a knife blade, place it against the base of the honing rod. Then place the blade along the steel at a 20°-22° angle. Slide it diagonally away from yourself while holding the honing rod in a fixed position. This action is then completed between 5 and ten times per side of the knife blade.

Using a honing steel correctly, however, does require some level of both skill and practice. For this reason, LifeLong Gifts™ offers an everyday sharpener for your kitchen knives. This tool hones the blade of your carbon steel cutlery. It also sharpens the blade at the same time, by removing a very small amount of steel to account for small nicks.

Using a honing steel correctly requires skill and practice. For this reason, LifeLong Cutlery offers an Everyday Sharpener. This tool hones the blade and also sharpens it by removing a very small amount of steel to account for small nicks.

How to Sharpen Kitchen Knives

The everyday knife sharpener makes it a breeze for even beginners to sharpen a knife. This fool-proof method eliminates the need to hold the blade at a precise angle. It also takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out the proper way to use a whetstone.

To sharpen a knife with a handheld knife sharpener, follow these easy steps:

  1. Wet the knife. You should apply a sharpening fluid, such as water or a light honing oil, for smoother sharpening and to assist with heat dissipation from the friction. As you aren’t using a whetstone to sharpen the blade, you can simply rinse your kitchen or carbon steel knives under water.
  2. Run the sharpener under water. Like the knife’s blade, you also want to apply a fluid to the ceramic wheels of the sharpener for best results.
  3. Sharpen the knife. To sharpen the knife, insert the blade edge into the opening on the handheld knife sharpener. Then use light pressure to pull the blade back and forth slowly, but steadily through the sharpener the entire length of the blade. (Each pull should take about 5 seconds.) Repeat up to five times.
  4. Rinse and dry. Once your blade has been sharpened, you should then rinse the blade and pat dry with clean paper towels.
  5. Oil the blade. Oiling the blade will help to prevent rust and corrosion. Therefore, this step is recommended for proper knife care and maintenance.


Knife Sharpening Service

In addition to regular knife care and maintenance, there will come a time when your knife blade will need to be repaired. In this case, you will need to remove a greater amount of steel. It is recommended that this type of sharpening be done every 6-8 months with regular use. LifeLong Cutlery offers a complimentary sharpening service, in which we will sharpen your knives for you. There is no cost for the actual knive sharpening. However, there will be a nominal fee for return shipping.

Although the LifeLong Gifts™ sharpening service is available, our knives are designed to work with commercial sharpeners as well. This means you may safely purchase your own sharpener and never have to be without your knives. We recommend using an electric sharpener with diamond coated wheels for this purpose.

Knife Care and Maintenance FAQ

Why Won’t My Knives Stay Sharp?

There are several reasons that your knives won’t stay sharp. The angle you use when making cuts as well as the surface material you are cutting on both determine how quickly knives may dull.

When sharpening knives on a whetstone, it’s important to sharpen them at the proper angle. Otherwise, your kitchen cutlery may take longer to sharpen. There's also the potential to dull the blade. If the angle is too high, it will take longer to sharpen the blades. Additionally, if you rock the blade during sharpening, you’ll end up with a dull rounded edge.

Likewise, not using a cutting board, or using the wrong type of cutting board, can also dull the blade faster. We recommend using a wood cutting board, like these cherry cutting boards, to extend the life of the blade between sharpening.

Further, the materials in which the blades are made also impact how quickly it dulls. Stainless-steel knives, for example, dull faster than carbon steel knives which are made from a harder material than stainless.

In general, knives forged from harder materials hold an edge longer. Therefore, if you find you are having to sharpen your stainless-steel knives more often than you like, consider upgrading to a higher quality set of carbon steel kitchen knives.

Will a Dishwasher Dull Knives?

The harsh detergents, water and extreme temperatures of a dishwasher will not only damage the handle of your knives, but they can also dull and warp the blade. We therefore recommend that you always hand wash your kitchen knives.

Do Knives Dull in Water?

Leaving your knives soaking in water is never a good idea. Not only is it dangerous to leave a knife in a sink, but the water also has the potential to damage the blade. Not only is there an increased possibility of the blade rusting, but it will almost always cause the handle to degrade. In addition, most stainless-steel blades result in microscopic loss of metal when left to soak.

Leaving a knife in water may cause the blade to dull more quickly. However, it can also cause more serious damage — and safety issues — that you want to avoid.

Should I Oil Kitchen Knives?

It’s a good idea to oil your carbon steel kitchen knives a few times a year to help prevent rust and corrosion. Oiling knives can also help to condition the metal and keep the blade sharp depending on the type of oil used.

How Often Should You Oil A Knife?

To properly maintain an expensive kitchen knife, it’s recommended that you oil carbon steel knives after each use. Stainless steel knives, on the other hand, can be oiled once or twice weekly.

What Oil Do You Use for Knives?

There are several types of oil you can use on your kitchen knives. We recommend that you use synthetic oil as it lubricates the blade, resists dust and won’t go rancid like natural oils, such as olive oil. Food grade knife oil is non-toxic, odorless, and flavorless, making it the best option. You can also use food grade mineral oil.

If you prefer to use a natural oil, then we suggest using camellia seed oil. This natural oil is similar in composition to fractionated coconut oil. It is odorless and flavorless and has a lengthy shelf-life. However, unlike other natural oils, it won’t make the blades feel greasy or go rancid. Nor will it leave behind a sticky residue.

Are Dull Kitchen Knives More Dangerous?

Using dull knives can be more dangerous than using a sharp knife. While you can get cut with a sharp blade, these wounds are generally not as deep or as serious as those caused by a dull knife. The reason being is that you need to use more force than usual when making cuts. Therefore, should the knife slip, the resulting injury is more severe due to the additional pressure that was used.

Can You Clean a Knife with Rubbing Alcohol?

As most steel is non-porous, it’s not necessary to sterilize a knife after use. Typically, rinsing and drying a knife before food has a chance to stick is sufficient. However, you can use 70% isopropyl (or rubbing) alcohol to clean and sterilize the blade if desired.

To clean a knife with rubbing alcohol, just wipe the blade with alcohol, then put it away. There’s no need to rinse or dry the blade afterwards

However, it is important to note that alcohol is a solvent. As such, it will remove any oils from the surface of the steel blade. Therefore, you may want to oil your blade after sterilizing to help prevent corrosion.

Why Do High Carbon Steel Knives Discolor?

The blades of carbon steel knives tend to tarnish and develop a blue-gray or purplish patina over time. This happens when the blade is exposed to either air or acids. This type of oxidization is common and no cause for concern. While rust will damage your blades, patina does not. It can also aid in the prevention of damaging rust.

Foods that promote discoloration include fatty fish and meat, fruits and acidic or alkaline vegetables.

How Do You Remove Oxidation from a Knife?

Sometimes, despite all precautions and proper knife care, high carbon steel knives do rust. If your blades develop rust or tarnish, there are several methods you can employ to remove oxidation from your knives.

Here is how to remove oxidation from a knife:

  • White vinegar: This is a common method for removal as the acetic acid found in white vinegar reacts with iron oxide and separates it from the metal. To remove oxidation from a knife with vinegar, soak the blade in the solution for up to 5-minutes. Then rinse with water and dry. If there’s any discoloration left behind, you can then use baking soda to remove it.
  • Turpentine: Turpentine is another alternative that works similarly to vinegar. Wipe the blade down with a sponge soaked in the solvent to remove rust or white spots. Then rinse and dry.
  • Baking soda: Sodium bicarbonate is perfect for light staining or rust spots. Simply apply a thick paste comprised of baking soda and water to a freshly cleaned blade. Allow to set for an hour. Then use a toothbrush or steel wool to lightly scrub away any rust. Rinse clean with water, then dry with a paper towel or soft cloth.
  • Potatoes: The oxalic acid content found in potatoes also make them a cleaning powerhouse. To remove oxidation from a knife using a potato, you only need to place the blade into a large potato. After it sits for several hours, remove from the potato. Then wipe the blade with an approved knife oil.
  • Onions: Onions are another natural option for cleaning your knives with food! The sulfenic acid found in onions that makes you cry, is also ironically miraculous at cleaning. To effortlessly remove oxidation or rust from a knife, you only need to slide the blade back and forth through the onion when cutting.
  • Lemon and salt: Just as you use a combination of lemon and salt to sanitize wood cutting boards and remove stains, this combination also works on your stainless or carbon steel kitchen knives. First, coat the rusted areas of the blade with salt. Follow with a fresh squeeze of lemon juice, then allow to rest for two hours. After time is up, scrub the affected areas with the rind from the lemon. You can also use steel wool or a wire brush as a an alternate. Then rinse and dry. For black spots on your carbon steel knives, soak the blades in a 1:5 ratio of lemon juice to water for several seconds, before cleaning.
  • Cork and powder cleanser: Polishing your kitchen cutlery with a cork is a great way to remove rust and even older stains. First, run the knife blade under water. Then place it flat onto a cutting board. Coat the blade with a powder cleanser, paying extra attention to rusted or discolored areas. Next, dip a wine cork into water. (Another variation of this is to dip the cork first into water, and then into wood ashes from your fireplace.) Then use it to polish the blade, while holding the knife stationary. Once the oxidation has been removed, rinse and dry. Then follow with an oil designed specifically for knives.
  • Burnisher: A burnishing steel is ideal for tarnish or patina that may develop on high carbon steel knives. Mechanical burnishing will restore the original shine to tarnished knives with a yellow, blue or gray tint.

Regardless of what method you choose to remove oxidation from a knife, we do recommend that you apply a lubricant to the blade afterwards. Oiling your knife is an important step in knife care and maintenance to help prevent future or further rusting.

Where to Buy Custom Kitchen Knives

We hope these knife care tips instruct you on the proper use and care of a kitchen knife. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a new kitchen knife set, or if you need personal or corporate gift ideas, be sure to check out the line of custom kitchen knives from LifeLong Gifts™.

Just as the name implies, LifeLong Gifts™ offers superior-quality, heirloom-worthy products designed to last a lifetime. Fall in love with our engraved kitchen cutlery, custom cutting boards, wood wine gift boxes and more! Shop this unique line of luxury gifts today. Or sign up to receive the latest deals and promotions.