Top Tips to Clean a Pocket Knife Effectively

Millions of people carry a pocket knife daily. Pocket knives are useful tools for a variety of situations. However, if your knife is dull or dirty, it’s basically useless.

Keeping your pocket knife in top form is required for safety and ease of use. When you use a dull knife, your cuts will not be clean. On the off chance, you cut yourself, the wound will not heal properly, and if it needs stitches, it will be more difficult for the medical professional to get it to close correctly.

When a pocketknife is dirty, it may not close correctly. This can leave an exposed tip that can lead to a plethora of problems. Not only could it cut you, but it may also cut holes in your clothes.

There is a multitude of brands that manufacture solid pocket knives, and they come in many different styles. Regardless of if you’re using a single blade pocket knife, a Swiss Army Knife, or a multi-tool model, they will all require cleaning and sharpening. Once you have the skillset, it will transition smoothly between all of your knives.

Tools for Easy Knife Cleaning

Cleaning pocket knife

Most of the items you need to clean your pocket knife will be easily found throughout your house. If you don’t have everything, you need a quick trip to any store that will put you in business. Some of the items may be switched out for other cleaning options.

When you are getting ready to clean your pocket knife, you should gather:

  • An Old Toothbrush
  • Q-Tips
  • Toothpicks
  • Soap
  • Warm Water
  • Paper Towel
  • Lubrication (gun oil, mineral oil, and sewing machine oil all work well)

6 Steps for Pocket Knife Cleaning

Pocket knife care

Take your time when cleaning your pocket knife. Making sure to follow each step will ensure you keep a sharp edge and that you are not fighting with rust in the future. While cleaning a pocket knife is pretty simple, you should not skip steps. Skipping steps may leave you with a blade that does not cut, close, or perform properly.

Remove Lint and Build-Up

To remove lint and build-up, you should fully open your pocket knife. Your knife should be completely dry. Next, use a toothpick to get rid of build-up and lint that has collected in the handle and hinges. Many people find that removing dust and build-up will fix the locking mechanism. This is a common place for the build-up to form.

Wash and Rinse

After you remove all of the lint and build-up, you will want to move to the sink. Start by running the knife under warm water, making sure to slush the inside of the handle where the blade sits. Use one or two drops of mild soap and scrub the knife using a toothbrush.

Pay special attention when you wash the locking mechanism. Dirt, debris, lint, and build-up will commonly sit on the hinge. When the hinge is clean, the knife will stay open securely. You should scrub every inch of the knife.

If you use a multi-tool pocketknife, you should clean each tool. They should be done individually, so you don’t accidentally miss one. After cleaning them on their own, you should open the entire tool and scrub them again together. Q-tips can make getting into the knives grooves easier.

Once you have washed all of the knives components, you need to make sure you rinse it completely. You don’t want to leave soap residue on any part of your knife. It can gum up hinges and make your blade cut poorly.


Using a towel or a paper towel, you want to dry your pocket knife thoroughly. Q-tips can also help when you’re trying to get the small spaces completely dry. Leaving your pocket knife wet will eventually lead to rust. This can be easily avoided by fully opening the knife, drying it thoroughly, and then allowing it to sit and air dry in case you missed any piece during the drying process.

Do Not Disassemble

You may be tempted to take your knife apart to make sure all the pieces are clean and dry, but this is not something you should do. More often than not, pocket knife companies offer warranties on your knife. If you take it apart, it is likely the warranty will become null and void. If you have a problem with your knife, most companies will fix it and clean and sharpen it before sending it back to you. So, if standard cleaning is not enough to make your knife work correctly, it may be time to send it to the manufacturer.


After you have allowed your pocket knife to air dry, it’s time to lubricate it. You will want to add lubrication to the hinge, the blade, and any other moving parts on your knife. The type of lube you use is not critical, but most will tell you to use a petroleum-based product. If you use a multi-tool knife that has eating utensils, it would be advantageous to use mineral oil or even vegetable oil to lubricate your knife. If not, gun oil or sewing machine oil will work quite well.

Wipe it Down

You don’t need to use an excessive amount of lubricant. A small amount will suffice on all of the moving parts. After lubricating your knife, you’ll want to use a paper towel to wipe away any excess oil. You will want to wipe the blade, tools, and handle down. Using excessive amounts of oil is unnecessary and can actually damage your knife, so make sure to use a small amount. If your knife has a wooden handle, make sure to oil it too. Any oil will work for a wooden handle, but true artisans prefer linseed oil.

How to Handle a Rusty Pocket Knife

Wiping pocket knife

A rusty pocket knife is not going to cut well. Additionally, if you cut yourself, it can lead to more severe problems like tetanus. Rust will begin on the surface of the blade or on the metal components of your knife. Over time, the rust will corrode the metal and deteriorate the blade. If there is only a small layer of rust, you can remove it successfully. However, if the rust has taken hold, it may be time to replace your pocket knife.

Removing Rust:

  • Start by cleaning your pocket knife with the steps above. Pay special attention to the drying process as moisture is what leads to rust.
  • Invest in a rust removal product and a scrubbing pad.
  • Apply the rust removal product to the scrubber and massage it in circles.
  • Reclean the knife and allow it to dry completely.

Removing small amounts of rust from your knife blade is not difficult. If the rust has started to pit the metal, the damage may be too much for simple rust removal. Proper cleaning and care will ensure you will not end up dealing with rust.


When you take proper care of your pocket knife, you’ll be able to use it for years. Cleaning does not take an exceptionally long time. Once you have done it a couple of times, it will be a quick process. Pay attention to your knife, and you’ll always have a reliable blade when you need it. Sharp knives are not only easier to work with, but they are safer to work with too. Maintaining your pocket knife is important.

Your multi-tool, Swiss Army, or single blade knife will be there where you need it and function properly when you clean it regularly. If you need to substitute the type of oil you’re using, or what you’re scrubbing it with, that’s perfectly fine. As long as you work slowly, follow the steps, and make sure it dries completely. Then your knife will always be good to go.

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