How to Clean Carbon Steel Knives

Carbon steel knives are popular with professional cooks because of their durability and capacity for maintaining a sharp edge. Keeping the knife blade sharp is one of the best ways to fine tune the most important tool in your kitchen.

After sharpening, keeping your carbon steel blade clean and rust-free is the second most important component of a proper maintenance strategy.

  1. Rinse your knife with hot water and apply a small amount of dish soap to the blade. Scrub the blade and handle with the soap and rinse well. Dry the handle and blade immediately.

  2. Spread several drops of mineral oil onto the surface of the carbon steel blade and rub in with a chamois, cloth or paper towel. Over time, this practice will create a protective coating on the blade and will prevent rust and discoloration from marring the blade.

  3. Hang your carbon steel knife in a dry area, away from the stove and sink areas to help prevent rusting.

  4. Wash and dry your carbon steel knife immediately after use. Do not leave carbon steel knives on the cutting board while you complete another task--carbon steel will begin to discolor if left sitting wet or when used to cut acidic foods such as tomatoes. Wipe the blade frequently with a dry cotton cloth.

  5. Tip

    To restore a carbon steel blade's luster, polish it with Barkeeper's Friend or silver polish. Polishing will not harm your knife, although it will remove the protective mineral oil coating. If you come across a knife that looks completely rusted through, it may be salvageable with sanding and polishing. Take it to a professional knife sharpener for an evaluation.


    Never wash your carbon steel knife, or any good quality kitchen knife, in the dishwasher. Doing so can permanently damage the blade and handle of your knife.