Knife Cleaning & Maintenance: How to Get Rust Off Your Knife

Knife Cleaning & Maintenance: How to Get Rust Off Your Knife

Mar 26th 2019

old rusty military knife

For many knife enthusiasts, rust can seem like the kiss of death to your best survival knife or camping knife because a corroded blade is ineffective and dangerous. However, before you toss out that battered blade, consider these simple rust removing methods to restore your knife to a like-new condition.

Rust: What Is It?

Otherwise known as iron oxide or ferric oxide, rust occurs when iron is exposed to oxygen and moisture (such as water) for a sustained amount of time. This is a natural process that causes the surface of a metal object to deteriorate and corrode.

Many types of modern knife steels are designed to be corrosion-resistant. They are constructed from a steel alloy formulated with a high percentage of chromium. Unfortunately, this will not stop your blade from rusting if regularly exposed to moisture.

Easy Ways to Clean Rust Off Your Knife

Whether it’s your best camping knife, hunting knife, or one of your favorite custom tactical knives, there are several effective ways to remove rust from your blade to restore its luster, usefulness, and value.

rusty military knife

1. Baking Soda

  1. Clean dirt and debris from your knife using a commercial cleaning solution and wipe the blade with a soft cloth. 
  2. Create a paste from ½ cup of baking soda and 2-4 tablespoons of lemon juice.
  3. Apply a thick layer of the paste to the blade using an old toothbrush and allow it to sit for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Use the toothbrush to scrub the blade gently. If the knife is severely rusted, you may need to use an abrasive sponge or steel wool brush.
  5. Wipe the blade clean and apply a thin layer of mineral oil to lubricate and protect the blade.

2. Vinegar

  1. Pour distilled white vinegar into a shallow pan. It must be deep enough to cover the blade of your knife.
  2. Soak the blade in the vinegar for 5 minutes. The acetic acid in the vinegar naturally breaks down the rust.
  3. Wipe the blade in small circular motions to remove the rust stains. Then apply a protective layer of mineral oil.

3. Potato

  1. Choose a potato that is slightly longer than your knife blade.
  2. Insert the blade into the potato and leave it for several hours. The oxalic acid in the potato is a natural rust remover.
  3. Remove the blade and wipe it down using mineral oil to remove the potato residue.

4. WD-40

  1. Spray the blade with a thin layer of WD-40.
  2. Carefully sand the blade using fine-grit sandpaper. Do not run the sandpaper along the edge of the blade as you may knick or scratch it.
  3. Wipe the knife down with a soft, clean cloth.

This method is not recommended for knives regularly used for food preparation or field dressing a carcass because WD-40 is unsuitable for consumption.

If your knife is severely rusted, you may need to repeat your rust removal procedure or use a commercial-grade cleaning solution.

Clean knife

Maintaining Your Knife

High-quality pocket knives are designed to last with proper care and attention. After removing the rust, applying a protective coating of mineral oil, and lubricating the moving parts, the next step is to sharpen your knife.

There are several methods you can use to sharpen your knife; however, the simplest is to use a whetstone. Start with the rough grit side of the stone and ensure you keep your knife angled between 10-15 degrees as you draw the blade across the surface. Repeat on both sides of the knife, then switch to the fine grit side of the stone.

Regularly sharpening your knife keeps your blade in good condition and ensures it is safe and ready for use in any situation.

Protect Your Knives from Rust

The best way to avoid rust and prolong the life of your knife blades is with the proper protection. At the first signs of rust, you can prevent further damage by quickly removing any stains or spots using simple at-home cleaners.

Our storage kits and knife sheaths protect your blades from exposure to moisture and damage to ensure your favorite tool is in top shape for the upcoming camping season or home project.

Upgrade Your Blade

If your knife is beyond saving, explore our huge range of folding, tactical, and OTF knives online. Our high-quality knives are the perfect addition to your knife collection, and we also carry a wide range of stainless-steel knives to reduce the need for continual maintenance.

Find out more helpful knife maintenance tips on our blog or call or text eKnives at (423)-525-9477 to learn about the incredible selection of premium and custom knives we have available.

We also offer a military discount, loyalty rewards, and a 60-day layaway program for purchases over $500, as well as free shipping on all domestic orders.