How To Clean Carbon Steel Knife – 5 Easy Methods For Beginners

How To Clean Carbon Steel Knife

Carbon steel knives are popular and reliable types of kitchen cutlery, favored by both professional chefs and home cooks for their sharpness and durability. However, like any other knife, without proper care, they can become vulnerable to rusting and pitting, which can ruin their edge and affect their performance.

Cleaning them is a little different than cleaning other knives, so in this guide, we will provide step-by-step instructions on how to clean and maintain your carbon steel knife, ensuring it can be used safely and effectively for years to come.

How To Clean Carbon Steel Knife: Follow These 5 Methods

Hand Washing With Mild Soap

One of the simplest and most effective methods to clean carbon steel knives is hand washing with mild soap and warm water.

  1. Fill a sink or basin with warm water and add a few drops of mild dish soap.
  2. Gently hand wash the knife using a soft sponge or cloth, ensuring to clean both sides of the blade.
  3. Pay extra attention to the area where the handle meets the blade, as it tends to accumulate residue.
  4. Dry the blade immediately with a clean towel to prevent water spots or rust formation.

Using Baking Soda Paste

Baking soda is another readily available household item that can effectively clean carbon steel.

  1. Create a paste by mixing baking soda and water in a small bowl.
  2. Apply the paste to the blade, focusing on any stubborn stains or discoloration.
  3. Use a soft sponge or cloth to gently scrub the blade in circular motions.

Vinegar Soak

Vinegar is a versatile and natural cleaning agent that can be used to remove stains and discoloration from knives.

  1. Fill a container with equal parts water and white vinegar.
  2. Submerge the knife blade in the solution and let it soak for 5-10 minutes.
  3. Remove the knife and scrub it gently with a soft sponge or cloth.

Lemon and Salt Scrub

Lemon combined with salt forms a powerful natural cleaner.

  1. Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle salt on the exposed side.
  2. Rub the lemon over the blade, ensuring the salt comes into contact with the steel.
  3. Continue scrubbing until the stains or odors are removed.

Toothpaste Polish

Toothpaste, particularly non-gel varieties, can act as a mild abrasive cleaner.

  1. Apply a small amount of non-gel toothpaste to the blade.
  2. Use a soft cloth or toothbrush to gently rub toothpaste onto the knife surface.
  3. Rinse the knife with water and dry it completely.

Carbon Knife vs Stainless Steel

Carbon Knife Vs Stainless Steel

Carbon and stainless steel both materials have unique characteristics that make them suitable for certain tasks, and each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.

  • Carbon steel is generally harder and tougher than stainless steel, making them ideal for cutting and chopping tougher materials, such as bones and roots. They can also be sharpened to a very fine edge, which makes them a great choice for precision slicing and dicing. However, carbon steel is more prone to rust and may require regular oiling to prevent corrosion.
  • Stainless steel is less likely to corrode, requiring less maintenance. They are also harder and retain their sharpness longer, which makes them great for heavy-duty tasks, such as cutting through meat. However, stainless steel knives may not be able to attain as sharp of an edge as carbon steel knives, and they are more difficult to sharpen.

So, Which One Is Better?

Both steel knives have their respective advantages and disadvantages.. Carbon steel knives are tougher and can be sharpened to a finer edge, but they require more maintenance to prevent rust. Stainless steel knives are harder and more resistant to corrosion, but they may not be able to attain as sharp of an edge and are more difficult to sharpen. Ultimately, the best knife for any given task will depend on the user’s preferences and needs.

How To Keep Carbon Steel From Rusting

Proper Cleaning and Drying: Regular cleaning and drying are essential steps in preventing rust formation on carbon steel. After use, make sure to remove any dirt, debris, or moisture from the surface of the steel. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasives which are used in dishwashers, as these can damage the protective layer of the steel.

Apply Protective Coatings: Applying protective coatings is an effective way to safeguard carbon steel from rust. There are various types of coatings available, such as paints, lacquers, and clear sealants. These coatings create a barrier between the carbon steel and the surrounding environment, preventing moisture and oxygen from reaching the surface.

Utilize Oil or Wax: Applying oil or wax is another widely-used method to protect carbon steel from rust. These products act as a barrier by sealing the surface of the steel and preventing moisture from coming into contact with it. When using oil, choose a type specifically formulated for metal preservation, such as camellia or mineral oil.

Maintain Proper Humidity Levels: Controlling humidity levels is crucial in preventing rust formation on carbon steel. High humidity promotes condensation, which can lead to the accumulation of moisture on the steel’s surface.

Best Oil For Carbon Steel Knives

Best Oil For Carbon Steel Knives

The best oil for carbon steel knives is Camellia oil, which is a traditional Japanese oil made from the seeds of the Camellia flower. Here is why it is considered the best oil for carbon steel knives:

Superior Protection: Camellia oil provides a highly effective protective layer that helps prevent rust and corrosion. It forms a barrier on the blade’s surface, shielding it from moisture, humidity, and other damaging elements. This is especially important for carbon steel, which is more prone to rusting compared to stainless steel.

Food-Safe and Non-Toxic: One of the significant advantages of Camellia oil is its food-safe nature. It is non-toxic and does not contain any harmful substances, making it safe for use in food preparation. This is especially crucial when maintaining knives used in the kitchen, as the oil may come into contact with food during the cutting process.

Enhanced Blade Sheen: In addition to its protective properties, Camellia oil can give carbon steel blades a beautiful sheen. When applied, it enhances the visual appeal of the blade, making it look well-maintained and cared for.

How To Sharpen Carbon Steel Knife

How To Sharpen Carbon Steel Knife

Sharpening your own knife will help you to preserve the quality and effectiveness of your knife for the long term. This is how to sharpen a carbon steel knife:

Gather the necessary materials: For sharpening, you will need a sharpening stone, preferably a whetstone with two different grits. You will also need a honing oil or a honing solution, cloth or towel, and a flat surface.

Secure the sharpening stone: Place the sharpening stone on a flat, stable surface. The best surface for sharpening a knife is the same surface that you will use for honing the blade. This will ensure that the stone is held in place and will not move during sharpening.

Apply the honing oil to the sharpening stone: This will lubricate the stone and help to maintain its integrity while you sharpen the blade. It also helps to protect the blade from scratches and damage during the sharpening process.

Begin sharpening the knife: With your knife at a 20-degree angle, run the blade across the sharpening stone in a sweeping motion. Make sure to keep the blade at a consistent angle as you move it across the stone. Repeat this process several times on each side of the blade.

Finish with honing: Once you have sharpened the blade, you should finish with a honing process. This will help to maintain the sharpness of the blade and also help to reduce any burrs or imperfections that may have been created during sharpening. To do this, use a cloth or towel to lightly polish the blade.

Carbon Steel Knife Patina

Patina is a type of protective coating that develops on the surface of knives over time. It is created by the oxidation of the steel which happens when the knife is exposed to moisture, air, and other elements. Patina can give your knife a beautiful, aged look, but it also helps protect the steel from rust and corrosion.

To patina, a carbon steel knife, start by cleaning the knife with mild dish soap and warm water. Dry it thoroughly with a soft cloth. Then, apply a thin layer of mineral oil to the entire knife, including the blade. Allow the oil to soak in for a few minutes, then wipe off any excess.

Next, create a makeshift patina by pouring a small amount of vinegar onto a piece of paper towel. Rub the paper towel over the blade in a circular motion. Do this for a few minutes until the blade has a slightly darker color. The vinegar will create the oxidization on the blade that will create the patina.

Once the patina is complete, it’s important to protect it with a thin layer of oil. This will help seal the patina and prevent it from becoming damaged.

Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

Is carbon steel knives good?

Carbon steel knives are generally considered to be some of the best knives available. They are strong, durable, and can hold an edge well. They are also easier to sharpen than other types of steel. However, they require more maintenance than stainless steel knives and are prone to rust if not properly cared for.

What oil to use on carbon steel knives?

The best oil to use on carbon steel knives is food-grade mineral oil or a specialized knife oil. It is important to avoid using vegetables or other cooking oils because they will go rancid over time and can damage the blade.

What should I avoid when cleaning carbon steel knives?

It is important to avoid any abrasive materials, such as steel wool or scrubbing pads, while cleaning knives, as these can cause damage to the blade and dull its edge. Additionally, do not use bleach or other harsh chemicals, as these may cause discoloration and weaken the integrity of the knife.

How can I remove a carbon steel knife patina?

To remove the patina, you can use a combination of baking soda, white vinegar, and water. Mix the baking soda and white vinegar together to form a paste, then apply the paste to the knife and let it sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes, use a soft cloth to scrub the knife and remove the patina.

Can carbon steel knives go in the dishwasher?

No, it is not recommended to put carbon steel knives in the dishwasher; the high heat and harsh chemicals can damage the knife’s blade, handle, and even the dishwasher itself. Handwashing is the best method to clean and maintain the quality and longevity of the knife.


Using the right combination of ingredients when cleaning is essential for avoiding any damage to the knife. These five steps will surely help any beginner get the job done quickly and effectively. Regular cleaning will help to prevent rust, and you can always use a honing steel to sharpen the blade as needed.

Remember to always be careful when handling sharp objects and to use proper cleaning techniques. With regular cleaning and maintenance, carbon steel knives can last for many years, making them a great addition to your kitchen arsenal.

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