The Best (and Safest!) Way to Clean Your Hard-Working Knives

Our knives work hard, day in and day out. I know mine barely makes it back in the drawer before I’m pulling it out again for yet another round of chopping! Yes, as one of our most-used kitchen tools, our knives are also definitely one of our most-cleaned kitchen tools. Do you know the best — and safest — way to clean your knife? (Hint: It’s not the dishwasher!)

Yes, the very best way to clean a high-quality chef’s knife is to wash it by hand with plain old soap and water. I try to wash — or at the very least rinse — mine right after I use it. This way food doesn’t get a chance to dry on the blade, which makes it infinitely more difficult to clean later.

Go slowly and carefully, keeping the blade pointed away from you or your fingers. Use a sponge or dishcloth to clean the blade on both sides and wipe away from you so you’re never wiping in a way that could cut you. You can also lay the knife flat on the countertop and wipe each side individually if you’re worried about cutting yourself.

If there does happen to be some food dried on the blade, let it soak in shallow water (so you can see it!) for a minute or two rather than scrubbing away at the stubborn bit. I learned this lesson the hard way when I once slipped while washing a bit too exuberantly and got a nice cut for my efforts!

High quality blades should never go in the dishwasher. The abrasive detergent, high heat, and jostling with other dishwasher items will cause the blade to dull prematurely and give your knife nicks in the edge. The wooden handles will also crack and loosen over time. On top of this, sharp knifes can cut the plastic coating on the dishwasher shelves, which exposes the metal underneath and leads to rusting.

Is this how you clean your knives, or do you prefer another way?

This post has been updated. Originally published, November 17, 2009.