How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust?

Japanese knives stand out as exquisite tools that demand meticulous care. They serve diverse purposes in the culinary domain, accumulating different types of dirt, particles, and rust. 

Maintaining the sharpness and beauty of these knives requires more than just a cursory wash. Cleaning them properly is not just about aesthetics; it’s about preserving the blade’s integrity and preventing rust. 

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In this guide, we will walk you through the essential steps to clean your Japanese knives and remove rust effectively to keep the remain sharp and pristine while ensuring their longevity and optimal performance in your kitchen.

How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust? 1

Knife care routine tips for different seasons

During my cooking journey, I learned how important it is to take care of kitchen tools, be it Japanese or German knives.

I learned useful tips for dealing with seasonal challenges by trying different things and making mistakes.

Summer knife care: Stay rust-free in the heat!

Warmer months bring challenges in keeping your Japanese knives in pristine condition. Here are some tips to ensure your knives stay rust-free during the summer:

Combat humidity:

  • With increased humidity, the risk of rust rises. Be extra diligent in drying your knives thoroughly after each use.
  • Opt for well-ventilated storage areas to prevent moisture buildup in the sheath or block.

Winter knife care: Defying the chill!

As temperatures drop, adapting your knife care routine is crucial. Let’s explore some winter-specific tips to protect your Japanese knives:

Combat dry air:

  • In colder climates, the air tends to be drier, leading to faster moisture evaporation on the knife’s surface. Maintain a regular cleaning routine, even if the knife sees less use.
  • Embrace light food-grade mineral or blade oil to add a protective layer during winter.

Fall and spring knife care: Seasons of transition!

Transitioning between seasons brings unique challenges. Here’s how to navigate the fluctuating conditions of fall and spring:

Stay attuned to changes:

  • Pay attention to changes in temperature and humidity in your kitchen during transitional seasons.
  • Consider adjusting the frequency of knife maintenance to adapt to varying atmospheric conditions.

Handling extreme temperature changes:

Extreme temperature shifts require special attention. Here’s how to protect your knives from sudden changes:

Gradual adjustment:

  • Rapid temperature changes can cause condensation on the knife. Allow your knives to gradually adjust to room temperature before use.
  • When you carry knives in harsh conditions, use blade guards or wraps to protect them from temperature changes.

Regular inspection: Keep rust at bay!

Regular inspections are key to preventing rust. Here’s how to keep a close eye on your knives:

Inspect for rust:

  • During seasonal transitions, inspect your knives for any signs of rust or corrosion.
  • Kick-off each season with a thorough cleaning and maintenance session to ensure your knife is in optimal condition.

Use protective coatings: Shielding against humidity!

Combat high humidity with protective coatings. Here’s a quick guide on keeping moisture at bay:

Apply a protective layer:

  • In seasons with high humidity, apply a thin layer of food-grade mineral oil or blade oil to create a protective barrier against moisture.

Adapt cleaning products: Tailor your approach!

Adjusting your cleaning agents to the season is crucial. Here’s how to choose the right products:

Choose Wisely:

  • Depending on the season, adapt your cleaning agents. Opt for mild, pH-balanced cleaners, and steer clear of harsh chemicals that could strip away the knife’s protective layer.

Adjust your knife care routine for each season to keep your Japanese knives reliable and rust-free all year!

A japanese knife on a wooden surface.

How to clean Japanese knives

Washing a carbon steel knife is a piece of cake, but you must do it right. Use the following steps to clean it.

Step 1: Collect the necessary cleaning items

Japanese knives perform various purposes in a kitchen. As a result, they accumulate different dirt and particles.

Using suitable materials to clean them is necessary. Otherwise, you will do a shoddy job, making it prone to stains and rust. 

Before cleaning, ensure you have:

  • Mild soapy detergent
  • Warm water
  • Clean, dry towel
  • Oil
  • Sponge

Step 2: Remove all large particles and dirt from the knife

Some food particles or dirt may stick to the knife. The first thing to do is to rub off such dirt. You can use your hand or a blunt object like a stick to scrape it off.

Don’t force off any stubborn dirt, as you may scratch or damage your knife.

Step 3: Mix warm water with a mild soapy detergent

Mix the soap and water and dip in the knife. You can combine them in a container like plastic basic. 

Alternatively, a modern sink can open warm water from the faucet. Then, allow the warm water to flow over the knife for a few seconds. 

Wetting the knife will loosen any loose or stubborn dirt.

Step 4: Scrub the knife with a sponge

If using a sink, apply a mild detergent on the sponge and wet it with warm water from the sink’s faucet. Then, start cleaning the knife gently until all the dirt is gone. 

If you use a container, dip the sponge in soapy water and thoroughly clean the carbon steel blade.

Never use a machine washer to clean your knife. A dishwasher will destroy your knife’s blade, change the chemistry of the materials used in making it, and cause rust. Always hand wash your knife.

Step 5: Rinse with clean water

After the knife is spotlessly clean, use clean water to rinse it. Ensure all the soapy water is gone.

Step 6: Dry the knife off with a clean, dry towel

When you leave water on the knife for some time, oxidation happens on the steel, making it rust. Rust removal is not something you would not enjoy doing.

To avoid this, dry all the water on your knife after rinsing. Then, leave it in an open place for optimal drying.

Step 7: Oil the knife

This step is optional. It depends on the knives made with the steel types that require oiling for maintenance. If yours is of this kind, apply the recommended oil evenly to all steel-made parts.

Step 8: Store the kitchen knife

It is ready for storing after cleaning, drying, and oiling your knife. Please keep it in the right drawer in your kitchen. 

Japanese knives are very sharp (read our article on how to sharpen them); you should be cautious about storing them.

Combining it with other cutlery may damage them. The blade may also chip.

It’s advisable to place the knife in its compartment while storing it with other things. Alternatively, you could buy a protective sheath to keep it. The sheath secures and improves the knife’s appearance.

Unfortunately, you may clean your knife every day but still succumb to rust. It could be you left some water unwiped or the knife in a humid area for a long time.

Whatever the reason, it’s not a surprise because some steel kinds corrode even though they try to resist rust.

Before diving into how you can clean a rusted knife, let us define rust and look at the reasons that cause it on your blade.

The meaning of rust

It is known as iron oxide and appears as a reddish-orange flaky substance. A rusted knife is downright ugly. It also becomes useless and dangerous. Rust forms when oxygen and iron react to moisture or water. 

You may wonder how Japanese knives rust based on the above explanation. Here is the insight.

Do Japanese knives rust?

All Japanese chef knives come crafted with steels of various kinds. All steel types contain iron, which is one of the components of rust. Exposing your blade to water combines with the surrounding air (oxygen), making it rust.

Kindly note, as explained before, stainless steel means it resists rust but is not stain-free. Such steel may not rust as quickly as other metals because they try to resist but eventually rust.

The best way to keep such a blade from corroding is by keeping it dry after use and oiling it before storing it.

Fortunately, there exist so many ways of removing rust from your knife. You can use the method most appropriate for you when your knife corrodes. 

How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust? 2

How to clean rusted Japanese knives

Method 1: Use baking soda

Like any other cleaning method, you must have your cleaning materials right. It would help if you also assembled them first. 

Here are the steps to follow when using baking powder to clear the rust from your blade.

Step 1: Assemble your cleaning materials

Before you clean the knife, ensure you have the following items;

  • Baking soda
  • Sponge or steel wool
  • A clean and dry piece of cloth or towel
  • Bowl
  • Water or lime juice
  • Stirring stick
  • Toothbrush

Step 2: Clean out the dirt on the knife

It becomes challenging to get rid of the rust on a dirty knife. The first thing to do is to clean the blade. Use the cleaning method described above. Then, wipe out the water entirely.

Step 3: Mix water or lemon juice with baking soda

The idea is to create an excellent paste for removing rust. Take your bowl and pour some lime juice. You need not worry if you don’t have some. Use water instead. 

But if you insist on using lime juice, you can find some in the store next door. 

Ensure the mixture forms a fine paste. A small stirring stick will help stir the mix until you get the required consistency.

Step 4: Scrub the knife

Take a toothbrush and apply the mixture. Then, use it to clean the entire knife, highlighting the rusted parts. But scrubbing with a toothbrush won’t work if the rust is severe. Use the following step.

Step 5: Scrub with an abrasive sponge or steel wool

Using either of these items to scrub your knife means it contains stubborn rust stains. Remember that the grit of these scrubbing items may scratch or destroy your blade’s finish if you use excessive force.

Though you require more abrasion on a severely rusted knife, be careful of the pressure you exert while scrubbing.

Step 6: Dry wipe the knife

After all the rust is gone, take a clean, dry towel or cloth and wipe off the baking powder and other dirt completely. Wipe until spotlessly clean. 

Use some mineral oil to apply the knife before storage. It will help prevent future rusting and maintain it strong and functional.

Method 2: Use vinegar

If you don’t have baking soda, you can use vinegar. Here is how to do it;

Step 1: Collect the necessary items

You will need the following items to clean rust out of your knife using vinegar;

  • A clean piece of cloth
  • A cup or pan
  • White vinegar
  • Sponge

Step 2: Pour white vinegar into a pan or cup

Remember not to use any vinegar. White vinegar is recommended because it contains acetic acid, which removes rust. You will not get optimal results with other vinegar types.

Step 3: Dip the knife into the vinegar

Ensure the cup or pan you use is large or tall enough to accommodate all the knife’s rusted parts if not the entire blade. If you can’t get an ideal container, don’t panic. 

Look for a paper towel and dip it in vinegar. Then, wrap it entirely around your knife. Cover only the rusted parts if the paper towel is not big enough.

Avoid leaving the knife dipped in vinegar or wrapped with a paper towel for long. You may damage your blade. The knife should be in vinegar for not more than five minutes.

Step 4: Wipe the knife

After five minutes are over, remove your knife from the vinegar. Then, wipe and dry it using a clean towel or cloth. 

If you still find some rust, use baking soda to remove them. Then, oil the knife before storing it to keep it free from rusting. 

Method 3: Natural ways

You may not have baking soda or vinegar and wonder what to do. Even though you can find some in a nearby shop, you may not have the money, and you want to get rid of rust from your knife to use it.

In such a situation, you can use some of the natural techniques. They include the following;

a) Potato technique

Potatoes contain oxalic acid, which is excellent for removing rust. It is easy to find a potato in any kitchen. 

This method is easy; you must only stick your knife into the potato. Leave it stuck for several hours. 

Afterward, remove and wipe it using a clean cloth or towel. Remember to oil it before storing it for prolonged protection.

b) Onion technique

Like the potato, onions remove rust perfectly. But you do it differently with an onion. Instead of sticking it inside, you saw the knife back and forth until the rust was gone. 

Onions contain sulfenic acids responsible for removing rust on blades or steel.

c) Dirt technique

If you love having fun with dirt, this method may excite you. It will be hectic since you must plunge your knife into the dirt numerous times before the rust disappears. You then wash the dirt off with clean water and a suitable detergent. 

After it’s spotlessly clean, wipe it with a clean and dry towel and oil it for storage.

As illustrated above, methods of removing rust are many. But you can prevent your knife from rusting to avoid undergoing the removal process. 

The best way to protect your blade from rusting is by maintaining it.

Rust protection tips for Japanese knives

  • Avoid leaving it with water for a long time.
  • Clean the knife immediately after you finish using it.
  • Always oil it before storage for extended protection.
  • Rust usually spreads very fast. When you notice some on your knife, remove them immediately.
  • Consider buying Japanese knives made with stainless steel. They do not rust easily.