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When Must A Knife Be Cleaned And Sanitized?

Last Updated: June 15th, 2022

Do you know that not cleaning and sanitizing your knife can create a harmful environment for you and other family members? Germs can build up over your knife over time, even if you clean it regularly after you’re done using it. 

Regularly cleaning and sanitizing your knife is an excellent way to eliminate these harmful microorganisms from your knife. 

However, there isn’t one correct answer to when must a knife be cleaned and sanitized. This is because there are several factors at play, and one answer does not fit all. 

5 Times When Must a Knife Be Cleaned and Sanitized

Generally, certain knives require more frequent cleaning than others due to various factors such as the food they cut. Here are a few scenarios where cleaning and sanitizing a knife is necessary. 

Using The Knife For The First Time 

If you are using the knife for the first time after unboxing it, you must clean it with hot water. Wash it carefully with hot, soapy water and rinse it with clean water. After that, wipe it with a dry kitchen towel to prevent rust spots and stains from appearing.  

Frequency Of Use 

How often you clean your knife depends on how much you use it. It’s essential to wash the knife immediately after preparing each food. 

Filleting Fish 

Given the use of a filleting knife, you must clean this knife regularly. It is recommended to clean the knife after finishing filleting the fish. This is because raw fish may harbor parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens. Bacterial contamination can increase the risk of food-borne illnesses. 

If you choose to use the filleting knife to cut other foods, be sure to sanitize it beforehand. Regular cleaning with ordinary soap and water alone doesn’t kill all pathogens. 

Using The Knife For Different Foods 

If you’re the only person using the knife to cut different foods regularly, you need to have it cleaned frequently. Let’s say, for example, you are filleting the fish with a knife. You will want to clean it before slicing raw meat or vegetables with it.  

A rule of thumb in safe food preparation is to ensure you don’t use the same knife to cut multiple foods without thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing it between uses. 

Additionally, it is highly advised not to use the same chopping board for different types of foods. This is because the microorganisms can shift from one food to another and contaminate them.  

You Are Not The Only One Using The Knife 

If many people are using the same knife, then it is safe to say that you need to clean it before you can use it. You do not know when they last washed or sanitized the knife. 

The Importance Of Cleaning And Sanitizing Your Knife 

The reasons why you need to clean and sanitize your knife regularly are vast. Cleaning the knife helps to prevent the spread of bacteria and illness-causing germs. 

When combined with proper handwashing, using a sanitizer will help keep you and other family members protected from illnesses. Even if you’re the only person using the knife, germs can transfer from the food to the knife’s handle. 

How Often Should You Clean Your Knife?

When must a knife be cleaned and sanitized is a debate that has been raging for many years. But as aforesaid, the answer to this question depends on how you use the knife. There is no blanket recommendation. 

You will need to clean your knife after every use. If many people have used the same knife, it is also essential to have it cleaned before use as well. 

How Do You Clean Your Knife?

Given below are the correct ways through which you should clean and sanitize your knives.

Keep in mind that the material used to make the knife plays a significant role. Take a moment to assess your knife type to know what material the blade is made of. 

The most common types of blade materials are stainless steel, carbon steel, and ceramic. You can’t clean a carbon steel knife and stainless steel or ceramic knife in the same way. 

  • Stainless Steel

Stainless steel knife blades are resistant to corrosion and are very easy to clean. They don’t oxidize because it’s rich in chromium. While the blade is resistant to rust in moist environments, it does stain in certain circumstances. 

You can clean your stainless steel knife blade with hot water and soap. Avoid harsh dishwashing detergents and abrasive cleaning tools. They could strip the chrome layer of the blade and make it look scratched or cloudy. Rinse with water and wipe it dry with a scratch-resistant cloth—preferably a cotton towel. 

  • Ceramic Blades

Ceramic blades are made from zirconium oxide. Similar to stainless steel, ceramic knives are easy to clean. They can resist corrosion because they are chemically neutral with a pH level of 7. That means they won’t react with alkaline or acidic foods, such as tomatoes, soybeans, and oranges.

Ceramic knives are nearly ten times sharper than steel blades. However, they are relatively more fragile than stainless steel. That’s why it’s not recommended to use it to chop hard ingredients, such as tender vegetables and fresh fruits. They are nonporous and won’t harbor bacteria or mold. 

You can clean ceramic knives with warm, soapy water. Rinse them under running water and leave them on a cloth to dry. Alternatively, you can use a paper towel to dry them. 

  • Carbon Steel

Carbon steel knife blades are easy to sharpen and hold their edge well. However, they do rust in damp environments. So they require more care than their stainless steel and ceramic counterparts. 

To correctly clean your carbon steel knife, use warm water and soap. Rinse with warm water and then dry it with a dry towel. Apply the mineral oil on the blade before storing it to protect it against rust and corrosion.

Can I Use A Dishwasher To Clean A Knife?

Typically, cleaning a knife in the dishwasher – even if it’s dishwasher safe – is greatly discouraged. It’s technically not a great idea to put any knife in the dishwasher. 

The high temperature and harsh detergents in the dishwasher can ruin both the handle and the blade. 

This is especially true if your knife has a wooden handle and carbon steel blade. Carbon steel lacks corrosion-resistant properties found in ceramic and stainless steel. 

The water jet can cause the knife to knock plates, cups, and even the dishwasher. This can cause the dulling or chipping of the blade. You also risk an injury when you’re unloading. 

If you must use the dishwasher, try to limit contact between the knife and other utensils in the dishwasher. 

Handwashing A Knife 

The very best and safest way to clean a knife is to wash it by hand with warm, soapy water. Try to wash it right after use. Leaving it for too long could lead to food drying on the blade, making it hard to clean. 

While washing the knife, make sure the blade is pointed away from you. Use a kitchen towel or soft piece of cloth to wipe the blade and wipe each side consecutively. 

If there is food dried on the blade, soak the knife in water for a few minutes. Don’t leave your knife in water for long as the handle could warp or the blade could rust. This is especially true if the knife is made of a carbon steel blade. 

Removing Corrosion and Rust on Your Knife 

It is possible to restore a rusted knife and make it as good as new. There are different methods for getting rid of rust. 

  • Remove rust with baking soda: The best way to treat rust and corrosion on your knife is to put baking soda on the affected area. Add a small amount of water to create a thick paste. Leave the paste on the knife for about an hour. Use steel wool to rub or scour the paste on the area. After that, wash, rinse and dry the knife carefully. 
  • Remove rust with vinegar: Soak the blade in vinegar for a few minutes. Remove it from the vinegar and scrub the rust with a scrub sponge. Wash and dry it.   
  • Remove rust with salt and lemon: Put a small amount of salt on the rusted spot and squeeze lemon juice over it. Leave the mixture on the rusted spot for around one or two hours. Scrub the spot with a wire brush or steel wool. Finally, wash the knife and dry it thoroughly. 

Final Thoughts 

Kitchen knives aren’t high maintenance, but they require a little cleaning and sanitizing along the way. If you never clean and sanitize your knife, you’re doing your health and the health of your knife a disservice. 

The bacteria and germs on our knives often go unnoticed. Once you allow them to grow and build upon your knife, they can make you get ill. But when it comes to when must a knife be cleaned and sanitized, this article has offered an accurate idea.

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