Cleaning Stainless Steel Knife Blades | A How-To

A year or so ago, I wrote a small series of articles about sterling knives and replacement knife blades (part 1part 2, and part 3).  Today’s post looks at cleaning stainless steel knife blades, rather than replacing them, when they have spots of rust.

cleaning stainless steel

I have a weakness for stag handled pieces. These beauties have a sterling button at the bottom of the handle and a Sheffield stainless blade.

Regular readers know of my fondness for mixing and matching flatware rather than using sets. My regular knives are blunt bladed French horn knives…but sometimes when you are serving a juicy steak you need a serrated blade.  Hence my tendency to pick up stag handled steak knives whenever I see them – especially ones with Sheffield stainless blades.  The photo above shows a recent purchase.

When I was buying them, I knew that the blades had some spots of rust.  Why does stainless steel get rust on it?  I found this detailed answer from Sperko Engineering.  The big question is how to remove the rust so the blades are safe to use – just say no to tetanus!

Cleaning Stainless Steel Knife Blades

Sadly, I didn’t think about making this a post until I’d cleaned off most of the blades.  But here is a photo of a blade in it’s original-to-me condition.

cleaning stainless steel

Lots of rusty spots.

I assembled my arsenal of three tools to get the job done.

  1. Baking soda
  2. Lemon
  3. Copper cleaning cloth

Working on the principle of using the gentlest technique first, I started with baking soda.  In a small bowl, I placed a couple of tablespoons of baking soda and just enough water to make a thick paste. Then I worked the paste into every blade with my fingers.  Once each blade has been thoroughly rubbed – using similar force and motion to polishing sterling – rinse each blade off with running tap water. Examining each blade I found that most of the rust was gone.

cleaning stainless steel

Tools for the job.

Next, I made a similar baking soda paste, except I substituted lemon juice for the water. Be warned that the soda will hiss and spit quite vigorously when the lemon hits it.  Also know that some sources on the web warn against using lemon juice on stainless steel.

Acid is able to damage stainless steel depending on how it is alloyed. Personally, I’d want to know if my stainless blades were unable to withstand lemon juice as it is a frequent component of my cooking.

Back to the lemon/soda paste…just as before, I vigorously rubbed it over each blade and then rinsed with running water.  Even better this time.  Just one stubborn speck left.  I repeated with the paste and was unable to remove it.

This time, I broke out the big gun of my cleaning arsenal…a copper cleaning cloth. I like the cleaning cloths rather than copper wool or copper pads because I can shape them better to whatever it is that I’m cleaning.  Their thin profile makes them very flexible.

cleaning stainless steel

A close-up of the clean and rust free knives.

A scrub with my copper cloth got off the last spot and my knife blade was not marred in any way.

Could I have started with the copper…probably.  But I’d much prefer to work my way up to the big gun rather than start there.

Now my new-to-me vintage knives are all ready for a great meal.

PS

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As always, I do not have any affiliate marketing or financial relationship with any products and/or businesses mentioned. I use these products because they are effective, not because I have received a sample or am getting paid.