How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust?

Globally, Japanese knives top on the list of the best knives. Their prized beauty and performance have won the hearts of many chefs worldwide.

The crafting of knives in Japan dates thousands of years ago, explaining how the craftsmen have gained skills and experience in making them. Today, knife makers have perfected the ropes in blade making and have crafted millions of them.

Disclosure : Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

The knives come in various styles, sizes, and brands. The primary material used in their making is steel, which primarily constitutes the blade.

You will hardly find a knife with a steel handle. Wood and sturdy synthetic materials are famous for making the knives’ handles.

When choosing a knife, be it Japanese-made or German, considering quality and performance is essential, but it’s also vital to check its maintenance. An easy-to-clean knife becomes easy to keep and use in your kitchen. Unfortunately, many people have no clue how to clean blades.

Because the primary material used in their making is steel, you may find one with rust. Not all steels are rust-proof. Such knives give chefs a hard time cleaning and maintaining them. If you are one of them, no need to worry. This article is for people like you.

Continue reading to grasp some knowledge on how to clean your Japanese knife. You will also learn how to remove rust from your blade

A well-maintained knife lasts for many years and offers optimal performance. You will also have insight into various tips to maintain your Japanese knife.

How to Clean a Japanese Knife

How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust? 1

Washing a Japanese knife is a piece of cake, but you need to 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 end up doing 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 scrub 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, if using a modern sink, you 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 with warm water from the sink’s faucet. Then start scrubbing the knife gently until all dirt is gone. If you use a containerdip the sponge in the soapy water and clean the blade thoroughly.

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. Removing rust on your blade is not something you would enjoy doing.

To avoid this, dry all the water on your knife after rinsing. Then leave it for a while 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 parts made with steel.

Step 8: Store the Knife

After cleaning, drying, and oiling your knife, it is ready for storing. Please keep it in the right drawer in your kitchen. Japanese knives are very sharp (read our article on how to sharpen a Japanese knife); you should be cautious about how you store 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 succumbs to rust. It could be you left some water unwiped or left 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 also 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.

Based on the above explanation of rust, you may wonder how Japanese knives rust. Here is the insight.

How Does a Japanese Knife Rust?

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

Kindly note, as explained before, stainless steel means it resists rust but 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.

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

How to Clean a Rusted Japanese Knife

How to Clean a Japanese Knife? For Rust? 2

Method 1: Use Baking Soda

Like any other cleaning method, you will need to 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 remove rust on 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 Dirt on the Knife

It becomes challenging to remove 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 up until you get the required consistency.

Step 4: Scrub the Knife

Take a toothbrush and apply the mixture. Then use it to scrub the entire knife, giving attention to the rusted parts. But if the rust is severe, scrubbing with a toothbrush won’t work. 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. 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 Japanese knife using vinegar;

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

Step 2: Put White Vinegar into a Pan or Cup

Remember not to use any vinegar. The recommended one to use is white vinegar 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. If the paper towel is not big enough, cover only the rusted parts.

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 are wondering 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. Using this method is easy; you only need to take your knife and stick it into the potato. Leave it stuck for several hours.

Then 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 is gone. Onions contain sulphenic acids responsible for removing rust on blades or steel.

c) Dirt Technique

If you love having fun with dirt, this method may excite you. But it’s hectic because you will need to plunge your knife into the dirt numerous times before the rust goes away. 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.

The following are tips on how you can keep your Japanese knife away from rust.

Tips to Maintaining a Japanese Knife for Rust Protection

Japanese knife
  • 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 spread very fast. When you notice some on your knife, remove them immediately.
  • Consider buying a Japanese knife made with stainless steel. It will not rust easily.


As explained above, Japanese knives come with a lot of uses. Getting soiled is easy. Because the knives come crafted with steel, they can rust when poorly maintained. You, therefore, need to clean your blade immediately after use, as discussed above.

Otherwise, the dirt may stick, making it hard to come out. A dirty knife also causes inconveniences when you need to use it. Though rust comes from exposing the blade to humid conditions or leaving it with water, wet dirt may also cause it.

Use the cleaning method described above to clean your Japanese knife. If you find rust on your knife, remove it using either of the techniques discussed above. Also, keep in mind the above tips to protect your Japanese from rusting.