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How to Clean a Dirty Pocketknife

Q. Dear Gear Guy, I got a pocketknife from my grandfather, and it’s all dirty and rusty. Can you tell me how to clean it, please?
— Rusty Jared, Philadelphia, Pa.

A. Rusty, I love it when Scouts decide to repair old camping gear rather than just throwing it out. I checked in with my friends over at Gerber Legendary Blades to find out exactly how to best fix your knife.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Thick rubber gloves
  • Mild dish detergent
  • Soft sponge (or a toothbrush)
  • Soft cloths
  • Nylon pad
  • Household lubricant (WD-40)
  • Household oil (3-in-1)

CLEAN IT: While wearing your rubber gloves, wet a soft cloth with warm water and wipe down both sides of the blade.

Next, scrub the blade with a soapy sponge. To clean serrated blades, use an old toothbrush rather than a sponge. If there’s junk stuck on the blade, pour dish detergent right on the spot and let it sit for a few minutes before scrubbing again. Rinse the blade with warm water and dry with a clean cloth.

REMOVE THE RUST: Spray the blade with a lubricant like WD-40. Be sure to spray all the rusty areas and then let it sit for one minute.

Now scrub the blade with a nylon pad. Rinse the blade. Repeat with the WD-40 for any stubborn rust spots, letting the lubricant soak in for about five minutes before scrubbing.

Once you’ve removed the rust, wash your blade with warm, soapy water. Finally, dry it off and add a few drops of household oil (3-in-1) to the blade.

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14 Comments on How to Clean a Dirty Pocketknife

  1. To the kid who asked if q tips work for the inside yes they work great

  2. Silver_Sharpie // February 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm // Reply

    I just got a pocketknife from a friend that’s all rusty. This really helped! Thanks!

  3. I recently got given my grandfathers old pocketknife and it was coved with rust. Wd-40 and some time does the trick. Just make sure you dont have any rubber on your pocketknife beucase Wd-40 corrode it.

  4. Does anyone know how to clean the inside of the knife? (where the knife folds into the handle) Would q-tips work? I have a swiss one that isn’t rusty but could use cleaning and a slightly rusty one, How to I get the inside clean? Would I just follow this procedure?

  5. Will try on same kind of knife from yard sale

  6. girl'slifetoo // May 1, 2014 at 1:18 pm // Reply

    Works pretty well. Thanks.

  7. This seems pretty reliable when my knife gets rusty I will do the same

  8. Works!!!

  9. Thnx I just bought a new Winchester bone handle pocket knife on sale for 12 $ and I got a lot of finger prints on it from opening and closing it thx

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