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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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10 Comments on How to Clean a Dirty Pocketknife

  1. If you can get some Kroil will clean better than we-0.

  2. thanks for the tip

  3. Precision Water Blaster // December 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm // Reply

    Thank you for sharing the very helpful guide and tips for cleaning! This can give some insights for people who want a more effective cleaning method. But nowadays people use water blaster for cleaning stubborn dirt, oil, and grease, right?

  4. skinnydipper7709 // November 27, 2017 at 10:37 am // Reply

    super helpful

  5. Wow! 👌👌👌

  6. Put in dish washer and do the above

  7. Seahawks man12 // September 1, 2017 at 7:46 pm // Reply

    I have 5 dirty knives I’ll definitely use this!

  8. I found a rusty BSA folding knife at a yard sale for $1. Soaked it in PB Blaster penetrant for a few days (wd40 would work fine also) then gave it a gentle scrub with some 0000 steel wool. Finally wiped it off real well with a soft cloth. Lubed the blades where they pivot with some oil, remember that PB Blaster & WD40 are solvents, not lubricants.

  9. Decided to clean up my grandfathers knife, thanks for the tip!

  10. OneBoyOneCubMom // August 23, 2015 at 10:06 pm // Reply

    My son just found a multi-tool buried in the dirt today, at our first family camp with his new Troop. It’s full of dirt and possible rust, and cleaning it up will make a great end-of-summer project for him. Thanks for the tips!

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