As a knife maker, I have a recurring nightmare. In it, I’m working away happily in my cosy little workshop when the phone rings – it’s a customer calling to tell me something is wrong with the knife they commissioned. They explain that they popped it in the dishwasher for a quick clean and it’s come out in pieces. The awful truth is that this is more than just a bad dream for me. I once made a wonderful chef’s knife as a wedding gift for some dear friends who proceeded to cleanse the handle scales off the tang with a hot cycle in their trusty Zanussi. Whilst the incident obviously strained our friendship, it is understandable; we’re all used to cheap knives that are designed to last a year or two and be disposed of in favour of newer, shinier models. This causes problems for those who’re making the step up to buying a good quality knife for hunting. In the interests of my own sanity and to help you protect your investment, I’d like to share some advice with you that’ll help you keep your blades in tip-top condition.
Let’s begin by addressing my nightmare scenario. Neither steel nor wood, nor indeed the adhesives used to join them, benefit from hot and damp environments, such as the inside of a dishwasher. Whilst many kitchen knives are now sold as ‘dishwasher safe’, the truth is, dishwashers limit their life span. Any knife you are fond of should always be hand washed in warm water and mild detergent and then thoroughly dried, immediately, with a clean piece of kitchen roll or tea towel. If your blade is a simple carbon or tool steel, it’s sensible to wipe the blade over with a fine film of food-safe oil before you put it away. If you are at all worried that the blade needs to be completely sterile you could follow up by wiping the knife over with an antibacterial wipe. This isn’t something I feel the need to do personally and I’m certified to process game for the food chain. A thorough wash should be more than enough. One final note on cleaning knives: If you have a knife with a wooden handle it’s best practice not to submerge it fully in water. Rather, give it a scrub with a non-abrasive brush over the washing up bowl.
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