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3 Best Ways to Clean Knife Sharpening Steel

Using a knife sharpening steel is one of the last steps in sharpening a quality knife, and it could also be the only step. It gives the blade a nice polish and hones the edges nicely for a perfect retention level. If treated properly, your sharpening steel can last you for a lifetime.

This guide features cleaning tips to help you keep your knife steel sharpener in tip top shape.  

How Does a Sharpening Knife Get Dirty? 

You might think that by cleaning sharpening steel, you’re just getting rid of accumulated dirt and dust. While this is true, the most dirt that sharpening steel accumulates is the build-up metal silts or particles accumulated from previous knife sharpening. Most sharpening steels have magnetic features that attract tiny particles off knives when sharpening them. In contrast, Ceramic Rod Knife Sharpeners are not magnetised and don’t accumulate metal pieces.

Over time, these particles build up and clog the sharpening teeth or abrasion on the rod. When this happens, the rod becomes smooth as the abrasions are filled up with fine particles. Thus, it becomes less efficient in delivering perfect honing to your knives. This doesn’t mean the sharpening steel is no good anymore. It only means it’s in dire need of cleaning.  

The best way to stay on top of this situation is by giving your sharpening steel a clean wipe after every use. This will help in getting rid of particles immediately and will prevent build-ups or overtime clogging. At this point, you don’t even need an agent or substance. Using a dry cloth to wipe the entire rod will help, and you will see the number of particles that come off on the fabric. 

3 Best Ways on How to Clean a Knife Sharpening Steel

There are several suitable methods of cleaning sharpening steel. You can try it out with vinegar, soaking your steel in a warm detergent solution, and you can even sterilize it in the heat for a while. All of these cleaning methods depend on what is mainly available to you. If you are just a simple kitchen user, then the first two cleaning methods are perfect for you since most agents required are regular home items. 

3 Best Ways on How to Clean a Knife Sharpening Steel

1. Vinegar Cleaning Method

The vinegar cleaning method is quite easy. Try using this method after each use of your sharpening steel for a better cleaning experience. All you need is just a piece of cloth and vinegar. Damp that piece of fabric with vinegar, then wipe the rod until all particles are removed. Also, get another dry piece of cloth and pat the sharpening steel dry. Give it some time to air dry. 

2. Detergent Cleaning Method

When opting to clean your sharpening steel with detergent, use an alkaline-based detergent that is free from chlorine and any other bleaching agent. Detergents with acidic properties might corrode your sharpening steel and cause further damage. All you need a mild alkaline detergent to form a warm water solution.

You could use a plastic brush to wash through the rod to get rid of the particles but never use a metal brush. Once you are done, rinse thoroughly with ordinary water and dry with a clean cloth. 

3. Sterilizing Sharpening Steel 

This is another way to care for your sharpening steel, but this might require a bit of expertise as it might result in injury if not properly done. If you have a sterilizer, all you need is to leave the rod in it at about a temperature of 70-Degree Celsius for few minutes. Also, some brands of sharpening steel might contain information on the right temperature for sterilization which is often between 50-70 degrees Celsius.  

The sterilization burns off dirt, and metal silts off the rod to restore its initial abrasiveness. However, you cannot immediately use your rod after sterilization as you need to give it time to cool off. Using the sharpener immediately after sterilization might detach the rod from its handle or cause a further dent on the rod directly. Thus, let it enjoy a cool-off period and subsequently clean the rod with a cloth damped with vinegar. 


These remediation cleaning methods are highly effective and straightforward to try at home. However, the rod may remain smooth after trying these tips. If this happens, it means you will need to replace your sharpening steel. And always remember to store your sharpening steel in a dry place to prevent corrosion. 

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