How To Remove Rust From Kitchen Knives

The kitchen might be the most essential room in the house — it’s where all the food is prepared and a popular gathering space for parties or late-night talks.

We all work to keep our kitchens clean, but sometimes, accidents happen, and we discover that our kitchen knives have turned rusty.

While this isn’t pretty to look at, it can also be dangerous; rusty knives can cause tetanus if you accidentally nick yourself preparing dinner.

Luckily, you don’t have to replace your knives just because of rust.

We’ve done the research, and removing rust from kitchen knives is easy.

All you need is a few everyday cleaning supplies to get your knives safe and gleaming once again.

What You’ll Need

You’ll need a few common household items to remove rust from your kitchen knives.

Now that you have everything you need, read on to learn how to remove rust from kitchen knives.

1. Scrub any loose rust off your knife

Once you notice your knife rust, grab some steel wool or other abrasive and gently scrub.

The goal is to remove as much loose rust or other particulates as possible, but do not scrub so roughly that you damage your knife.

2. Soak the knife in vinegar

After gently scrubbing away as much rust as possible, pour some distilled white vinegar into a bowl or cup.

The amount you need will depend upon the size of your knife because you need enough to submerge it entirely.

Do not be tempted to use another kind of vinegar—other types of vinegar can stain the blade. 

Place the knife into the vinegar and allow it to sit for about five minutes.

While it is essential to soak the entire blade; you do not need to soak the handle unless that is rusty too. 

Pro tip: Some people advise that you can soak your blade overnight to remove rust, and while this can help, it also risks damaging your blade. We do not recommend this; instead, soak your blade for five minutes. If you need to apply more vinegar while cleaning, you can do so in the next step.

3. Rub the knife with a sponge

After the knife soaks for about five minutes, please remove it from the vinegar and rub the rust with a sponge or abrasive.

Steel wool or a wire brush works well, but you can even use an old toothbrush if that is all you have.

This part will require some work, but the rust will come off if you are persistent.

Pro tip: If the rust is stubborn, you can dab your sponge in the vinegar to give you a little more rust-fighting power. Be careful not to saturate your sponge; too much vinegar on your knife can damage it if the vinegar is allowed to sit for some time.

4. Wash and dry your knife thoroughly

Once all the rust is gone, wash your knife thoroughly with soap and water to remove any rust or vinegar residue.

Dry the knife entirely before putting it away again to prevent any rust from returning. 

The following video demonstrates how to remove rust from your kitchen knives.

0:14—Gently scrub any rust with steel wool.

0:21—Pour distilled white vinegar into a cup.

0:25—Place the knife into the vinegar and allow it to sit for five minutes.

0:34—After five minutes, clean the knife with a sponge. Apply more vinegar if necessary.

0:47—Once the rust is gone, dry the knife completely. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I avoid rust on my knives?

Rust results from a chemical reaction between iron, water, and oxygen.

Steel kitchen knives have iron in them, even the stainless-steel ones, so they run the risk of developing rust.

Stainless steel knives have an extra layer of protection, but that layer cannot always prevent rust.

Drying your knives is the easiest way to keep the rust off your blades.

Don’t let knives sit in sinks full of water; don’t put them in the dishwasher.

Instead, wash your knives by hand as soon as you finish them, then dry and put them away. 

You can also give your knives an extra layer of protection against rust.

Rub a little mineral oil all over your knives twice a year.

Doing this will help form a protective layer that will prevent the water, iron, and oxygen in your kitchen from ever meeting at the expense of your knives.

What can I use to get the rust off my knives if I don’t have any vinegar?

Suppose you don’t have any distilled white vinegar.

In that case, you can also use baking soda to remove rust from your knives, primarily if the rust hasn’t formed a thick layer.

First, clean the blade to ensure that no dust or food particulates interfere with the baking soda.

You can use soap and water, but you can also use a cleaning solution to limit the amount of water your knife is exposed to. 

Next, make a thick paste with baking soda and warm water.

Spread the paste all over the knife, covering any rusty areas completely.

Let it sit for about an hour.

Then, use an abrasive to scrub the baking soda and rust away.

For lighter rust, you can use an old toothbrush or a sponge.

For thicker rust, you may need to use steel wool or a wire brush, but be careful not to press too hard if you use these.

They are suitable for removing rust but can also scratch up your knife if you push too hard.

Once the rust is completely gone, wash the knife with soap and water and dry thoroughly before putting it away. 

Can You Use Knives With Rust Spots?

The short answer is you can safely use a knife with rust spots.

In the short run, it will be fine to use a rust spotted knife.

However, the problem with doing that is that the knife looks unsightly, it can add impurities to the food, and if not treated, over time, the rust will ruin the knife and make it unusable.