A Swiss army knife is one of the most important tools in your arsenal – if you know what to use them for.
However, these knives won’t be as good as they should be if you don’t know how to clean them properly after use. They might work well for a time, but a poorly cleaned and maintained knife won’t stick around for long.
So that you get the best out of your investment, I have developed this guide to show you how to clean a swiss army knife by yourself, and properly so too.
How about we get to it then?
Method #1 – Good Ol’, Regular Washing
If you have been using your swiss army knife right in the first place, this is the only form of cleaning that you will need now and in the foreseeable future.
It is much like cleaning your other kinds of knives and doesn’t have any fuss to it.
For the sake of clarity, though, I have listed out the steps involved below:
- Step 1 – warm some water and put it into a bowl
- Step 2 – add regular dishwashing liquid to the water. A drop or two should do here
- Step 3 – fully submerge the swiss army knife in the warm water
- Step 4 – with the knife still in the water, open and close it several times. Done right, the knife should be harder to open and close at the start and get easier towards the end
- Step 5 – take the knife out of the bowl and run it under a hot water tap. This eliminates debris that you might not have been able to get to while also cleaning off the rest of the soap.
- Step 6 – dry off the knife with a clean towel. Slightly grease the knife metal parts with oil (danish oil is preferred) to keep the rust away.
Method #2 – Eliminating Rust
If you have used your knife for some time, you might start to see rust on some of the metal parts.
First, know that this is not your fault. You might simply not have been paying attention to the best knife care tips, or those factors that cause rust.
But, now that we are here, it is no time to shift the blame around. Instead, see this guide to multiple methods to get rust off your knife in no time.
Method #3 – Alcohol Washing
Sometimes, the regular cleaning won’t work. This is where alcohol comes into the mix.
I would only recommend this step when your swiss army knife is sticky and mucky, and nothing else seems to be getting it clean.
These are the steps to take:
- Step 1 – find a bowl, preferably one that is not used in any food preparation capacity.
- Step 2 – buy yourself some rubbing alcohol/ isopropyl alcohol. Rubbing alcohol would be preferred. Some people have also claimed to record success with ethanol and acetone.
- Step 3 – fill the small bowl with the alcohol
- Step 4 – submerge the knife in the alcohol. Leave it to rest in there for about 45 minutes to an hour. This allows the alcohol to get into the greasy corners and wash out the debris.
- Step 5 – take the knife out and run it under a hot tap/ hot water. Not too hot that it burns your hand, but not too cool that it doesn’t get anything done.
- Step 6 – dry the knife blade and metal parts off, and oil it as before.
If water will rust your knife fast, alcohol will cause it to rust faster. Thus, never forget your knife in the alcohol situation. Set an alarm for that, if you have to.
Method #4 – Brushing
The brushing process is one of the dry approaches to cleaning a swiss army knife. This is because it does not require any water or liquid to make happen.
For the best effect, you can combine this method with any of the other ones above. To be done first, of course, before the wet process.
That said, get your steel/ harder brush and a softer brush, and do these.
- Step 1 – open the knife, physically inspecting for areas where dirt and debris might have lodged
- Step 2 – with the steel brush (or a harder traditional brush), work on getting the debris out
- Step 3 – once you are done with the harder brush, take the soft brush to the same parts. This gets the smaller debris, as well as residue from the harder brush above, out of the knife
- Step 4 – open all the tools and repeat the same process for each one of them
- Step 5 – this is an optional step. Combine with any of the wet cleaning processes up there for the best effect.
Oiling the Swiss Army Knife
Once you are done cleaning the knife, especially under the wet processes, I recommend oiling it.
If you have read my guide to preventing rust, you will know why. Besides, oiling the knife also makes opening and closing it a breeze.
Now that we have that set, follow these steps to oil your knife properly.
- Step 1 – create a workspace. Something as simple as laying down a newspaper works
- Step 2 – keep the blade closed. Apply small quantities of oil to the hinges where the blade tools connect with the knife’s body. You can use a Q-tip for the oil transfer here.
- Step 3 – identify other metal friction points and place a small amount of oil between them. This includes where the blades meet the casing, the spring area, etc
- Step 4 – open each of the tools in the swiss knife. Place a small amount of oil on the internal hinges that you could not access from the outside
- Step 5 – open and close each tool once you have added oil to its hinges. Repeat that motion multiple times so that the oil settles well into the hinge
- Step 6 – optional step. If the hinge still feels squeaky, add some more oil and repeat step 5 above. Otherwise, move to step 7 below.
- Step 7 – leave the knife to sit on the workspace for about 45 minutes to an hour again. During this time, excess oil should leak out and you’d be able to clean it
Don’t worry about getting too much oil into the knife. You can damage the knife by using too little oil, but never by getting too much oil into it.
Likewise, the best kind of oil to use would be the official Victorinox oil set. Seeing as they came up with the first Swiss army knife, it is safe to say they know what they are doing on the oil front too. And, they ship it with an additional tool to apply the oil.
Otherwise, you can always use regular machine oil too.
Mistakes to Avoid when Cleaning your Swiss Army Knife
You might think you know it all, then a simple mistake turns everything on its head for you.
But not on my watch.
Here are some of the small errors that could create a huge impact if left unchecked.
Leaving electronics attached
I have seen swiss army knives that come with a flashlight and some other electronic systems (see the image above).
Before you go soaking those kinds of knives in anything, make sure to have removed those electronic parts first.
I never recommend putting any kinds of knives in the dishwasher, and swiss army knives get the same treatment too.
Every washing, cleaning, and servicing that we do here are by hand. It should not take too much of your time, actively, anyway. Take out that time to properly care for your knife so that it cares for you for even longer.
Forget the Bleach
I don’t know why anyone might think of taking bleaches to their knives in the first place. If you were thinking about it, kill that thought.
There is a reason why bleach gets those stubborn stains out of stuff: it is harsher than those stains. That is not something you want to take to your knife, risking the chances of damaging the blade, casing, and hinges.
Before Using Alcohol
I mentioned up there that rubbing alcohol could also be a good way to get dirt and debris out of your swiss army knives. Well, not all of them.
If the knife handle was made of cellidor (a kind of plastic), don’t soak it in rubbing alcohol. There’s a high chance the scales are impacted by the time you bring it out. When unsure, apply other approaches on this list only.
And That’s It
Now, you can’t make the excuse of not knowing how to clean your swiss army knife ever again.
I’ve got my eyes on you, and I’d like to see you get the best value for your money from that knife. That means cleaning it right, employing other knife care tips I have discussed, and using your knife right too.
For now, I believe that’s all. Don’t forget to share this piece with a friend who could benefit from cleaning their swiss army knives better too.