When to Oil A Knife – And How to Do It Right by Yourself Too

When I talked about preventing and cleaning knife rust, one of the recurring pieces of advice in that piece was oiling your knife.

Like honing a knife or any other thing, though, there has to be a frequency to this so that you don’t overdo things or not do it enough.

So, how much is too much when oiling a knife?

Oil your knives when you won’t be using them for a long time, or if it’s humid, to protect against rust. Some knives, like high-carbon stainless steel knives, are more susceptible to rust and should be oiled more frequently than ordinary stainless steel knives.

Why Do You Need to Oil Your Knife at All?

Truth be told, there are a lot of knives that will get by without oiling.

So, don’t start fussing over oiling all the knives that you have in your collection.

When you have special knives such as high carbon stainless steel picks, though, you want to oil them frequently.

Already, you should know that these kinds of knives are best washed and dried off as soon as you are done using them. While the carbon content makes the knife sharper and retains its edge for longer, it is also more susceptible to corrosion than normal stainless steel.

That is the price you have to pay for such a finely-made, sharp knife. Managed right, though, it is not too steep a price.

When you’re done washing these knives, oiling them helps to slow down the corrosive process.

In my guide to knife rust removal, I mentioned how oxygen (air) and water (moisture) are the two main ingredients for rust to happen. With an oil coating on top of your knife, you have locked in any moisture that might remain on the surface and prevented air from reaching the knife’s blade at all.

Or, in other words, you have prevented/ slowed down the rate of rust/ corrosion that the knife would have suffered.

What Kind of Knife Oil to Use?

For kitchen knives, it is non-negotiable advice to use food-safe oil.

Even if you are sure that you would wash all the oil out before you use the knife again, it is better to be on the safer side.

Some people use olive oil on their kitchen knives. While they are also food safe, olive oils are better used for cleaning rather than oiling your knife.

In this case, try vegetable oils instead. Some great picks are:

  • Canola oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Melon oil, etc.

Some vegetable oils might also impact the knife so note to not use all of them. To be on the safer side, go with food-safe mineral oils.

You can get them from your local store or pick one up from Amazon. They shouldn’t cost too much either, and they last very long.

If you’re using your pocket knife in some food prep capacity, maybe when outdoors, don’t make the mistake of going with non-food safe oils.

Likewise, oiling the pocket knife can help improve the closing and opening of the knife.

I have discussed some ways to oil pocket knives in this pocket knife cleaning guide.

Don’t Over-Lubricate Your Knives Either

There is something like using too much oil on your knives.

In fact, I could bet that the first few times you oil your knives, you will use more than enough oil. Unless you read this first and try to prove me wrong by using so little.

When you use too much oil on the knife, it can lead to:

  • Staining the knife since some oils are known to leave a residue;
  • Attracting dust to the knife blade;
  • Oil dripping where the knife is hung (if you’re using that kind of knife storage); among other things.

Some people use small syringes to apply oil to the surface of their knives, then spread it out with a soft cloth. I prefer to use Q-tips instead as it allows me to better control the quantity of oil and ensure an even spread.

You might have your preferred method, but the two above works fine if you don’t.

Keep Your Knives Working for Longer

Oiling the knife is just one step in a series of smaller steps that you can take to ensure the longevity of your knife.

Follow through to the knife care and maintenance guide to see other tiny but necessary things that you can do to keep your knife in tip-top condition for longer.

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