When Must A Knife Be Cleaned And Sanitized (2023)

If you cook food regularly, taking care of the tools and utensils you use for the job is essential. This includes cleaning your knife regularly, as well as any cutting boards, silverware, and other food contact equipment you use.

This article will focus on when and how to clean and sanitize your cutlery to ensure safety and cleanliness!

The Most Common Situations When You Must Clean Your Knife

After Cutting Raw Meat

Cutting raw meat or fish is one of those things that practically every cook has to do. However, it’s easily one of the most dangerous foods to cook if you don’t take the proper precautions. Raw meat often contains foodborne pathogens like salmonella. It’s essential to avoid consuming salmonella and other dangerous pathogens when eating meat, which is why certain meats need to be heated to certain levels to be considered safe.

Likewise, cutting your veggies directly after the knife has touched raw chicken would be a bad idea, as these pathogens can spread to other foods. To avoid this cross-contamination, simply washing and sanitizing your knife every time you finish cutting raw meat would be an excellent health and safety procedure.

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When The Knife Is Brand New

Don’t assume that your new knife is ready right out of the packaging! To ensure the food you’re cutting is clean and safe to eat, it’s a good idea to wash your knife immediately upon opening it. This is a great way to get used to how your knife should be washed and ensure the first use of the blade is as clean and sanitary as every other.

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When You Are Using A Knife For Different Foods

Suppose you’re making tacos but lay the vegetables and toppings out as a taco bar. The lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and so on will be separated and chosen by each person when making their tacos. In this case, it would be best to wash and sanitize the knife between different types of foods. That way, your toppings will taste better, and you can avoid hurting anybody with a minor food allergy.

For instance, somebody with an allergy to tomatoes can choose not to add tomatoes to their tacos and still enjoy lettuce, onion, meat, and cheese taco without issue! It’s important to note that you’d also need to clean the cutting board between foods to accomplish this, so don’t forget that!

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Steps For Cleaning And Sanitizing Your Knife

When Must A Knife Be Cleaned And Sanitized

Step 1:

The first step in washing your knife is to rinse it well. This will remove loose food debris before cleaning the blade and reduce the number of food particles with which your sponge comes in contact.

Step 2:

Take a soapy sponge and grip the blunt side of the knife’s blade with the sponge. Then, scrub up and down the blade of the knife. Alternatively, scrub the sides of the blade individually, with a motion from the spine of the knife towards the edge. Be sure not to grip the blade by the sharp side or run the sponge along the blade, as both movements can cut your sponge or your hands.

Step 3:

Optional: Place the knife flat on a clean countertop with the handle off the edge. Hold onto the edge, push the blade down to the counter with the soapy sponge, and scrub it this way. This method can remove more stubborn food pieces and works great with the more abrasive side of the sponge. Be sure to do both sides!

Step 4:

Rinse the blade with water, ensuring the soap is completely gone.

Step 5:

At this point, you could immediately dry the knife. However, the best practice includes sanitizing the knife after cleaning it. This is because sanitizer will remove viruses and bacteria that you cannot otherwise kill with just dish soap. To sanitize a knife, dip it into a sanitizing solution for about 30 seconds, immediately rinsing the knife to remove any sanitizer. This is to avoid the sanitizer entering your food, which defeats the purpose of having a clean and sanitized knife.

Step 6:

Finally, dry your knife. You can skip this step if you’re immediately using it again, but it’s always best practice to dry your knife before putting it away. Drying your knife with a clean, dry cloth or paper towel before storage avoids water stains and rust from accumulating on your knife and can help you maintain the integrity of the edge for much longer.

Remember, stainless steel isn’t invulnerable to stains and corrosion; it just ‘stains less.’ It will be resistant to rust, but keeping the blade dry will ensure it stays rust-free.

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Sanitize Your Knife With Diluted Bleach

A great sanitizing solution to make at home is a diluted bleach solution. Mix about 1 quart or 1 liter of water with about a teaspoon of household bleach. With this solution, submerging the blade for about 30 seconds will be able to remove any leftover bacteria from the knife. Other sanitary options include leaving your knife in boiling water or using a UV sanitizer, but these methods may not be as effective. After sanitizing, always rinse the knife.

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Knife Cleaning Vs. Sanitizing

Cleaning and sanitizing differ in a few ways. Cleaning your knife involves using water and soap to remove pieces of food and a large number of harmful bacteria that may be present. Sanitizing a knife involves submerging the blade into a pool of sanitizer, usually diluted bleach, to kill any remaining bacteria and pathogens on the blade.

Some households only clean their knives, never truly sanitizing them. A safer procedure involves washing and sanitizing the cutlery to avoid allergen and pathogen contamination.

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Things To Avoid While Cleaning Your knife.

Pay special attention to anything that can cause you or somebody else to be cut by a knife. This includes leaving cutlery in a sudsy sink, as somebody may not see the sharp objects beneath the bubbles. It also means avoiding the edge of the blade when scrubbing it. Other things to avoid when washing your cutlery include:

● Using a dishwasher on them
● Storing them away while wet
● Storing them improperly

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How To Store Your Knives

The simplest way of adequately storing knives is a knife block. However, knife blocks take up a lot of counter space and can be challenging to clean and sanitize. A better solution would be a magnetic wall strip on which you can hang your blades. These are somewhat less common, but they are the storage solution of choice for many chefs and cooks. The primary way you want to avoid storing your knives is loose in your drawer. This can cause somebody to get cut, but it can also damage the blade, chipping or denting the edge.

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Knife Cleaning And Sanitizing Infographic

When Must A Knife Be Cleaned And Sanitized

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which Type Of Sanitizer Should I Use For A knife?

You can buy high-quality chemical sanitizers from a retailer, but a more straightforward option for most people is to make a dilute bleach solution. This sanitizer will be safe and effective to use as long as you rinse the blade after sanitation. Remember, anything capable of sanitizing your knife will contain some form of harsh chemicals.

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Can I Wash My Knife In A Dishwasher?

It is never recommended to put your kitchen knife in the dishwasher. Even if the knife says it’s dishwasher safe, you’re better off hand washing the knife. A loose knife can damage other dishes or the dishwasher racks easily. However, the dishwashing process’s hot water, steam, and dish detergent can damage even a tightly secured knife.

These can rust your blade and destroy the temperament of the knife, making its edge much weaker. A butter knife or dinner knife won’t be harmed nearly as much, as their serrated edges are the main thing they use to cut. Also, they’re usually much cheaper. Don’t know the difference between a butter knife and a dinner knife? We have a guide on that, too!

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Should I Soak My Knife In Soapy Water?

No, always hand wash your knife. Chemicals in dish soap can harm your knives’ surface if they are in contact for a significant period. Blades sitting in soapy dish water can also be challenging to see, increasing the risk of cutting you or somebody else. Wash them by hand, dry them, and put them away immediately.

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How Do Chefs Clean Their Knives?

Chefs typically clean their knives with a soapy sponge, starting with the softer side, gripping the blunt edge of the blade, and scrubbing up and down the blade. Then they’ll rinse the knife and grasp it with their hand by the blunt edge, scrubbing the handle gently with the soapy sponge. After another quick rinse, the blade is clean. A chef would then sanitize their blade, dipping it in a sanitizer for 30 seconds before rinsing for a final time. This ensures the blade is ready to cut an entirely different type of food, even if the previous food was raw meat.

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How Do You Clean A Sharp Knife?

It’s always essential to avoid grabbing it by the edge when cleaning a sharp knife. It’s also a bad idea to rub a sponge along the edge. To prevent this, you can scrub the blade’s faces with the sponge, moving towards the sharp edge with each stroke. Alternatively, you can set the knife down on a flat surface, such as a counter with the handle hanging off. Grip the handle firmly and scrub the top face of the blade. Turn it over and repeat, and you’ve washed your sharp knife without cutting yourself. Now all you need to do is rinse it!

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Why Is It Essential To Sanitize Knives?

Whereas cleaning your knife is meant to remove food particles and debris from the knife, sanitization removes harmful bacteria and viruses. It’s important to sanitize your blade after it comes in contact with foodborne pathogens from foods like raw meat, but it’s also a good idea to sanitize it regularly anyways. You don’t want anybody who eats your food, you included, to get food poisoning from the food you cook, and knife sanitization is essential in preventing this. Don’t forget to rinse your knife every time you sanitize it.

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Do Knife Blocks Need Cleaning?

Knife blocks need to be cleaned and sanitized, just not as often as a knife does. If you choose a wooden knife block, try to find one with through holes instead of blind holes. Through holes will allow you to stick a cotton swab with diluted bleach into the bottoms of the slots and clean the hard-to-reach bottoms of the holes.

The risk and work associated with knife blocks are one of the primary reasons that most chefs recommend a magnetic strip for storing your knives. Not only is it easier to see what knife you’re grabbing, but there aren’t such narrow and long voids that are difficult to clean.

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How Often Should I Clean A Knife?

The cleaning and sanitation process should be carried out at least every 4 hours of continuous use. It should also be done before switching types of food, after cutting raw meat, and before storing the knife. These checkpoints will help reduce contamination risk and, thus, the chances of food poisoning. It will also keep the blade fresh and rust-free, assuming you dry the knife before storing it.

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How Do I Know If I Need To Sharpen A Knife?

When cutting things, your knife should not be tearing or crushing them. If it’s doing this, it’s time to sharpen it. Also, it’ll be much louder when cutting hard vegetables because the dull edge crushes them a little before the cutting begins. Another great way to test your knife’s sharpness is to run your finger perpendicular to the edge. If you can feel a slight tug against your fingerprint, it’s probably sharp enough. A dull edge will feel like a smooth bump.

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How Often Should I Oil My Knife?

Oiling your blade every few months, or at least twice a year, is an effective way of protecting it from rust and corrosion. This is incredibly impactful on carbon steel blades and will matter less for premium titanium knives, for example. If you’re looking for incredible stainless steel knife sets on a budget, we have a complete guide on knife sets for under $500!

Shanny not only has an exceptional understanding of the foodie mindset and how nutrition works, she has also achieved her Master’s Degree in Education. Outside of her academic achievements, she loves writing food blogs. It's so much more than a list of meals though! Shanny creates helpful cookware guides and delicious recipes that are easy to follow. She does all of this as a food blog writer because she loves it. That's why she spends lots of time testing out different recipes in her own home. She truly is a one-of-a-kind foodie, from her home to yours - with a story to tell, new recipes to indulge in and new tips to tantalize those tastebuds.

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