When Must a Knife Be Cleaned and Sanitized?

by Véronique Raymond
Male hand cleaning knife

Cleaning your knives frequently is part of the maintenance process required to keep them in tiptop condition. As one of the most essential kitchen tools, knives and pricier options require proper storage, care, oiling, and handling to serve you well for years down the road. After all, meal prepping with a blunt knife can be frustrating and put a damper on what should be a therapeutic task.

The steel becomes dull due to improper cleaning after a while. Furthermore, neglecting to clean your bales means the germs in the knife can adversely contaminate your food, leading to food poisoning, and that’s the last thing anyone needs.

In this guide, we’ll explore the answer to the commonly asked question, ‘when must a knife be cleaned and sanitized?’

When Must a Knife Be Cleaned and Sanitized?

There’s no definitive answer because it varies from one person to another based on various factors such as the type of blade and the cooking task. With that being said, let’s delve into a few instances that call for cleaning and sanitization of the blades.

Slicing Raw Meat

It’s a no-brainer that raw meat can transmit germs and bacteria when you fail to clean the blades properly. Once you slice the raw meat on your cutting board, we recommend immediately cleaning the board and knife to prevent the spread of bacteria and germs that will likely cause food contamination. Regardless of the type of blade you’re using, it’s advisable to clean and sanitize it with bleach and hydrogen peroxide.

Slicing Various Types of Food

Most people use one knife and chopping board to slice a vast assortment of foods without a proper cleaning process and sanitization, resulting in cross-contamination. Once you slice raw meat, wash the blade thoroughly before cutting veggies and fruits. It’s best to have a few different cutting boards for different types of food items.

Scaling Fish

Once you’re done filleting or cleaning the fish, it’s vital to clean the blade of your knife properly before using it to chop fruits or vegetables to prevent cross-contamination. Keeping a clean knife is also important for maintenance.

Slicing With the Same Knife

If you’re using the same knife to chop different foods, that leads to contamination and adverse health repercussions. That can be prevented with proper cleaning and sanitization of the blade and the handle.

How to Clean and Sanitize a Knife

Kitchen hygiene is one of the most crucial skills that everyone must learn for their overall health and wellbeing. It’s a surefire way to curb food-borne ailments. While many people rinse their knives, it’s not a foolproof way of getting the blades clean and sanitary.

However, the process of getting a blade spick and span and free of pathogens and harmful microorganisms is straightforward. Additionally, the air isn’t entirely safe and is riddled with pollutants that are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.

A surefire way to clean a knife after slicing raw meat and vegetables is by cleaning it in a solution of bleach and soapy water (or mild detergent). Once you soak the knife in this solution, use a knife brush to gently clean the blade. Next, rinse the knife under running water and dry it with a clean cloth or paper towel. Alternatively, you can leave it to air dry.

The Importance of Cleaning and Sanitizing Your Knives

A knife plays a crucial role in meal prep. If it’s not cleaned and sanitized the right way, it can easily transmit infection. Dirty knives are contaminated, which means they are riddled with microorganisms that can ultimately come into contact with food.

While nearly all pathogens and bacteria are killed when the food is cooked on high heat, there’s the risk that some survive if the food isn’t well-cooked. If there are no microorganisms, you may unknowingly expose the food to an antigen that may land you and anyone who consumes the food in a hospital.

Can You Use a Dishwasher to Clean and Sanitize Your Knives?

Although cleaning your knives in a dishwasher is convenient, we advise against it as it damages the blades after a while. Instead, you should hand-wash your knives because the humidity coupled with the machine’s heat can ruin the blades. That’s particularly the case if your blades are crafted from high carbon steel with a wooden handle. Excess water in the machine can cause the blades to rust. In short, most quality knives are not dishwasher safe.

kitchen knoves set

Source: Unsplash


Let’s explore the answers to some of the commonly asked questions regarding knife cleaning and sanitization.

1. Should you clean your knives with alcohol?

That boils down to the type of knife. Alcohol can be your holy grail in getting rid of pathogens and harmful microorganisms. However, it’s not advisable for high-quality knives. Most kitchen knives are crated from low carbon stainless steel, making them susceptible to damage or corrosion in the long run with alcohol, particularly around the edges. However, if you want to use alcohol to eliminate rust on your knives, then it’s a foolproof way of getting the job done.

2. Should you wipe or clean your knife after honing or sharpening?

Yes! Once you hone the blade, you must clean it because it entails grinding the steel leaving particles on the surface. Cleaning eliminates the microscopic particles on the blade.

3. Does water dull knives?

Water can’t dull the blades unless they are soaked in water for days or hours on end. Furthermore, it’s advisable to use warm rather than hot water to rinse your knives after cleaning.

4. What’s the most suitable way to get your kitchen knives spick and span?

As mentioned earlier, one of the best ways to keep your knives clean is by using soapy water and hydrogen peroxide.

5. Is soapy water enough to clean and sanitize your knives?

Soapy water is only sufficient to clean your knives but won’t get the job done in sanitizing them. To sanitize the blades (that entails killing bacteria and harmful microorganisms), you’ll need to use hydrogen peroxide or bleach.

We don’t advise using heat (88°C or 190°F) as that damages the blades in the long run. Additionally, you should always rinse your knives with warm rather than hot water.

6. How often do you need to clean your knives?

That’s based on the frequency with which you use the knives. For instance, if you slice meat every few days, then you’ll need to clean and sanitize the blades with every use. Additionally, the frequency of cleaning boils down to the type of foods you slice.

After all, raw meat or fish has more bacteria and pathogens compared to fruits and veggies, which is why it’s advisable to clean your knives after each use. Failure to do so results in the risk of cross-contamination.

7. Is cleaning a knife the same as sanitizing it?

Contrary to the common belief that sanitizing or disinfecting is synonymous with cleaning, there’s a slight difference. While cleaning eliminates dirt and crumbs, sanitizing eliminates germs and pathogens that dish soap and water cannot.


There’s no definitive answer as to ‘when must a knife be cleaned and sanitized?’ That’s because it boils down to the factors mentioned in this guide that vary from one person to another. Pay special attention to your knives and kitchen utensils and clean them when it’s required.

Now that you know how to clean and sanitize your knives, you can do so with ease when need be.

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