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Chef Blog

How to Remove Rust From Stainless Steel Knife

21 Mar 2023 0 Comments

Whether you are a professional cook or an amateur in the kitchen, you know the vital role cleanliness plays. We want everything to be sparkling clean, from countertops to equipment, because any dirt can throw us off in our cooking routines. In addition to that, dirt or any residue on our supplies poses a health issue.

If you did not know, leftover dirt or residue stays on our most used kitchen equipment. With that being said, even our stainless steel knives will wear out the more we use them. Over time, you will notice rust forming on your knife, and it is crucial that this is removed. As your cleaning guide, this article will tackle removing rust from stainless steel knives and which is the best method to use.

Why Does Stainless Steel Rust?

Although most companies market their knives as “stainless steel” and therefore resistant to rust and tarnishing, it is still a material that can develop damage over time. Exposures to grease, moisture, heat, saline, and damaging chemicals can rust the stainless steel.

Stainless steel is made up of carbon, iron, nickel, and about 10.5% of chromium. The chromium component is responsible for protecting the material, so its resistance is entirely dependent on the amount of chromium present. It generates a chromium oxide that can seal the surface and acts as a protective cover on the material. It also makes sure to regenerate if the layer is damaged.

However, if there is not enough chromium present in the material, replacing a damaged chromium oxide layer with a new one is not possible. As a result, the stainless steel is left vulnerable to numerous damaging factors and, in turn, will form rust.

In the context of a kitchen environment, rust will form on the stainless steel knives when exposed to moisture for a long time. The cause may also be due to contact with strong dish detergents or food acids.


Is Rust On Knives Dangerous?

The compound name for rust is iron oxide, and you can identify it on the knives as the reddish and yellowish flaky stuff on it. Despite the appearance of rust, small amounts of it are actually not dangerous. Even if you have rust on your stainless steel knives, it is still safe to use in your kitchen. Moreover, it is also not harmful to your skin, and you are free to come in contact with it.

On the other hand, rust is fragile and can contaminate your food. It may leave some residue and therefore add impurities to your food preparation. With that being said, it is still best to remove the rust on your stainless steel knives even though it is not harmful or dangerous.

In addition to that, rust tends to grow as time passes by. When it comes to preparing food, rust on knives can still cause an issue in the cleanliness and integrity of the dish.

How To Remove Rust From Stainless Steel (The Best Method)

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How to Care For and Maintain Your Kitchen Knives? (8 Mistakes to Avoid)

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When the amount of rust on your stainless steel knives is only minimal or manageable, removing it is possible. You may use various methods, but the best method is by using baking soda.

Apart from being an easily accessible item, the advantage of baking soda is that it is non-abrasive, which means that it will not cause further damage to the material. It acts as a gentle cleanser to stainless steel knives and kitchen utensils alike.

Remove Rust With Baking Soda

Material You Will Need:

  • ¼ Cup of Baking Soda
  • Hot or Warm Water
  • Wash Cloth
  • Toothbrush


  • You must clean your knife to ensure no dirt is present on the material. When there is leftover dirt other than the rust, your cleaning operation may not achieve your desired results. With that said, it is imperative that you wash your knives first.
  • Combine the baking soda and water to create a cleaning paste. The measure depends on you as long as you can create a thick paste. It should not be too runny or powdery.
  • Once you have created your cleaning paste and your knife is clean, you must evenly spread the paste on the entirety of the blade. It is crucial for you to cover all the parts infested with rust. You must let this rest for at least an hour.
  • After which, rub on the blade using the toothbrush. You should focus on the areas with rust that are difficult to remove. You may repeatedly scrub until all the rust is gone.
  • Once you are done cleaning, you should only rinse it with warm water, and do not forget to wipe it dry with the cloth.
 sliced ​​onion

How To Remove Rust From Stainless Steel (Alternatives)

If you find that the baking soda is not working for you or need more accessible materials, then no worries because there are alternative methods you can take. However, it may not be as effective or material-friendly as baking soda. Some of these alternatives are the following:

Remove Rust With White Vinegar

White vinegar is another household item that is easily accessible. Its acetic acid component can work well on removing rust. On the other hand, it is crucial to remember that white vinegar is the only vinegar type that you can use since others would leave stains.

To use this, you just need to submerge the knife under a vinegar bath for a few minutes. It is a must that it does not stay too long since it can cause more damage. You may rub on the material if you wish to do so. If the rusting is abundant, one use of this white vinegar method will not completely remove it. If you want to redo it, you need to wait a few days in between or switch to the baking soda method.

Remove Rust With Lemon and Salt

Another ingredient that has great acidic properties is lemon. Juice/extract coming from lemons works as an acidic cleaner for stainless steel, and in order to add further texture, it is paired with salt. The lemon extract provides for a strong cleanser, whereas the salt acts as a gentle abrasive for scrubbing the blade since it will not leave any scratches.

In order to use this method, you must place salt on the rust stains and apply lemon juice/ extract on top of it. You may let the kitchen knife rest with this mixture for about two hours. After doing so, you may gently scrub it and rinse with warm water afterward. Similar to the white vinegar method, you must not let it sit for too long since it can cause damage.

If you are looking for a more comprehensive cleaning solution, you may replace the water in the baking soda method with lemon juice instead of creating the cleaning paste.

Remove Rust With Cream Tartar

Cream tartar is another ingredient that works well as a rust remover since it has acidic properties. The tartaric acid could be mixed with the lemon juice in order to create a cleaning solution. You may apply it on the stainless steel knife with a sponge and gently scrub. After which, you should rinse it with warm water and wipe it dry. This particular method does require you to leave it on, which makes it the fastest way of cleaning.

Remove Rust With Citric Acid

The chemical compound Citric Acid is also a good solution for removing rust off your stainless steel knives. To use this, you must spray the citric acid solution directly into the steel and let it rest for a few minutes. Afterward, wash it clean and wipe it dry.

It is crucial that you do not leave it on for too long or get it on rust-free spots since citric acid also removes other coatings and can cause damage. With that said, it is the least ideal cleaning method for kitchen knives. If you wish to take extra precautions, you may add more water to the citric acid solution to dilute it a bit.

how to keep knives from rusting

How to Prevent Rust Before It Ever Starts

Successfully removing all the rust in your stainless steel knives is undoubtedly great, but it is even better if you could prevent it from forming in the first place. The best prevention for rust on knives is by keeping the knives dry. The most common rusting cause for kitchen utensils is moisture, and with that said, you need to ensure that your knives are dry.

Key Takeaway

Rust on kitchen knives are not dangerous but can contaminate and compromise your food preparation. With that said, it is essential that it is removed. The best method for removing rust on stainless steel knives is by using the baking soda method. Although there are alternatives, baking soda is the most effective and safe method to use.

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