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Best way to clean your knives

I have successfully trained the DH to never put the good kitchen knives in the dishwasher or leave them in the sink. It took a bit of tears and him having to re-buy a Global he ruined, but I did it.

I ate at chef's table a few times, and noticed that the chef kept a solution next to the sink in which he would rinse off his knife, then wipe it with a towel.

I'd like to keep a similar solution, since although the knives don't end up in the sink any more, they do end up on the counter, and crusted over with whatever product they last sliced.

What do they use in professional kitchens? What can I use at home? Caveat- I am wary of bleach used on food surfaces.

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  1. I ate at chef's table a few times, and noticed that the chef kept a solution next to the sink in which he would rinse off his knife, then wipe it with a towel.
    You're assuming this was a cleaning solution, but it was probably nothing more than warm water, or water with bleach(sanitizer). Unless there is fat involved from proteins, e.g. meats and fish, there really is no need for soap and water. Not much really sticks to knives that cannot be rinsed away under the faucet and wiped clean with a clean towel.

    1 Reply
    1. re: fourunder

      Warm soapy water,and don't use anything abrasive eg steel wool etc.I do recommend a diluted bleach solution(just a drop) if you have used the knife on any raw meats,fish or chicken.
      No harm will come to the blade.And dry immediately.

    2. Water and a quick wipe on my apron or kitchen towel.

      14 Replies
      1. re: ipsedixit

        That's what I do. If something's sticky I use a sponge covered with a nylon mesh and fold it across the back of the knife pinching along the cutting edge. I draw it from the bolster to the tip once and rinse it again in scalding hot water.

        I don't have kids in the house so the water at my faucet is incredibly hot and I use brushes and water pressure for most stuff, a squirt of detergent when things are greasy. Water that hot evaporates almost instantly so I put them away on the magnetic rack right away. The OP doesn't say anything about letting them lie around on a drainer or counter but that's something to avoid too.

        1. re: rainey

          Yeah, sometimes we overthink things. It's just a knife after all.

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Amen. To quote Mario Freud, "A knife is just a knife. Now cigars, that's something else."

            1. re: BluPlateSpec

              "A knife is just a knife. Now cigars, that's something else."

              Esp. if you're Bill Clinton.

        2. re: ipsedixit

          You don't worry about cross contamination?

          1. re: petek

            Nope. My knives are not made of wood, or bamboo. I prefer some type of hard metal, like steel.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              Wow,I hope you don"t cook for a living.

            2. re: petek


              Do you mean cross-contamination from the knife to the towel and then from the towel to the knife (e.g. the towel touched the meat/fish and then the towel touches the knife again)? This kind of cross-contamination is not a big problem for me because I usually cut vegetable first. At the end of the cooking session, I don't really just use water and towel. I actually use detergent and brush first, then I rinse the knives with water, then wipe them with the towels.

              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                You're right on both points Chem. Using you knife on veg first is the safest way to go and wiping your knife on your apron is very unsanitary,especially in a commercial kitchen.
                I don't suggest you use bleach or any other sanitizing liquid every time you use your knife but you should use it after cutting raw meats.
                Warm water, detergent to degrease and just a touch of bleach and you can use this same solution on your counter tops.
                easy peasy nice and clean..:)

                1. re: petek

                  and wiping your knife on your apron is very unsanitary,especially in a commercial kitchen.

                  If that bothers you, I suggest if you are ever inclined to visit a restaurant kitchen ... don't.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    Ha that's funny ipse! I actually work in a professional kitchen(have been for 20 odd years) And boy does that bother me.
                    If I were your chef I'd kick your ass out the door if I ever saw anybody do that.
                    Yuck gross>>
                    but I digress To each their own.. :)

                    1. re: petek

                      Funny, so did I.

                      Not anymore, however. Too tough a way to make a living.

                      1. re: ipsedixit

                        Sure is a tough way to make a living and I'll admit I had the same habit of wiping my hands and knife on my apron,tough habit to break but I'm glad I did.
                        Plus my knives are so freakin sharp that they'd cut me bad :)

            3. There are soaking solutions that are used in the dish washing area for silverware and utensils but I would hope that wasn't what was being used. It is followed by hand cleaning or the dish washing machine. My guess would be what others have mentioned so far.

              1. "It took a bit of tears"

                I see. You beat him up to the point of him crying. How cruel! I do not concur with domestic violence like this, even for very good knives like Global.

                First, stainless steel knives like Global are easier to take care than carbon steel knives. Before your husband can take care of stainless steel knives, don't get carbon steel knives or someone will really and seriously cry.

                I will say plain water or weakly soap (detergent) water will go a great job clean these knives. Soaking stainless steel knive in water for a short period (~5min) of time is acceptable. Do not use bleach solution for various reasons. Bleach solution has a short half-life. So if you are going to rely on the power of bleach, then you need to prepare the solution before use. Otherwise, there is no point. More importantly, bleach solution will react with your knives, which is either good for look nor performance. (Petek is correct. If you want to use bleach solution make sure you dry the knives immediately and not let the bleach react with the knives for too long).

                Just rinse your knives with water and use a towel to wipe clean it. Use a dedicate towel because your knives will eventually slice the towel.

                Finally, you may not want to follow professional kitchen practices on this. Many (not all) professional kitchens use working knives like Dexter-Russell or Victorinox which mean they treat them as replaceable. On the other hand, knives like Global, Shun... etc are mean to be taken care of and to last a long time.

                10 Replies
                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                  Actually, the tears were mine. He's ruined quite a few kitchen items as a matter of fact. Thermometers should not go in the dishwasher. Nor should non stick. Nor copper. The tears were my frustration in this.

                  1. re: julietg

                    :) You know I was teasing you, right? Of course, you didn't beat him.

                    I am sorry to hear the knives got ruined. I think they could have been resorted. If you have not throw away these knives, you can give them away to people who know a bit or two about knives. The edge may have been damaged in the dishwasher. I also know Global can stain/rust a bit in a dishwasher even they are stainless steel knives. Usually, a good sharpening sessions will remove the damage edge and make the knives usable again.

                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                      The problem with the Globals is the 30/70 angle of the edge. The whole thing got bent at the top, rust spots which I couldn't remove with Barkeepers Friend, and big dings in the edge. I still have and use it, but can't get it true and am worried about taking it in b/c of the 30/70 thing. The thermometer, however, went right in the hazardous waste bin! He still uses the non-stick pan, but I refuse. I bought a new one.

                      1. re: julietg

                        You got all these damages on the Global knives from machine dishwashing sessions? The benting thing that is something I would not have predicted. I can see the rusts and dings.

                        Most Global knives are 50/50, some are indeed 30/70 (70/30) according to the internet. What actually makes Global knives difficult to sharpen for amaturer knife sharpeners is that Global knives' bevels are not flat. They are convex. See the section on "Edge Formation":


                        That may be more challenging than the asymmetric 70/30 bevel.

                        Why would a thermometer be put in a dishwasher...that is an odd move, isn't it?

                        Well, in the future, you just have to tell your husband that you will be washing the knives.

                        1. re: julietg

                          If you have several Globals that are bent and in bad shape I'd suggest sending them back to Global if they offer sharpening like Shun does or to an experienced knife sharpener like Dave Martell at http://www.japaneseknifesharpening.com/ He will return your knives in better shape than when you bought them. At least sharper.

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Nah, Global warrenty is different and from reading its disclaimer, I don't think Global will take care of this. Nevertheless, it is worth a try.

                            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                              Then Dave Martell would be a good choice to rescue these abused knives.

                      2. re: julietg

                        Just checking, are you married to my son-in-law? If it's smaller than the car it goes in the dishwasher, if it doesn't fit in the dishwasher it must not need to be cleaned, e.g. the car.

                        1. re: mikie

                          :) If she is married to your son-in-law, won't she be your daugther? (What you said about the car thing is funny indeed)

                          1. re: mikie

                            Quite. He's better trained now, but he thinks that loading the dishwasher and leaving all the hand washables piled in the sink = "cleaning the kitchen." Apparently, the elves are coming to clean the stuff in the sink?

                      3. I will disclose upfront that I do not have a knife fetish :) I use mostly nice Henckels, they are pricey but they are still replaceable. I easily spend 100 bucks at a nice dinner so replacing one knife is not a tragedy. I throw them in the dishwasher and sharpen them as needed (with wild abandon). Anyone in the house can use them. They still work fabulous after many years. I think I have only ruined one after YEARS of use. All of them slice through a tomato.... like "butta".

                        The knives that are really expensive or not so easily replaced (like special Japanese knives), I don't let anyone in the house touch them but me. I *never* let them crust over with food, I clean them at the sink with a soft brush and put them back immediately. They are off limits to everyone but me.

                        This works for my house.

                        1. the solution the op refers to, in this day&age, was most likely quaternary ammonia, called by kitchen personnel "q-a," "quats," or simply "blue water." was the solution blue in color?

                          this is a food-approved disinfectant/sanitizing solution used in commercial and restaurant kitchens of any size. the solution is not specifically used to clean knives-- it's used as the final, sanitizing step in a "triple sink" dishwashing system and also to clean work surfaces, countertops, immobile cutting boards, and generally wipe down any surface that comes into contact with food. it should be available for purchase from any restaurant supply store in small plastic jars about the size & shape of a 200-500 capsule aspirin bottle, usually with a blue lid. the blue chips inside the bottle can be dissolved in regular hot tap water to make the the quat solution. the advantage of quat over bleach-based commerical kitchen disinfectants are 1) the capsules make it easier for staff to accurately mix a solution that is not too weak or too strong 2) quat is odorless and will not ruin cloth and colored surfaces by leaching color, and it is generally safer for people to use and store than bleach 3) the color of the solution makes it easy to see using visual cues whether the solution is still potent-- the solution starts as a pretty sky blue color, and as it is used to disinfect surfaces, wiping cloths, etc, it will lighten and finally be close to clear/cloudy and colorless, indicating that the solution needs to be dumped out and remade.

                          quat is a light degreaser but not really a detergent. commercial kitchens must keep sanitizer on hand (either in spray bottles or a bucket-type container-- buckets are most common in serious larger kitchens bc wiping cloths can be immersed for frequent wipe-downs of equipment & the solution can be changed quickly). since there is a bucket of quat around at all times, many pro cooks will use the quat bucket just as the op describes, to degrease and sanitize their personal knives between tasks. it just makes sense to do this in a commercial kitchen.

                          i am not convinced that a home cook would need to mix a gallon of quat for home use, esp just to rinse knives. nice thought, but probably overkill, i'd say. the quat solution will lose potency with air exposure, so it isn't like you can keep a gallon around forever and keep using it-- the quat buckets in commercial kitchens can get dumped and remade 3-6 times in a shift with heavy use. the best way to care for good knives at home is simply to wash them well with hot water and a drop of detergent immediately after use. dry a good knife with a cloth towel (not a paper towel) before putting it in a block, knife drawer or guard.

                          13 Replies
                          1. re: soupkitten

                            Excellent information. I also agree that mixing a solution for quat or a solution of bleach does not work well in a residential kitchen for a few knives. Afterall, these solutions are only effective in a limit time period.

                              1. re: julietg

                                oh, you know-- you could use a paper towel, it's just in my experience paper towels can sometimes not dry stuff thoroughly, so i prefer cloth. of course, i use super-cheap paper towels from the restaurant supply bulk-pak, so maybe that's the problem :) just make sure the knife is *totally* dry before putting it away, was all i was trying to say.

                              2. re: soupkitten

                                Hey soup.
                                You're either a professional cook or a health inspector :)
                                Excellent advice.

                                1. re: petek

                                  heh heh. trust me, you won't find too many health inspectors on chowhound. i'm convinced "those people" don't like food, at all ;-P

                                2. re: soupkitten

                                  A buddy of mine brought his nakiri to work where they use quat. The quat left a thick blue-gray crust on the wrought iron cladding of the knife. You could just barely scratch it off with a fingernail. I don't know whether he was leaving it in the solution for long periods of time or just dipping and wiping here and there. Didn't seem to happen with his stainless cladded knives.

                                  In other words, seeing as there are other perfectly good ways to clean knives, I don't see any reason for most people to use quat at home.

                                  1. re: cowboyardee

                                    cowboy: Maybe you know... Is quat the same blue stuff you used to see in barbershops for soaking the straight razors, shears and combs?

                                    1. re: kaleokahu

                                      Probably, but I'm only guessing. I'm not friends with any barbers to ask (cut my own hair).

                                      If you google 'quat solution barber shops,' there seem to be plenty of hits.

                                      1. re: kaleokahu

                                        The one that barbers and hairdressers use is called Barbicide. I personally would not use this in anything that touches food. I have this at home to sanitize combs and brushes.

                                        1. re: bg031

                                          Maybe quat is a highly diluted form of Barbicide.

                                          1. re: petek

                                            Here is a discription from a catalog of a commercially available quat solution.

                                            Product Description
                                            SaniZide Plus Surface Disinfectant effectively helps eliminate the hazards of cross-contamination on environmental surfaces. The quaternary ammonium compound is a broad spectrum disinfectant but contains no alcohol. The non-corrosive formulation of Sanizide Plus will not damage lenses, cements, plastics, rubber, or metal surfaces including steel plating, aluminum and brass. Ready to use. Effective against TB, HIV, Hepatitis A, B, & C, MRSA, VISA, VRE, and CA-MRSA. EPA registered.

                                            1. re: petek

                                              Look like the active ingredient lists are not the same (3M Quat vs King Barbicide). Straight from the bottle 3M Quat is stronger than Barbicide, but after the recommended dilution, then the Barbicide looks to be stronger. Tough to say for sure.

                                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                Quat is also the preferred chemical in three bay sinks and low temp commercial dishwashers (high temp sanitize after the wash cycle at 180 degrees, low temp 130 with quat.)