Can You Clean a Pocket Knife with Rubbing Alcohol?

Can You Clean a Pocket Knife with Rubbing Alcohol?

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Can You Clean a Pocket Knife with Rubbing Alcohol?

You can clean your pocket knife blade and other metal components by rubbing alcohol with a damp cloth. This is, however, dependent on the blade type and construction materials. Alcohol cannot remove rust, but it can remove grease and grime that accumulates at the base or joints of a pocketknife.

Alcohol works best when it is used to remove grease, grime, oils, and other surface-based issues found on the blade, lock, pins, and sometimes the handle.

For example, after a weekend of camping my pocketknife usually has a combination of marsh-mellows, fish bait, and dirt on the blade (sounds like a fun camping trip eh?)

After gently cleaning with soap and water, a wipe down with household rubbing alcohol can remove those stubborn stains and smudges on the blade that soap and water won’t.

But I wouldn’t use alcohol on my fine wood grain handle. That could damage the oil coating and change the wood grain and color.

When Exactly Should You Use Alcohol?

Although soap and water are readily available, they cannot clean all types of dirt on your pocket knife. Some of the dirt that soap fails to clear can be removed with a moderate application of Isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab or a lint-free cloth.

It works well on inks, residue, and gentle grease dissipates rapidly and serves as a disinfectant. However, you might not want to soak the knife in alcohol frequently since the plastic part is prone to drying up and growing more brittle with prolonged exposure to alcohol.

In some cases, you’ll need to disassemble your knife to thoroughly clean it, although this might violate a manufacturer’s warranty. It’s the only way to remove filthy grease and ultrafine grit from the pivot, as well as the hardware and liners.

Immerse the knife’s components in an isopropyl solution for 10 minutes when you’re ready to do this. Then use soap to lather the components, rinse, lubricate, and reinstall the parts.

What are the Consequences of Using Alcohol on my Pocket Knife?

As earlier stated, you can use alcohol to clean your pocket knife. But are there any effects of doing so on your pocket knife? Certainly, it will remove stains that have collected on your knife over the years, but it’s not the perfect sterilizing agent.

Isopropyl alcohol is a powerful solvent. Therefore, if you store a carbon steel knife with a small layer of oil to keep it from rusting, wiping it with isopropyl alcohol will remove that thin layer of grease, leaving your knife exposed to the rust elements.

Cleaning a folding knife with isopropyl alcohol will also remove part or all of the lubrication used in the pivot mechanism. After cleaning, you’ll need to relubricate the pivot.

I always recommend a light coat of oil, AFTER, you have cleaned your blade and knife mechanisms with alcohol.

Can Alcohol Clear Off the Rust on my Pocket Knife?

Alcohol does not clear rust off your pocket knife. However, it can remove some types of discolorations on the blade when you wipe it with alcohol. Especially if the discolorations are from another type of chemical or solvent.

You need to wash the stain thoroughly and completely to get rid of it so that it doesn’t soak back into the metal, corrode it and reduce the blade’s durability and sharpness.

You can use a mild soap to wipe the surface of a blade made of stainless steel, also recognized as an alloy blade. You can also scrape the rust off a blade using another knife or use rough or coarse stones to remove as much rust as possible.

Do’s & Donts of Cleaning A Pocket Knife

Before getting to the part where you can rub your pocket knife with alcohol, there are several ways you can clean it depending on how you have used it.

Let’s start with the obvious: Never put a knife in the dishwasher to clean it!

Dishwashing detergent is aggressive, so it’ll scrape the razor dull, and the dishwasher cycle’s high-pressure water nozzles will damage it. It may even wash away important grease deep within the handle and lock.

When cleaning your pocket knife, the first thing you need to think about is its components, such as pins, springs, handles, locks, and bolts.

This will help you determine any other extra materials you can use, such as a cotton swab or toothpicks, to clean the hinges where your hands cannot properly reach. You can use some warm water and soap for this part.

Some people are afraid about getting water in a folding knife’s pivot, but as long as it doesn’t stay wet for too long, there’s no danger. You should then dry it thoroughly with a towel, and you can use a can of compressed air to ensure no moisture remains in this part.

See Also: Are Expensive Pocket Knives Worth It?

List of Supplies Needed For Cleaning your Pocket Knife

To properly clean a pocket knife from top to bottom, there are a few things to keep in mind. Always check with your manufacturer to see what they recommend; certain blades or construction materials may be damaged if cleaned incorrectly.

For example, if your pocket knife has a Damascus blade, you’ll want to avoid using alcohol or other strong solvents, as this may damage the layered steel or protective wax coatings.

Below is a general list of household items that can clean most pocket knives.

  • Cotton swabs
  • Toothpicks
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • A pressurized air can
  • A paper towel or disposable lint-free cloth
  • Dish soap
  • Gentle cleaning solvent
  • Mineral Oil or 3-in-1 Oil for lubrication and protection

Can I clean my knife with hand sanitizer?

Although hand sanitizer usually contains a large percentage of alcohol, and in some cases soap or other disinfectant cleansers, it should not be used to clean a pocketknife unless no other solutions are available.


Rubbing Alcohol, or Isopropyl Alcohol can be used to clean a pocketknife, particularly the blade and other metal components.

However, it’s not a magic solution to clean your knife from top to bottom. It works best when removing inks, grease, stains, and smudges on the surface.

Sometimes keeping it simple is best, and you can’t really beat soap and warm water for most cleaning applications.

Always check with your knife manufacturer on proper cleaning care, and wipe down your knife with a light coat of oil for protection purposes. Thanks for reading.