How to Clean Damascus Steel: Proper Knife Maintenance Tips

Damascus steel knives are renowned for their striking beauty, remarkable strength, and unparalleled durability. These handcrafted masterpieces have a long history of captivating the hearts of knife enthusiasts and collectors worldwide.

But what does maintaining that pristine cutting edge and distinctive pattern take? In this article, we unveil the secrets behind proper Damascus steel care, including how to clean Damascus steel, ensuring your knife remains a reliable and prized possession for years to come.

Key takeaways

  • Unlike stainless steel production knives, Damascus steel has unique characteristics that require proper care. Whether Damascus kitchen knives, pocket knives, or another type of modern Damascus steel blade knife, special care is the best way to keep your knife rust-free and in good condition for a long time.
  • Clean high-carbon steel Damascus blades regularly with mild dish soap, avoiding abrasive materials or metal polishes.
  • Follow storage and maintenance techniques for the optimal condition of the blade and its distinctive patterns.

Understanding Damascus steel

Damascus steel is a type of steel celebrated for its distinctive Damascus pattern of banding and mottling reminiscent of flowing water. These patterns are not only visually stunning but also a testament to the remarkable strength and durability of Damascus steel blades. A result of a unique forging process that involves repeatedly heating and welding together sheets of different types of steel to form a billet, Damascus steel knives are highly sought after for their captivating beauty and unparalleled performance. The Damascus blade, made from this pattern-welded steel, showcases the exceptional qualities that make Damascus blades a good option for collectors and chefs alike.

However, owning a Damascus steel knife comes with specific responsibilities. The unique composition of high-carbon steel and other metals necessitates diligent care to preserve the blade’s integrity and prevent rust or corrosion. This care guide covers everything you need to know about cleaning, protecting, and sharpening your Damascus steel knife, ensuring that it remains a high-quality knife blade.

Cleaning your knife is the first thing you need to do

Maintaining the performance and appearance of your Damascus steel knife requires regular cleaning of the surface of the blade. The recommended method involves rinsing the blade under warm running water to remove loose debris or food residue and gently cleaning the entire knife, including the blade and natural handle materials, using mild dish soap and a soft cloth or sponge.

Make sure to steer clear of harsh chemicals like bleach or ammonia that could tarnish the knife’s intricate pattern, and opt for a gentle metal cleaner instead.

Avoiding abrasive materials

While it may be tempting to reach for that steel wool or scouring pad in your kitchen, using abrasive materials on your Damascus steel knife can be detrimental to its delicate, unique pattern and surface formed by etched oxidation. To prevent any damage to your quality blade, always use a soft cloth or sponge with mild dish soap when cleaning your knife.

Aside from avoiding abrasive materials, it is also a good idea to avoid metal polishes or rough cloths, which could mar the knife’s pattern and surface. By using gentle, non-abrasive materials, you preserve the integrity and beauty of your Damascus steel knife, ensuring its longevity and performance.

Properly drying the blade

Once cleaned, thoroughly dry the blade with a soft cloth to ward off moisture accumulation and rust formation. Taking the time to ensure your knife is completely dry can make all the difference in maintaining its durability, performance, and appearance. Drying should be done in a completely dry interior environment.

Remember, a well-cared-for Damascus steel knife is an actual work of art that will serve you faithfully for years to come. With proper maintenance, your collection of hand-forged Damascus knives will remain both functional and beautiful.

Protecting your Damascus knife

Multiple Damascus steel knives in a transparent knife block

Now that your knife is clean and dry, you can shield it from the elements (and rust spots!). To do this, apply a thin layer of mineral oil to the blade with a softer material polishing cloth, which helps prevent rust and maintain the knife’s appearance. Then, store your knife in a dry place away from moisture and harsh elements, such as a knife block, sheath, or magnetic strip.

Adhering to these steps guarantees the peak condition of your Damascus steel knife, keeping it ready with a sharp edge for any cutting task.

Applying mineral oil

Coating your Damascus steel knife with a layer of mineral oil wards off rust preserves the knife’s aesthetic, and safeguards its beautiful pattern. The proper application technique involves the following:

  • Selecting a food-grade mineral oil.
  • Applying a thin layer to the blade and handle.
  • Wiping away any extra oil with a clean cloth (a cotton cloth is preferred).

A paper towel will not damage the blade, but it is not recommended.

It’s important to note that other oils and waxes, such as Renaissance wax, coconut oil, castor oil, and beeswax, can also protect and condition the blade. However, we recommend mineral oil as it is often the best oil for Damascus steel knives due to its affordability, accessibility, and effectiveness in preventing rust and corrosion. This is especially important if the knife will be used for long periods of time in humid conditions or a wet environment.

Do not use olive oil, as it will turn rancid over time.

Storing in a dry environment

When storing your Damascus steel knife, follow these guidelines:

  • Find a location that is cool, dry, and devoid of direct sunlight and moisture. Spots with dramatic temperature changes are not optimal.
  • A well-ventilated cabinet, drawer, or other storage compartment can be an ideal storage option. A humid environment is not ideal, which can be countered using a dehumidifier bar.
  • Use a leather sheath to protect the knife when not in use. This is an alternative to other forms of protection when storing a knife. You can purchase a leather roll or zipper case for Damascus steel kitchen knives.
  • Avoid placing it near other utensils, such as metal forks and spoons, which may cause scratches to the blade’s surface.

By following these storage guidelines, you’ll prevent damage to your Damascus steel knife and ensure it remains a reliable metal blade for generations.

Sharpening and honing your Damascus knife

Sharpening a Damascus knife on a whetstone

Like a well-tuned instrument, your quality stainless Damascus knives demand regular upkeep. Sharpening and honing your knife is essential for maintaining its performance and edge. This can be achieved by using a sharpening stone or an electric sharpener specifically designed for Damascus steel knives and following proper sharpening techniques, such as using the right angle and pressure.

Tools for sharpening

When selecting the right tools for sharpening your Damascus steel knife, ceramic, diamond, or other coarse materials are recommended. A famous brand of sharpening stone for Damascus steel knives is King Whetstone, known for its effectiveness and durability.

Before using a sharpening stone, soak it in water for at least 10 minutes. This helps to minimize friction and heat buildup, ensuring a smooth and efficient sharpening process.

Remember, using the right tools and best methods for the job is critical to maintaining your knife’s performance, longevity, and unique look.

Sharpening techniques

Mastering and applying correct sharpening techniques are fundamental to preserving your Damascus steel knife’s edge and averting damage. Utilizing a whetstone, restore the knife’s sharpness by swiping the blade’s edge back and forth along the stone at a 15- to 20-degree angle. Be patient and consistent with your strokes, as this will yield the best results.

It’s also important to be mindful of the angle you hold the blade. A 15- to 20-degree angle is recommended for sharpening Damascus steel knives. By adhering to these special techniques, you’ll ensure that your knife remains sharp, efficient, and ready for action when you need it.

Caring for Damascus steel knives in the kitchen

To care for Damascus steel knives in the kitchen necessitates more than just cleaning and storage; it also involves mindful cutting techniques and consistent maintenance. By following the cutting tips and maintenance practices outlined here, you’ll enjoy the unmatched performance and etched beauty and shiny patterns of your Damascus steel knife.

Cutting tips

Damascus steel knives excel at cutting through meat and other soft materials, but it’s crucial to avoid cutting through bones or frozen foods, as this can cause damage to the blade. Additionally, when cutting meat, employ proper techniques such as the “rocking” motion, which involves moving the blade up and down as you slice.

Further, using the appropriate cutting surface in the kitchen is crucial. End grain hardwood boards made of maple or teak are optimal choices, as they’re durable and gentle on your knife’s edge. Steer clear of harder surfaces like marble or glass, which can cause blunting of even the most quality knives.

Regular maintenance

Regularly cleaning, drying, oiling, and sharpening your Damascus steel knife as necessary is vital to maintaining its optimum condition. Be mindful of the foods you’re cutting with your Damascus steel knife. Avoid cutting acidic foods, such as lemons, limes, and grapefruits, which can cause damage to the blade. Also, do not expose your knife to white vinegar.


Caring for your Damascus steel knife involves proper cleaning, protection, storage, sharpening, and mindful cutting techniques. Whether you're an outdoors person or collector, by following this care guide you’ll ensure that your prized Damascus steel knife remains a reliable and stunning tool in your collection. With proper care and attention, your Damascus steel knife will continue to captivate, perform, and impress.

BigHorn Steel knives are high-quality and easy to maintain

Did you know BigHorn Steel Damascus steel knives are folded 512 times during the forging process? Our blades are the highest quality, the hardest available, and the easiest to maintain. While you must still follow the above care instructions, your BigHorn Steel knives will last generations, not years.

BigHorn Steel ships anywhere in the world. And we're not only an online store; if you are ever in beautiful Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, stop in for a coffee and chat about how our knives are made and see some of the latest versions we've produced.

Of course, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out on our chat anytime. We're here to help!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you clean a Damascus steel knife?

You can clean your Damascus steel knife by washing it with warm, soapy water and drying it thoroughly with a soft cloth. Make sure to clean it after contact with moisture or acidic substances, and spot clean any rust that may form. You can use the same techniques to clean a Damascus steel ring.

Does Damascus steel rust easily?

Due to the high carbon steel content of hand-forged Damascus blades, they are prone to rust if not correctly cared for. To ensure long-lasting quality, collectors should keep their blades clean and dry.

Should I oil Damascus steel?

To protect your Damascus steel blade and ensure its longevity, regularly clean it with warm water and dry it with a cloth afterward. Oiling your steel blade once a year can give it a rich luster that will preserve its gorgeous pattern. Additionally, oiling the steel from time to time will also help to keep it rust-free and well-maintained.

Can you use WD40 on Damascus steel?

It is generally not recommended to use WD-40 on Damascus steel due to the possibility of causing pitting and damage to its pattern. Applying a small amount of oil, including mineral oil or gun oil, to protect against fading and moisture when the blade is completely dry is a better option.

What is the recommended angle for sharpening a Damascus steel knife?

Sharpening a Damascus steel knife requires a 15- to 20-degree angle for the best results.