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Removing Rust from Knives

Rusty Knife Rust is the greatest fear of all knife collectors. If left untouched, rust gradually spreads across a knife's surface and can cause pitting (much like acne scars) on the blade. Furthermore, once rust surfaces on a knife, it will, like a disease, have a higher chance of resurfacing even after it has been removed completely. Some say that prevention is the best cure - how true is that! (See our 'Storing your knives' article). However if it is too late for prevention...

Most people will attempt to remove rusts on their knives as they know that any rust on their knives will adversely affect the value of their collection. However, most collectors make the mistake of using harsh methods/cleaners that not only remove the rust, but damage the knife in the process. In this tutorial below, we will show you how to remove rust from knives using commonly available materials from the hardware store and make your collection shiny and rust-free again.

To remove rust, you will need the following items:

  • Metal Polish
  • Clean & soft cotton cloths
  • #0000 Steel Wool
  • WD-40
  • Fine grade Sandpaper
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Rags
  • Rust remover solution (optional)
  • Naval Jelly (optional)

Start with the following steps:

  1. Determine the severity of the rust. Check to see how thick the rust is. Check if it is surface rust (mild black tarnishing), light specks of brown, or deep orange rust with pitting. 
  2. Wipe down with the WD-40. Leave on for a few minutes before wiping off. This should remove the top most layer of the rust and most of the tarnishing for milder cases. 
  3. Apply metal polish and buff lightly with a cloth several times. This will remove most of the rust and tarnish, leaving only black marks on the blade. Do this in a circular motion. WARNING: Only do this if the blade is not gun-blued or the blade's coating/finish will not be affected by metal polish. 
  4. Stop if you are satisfied! If the above steps removes the rust and leaves your knife looking like new, do NOT carry on with the following steps. Don't fix what ain't spoilt. 
  5. Bring in the #0000 Steel Wool. If the metal polish didn't finish the job, gently brush the blade surface in even strokes in the same direction to get rid of the black marks/slight pitting and give the blade a nice satin-polished finish. Use some more metal polish if necessary. 
  6. Sandpaper to get rid of pitting. Use only ultra-fine grade sandpaper to even pitted surfaces. If you use too coarse a grade you will end up leaving more marks on the blade and more work for you to do. 
  7. Finish with the #0000 Steel Wool. As one of the finest and most gentle materials around, brush the blade lightly and it will look like new! 
  8. Wipe down with Rubbing Alcohol. This will remove all the leftover chemicals and dirt from the knife, as well as remove all the moisture on the blade surface. 
  9. Prevent rust from forming again. Lastly, remember to apply a good rust inhibitant (such as mineral oil, ren wax or Tuf Glide) IMMEDIATELY. See our "Storing your knives" section for more tips.


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