If you google “how to clean a knife block,” probably the first few articles that will pop up will say to wash it in soapy water, and/or soak it in a bleach solution, followed by a sink rinse. Please do not do that! It will totally ruin your knife block!
How do I know this? Well, I make knife blocks all the time. I have used almost every type of wood that is considered safe, and none of them respond well to being soaked in water. (You can see how knife blocks are assembled in my post, here.)
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How To Clean Wooden Knife Blocks
Consider how cutting boards are supposed to be treated. Knife blocks are pretty much the same. And just like with cutting boards, any carpenter will tell you that you should never “soak” them in water. That is unless you wish for it to warp, crack, and separate.
So, let’s start with the care of the block itself. To begin with, your knives should be clean going into the block. This will eliminate the vast majority of issues.
But there will be times when you will need to do some maintenance cleaning on it. Because like everything in life, it will eventually get dirty.
However, there are much better and more appropriate ways to clean a wooden knife block. Ways that do NOT require destroying your gorgeous piece of wood. Using these 3 simple steps will give you exactly what you need without doing any damage.
1. Clean the Exterior of Knife Block
- For most knife blocks, all you need to do is wipe down the exterior. A damp cloth should be enough for most situations.
- But if your block has food splatter on it or it is looking a bit worse for the wear, you can wipe it with a soapy cloth. Just avoid saturating the block and make sure you dry it with a dishrag when you are done.
2. Remove Loose Particles from Inside Knife Block
- The very best way to get all of the loose stuff out of your knife block is to do two things. First, tip it upside down over the trash can and tap the bottom. This will get the bits and pieces out that have fallen down inside.
- For all that dust that accumulates, you can use canned air* to blow it out. This will do a better job than the first step. (FYI – these are great for cleaning out delicate electronics as well!)
3. Remove Grease and Stuck on Gunk
Okay, so sometimes knife blocks accumulate a greasy build-up. This is especially true if you store your knives are stored near your cooktop or stove. To do a deep clean use one of the methods below.
- Grab a pipe cleaner from your craft room and dip it in isopropyl alcohol. You can also use white vinegar, but I prefer the alcohol because it evaporates faster. Squeeze the excess off and use it to clean out the inside of the slots.
- Alcohol is a great degreaser. It also will dissipate quickly leaving a nice dry surface. In addition, you will get the benefit of a disinfectant.
- If you are one of those people who is not likely to have pipe cleaners laying around, I recommend purchasing a set of good straw cleaners.* They work even better than the pipe cleaners, are super cheap, and will last you for quite some time.
- Use the same method as used with the pipe cleaner to clean and disinfect the slots.
Myths About Knife Blocks
I also see a lot of sites making claims about sanitary issues with wooden blocks. Usually, this will be followed up with a “better” and “cleaner” knife storage system that you can buy.
Ok. To be fair, I am sure many of them do believe what they are saying and are not only trying to talk you into a purchase.
And, I’m not knocking their effort to make a few dollars in commission. Lord knows that I rely on my viewers’ purchases to help with my own bills. And yes I have a few affiliate links of my own included in this post. But, a bit of honesty goes a long way.
And the truth is that studies have debunked the myth of wood harboring bacteria and causing issues with food contamination.
In fact, wood has been proven to have its own natural bacteria-fighting powers. Which is why wooden cutting boards are now considered safer than plastic. (Read more about choosing the right cutting board, here.)
But to each his own. If you like magnetic knife strips, by all means, use one. They are a great way to store knives.
On the other hand, if you prefer a wooden block, don’t be put off by misinformation or biased reviews. Wood is timeless and when treated properly, a knife block will serve you well. And as a woodworker, I find them to be a thing of beauty.