How to clean a Swiss Army Knife

The Swiss Army Knife! It is the nearly perfect tool, or collection of tools.  Swiss army knives have been around for more than 130 years!  

Originating in Ibach, Switzerland, the Swiss Army knife was first produced in 1891 when the Karl Elsener company, which later became Victorinox, won the contract to produce the Swiss Army's Modell 1890 knife from the previous German manufacturer. These medium sized folders are the perfect size for every day carry and come loaded with tools like knife blades, scissors, pens, can openers, awls, screwdrivers, wine openers, pliers, sawblades, along with modern tools like LED flashlights and USB keys.
If you're an EDC enthusiast, you NEED at least one Swiss Army Knife in your collection.  These extremely high quality knives made by Victorinox or Wenger blow away the competing knives at their price point. In our opinion knock-off multitool knives by no-name manufacturers are not worth purchasing.  Stick with the original!
Victorinox Huntsman

 

As their owners know, these knives are super useful, but if they have one downside it's that they tend to get VERY dirty and can be extremely difficult to clean. 

Fortunately, Knife Pivot Lube has a secret method for getting your SAK as clean and smooth as it was when you got it from the factory! 

Step 1: Wash Bottle Cleaning

Inspect the inside of your knife so you know where things stand before you get started then grab a Nalgene bottle and fill it about halfway with warm water.  Add 4-5 drops of liquid dishwashing soap to water in your Nalgene and top off the mixture with a few tablespoons of Borax powder. 

Use dishwashing liquid in a Nalgene bottle to clean your knife

It's important to use a dishwashing soap that will rinse clean and not leave behind residues in the joints of your knife.  Once your cleaning mixture has been prepared, open the stouter tools on the knife so the wash water can better access the internals of your knife.  Make sure that the blades and more fragile tools like scissors remain closed.

Next insert the knife into the Nalgene bottle, close the lid, and shake vigorously for 30-40 seconds.  As you shake the bottle, dirt, grease, and contaminants are being removed from the knife and stuck-on grit is loosened by the detergent.

Shake bottle with knife inside

Now remove your knife from the bottle and rinse well with clean water.  If possible, empty and refill your Nalgene bottle with clean water and give the knife another wash, this time with pure water.

Step 2: Dry the Knife Using Alcohol

Once you've given the knife a wash to remove most of the dirt and grime, you'll want to dry the knife very well to prevent rust from corroding the knife, especially in the tight crevices and pivots of each of the tools. 

 To do this very effectively, you can use high proof alcohol to pull moisture out of the knife. Use either Ethanol or Isopropanol (Isopropyl alchohol) with 90% or greater alcohol content.  Pour or spray alcohol into the body of the knife, dry with a rag and allow the knife to sit for a few minutes while the alcohol evaporates.

Step 3: Deep Clean using Swabs

clean pocketknife using swab

 

First of all, you'll want to remove debris and dirt. In order to make sure no residual dust or particles fall into the pivot, be sure to first wipe the knife down with a light plastic/nylon brush (old toothbrushes are great for this), and follow with a moist microfiber cloth.

Use cotton swabs to remove dirt and grit in the slots of the knife, paying attention to the areas near the pivots.  If necessary, use a flashlight to illuminate the workspace! 

Step 4: Lubricate!

Swiss champ pocketknife

 

Luckily, since you are working with a traditional folder, there's nothing for you to tear down! Case knives are meant to stay in one piece! Since you're not disassembling your knife, you need to be certain you use a separating parts, your lubricant penetrates deeply, reaching every surface and interface.  

Our Knife Pivot Lube products contain wickability modifiers that help oil to seep into the tight interfaces between knife parts quickly and effectively.

Knife Pivot Lube Oil for Swiss Army Knife

Apply a drop or two of lubricant to the pivot of each blade (be sure to get all pivot points, work the blades of your knife open and shut several times, then swab away excess lubricant with a cotton swab. 

In addition to the pivots, I'm always sure to add a bit of lubricant to all steel parts. This includes any locking mechanism (if there are any). Applying a bit to the blade, where the blade rests, and pins with a q-tip can displace moisture and prevent rust. It also keeps the metal fresh and healthy. Be sure to also clear the locking mechanism of any debris, and apply some extra lubricant for good measure.